MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak is promising a judicial inquiry into the contentious cancellation of two Toronto-area gas plants, going after the Liberals on a scandal that dominated the last provincial election three years ago.
Hudak's pledge — which he has made in months past — was reiterated Sunday at the site of one of the cancelled plants in Mississauga, Ont., where unfinished concrete pillars and tangled rusting metal rods could be seen behind him.
"A billion dollars went into this hole," he said. "This was a deliberate decision knowing the costs of the cancellation. Knowing it was going to cost us more, doing so just to save a Liberal seat during an election campaign. That's wrong."
The Liberals scrapped the unpopular gas-fired power plant in Mississauga during the 2011 election and another in neighbouring Oakville in October 2010, at a cost of what the auditor general has said could be up to $1.1 billion.
Construction on the Mississauga plant continued for weeks after the last election, but the decision to cancel it helped save five Liberal seats in the area.
A legislative committee had been probing the cancellations until the current election campaign began, and there is also an ongoing police investigation into the deletion of emails and documents about the unpopular plants, but that's not enough, said Hudak.
"We have to send a very strong signal to governments of any political stripe, that this kind of behaviour just won't be tolerated in the province of Ontario," he said.
"If we want to give investors confidence to invest, if we want to give taxpayers some confidence that they're not going to see this abuse, we need a judicial inquiry."
Premier Kathleen Wynne has apologized for the way the gas plants issue was handled and has said her predecessor Dalton McGuinty, under whose watch the plants were scrapped, made "mistakes."
But Hudak scoffed at that defence.
"A mistake is like when you get a parking ticket. This was not a mistake, this was a deliberate abuse of your tax dollars to save Liberal seats," he said. "We need to draw a line and say this is not going to happen again."
The Liberals have pointed out that Hudak said during the last election campaign that he would scrap the Mississauga plant if he formed the next government.
They also took a jab at the Tories' energy policies on Sunday, saying Hudak has failed to learn from their cancellation decisions and alleged a Progressive Conservative government would rack up millions in costs by scrapping certain renewable energy projects.
"He wants to cancel renewable energy contracts," said Liberal MPP Brad Duguid. "What that's going to do is cost potentially tens of billions of dollars, 20 times more than the gas plants cost us."
The Tories have pledged to replace subsidies for wind and solar power, which they estimate will save $20 billion a year, and invest in nuclear, natural gas and hydro power.
They've said it would be up to the energy minister to decide whether to proceed with large scale wind and solar contracts that have been approved but aren't yet producing energy, but any project that is cancelled would end under existing contract termination clauses.
Meanwhile, the New Democrats repeated their call for a public inquiry on the gas plants on Sunday, saying it's something they've long been committed to seeing through.
“Frankly we saw Liberals over the last number of months and year not being upfront and honest with Ontarians about who knew what and when," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said in Toronto.
"I still believe there are answers that people need in terms of the coverup as well as the gas plant cancellation decision itself."
Ontarians cast their ballots on June 12.
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A flyer depicting Ont. PC leader Tim Hudak laughing as he walks away from an exploding hospital is shown. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says the Liberal flyer sent by a Vaughan candidate is "not acceptable." THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak while campaigning at a food truck festival in Whitby, Ont. on Saturday, May 10, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
'Where The Gas Plants Went'
Ontario Premier and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne reads to a full day kindergarten class at Westwood Public School in Guelph, Ontario on Wednesday May 14 , 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
But Seriously... A Billion Dollars
PC Leader Tim Hudak gestures to the the 800-megawatt gas-fired power plant scrapped by the previous Liberal administration, as he talks to the press in Mississauga on Sunday May 18 , 2014. Hudak continues his election campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Got This Thing In The Bag
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath purchases groceries at Eraa Supermarket while campaigning in Toronto, Ont. on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne drives a tractor with instruction from farmer Sandra Vos (right) at a campaign event in Paris, Ontario on Tuesday May 20, 2014, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne shows off a pair of boxing gloves she received as a gift, while her partner Jane Rounthwaite (left) looks on in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak, hugs his new born baby Maitland Hudak after greeting supporters at his headquarters during a campaign stop in Grimsby, Ont., on Monday, May 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Don't Have A Cow
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath answers media questions at a campaign stop at the monument to Springbank Snow Countess, world champion lifetime butterfat producing cow, in Woodstock, Ont., Friday, May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dave Chidley
It's Like You're My Mirror...
