The continued slow drip of damning information being gleaned from the thousands of pages of correspondence and legal documents related to the Ontario government's cancellation of a power plant in Mississauga is starting to add up.
The latest, revealed in The Globe and Mail, shows just how eager Premier Dalton McGuinty was to kill the partially constructed plant, and how willing he was to spend taxpayers' money to do it – even as his province faced serious deficits and he would soon be calling on public-sector workers to accept wage freezes. More than ever, Mr. McGuinty should recall the Ontario Legislature and allow it to properly examine the government's actions.
The documents reveal to what great extent the Mississauga plant consumed Mr. McGuinty and some of his ministers and deputy ministers. According to internal correspondence, the Premier began talking to his staff the day after he was elected about finding ways to keep his ill-advised promise to close the plant, asking them to "be creative."
The documents also show the government overpaid to settle an unrelated lawsuit with the developers in order get them to agree to stop construction: A judge had recommended $5-million but the government paid $10-million. The government also paid a hedge fund that had invested in the project $30-million more than the fund had contributed. And then there was the team of Bay Street lawyers hired for three days for "expedited" advice.
None of these expenses should be confused with the costs incurred by taxpayers for Mr. McGuinty's decision to cancel the contract for another power plant, this one in Oakville. This, too, has cost unnecessary millions.
Three days after the most recent documents were released, the Premier suddenly announced he was retiring and asked for a prorogation of the Legislature, which was quickly granted by a pliant and incurious Lieutenant-Governor David Onley, who reportedly failed to ask a single question.
The Premier's plaintive excuse for proroguing Queen's Park was that the growing power-plant scandals were distracting from his efforts to negotiate a wage freeze with public-sector employees. The latest revelations makes his startling subversion of democracy appear to have been a cynical move to short-circuit the watchdog role of the Legislature, and to save himself the embarrassment that is now befalling him regardless. He is still the premier; he can still request a new session of Ontario's Legislative Assembly. He can still do the right thing.