12/10/2014 02:12 EST | Updated 02/09/2015 05:59 EST

Bob Chiarelli zapped for calling energy sector too complex for Bonnie Lysyk

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is ignoring opposition calls to fire her energy minister over a critical report on the government's smart meter program and patronizing comments he made about the auditor general.

After Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk's annual report was critical of the province's Smart Meter program, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli dismissed her by suggesting she did not understand the hydro system. "The electricity system is very complex, it's very difficult to understand," Chiarelli said in his explanation of how Lysyk got it wrong. 

Wynne said it was nothing more than a difference of opinion.

"It is not unprecedented for there to be some narrow area of disagreement in terms of the report of the auditor general," said Wynne. 

She and Chiarelli say they disagree with the auditor general's conclusions that the $2-billion smart meter program has so far spent double its projected cost, has passed on extra costs to ratepayers and has not led to the government's electricity conservation goals being met.

Both the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats repeatedly called for Chiarelli's head in a raucous question period the day after Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk's annual report.

Chiarelli said in the legislature that NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has voted against Liberal provisions that would lower people's electricity bills, which he called shameful.

Horwath, in return, called Chiarelli's comments "disgusting, shameful, ignorant" and called him an "ignorant man" — comments she later withdrew.

​Horwath says that Chiarelli should resign after he suggested the auditor general's numbers were inaccurate because she didn't understand the "complex" electricity system — comments Horwath calls patronizing and sexist.

Before becoming Ontario's auditor Lysyk worked for 10 years at Manitoba Hydro. 

Smart Meter analysis was flawed: AG

The auditor revealed it cost $1.9 billion to install Smart Meters across the province, in the report tabled on Tuesday. The government originally told the public the cost would be closer to $1 billion.

The auditor found the Energy Ministry did not do a cost-benefit analysis before cabinet approved the Smart Meter program. A business case was done after the roll-out began, but Lysyk says the analysis was flawed.

"Its projected net benefit of $600 million was overstated by at least $512 million," said Lysyk. "The Ministry has neither updated the projected costs and benefits nor tracked the actual costs to determine the actual net benefits."

Lysyk says Smart Meters are not reducing demand for electricity at peak times, although that was the key reason for launching the program.