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak holds a town hall meeting in a hair salon in Pickering, Ontario on Tuesday May 27 , 2014, as he continues his election campaign. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Reunited.. And It Feels So Good
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak eats lunch with Foreign Minister John Baird as he attends an event at the Chateau Laurier during an election campaign stop in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. Ontario goes to the polls June 12th. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is seen behind a display of tomatoes while shopping at Eraa Supermarket in Toronto, Ont. on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
HA HA HA!
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak, centre, laughs before he makes an announcement at a packaging plant about creating 40,000 jobs in Ontario with affordable energy during a campaign stop in Smithville, Ont., on Monday, May 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
HA HA HA HA!
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne talks to members of Toronto's Leaside Lawn Bowling Club before addressing the media as she begins her campaign in Ontario's provincial election on Saturday May 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak jokes with a man about his ice cream cone at a food truck festival during a campaign stop in Whitby, Ont. on Saturday, May 10, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne pulls a beer at a campaign event in Sudbury, Ontario on Tuesday May 27, 2014, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
In A Glass Case Of Emotion
Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak is seen through a reflection in a window while campaigning at Spin Desserts Cafe and Bistro in Burlington, Ont. on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
What's So Funny?
Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne holds Etobicoke-North MPP Dr. Shafiq Qaadri's eight-month-old baby Salman at a campaign stop in Toronto on Monday, May 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
I've Got This...
Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne practices using a drill during a campaign stop at the Carpenters' Union Local 27 Training Centre in Vaughan, Ont. on Monday, May 12, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Manual Labour Is FUN
Campaigning PC Leader Tim Hudak laughs as he tries out a nail gun as he visits a residential construction site while campaigning in Milton, Ont., on Monday, May 26, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Little Help Please?
Ontario Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne helps a health care worker up off the floor during a group photo at a campaign event in Toronto on Monday June 2, 2014, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak buys flowers for Mothers Day with his daughter Miller at Growers Flower Market on Avenue Rd. in Toronto on Sunday, May 11, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim
That's How I Bowl
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne bowls a ball to formally open Toronto's Leaside Lawn Bowling Club's season as she begins her campaign in Ontario's Provincial election on Saturday May 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
They Call Me DJ Cut & Scrap
PC Leader Tim Hudak talks to the media as he sits at a mixing desk at Metalworks Studios, as he hits the campaign trail in Ontario's Provincial election in Mississauga on Monday May 5 , 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
The Guy Behind Me Is All Kinds Of Thirsty
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne rests after a run in Milton, Ontario on Monday May 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak speaks to a lunchtime meeting of the Chamber of Commerce in London, Ontario, Friday, May 23, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Geoff Robins
Emely Tscholy and Blaine Connolly protest quietly against "scandals and waste" outside a rally for Ontario Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne in Kitchener, Ont., on Sunday, June 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Premier Kathleen Wynne weighs baby Lucas at a family health care unit on a campaign stop in Lindsay, Ont. on Friday, May 30, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Thornhill
I Now Pronounce You...
