Ontario government aims to have Hydro One lawsuit tossed out of court
The Liberal government says the issues at stake in the CUPE lawsuit have already been addressed, but the union insists the government is simply trying to avoid public scrutiny of the privatization
TORONTO—The Ontario government is trying to get a lawsuit over the partial sale of Hydro One thrown out of court.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees’ lawsuit is aimed at stopping the sale of any more shares in the giant electricity transmission utility, which went public in a 2015 initial public offering.
About 30 per cent has been sold and the government plans to sell another 30 per cent of the formerly public utility.
A spokesman for the energy minister says the government has given CUPE notice that it will be filing a motion to strike the case.
CUPE Ontario president Fred Hahn says avoiding a trial is another way the government is trying to avoid public scrutiny of the privatization.
But the government’s position is that because the Integrity Commissioner already addressed the matter, the lawsuit is an abuse of process.
CUPE alleges the Liberals inappropriately mixed government and party business by holding fundraisers with cabinet ministers, including one $7,500-a-ticket event with Sousa and Chiarelli that was attended by bankers who profited from the privatization of Hydro One.
Integrity Commissioner J. David Wake found that Finance Minister Charles Sousa and then-energy minister Bob Chiarelli may have benefited politically by attending the fundraiser with bankers involved with the sale of Hydro One, but they didn’t contravene the Members’ Integrity Act.
However, he also said the legislature should consider clarifying the law to include the apparent conflicts of interest, not just actual ones.
Chiarelli insisted there was no specific government business discussed at the fundraiser. The government has also filed a notice of intent to defend the lawsuit.
The partial sale of Hydro One is intended to raise a total of $9 billion to pay down debt and to fund public transit and infrastructure projects.
The province has raised about $3.8 billion so far from selling shares, but also gained another $3 billion from a deferred tax asset benefit, a special dividend and payment-in-lieu of taxes as part of the privatization process.