In the Ontario Legislature the battle lines are drawn

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ThinkTHUNDER BAY – In the Ontario Legislature the battle lines are drawn. The opposition is seeking that the legislature find the Ontario Minister of Energy in contempt of parliament.

At issue is a decision, made during the last provincial election by the McGuinty Government to re-locate a gas-fired power plant. The cost of that decision which the opposition claim was to save Liberal seats is estimated at at least $190 million dollars.

Premier McGuinty states, “We will learn from this experience, and we will continue to do everything we can to reach out to communities and listen to them and understand their concerns at an earlier point in time, especially when it comes to locating gas plants”.

Mr. Rob Leone stated, “Mr. Speaker, I move that this House directs the Minister of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority to table immediately with the Clerk of the House all remaining documents ordered by the Standing Committee on Estimates on May 16, 2012; and

“That the matter of the Speaker’s finding of a prima facie case of privilege, with respect to the production of documents by the Minister of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority to the Standing Committee on Estimates, be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, which is hereby reconstituted as it existed on September 9, 2012; and

“That the committee shall be authorized to meet at the call of the Chair and shall report back its findings and recommendations no later than November 19, 2012”.

The Liberals are seeing things differently. The Liberals are accusing the opposition of stalling the important business of the legislature.

The Liberals state, “Today the opposition ground all work in the Legislature to a halt, again. Despite the government releasing all documents related to the Oakville plant relocation, the Hudak PCs and the NDP spent the entire day debating a motion against the government for not delivering those very same documents. This debate sidelined important progress on helping seniors and creating jobs for Ontario families”.

The Liberal Party in a release share, “Here’s what you need to know:

• Since 2003, we’ve been renewing 80 per cent of our electricity system and eliminating coal-fired generation. We’ve had great success — we’ve built 17 power plants, reduced coal generation by 90 per cent, cut smog days from 48 in 2005 to just 12 last summer, and created 20,000 clean-energy jobs.

• However, locating new energy plants and predicting our long-term energy needs are never easy things to do. As our energy future became more certain and local residents raised important concerns, we realized two of those natural gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga were no longer needed so we relocated them. We take responsibility for not getting this right the first time and we’re currently developing better guidelines on choosing sites in the future.

• Yesterday, in response to a Speaker’s ruling, we submitted all relevant documents relating to relocated gas plant projects to the Standing Committee on Estimates and both opposition parties. We always intended to release the documents. But if we released them too early, that would have compromised our position in negotiating an agreement with the company that was supposed to build the plant, at a cost to taxpayers.

• The Auditor-General pointed out that early release could hurt taxpayers’ interests, but the opposition didn’t care. They put their partisan politics ahead of the public interest. And with this contempt motion they are attacking the integrity of a Minister who did his job — getting the best possible agreement for Ontarians.

• We’re calling on the opposition to put their focus on the priorities of Ontarians. Instead of making a mockery of the Parliamentary process and holding up the people’s business, they should move on.

• For example, many Ontarians worry about caring for their parents and grandparents as they age. And today, the Legislature was scheduled have a third-reading vote on the Healthy Homes Renovation Tax Credit so we could improve the lives of our seniors and give our economy a boost. But that’s now on hold.

• We’re also trying to pass the Family Caregiver Leave Act, which would provide job-protected leave to help hard-working Ontarians care for ailing family members. But that’s not moving forward either.

• The people’s priorities have been put aside by an opposition playing partisan games — just like when the Tories rang the bells in the Legislature all through the Spring.

“In an uncertain global economy, Ontarians need us to stay focused on smart, affordable initiatives that help families and create jobs. Ontario Liberals are doing just that”.

The New Democrats Tabuns stated, “It is generally acknowledged in the media and in this Legislature that, contrary to the advice of the Ontario Power Authority, this government made decisions solely to save its own political fortunes. Speaker, it is our duty here to understand all the factors that led into that decision-making, who made those decisions and fully what the cost of those decisions was.

“It is at least apparent at this point that the decision to build a plant in Mississauga and then cancel it once it was under construction cost the people of Ontario $190 million. It may have cost more. It’s our intention to review the documents that were provided to us and actually determine exactly what those costs were. On the face of it at this point, the decision to go ahead with a plant in Oakville—which this party said was unnecessary, that this party said would have been far more economically dealt with through investment in efficiency and conservation. It is apparent at this point that the decision to proceed with that plant and then to cancel it in order to save a seat cost us at least another $40 million”.

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