08/15/2013 01:44 EDT | Updated 10/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Wynne 'Surprised' Questions Denied At Gas Plant Hearings

Premier Kathleen Wynne admits she was "surprised" that members of the justice committee were prevented from asking questions about an alleged effort by senior Liberals to influence the Speaker last year.

The committee has been holding hearings for months into the cancellation of the gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, which are estimated to have cost at least $585 million.

As the committee has sifted through documents relating to the gas-plant controversy, emails have surfaced that show Liberal staff discussing their frustration with Speaker Dave Levac's preliminary finding on a related contempt matter last year.

Those emails suggest senior Liberals met with the Speaker, in an apparent attempt to get him to change his mind on a case of contempt against the government for not releasing all requested documents on the gas plants.

When committee members tried to ask questions about this at a hearing on the gas plants this week, they were denied the opportunity to do so, as those questions were ruled out of order.

Wynne said that outcome was not what she had expected.

"I was surprised because I fully expected that those questions could be asked," Wynne said Thursday, when speaking with reporters at the legislature.

That denial spurred the Progressive Conservatives to announce plans to introduce a contempt motion when the legislature resumes next month, while the New Democrats are demanding that the premier expand the scope of the committee’s investigation.

Asked Thursday why she didn't tell the committee chair to allow those questions to go forward, Wynne said that's not the way the process works.

"The chair takes that advice from the clerk and is not directed by me or my office and it's very important that people understand that," Wynne said.

Wynne said the house leaders need to talk about how to resolve their questions about the alleged attempts to influence the Speaker and she is hopeful they will make some headway.

The premier defended the government's efforts to respond to complaints the opposition parties have raised during the ongoing hearings.

"We said that we were going to open the process, we changed the scope of the committee, we have been as open as possible in terms of providing information," she said.

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