LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY OF ONTARIO
ASSEMBLÉE LÉGISLATIVE DE L’ONTARIO
Wednesday 26 September 2012 Mercredi 26 septembre 2012
The House met at 0900.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Good morning. Please join me in prayer.
BOARD OF INTERNAL ECONOMY
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I beg to inform the House that, in accordance with section 87 of the Legislative Assembly Act, the names of the following persons appointed to serve on the Board of Internal Economy have been communicated to me as chair of the Board of Internal Economy. The Honourable Dwight Duncan, MPP, is appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council from among the members of the executive council. David Orazietti, MPP, is appointed by the caucus of the government. Sylvia Jones, MPP, is appointed by the caucus of the official opposition. Cindy Forster, MPP, is appointed by the caucus of the New Democratic Party.
Resuming the debate adjourned on September 25, 2012, on the amendment to the amendment to the motion by Mr. Leone arising from the Speaker’s ruling of September 13, 2012.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further debate.
Mr. John Yakabuski: It’s a pleasure to join in the debate on this motion of contempt that is placed before us as parliamentarians.
It was interesting to hear a little bit—and I’ll get back to that a little later—about the pleas from the government side that we should not be proceeding with this motion for compassionate reasons. I’ll give you a little history about Liberal compassion a little later.
Speaker, let’s talk a little bit about the history. The people in Oakville and Mississauga were clearly opposed to the gas plants being erected in their municipalities, in their neighbourhoods, from the get-go. That was made clear. That was spoken about in this Legislature, and it was spoken about in public opinion pieces. The citizens made their views pretty clear. But the government pledged to plow ahead regardless.
Now, 11 days before the election of 2011, the decision was made all of a sudden some morning that we’re not going to proceed—the decision was made two years ago to cancel the plant in Oakville, and we’ve waited this long for a resolution on that. The decision was made 11 days before the campaign in 2011 that they would not proceed with the gas plant in Mississauga. And yes, the Liberals will say that there were statements from both the Tories and the NDP at that time that they supported that decision that those gas plants shouldn’t be built. Well, of course we said that, because we had never said they should be built in the first place. That’s the crux of the matter.
Then we fast-forward a little bit to the estimates committee going on earlier this year, when the Minister of Finance admits at committee—a minister of the crown is considered to be under oath at any committee—that the decision was purely a political one, prompted and made by the Liberal campaign team. It was not made by the OPA, not made by an independent panel that came to the conclusion that this was a wrong decision that should be reversed. No, it was made by the Liberal campaign team just 11 days before a provincial election—a provincial election, I might add, Mr. Speaker, that was highly competitive and resulted in a Liberal minority government. For the first time, Dalton McGuinty found himself in a minority Parliament as Premier, not a majority.
They’re wondering why this motion came to the floor in the first place. What option would the estimates committee have at that time, when a minister of the crown admits that a decision to cancel a power plant, resulting in a $190-million—and now we know from our energy critic, Mr. Fedeli, and his dogged detective work, that it now is at least $195 million to cancel and relocate the Mississauga power plant. Put yourself in the shoes of the folks on the estimates committee. Would they not be irresponsible as parliamentarians if they did not, at that time, demand to know what are the facts, what are the issues, what was the process that went into making this decision?
We need to have the documentation on everything that happened resulting in that decision to move that power plant. If they did not ask for those papers, Mr. Speaker, I contend that they would not be doing their work as parliamentarians. The estimates committee did what they are tasked and have sworn an oath to do here, and that is, the estimates committee is there to challenge and judge and analyze the estimates put forth by the government of this province. So they did what they had to do.
What was the result of their request to the Minister of Energy? A refusal to release the documents, which resulted in them turning to you, Speaker—turning to this Parliament and turning to you—and bringing forth a motion requesting that you would demand that the government release the documents. That was made, I believe, on August 27. Then you made your ruling on September 13, I believe, that compelled the government to release the documents on or before 6 p.m. on September 24.
The resulting release of those documents at some time in the early afternoon or around noon hour on the 24th then compelled my colleague from Cambridge, Mr. Leone, to proceed with this motion. What we saw yesterday from my colleague Mr. Fedeli from Nipissing was that irrespective of what the government said they would do and committed to you, Speaker, and to this Parliament—that they would release every single document related to the cancellation and relocation of those power plants—what did they do? They released a whole lot of redacted papers.
