10/05/2012 04:00 EDT | Updated 12/04/2012 05:12 EST

Duguid agrees to testify at committee about decision to cancel power plants

TORONTO - A key player in the Liberal government's decision to cancel power plants in Oakville and Mississauga, costing taxpayers at least $230 million, agreed Friday to testify before a legislature committee, something Premier Dalton McGuinty declined to do.

"One of the reasons I’m looking forward to testifying is it’ll give me an opportunity to, in a very detailed manner, talk about the decision that was made to cancel the Oakville gas plant," Economic Development Minister Brad Duguid told reporters.

Duguid was energy minister when the Liberals cancelled a gas-fired generating station in Oakville in 2010, and when they halted construction on a Mississauga gas-fired plant two weeks before last year's election, helping save Liberal seats in the area.

Last month, the government released 36,000 pages of documents on the cancelled plants to comply with a Speaker's ruling, but there were no communications signed by Duguid.

That prompted the Progressive Conservatives to claim the energy minister had been cut out of the decision to cancel the Oakville plant by the premiers' office, something Duguid flatly denied.

"I was minister at the time, I was engaged in the Oakville decision from the beginning and throughout, fully engaged," he insisted.

The decision to cancel the Mississauga gas plant was made by the Liberal campaign team.

"Obviously as a member of the campaign team, as a member of the party, it was part of our platform," said Duguid.

The dispute over the gas plants, and the Liberals' refusal for months to release the documents on the cancelled projects, prompted the Progressive Conservatives to move a contempt motion against Energy Minister Chris Bentley that tied up all other legislative business for a week.

The Tories and New Democrats out-voted the minority Liberals Tuesday to send the issue of gas plants, and the contempt motion, to the finance committee for hearings.

McGuinty on Thursday balked at the idea of appearing before the committee to face questions about the energy projects, while the Tories released a list of key Liberals they want to testify, including the premier and his former chief of staff, Don Guy.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath suggested Friday her party may not vote for the contempt motion against Bentley if the Liberals let senior players testify at committee and are more transparent about the cancelled gas plants.

"I’m hopeful that the government does take this situation seriously and is forthcoming not only with documents but with witnesses," said Horwath.

"When it comes to the contempt issue, there’s a lot of ground that can be covered that will affect whether or not that goes forward."

Duguid said another reason he was looking forward to testifying was to country the Tory "vendetta" against Bentley.

"Their approach is beneath the dignity of the legislature," he said.

"I hope when this issue does come to committee it is deal with in a fair and responsible manner, and gets away from the character assassination we've seen from the Opposition in the last couple of weeks."

The committee is expected to start its hears into the gas plant Oct. 24 and will make its recommendation by Nov. 19, but only a vote of the full legislature could find Bentley in contempt, something that's never happened to an Ontario MPP.