POLITICS

Hydro One In Contempt Of Ontario Legislature, PCs Accuse

05/26/2015 11:34 EDT | Updated 05/26/2016 05:59 EDT
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TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 24: 12-10-24 - TORONTO, ONTARIO - Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin speaks about his report into how the Ontario Provincial Police deals with operational stress injuries. The report suggests the OPP does not deal effectively with the issue. (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservatives say Hydro One may be in contempt of the legislature after the ombudsman said the utility misled the province about its billing problems.

Ombudsman Andre Marin issued a special report Monday accusing Hydro One officials of lying to the Ministry of Energy about the scope of billing problems created by its new computer system.

PC house leader Steve Clark admits Hydro One didn't make any misleading statements in the legislature, but he says officials could be in contempt for misleading the ombudsman and the Ministry of Energy.

Clark says the ombudsman was investigating complaints about Hydro One raised by dozens of MPPs, and not being truthful to him was the same as misleading the legislature.

He says Hydro One "blocked and deceived at every step" as MPPs sought information for constituents who were hit with huge, and often erroneous, electricity bills.

The Liberals insist Hydro One never mislead the legislature and want the contempt charge dismissed.

Speaker Dave Levac said he would make his ruling later.

In his special report, Marin said Hydro One treated customers "abominably" after mistakes in bills for about 100,000 homes, and accused the Crown corporation of lying about the extent of the problems.

"They obstructed and lied to the minister of energy's office, the board of directors and the Ontario Energy Board," he said Monday.

Marin rejected the idea of pursuing charges against anyone at Hydro One, even though misleading the ombudsman could result in fines or even a jail term.

"We'd have to build a new courthouse because there are a lot of people that you'd have to charge," he said. "I'm simply reminding Hydro One not to do it again."

Hydro One CEO Carmine Marcello insisted his officials never lied to anyone about the extent of the billing problems.

The Tories and the NDP are concerned the ombudsman will lose oversight of Hydro One after passage of the budget bill, which will allow the government to sell 60 per cent of the utility to private investors.

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