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, centre, and Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak speak after taking part in the Ontario provincial leaders debate in Toronto, Tuesday June 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/POOL-Mark Blinch
UP NEXT: Federal Conservatives vs. Ontario Liberals
Ontario Liberal leader <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/kathleen-wynne/" target="_blank">Kathleen Wynne</a> has taken a number of shots at <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/stephen-harper/" target="_blank">Prime Minister Stephen Harper</a> and his federal Conservatives so far in her campaign. And some federal Tories are firing right back. <em>With files from The Canadian Press</em>
'Stand Up' To Harper
Wynne <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/05/04/kathleen-wynne-tells-harper-to-move-out-of-the-way-after-pm-calls-ontario-pension-plan-a-payroll-tax/" target="_blank">wasted no time</a> criticizing the Harper government in her first speech after announcing a provincial vote had been called for June 12. Wynne said the priorities of her government are increasingly at odds with Ottawa. "We need a premier who is willing to stand up to Stephen Harper," she said. "The federal government pours billions of dollars into the oilsands, but when it comes to the Ring of Fire, Stephen Harper has not acted."
Ontario Pension Plan? Meh.
Just hours after the provincial election was called, Harper suggested Wynne's proposal for an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan won't be a hit at the polls. When asked if Wynne could win the election with the plan, the prime minister said <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/02/ontario-pension-plan-stephen-harper_n_5255152.html" target="_blank">increasing taxes isn't the way to go.</a>
Wynne To Harper: 'Move Out Of The Way'
Wynne then called Harper's comments about her pension plan "unusual" and told reporters she's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/03/kathleen-wynne-stephen-harper_n_5258030.html" target="_blank">not in the race to run against the prime minister.</a> "The first choice would have been to have an improvement and enhancement to the Canada Pension Plan, but the federal government is not interested in doing that," she said. "So quite frankly I think that if Prime Minister Harper isn't interested in partnering with us then he should move out of the way."
Say It Ain't So, Joe
Finance Minister Joe Oliver joined the fray, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/03/kathleen-wynne-joe-oliver-ontario-election_n_5258700.html" target="_blank">ripping the budget Wynne tabled</a> a day before calling the election. The spending plan is, essentially, the platform on which Ontario Liberals are running. "This is the route to economic decline, not the route to economic growth or job creation," he told CBC Radio's The House. And Oliver made clear he's also <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/03/kathleen-wynne-joe-oliver-ontario-election_n_5258700.html" target="_blank">no fan of Wynne's pension plan,</a> calling it a $3.5 billion tax on "workers and businesses" that will kill jobs in Ontario. "This isn't the time to do it," he said.
And Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/03/kathleen-wynne-joe-oliver-ontario-election_n_5258700.html" target="_blank">told CBC News </a>that Wynne's comments about alleged Tory inaction on the Ring of Fire file were "nonsense."
Wynne didn't care much for Oliver weighing in on her budget. In fact, the Ontario Liberal leader <a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-votes-2014/kathleen-wynne-harper-taking-over-the-voice-of-tories-in-ontario-1.2630898" target="_blank">accused Harper</a> of "taking over the Conservative voice in the Ontario election."
Sorry (But Not Really)
Oliver later denied to reporters he was trying to intrude on the Ontario election, but was careful to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/05/joe-oliver-ontario-pension-plan_n_5269500.html" target="_blank">repeat his earlier criticism about Wynne's pension proposal.</a> "It's not the time, in my opinion, to impose this type of tax when the Ontario economy is so fragile," he said.
Who Wants To Talk About Harper's Pension?
Wynne then singled out Harper by saying his pension is about 10 times the maximum payout available under the CPP. "Stephen Harper when he retires is going to have about 10 times that amount in his pension," she said. "So the reality is that if he doesn't believe that the Canada Pension Plan should be enhanced, then he should move out of the way and let Ontario do its work."
And Then She Released This Tweet...
Tony GOES OFF
Treasury Board President <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/news/tony-clement/" target="_blank">Tony Clement </a>then took the fight to Wynne during a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/06/ontario-election-2014-tony-clement-wynne_n_5277480.html" target="_blank">segment on CBC's "Power & Politics."</a> The former Ontario MPP didn't mince words, calling Wynne's pension plan proposal a "tax grab" meant to distract from various scandals. "She doesn't want to talk about the gas plants scandal, she doesn't want to talk about E-health scandal. She wants to divert attention from her government's terrible record on these things as well as terrible economic record," he said. "So, I'm not going to play into her campaign strategy, quite frankly."
