TORONTO - The Progressive Conservatives are keeping alive a contempt motion that has brought all other business at the Ontario legislature to a halt.
The Tories moved the contempt motion against Energy Minister Chris Bentley on Tuesday, complaining he did not release all the documents related to two cancelled power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
The New Democrats agreed the Liberals needed to be taken to task for delaying the release of the gas plant documents for months.
However, the NDP did not put any members up to speak to the contempt motion Wednesday, leaving it to the Tories and Liberals to take 20-minute turns addressing the issue.
The New Democrats say they don't want a prolonged debate on contempt, and want a vote as soon as possible so the issue can be sent to a committee for further study.
However, right now there are no legislative committees because the three parties cannot agree on their makeup.
The opposition parties are fuming that Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday he wanted them to "have their fun" and move on to other issues, saying it's clear the Liberals do not take the contempt debate seriously.
"Frankly I was shocked by the dismissive tone that the premier took to this very, very serious issue," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"He’s once again showing the complete arrogance of this government."
The Liberals released about 36,000 pages of documents Monday on the two gas plants they cancelled, showing the decision would cost taxpayers at least $230 million.
It's time to turn those documents over to a committee, added Horwath.
"There’s no doubt this contempt motion has some grounding, and it’s important to debate it in the legislature, but the next move has to be putting it to committee where it can dig into what’s missing from the documents," she said.
"There’s been ample discussion in this forum, but there’s all kinds of other things we’d like to be raising in question period and we think it’s time to move on."
The Conservatives rejected the government's claim the cancelled Oakville power plant will cost only $40 million, which came on top of the $190 million tab to halt construction on the Mississauga project.
The Tories say the cost for Oakville was actually in the hundreds of millions of dollars, adding in $200 million for new transmission lines, another $200 million to purchase giant turbines for the project along with other hidden costs.
"While the Ontario Liberals were focused on their own jobs, they forgot about the jobs of millions of men and women today, who can’t fathom that up to $650 million has been blown to save Liberal seats," said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak in Wednesday's debate.
"Taxpayers have been ripped off. It is going to cost us jobs and drive up hydro bills for average hard-working families."
Colleges and Universities Minister Glen Murray spoke in Bentley's defence Wednesday, saying he doesn't believe any Conservatives actually think the energy minister "is in contempt of anything," and lashing out at the opposition for their attacks.
"We all know Mr. Bentley is an honourable man," said Murray.
"He has not done anything wrong. He has complied with the Speaker’s order (to release the documents), and we know him to be of a character."
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