THE BLOG

What if the Liberals were a Publicly Traded Company?

10/15/2013 10:18 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Sorry!

That's what Premier Wynne said in response to the damning auditor general report on the infamous cancelled gas plants.

Of course Premier Wynne is sorry. You'd be sorry too if you were left to defend this.

The AG report showed that the total cost of cancelling the contract to build a gas-fired power plant in the upscale Toronto suburb of Oakville will end up at $1.112 billion, or about 27 times the cost originally cited by the government.

Back in September 2012, Ontario's Minister of Energy issued a statement saying, "Over the coming days and weeks you will read and hear lots of numbers related to the cost of the plant relocation. The only accurate cost to taxpayers for this relocation is $40 million."

The AG's report makes clear that this statement, and others like it, were absolutely untrue.

The report also shed light onto the sordid details of the decision to cancel the plant leading up to the 2011 election.

We learned that the contract with TransCanada had protection provisions and could have been terminated without penalty, had it been left alone. Then-premier Dalton McGuinty and his team -- including our current premier Kathleen Wynne -- paid out TransCanada, essentially, to make this issue go away during the election. The Liberals saved a few seats and won the election, and now Ontario taxpayers and electricity ratepayers will be stuck with the bill. For the next 20 years.

But don't worry about having to pay for this partisan scam. Our premier is sorry.

Let's imagine for a moment that this government was a publicly-traded company, and taxpayers were its shareholders.

The CEO goes to the shareholders and tells them that due to shifting consumer demands, a factory in the process of being built would instead be closed. The sunk cost would be significant, but as a direct result of the closure, the company would maintain its market share and beat out a competitor.

The board assures shareholders to trust the team in charge, so everyone goes along with their plan.

A few months later, shareholders learn the truth: that the executives unnecessarily paid out the contract with the builder, lied to the board about costs, tried to conceal the real costs, and that ultimately, the company lost 2,650 per cent more than was originally stated by the CEO.

What would happen?

First of all, the CEO would be fired. Immediately. In fact, the entire executive would likely be turfed, regardless of their role. But it wouldn't end there. The Securities Commission and RCMP's securities market enforcement team would swoop in with copies of the Securities Act and the Criminal Code in hand. If the company had international investors, the US government may file criminal charges under RICO - the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. After all of this, the civil suits would start. There would be class action suits by shareholders against the executives seeking recovery of the lost money.

You see, shareholders have recourse and executives face real consequences for their actions when they lie to shareholders.

Enron's CEO, Jeffery Skilling is sitting in a federal prison, serving a 14-year sentence for his role in the Enron scandal. What were his crimes?

Skilling was found guilty of, among other things, one count of conspiracy and five counts of making false statements.

Sound familiar?

Consider our politicians very lucky. They just issue apologies and move on.

At the end of the day, there is zero accountability at Queen's Park.

Premier Wynne and her caucus have been facing questions from media about their decisions and their made up numbers. In a just world, they would be facing questions from a prosecutor and a judge.