Wynne <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2014/05/08/kathleen_wynne_says_stephen_harper_smirked_and_said_people_should_save_for_their_own_retirement.html" target="_blank">told The Toronto Star</a> that, in a private meeting in December, Harper "smirked' and told her people ought to be saving for their own retirement and not count on the government. “It was their fault and people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and they need to just save because there's lots of opportunities,” she recalled in the paper.
Not Quite, Harper Spokesperson Says
Jason MacDonald, Harper's chief spokesperson, suggested to The Star that Wynne <a href="http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2014/05/08/kathleen_wynne_says_stephen_harper_smirked_and_said_people_should_save_for_their_own_retirement.html" target="_blank">wasn't being entirely truthful</a> about her meeting with the prime minister. "Presumably she made the comments she made today to distract from her mismanagement of the Ontario economy and the fact that she can’t run on her party’s record," he said.
Don't Forget About Us
In a speech delivered not far from Parliament Hill, Wynne accused Harper of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/08/ontario-election-2014-wynne-harper-ring-fire_n_5288618.html" target="_blank">neglecting Canada's largest province.</a> "Right now, on a number of important issues, the interests of the people of Ontario are at odds with the policies of Stephen Harper's government," she said. "In a very real way, the federal government is balancing its budget on the backs of Ontarians."
Clement Fires Back.. Again
Clement didn't appreciate Wynne's digs at the prime minister and told reporters he wants Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak to win the election. "[It's] a campaign technique to deflect attention from the disastrous record of the Ontario Liberal government, economic record as well as gas plants and shredding emails and 40 percent hikes in hydro bills," he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/05/08/ontario-election-2014-wynne-harper-ring-fire_n_5288618.html" target="_blank">told reporters.</a> "I personally want the election of Tim Hudak as premier of Ontario. I personally do, but we’ll work with anybody who forms the government, of course, in the national interest and the provincial interest."
Wynne then shot back by saying federal Tories are "attacking" because they <a href="http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/05/09/federal-tories-fire-back-at-wynne-clement-attacks-ontario-liberals-disastrous-record-calls-for-partys-defeat/" target="_blank">don't share her government’s values.</a> "We know [Harper] doesn't like it because Tony Clement was sent out to attack today," she told a crowd in Kingston, Ont. "Not a surprise that Tony Clement and Tim Hudak would be on the same page, is it? Not a surprise at all."
Alberta Tory MP Weighs In
Blake Richards, who represents the federal Alberta riding of Wild Rose, shared a story about an Ontario Liberal candidate's <a href="http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/archives/sunnews/politics/2014/05/20140512-214903.html" target="_blank">controversial Facebook posts.</a>
UP NEXT: 5 Ontario Liberal Scandals
An Uphill Climb?
Kathleen Wynne is hoping Ontario voters can look past these five scandals when they cast their ballots on June 12. <em> (Information courtesy of The Canadian Press)</em>
Ontario's publicly funded air ambulance service has been under fire for almost two years over sky-high salaries, financial irregularities and corruption allegations. A legislative committee has been probing the service's complex structures and pay scales in detail, and opposition parties have been alleging wrongdoing with nearly every revelation. The auditor general has criticized the governing Liberals for failing to oversee Ornge, despite giving it $730 million over five years and allowing it to borrow another $300 million. The Liberals insist Ornge went rogue with a web of for-profit companies and questionable business deals, as well as exorbitant salaries and lavish expenses.
Cancelled Gas Plants
Scandal has swirled around the government's decision to cancel the construction of two Toronto-area gas plants ahead of the 2011 election, in which the government then led by Dalton McGuinty was reduced to minority status. The cancellation costs have now been pegged at $1.1 billion, but opposition parties have accused the Liberals of actively trying to cover up that figure. Ontario's privacy commissioner has concluded that staff working for McGuinty and a former energy minister broke the law by deleting emails pertaining to the project. Ontario Provincial Police are also investigating the document deletions, seizing government computers at both Queen's Park and beyond.