POLITICS

Ontario's new Premier Wynne says she will testify about cancelled gas plants

02/12/2013 12:51 EST | Updated 04/14/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Premier Kathleen Wynne is prepared to testify before a legislative committee about the controversial cancellation of two gas plants, her office said Tuesday.

It's important that the information about the cancellations — which will cost taxpayers at least $230 million — be released, it said in a statement.

"Premier Wynne will work with the opposition to review the gas plants at the committee level so that we can have a productive session in the legislature," the statement said.

"All parties have a responsibility to make minority parliament work."

Wynne's office noted that she asked the auditor general to add the cancelled gas plant in Oakville to his current probe of the Mississauga project, which was cancelled during the 2011 election campaign.

The premier's office issued the statement after the Progressive Conservatives said they'd call her and her predecessor Dalton McGuinty at the first opportunity.

"The concern I have is that the new premier is sounding a lot like the old premier," said Opposition Leader Tim Hudak.

"I think if she truly wants to demonstrate that she's different, let's go directly to committee. Let's get the answers for taxpayers."

The opposition parties contend the cancellations were a calculated move to save Liberal seats in the face of local opposition to the projects, and will cost taxpayers millions more than the government has claimed.

Wynne was the Liberal campaign co-chair when the decision to relocate the Mississauga plant was made.

Two former ministers testified that it was a campaign team decision, said Conservative Rob Leone.

"We will be asking both Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty to testify because we feel they both have a role with respect to spending taxpayer dollars to save Liberal seats," he said.

As MPPs, Wynne and McGuinty aren't obligated to testify before the all-party committee.

McGuinty refused to appear before another committee that was looking into Ontario's troubled Ornge air ambulance service, which is under a criminal probe.

The hearings into the gas plants were cancelled in October when McGuinty shut down the legislature.

It also killed a rare contempt of parliament motion against former energy minister Chris Bentley, who is quitting provincial politics on Thursday.

Bentley denied a request from the committee for all the relevant documents on the gas plants, which led to the contempt motion.

Bentley took the blame when the Liberals had to admit they'd found 20,000 more documents on the gas plants, weeks after they released an initial batch of 36,000 pages, and insisted that was all there were to be found.

The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats still aren't convinced all the documents have been released and are demanding that the hearings resume once the legislature returns Feb. 19.

"Ever since the government first announced they were cancelling these private power deals, our goal has been to get to the bottom of what happened, what the cost would be and what could be done to prevent another mess in the future," said NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson.

"I hope the new premier is able to get us some of these answers."