The Ontario Progressive Conservatives are pledging to scrap an agreement that is the cornerstone of the McGuinty government's renewable energy strategy, a move critics say would signal to the world that the province is no longer open for business.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak announced on Tuesday that he would abolish the "odious" $7-billion deal with South Korean industrial giant Samsung Group, as well as generous, long-term contracts for wind, solar and other renewable energy projects, if he wins the election in October.
The agreement with Samsung is a key plank in the governing Liberals' push to transform the province into a global, clean-energy powerhouse. Ontario is hoping to create 50,000 new jobs in the sector and wean the province off fossil fuels.
Dorenda McNeil, Samsung's Canadian spokeswoman, said the company entered into the accord last year in good faith and expects any potential future government to honour it.
"That agreement was a signal to the world that Ontario was open for business and was serious about creating a long-term climate for investment and job creation," Ms. McNeil said in a statement.
However, the deal has been criticized by energy developers and opposition members because it gives Samsung $437-million in incentives in addition to premium energy prices that will cost every electricity consumer in Ontario an extra $1.60 a year for 25 years.
In a heated exchange between Mr. Hudak and Premier Dalton McGuinty during Question Period, two diverging views of the province's future were on display.
Mr. McGuinty said Mr. Hudak is against foreign investment and clean air. He said the Opposition Leader would kill jobs and take Ontario back to the dark days of relying on pollution-spewing, coal-fired plants for electricity.
For Mr. Hudak, it is all about providing relief to families from skyrocketing hydro bills and criticizing the government for handing out multi-billion dollar contracts behind closed doors.
"We will end your sweetheart Samsung deal ...and we will pass on the savings to Ontario hydro ratepayers," he said in Question Period.
Keith Stewart of Greenpeace Canada said the Conservatives created no new electricity capacity in Ontario when they were in power.
"Technologically, Hudak's proposal would drag this province kicking and screaming back into the 19th Century."
Mr. Hudak said the Tories support renewable energy projects. But they would sign deals in an open, transparent manner aimed at getting the best price for electricity consumers.
It would not be easy to cancel the deal with Samsung, given that the company and its partners are well on their way to fulfilling the terms of the agreement, which commits them to opening four manufacturing plants, generating 2,500 megawatts of wind and solar power and creating 16,000 direct and indirect jobs.
So far, the Samsung Group has announced the creation of 1,800 jobs in Toronto, Windsor and Tillsonburg.
New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said it is "irresponsible" for Mr. Hudak to say he would tear up a deal he has not seen.
"That's a bit reactionary," she told reporters.