Chris Bentley accused of purposely delaying release of cancelled power plant documents.
TORONTO—All other business at the Ontario legislature ground to a halt Tuesday for debate on a Progressive Conservative motion that could find Energy Minister Chris Bentley in contempt for delaying the release of documents on two cancelled power plants.
Bentley’s office released 36,000 pages of documents Monday on the generating stations the Liberals scrapped in Oakville and Mississauga to comply with a Speaker’s ruling that the data be made public, but the Tories and NDP complained they did not get everything they had asked for.
“We have some serious questions about whether the government has in fact tabled all the documents,” said Conservative Rob Leone as he moved a motion demanding the government release even more documents.
“We certainly want to pursue this investigation further because we believe a case for contempt is probably stronger today after those documents have been tabled than it was before we had those documents.”
The New Democrats said they too felt the Liberals did not release all the documents that were originally requested by a legislative committee back in May.
“They don’t think that they have any responsibility to provide documents that are requested by the members of this legislature, and I think that’s the worst part of this entire story,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told the legislature.
“It’s not even the dollars, it’s the lows that this government will sink to for its own political benefit.”
Bentley was not in the legislature to watch the debate that could impact his political future, but Government house leader John Milloy reacted angrily to the accusations that the government did not release all the documents, saying members are supposed to be taken at their word.
“We have provided the documents and the minister has signed an attestation to that affect. There was absolutely nothing redacted,” Milloy told reporters.
“They’re turning it into a kangaroo court.”
The documents released Monday confirmed it will cost taxpayers $230 million to cancel the two power plants and move the projects to new locations, which the opposition parties call an expensive and cynical Liberal seat-saver program.
“We’re supposed to be addressing the problems, the needs, the concerns of the people of Ontario, not the political fortunes of the five or six (Liberal) MPPs that were able to get their seats saved by that massive investment of public dollars,” said Horwath. “It’s a shame.”
The opposition parties complained there wasn’t one document released that had been signed by Brad Duguid, who was energy minister when the Liberals decided to cancel the two energy projects.
The Tories and NDP warn it could cost another $200 million to build new transmission lines needed in the Oakville and Mississauga areas because the power plants were cancelled, but the government says it’s premature to talk about the need for new lines.
There’s no time limit on the debate on Leone’s motion, which also calls on the government to reconstitute the Finance Committee so it can study all the documents on the gas plants and consider the matter of contempt against Bentley.
There are no legislative committees for the fall session of the legislature because the three parties cannot agree on their make up and who should chair them.