THUNDER BAY – Leaders Ledger – Last week’s prorogation of the Ontario Legislature was the last tactical option available to Dalton McGuinty to avoid scrutiny of the growing power plant scandal. The known tab has grown to nearly $1 billion for the politically motivated cancellations of the Oakville and Mississauga gas-fired power plants, aimed at saving Liberal seats in last year’s election.
What this means is that Parliament is closed, all debate suspended, and any bills not already passed are cancelled. Moreover, suspending Parliament shields McGuinty and the Liberal government from having to answer any questions about Project Vapour. This sinister-sounding file name is where secret gas plant cancellation documents were found.
Had McGuinty not locked the Legislature, he and his ministers would have plenty to answer for. He had nowhere to go. No other card to play. There was documented proof that he had spent almost $1 billion cancelling the two power plants — four times what the Liberals claimed.
This scandal began when the Standing Committee on Estimates demanded documents from the Energy minister. He refused, and the only avenue left was bringing a Contempt of the Legislature motion against him.
The Speaker ruled there was indeed a basis for contempt, and ordered the minister to turn over the documents. Some 36,000 pages were delivered; many whited-out. One-by-one, members of the PC Party presented redacted documents and missing pages. Yet 32 Liberal MPPs stood in the Legislature and insisted that every document was delivered.
Two weeks later, the Liberals turned over 20,000 additional documents, including files titled Project Vapour. Both the Government House Leader and Minister of Energy repeatedly claimed the new documents were originally overlooked by bureaucrats. A few hours later and just days before the Finance Committee was to begin hearings into the cover-up, McGuinty resigned and prorogued Parliament — putting an end to the contempt charge.
Here’s where the scandal turns diabolical.
One e-mail regarding Project Vapour has the subject line “Confidential advice to the Cabinet.” The recipients included the Office of the Premier of Ontario, Cabinet Board, Finance and Justice. There are dozens of back-and-forth e-mails from high-ranking Liberal operatives, including Cabinet Board and the Premier’s Chief of Staff.
So, many questions remain: How can these ministers blame low-level bureaucrats for the missing documents when the premier’s own deputy, the entire Cabinet, and several other ministries are named in them? Why didn’t any of them ensure the documents were turned over? Why did a dozen Liberal Cabinet Ministers stand in the Legislature and say “You have all the documents” when surely they knew that wasn’t the case?
Dalton McGuinty prorogued Parliament to stop you from learning about his latest in a series of $1 billion scandals. That is his true legacy. The Legislature needs to be recalled now.
Victor Fedeli, Nipissing MPP