You know, we used to think about the electricity system as being subject to brownouts and blackouts, depending upon the circumstances, but it is now subject to whiteouts as well, because what Mr. Fedeli saw yesterday was nothing. You would think you were in a snowstorm with what he got as papers for the release of the documents concerning those plants.
We have no choice but to continue to press this issue. I hope that at some point the committee has the opportunity to delve much deeper into this issue, because it is the absolute right of the people of this province to know where $650 million of their money is going.
I’m flabbergasted at the approach of the government, that they would expect the opposition, on this side of the House, both us and the third party, to simply say, “Okay, thank you very much. You’ve decided where they’re going. We’ll just call it a day. We don’t really need to know what happened.” It’s sort of like if the bank robber gets up and confesses and says, “I did it. I’m sorry.” Do you think society is going to say, “Oh, no penalties for bank robbers if they confess”? Come on. I mean, this is just absolutely ridiculous, the approach they’ve taken.
But I understand their approach. I understand it’s the “Why pick on Minister Bentley?” approach. I want to make it very clear: This really isn’t about Chris Bentley. This is about the sad excuse for a politicized energy policy that has evolved on that side of the House. That’s what it is: a sad excuse. A sad excuse when you site power plants based completely on politics and un-site them based completely on politics. You make bad decisions and follow them with bad decisions totally for political reasons. That is not acceptable.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Well, we’re off to a good start. We’ve got five sidebars going on over here. They’re talking while your speaker is speaking. Okay, the rules are going to change. We’re going to have a little quiet in here so we can listen. This is a very serious situation and I think people should be listening to this. It probably hasn’t happened in over 100 years, so I think a little quiet will be nice as of now. Thank you.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. They don’t bother me at all.
Anyway, this is not about Chris Bentley. It’s about the government and what they’ve turned our electricity system into. Let’s just talk about the role of the OPA in this. Part of me is sympathetic towards the OPA. The other part of me is damned upset, because this was an agency that was supposed to take the politics out of the electricity system. That was the commitment by Dwight Duncan when he tabled Bill 100 several years ago, back in 2004. We were going to take the politics out of electricity. Well, we know that the politics have never been more ingrained in our electricity system than they are today.
I would suggest to the people of the OPA that you have been emasculated by this government. You have been neutered by this government. If the people at the OPA really cared about their own self-esteem, they would have resigned en masse and said this kind of interference in the electricity system is unacceptable—unacceptable.
There is not a single scientific, engineered reason for the decisions that this government has made. Not one. And what has it resulted in? Yesterday I heard from the Attorney General and I heard from the Minister of the Environment how we should just kind of play nice, that this is really unnecessary. This is $650 million.
Speaker, you weren’t here and I wasn’t here, but I was paying attention when the opposition brought forward a motion of contempt back in 2003. For what? Not for hundreds of millions of dollars possibly being misappropriated. No. It was because the government held the budget outside of the Legislature and the opposition felt they didn’t have quick access to the papers. That tied up this Legislature, because of them over there, for two weeks, from May 8 to May 21, 2003. They didn’t seem to think it was a problem then.
You know, it’s funny; you could be the most ardent supporter of capital punishment, which is what they seemed to be when it came to the Magna budget or the debate on Walkerton or anything else. They were the ardent supporters of capital punishment. But isn’t it amazing how all of a sudden you become an abolitionist when it is your head in the guillotine? That’s what happened here yesterday. The Minister of the Environment, the Attorney General—and I understand the Attorney General was having his Kingston day and he wanted everybody in the gallery to see—
Hon. John Gerretsen: You didn’t show up.
Mr. John Yakabuski: I was busy in caucus. Apparently, it went really well at your caucus, too; we’ll talk about that in a minute. So he had his guests from Kingston here, and he wanted to show what a statesman he was. Look, I love John Gerretsen. I think he’s a great guy. I don’t love you in that way, but you know which way I’m—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke knows that we don’t have cross-talks. You go through me, and try to keep the personal situation out of it. I’d appreciate it—and the Attorney General does not have to respond loudly to the member from Renfrew, okay? Next time, the Speaker will be warning.
Hon. John Gerretsen: On a point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): It better be a point of order, I hope.
Hon. John Gerretsen: Could you make sure I get a copy of that last Hansard there, Speaker?
Mr. John Yakabuski: I withdraw. I withdraw.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Continue.
Mr. John Yakabuski: So I understand what his motivation was; I understand why he wanted to appear statesmanlike yesterday. But I wonder who was the statesmanlike person in the Liberal caucus yesterday.
