05/22/2014 10:23 EDT | Updated 07/22/2014 05:59 EDT

Tim Hudak Brings Federal Liberal Sponsorship Scandal Into Ontario Campaign


OTTAWA - A judicial inquiry along the lines of the probe into the federal Liberal sponsorship scandal is needed for Ontario's $1.1-billion gas-plant debacle, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Thursday.

Campaigning in Ottawa, Hudak said an inquiry is needed to impress on politicians of all political stripes that they must put the public interest ahead of their own political interests.

"The gas plant scandal was one of the biggest scandals in Canada's history," Hudak said.

"It was an extraordinary betrayal of the trust that taxpayers have that their tax dollars will be respected."

The provincial Liberal government, under former premier Dalton McGuinty, scrapped a gas plant in Oakville in 2010 and one in Mississauga in the dying days of the last provincial election in 2011 in what the Tories say was an effort to save seats.

The cost of cancelling the contracts and relocating the plants is estimated as high as $1.1 billion.

Police are still investigating the destruction of related records in the premier's office that occurred after Kathleen Wynne took over from McGuinty last year.

Hudak used his campaign stop in the nation's capital to hearken back to the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal called by former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin in 2004.

The Gomery commission found that firms were winning contracts based on donations to the federal Liberals, with little work being done.

The scandal helped lead to the demise of the federal Liberals' hold on power.

Hudak, who noted Gomery held hearings near the hotel where he was making his gas plant announcement, said the Adscam inquiry was effective and worth every penny.

He did not mention that the courts later set aside Justice John Gomery's conclusion that former prime minister Jean Chretien and a top aide shared blame for mismanagement of the program.

The Wynne Liberals pointed out that various Tory politicians opposed a public inquiry into the gas plant cancellations as too expensive, preferring instead to go with a probe by a legislative committee.

However, Hudak accused McGuinty and Wynne of going the "cover-up" route, saying an inquiry into the three-year-old fiasco would get answers for taxpayers if he's elected June 12.

"I do this most of all to send a powerful signal to politicians of any stripe that this abuse of taxpayer dollars will never be tolerated," he said.

"It's far more expensive not to get answers."

Hudak said he expected both McGuinty and Wynne to testify if a judicial inquiry ever gets off the ground.

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