TORONTO - Ontario spent nearly $7 million on consultants who helped a government-appointed panel recommend that the province sell a majority stake in Hydro One and liberalize the sale of beer.Several consultants and firms including KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte were awarded contracts worth a total of $6.8 million for their advice to the advisory council led by former TD Bank CEO Ed Clark."Having the technical expertise makes us confident that the recommendations from the council are evidence-based and in the best interest of Ontarians," Premier Kathleen Wynne's office said in a statement.The Liberals tapped Clark to review Crown assets as the government looks to fund its $130-billion, 10-year plan to improve transit and infrastructure.Following Clark's recommendations, the government announced earlier this month that beer would be sold in several hundred grocery stores and a new beer tax would be phased in over four years.The government also announced it would sell off 60 per cent of Hydro One — Ontario's largest electrical transmission utility, though it says it will not allow any one shareholder to buy more than 10 per cent while the province remains the controlling owner with 40 per cent.Clark said the province could generate about $9 billion from the Hydro One sale, with $5 billion going to pay the utility's debt and $4 billion to fund infrastructure projects.The NDP is against the planned privatization and Leader Andrea Horwath says the consultant prices show the sale is great for Bay Street but wrong for Ontarians."The government is spinning every way they possibly can to try to convince Ontarians that this is the right thing to do, but it's not," Horwath said. "Spending $7 million on consultants, whether they're spinners or whether they're justifiers, still doesn't make this a good deal."Progressive Conservative critic Vic Fedeli said transparency surrounding the Hydro One deal will only get worse, because once it ceases to be a Crown agency it will no longer be subject to oversight from Ontario's ombudsman or access to information laws."That may be the last number we ever hear because the moment they sell one share, (there will be) no more numbers," Fedeli said.
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