QUEENS PARK – In 2010 and 2011, the government listened to the advice of experts and began to build gas fired power plants on locations in Oakville and Mississauga over the objections of local residents.
Over time, it became evident that the concerns of the residents in those communities were legitimate.
The government listened to those concerns and cancelled those power plants for relocation elsewhere – all parties agreed with those decisions.
Estimates vary, including today’s estimate from the Auditor General, of what this will cost over the next 20 years, but all of them are unacceptably large.
Money is too tight for tax dollars to be spent in any way that is not productive.
As a member of the cabinet under which this happened, I take full responsibility and offer a full apology.
As a new Premier leading a new government, I pledge to you that this will not happen under my watch.
My new government has the energy and idealism that is the enemy of these kinds of errors.
We will introduce new rules, based on the findings of the Auditor General, to make sure this never happens again.
More on that in a moment.
But more importantly, it won’t happen because my government and my cabinet know that our job is to improve opportunity and security for everyone in Ontario and that requires very careful management of money.
Since my first day as Premier, I have been committed to getting all the facts out about the Mississauga and Oakville gas plant relocations.
I ordered full disclosure of documents, re-struck the committee, and on February 7th, I asked the Auditor General to examine the cost of relocating the Oakville gas plant, even though I knew there were potential political consequences in doing so.
We have provided the Justice Committee with more than 160,000 documents and emails related to the gas plants, including 30,000 directly from the Premier’s Office.
The Information and Privacy Commissioner has credited my government for implementing important recordkeeping reforms and staff training.
And the committee has heard from 62 witnesses during more than 93 hours of testimony.
I asked for this report because Ontarians deserve to have a full understanding about the cost to relocate the Oakville facility.
I met with the Auditor General yesterday, I have read the report, and I accept her findings.
I want to thank Ms. Lysyk, her office staff, and former Auditor General Jim McCarter, for their work.
In our meeting, I assured the Auditor General that we are taking action based on her findings.
We all have a responsibility to move forward.
Firstly, we will improve the siting of large energy infrastructure projects by implementing the recommendations of the Ontario Power Authority and the Independent Electricity System Operator. Communities will have a say at the beginning. We need to ensure that we get the siting decisions right the first time.
Secondly, I have asked the Secretary of Cabinet to create new rules limiting political staff involvement in commercial, third-party transactions. Next week, we will release a policy statement so new rules can be put in place as soon as possible.
I believe staff in the former Premier’s Office acted in good faith while the relocation of the Oakville plant was being negotiated. But from this experience there are important lessons to be learned. We are acting on those lessons.
It’s important to note that the new facility in Napanee will help meet Ontario’s electricity needs – the new facility will provide clean, reliable energy to schools, businesses, and thousands of homes.
But above all, I want Ontarians to know that I am focused on job one: the economy.
We have an economic plan to drive jobs and growth.
Our plan has three parts:
Investing in people;
Investing in infrastructure;
And supporting a dynamic and innovative business climate.
Our plan will create jobs and help people in their everyday lives.
We are One Ontario — we are working together to build a successful, vital province where everyone has the opportunity to connect, contribute and achieve their goals.
I want to thank the Auditor General again for her report. We can and will do better.
Premier Kathleen Wynne