What I find peculiar is that the Premier of Ontario decided he would rather go try to put the Liberal spin on this issue down in Oakville and tell the folks how wonderful he was that he spent $650 million of other people’s money to rid them of power plants in Oakville and Mississauga. He would rather do that than face his caucus yesterday afternoon, which is deeply divided over this issue.
They are worried because they know, when they go to their home ridings, that people are going to be asking them, “How can you justify X number of thousand cancer treatments, and how many thousand MRI treatments and how many hip replacements or knee replacements or cataract surgeries”—
Mr. John Yakabuski: —“or how many hospitals have you displaced because of your political decisions with respect to this power plant?” That’s why every single document, unredacted, must be made available to this House.
So when you ask yourselves then again about the decisions that have been made—we know that when the Mississauga power plant was cancelled, another stressed area of the province, when it came to electricity, was the Kitchener–Waterloo area and Cambridge. They didn’t move that plant there because they knew the pressure for a competitive bid process would have been so high, because there are other companies all looking to build a plant in that area. What did they do? They moved it to Sarnia.
Now what did they do with the Oakville plant? They know that the competitive bid process would come into play if they were going to site that plant where electricity was actually needed, so they put it at the Lennox site, in Bath, near Kingston. Speaker, that plant barely runs. There is no need for additional electricity generation in that area of the province—none. If you look at Lennox over the last several years, I guarantee that it’s less than 10%, probably under 5%, utilization. There’s no need for the power there.
But why did they make that decision? Because it was a quick and easy one. You talk about cynicism. Last week they’re telling us they need six weeks to deal with this issue, and all of a sudden they can come up with a new site at the eleventh hour on Monday morning. That’s when politics trumps policy, and that’s what has happened in this government.
A government that is on its last legs starts to make a lot of mistakes. They’re making mistake after mistake after mistake because they are desperate, and they will try to hide the facts or redact them. They will try to do anything so that the public doesn’t get to find the true motivation behind their decisions. That’s what’s going on here.
You look at Lennox; if you don’t need power in that area, where do you need it? Well, you need it in the western GTA. You need it in KW. You need it in other parts of the province. So how are you going to get it there? We’re not in Star Trek yet, and Scotty can’t send some lithium crystals or whatever they do to send the power down there. No. We’re going to have to build wires and towers and poles. It’s called transmission. So $200 million will be spent on transmission to move that power to where it’s needed—$200 million. Then they have the issue of, “Oh, what are we going to do with the turbines that they were going to stick in Oakville? Oh, we’ll buy them”—$210 million.
So how do you get out there? I’ll tell you. That’s what happens at Lennox: These turbines spin, but they don’t produce any power because we don’t need it. With their power policy, every time that we have a surplus here in the province, we see our water spilling over dams, two-cent-a-kilowatt-hour power spilling over our dams, while they pay massive amounts for their green energy subsidies that you and I end up paying for. Every day, we’re sending export power, for nothing—maybe a cent, maybe zero, maybe below zero—and paying premium prices for it because of the contracts that they have signed under the Green Energy Act.
When we asked for the records, the records that have been requested don’t even cover the decision to all of a sudden, at the eleventh hour, relocate this power plant to the Lennox property owned by OPG. Well, it would be probably adjacent to it; they’ll probably have to buy some property apparently beside the current OPG plant. It doesn’t even talk about the decision process that they went through there. So I think the next step for this committee, and why we have to have this committee working and get this motion struck so this committee can get to work, is so that they can get to the bottom of it.
They talked over there yesterday about good government and moving on. Oh, yes, we do need to move on, and the people of this province of Ontario would like to move on. But they’re not going to move on with some hocus-pocus excuses and a number game on the part of the government. They’re prepared to move on when they receive all of the information with respect to these decisions. They will then be prepared to pass judgment. At the next general election, the people in this province will have the right to pass judgment on this government and its record. They will judge them on, have they been truthful to the people? Have they been open and transparent as they promised?
Mr. Garfield Dunlop: Accountable.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Are they accountable to the people? Can we count on them when they say they’re doing something? Can we count on it to be the fact? The people will evaluate them and they will make a decision after the next general election.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate?
Ms. Helena Jaczek: I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that my remarks will be somewhat less theatrical than what we have heard from the opposition.
Usually when I rise in this House, I say that I am pleased to address the business at hand, and I say that sincerely. I’m pleased to address government bills. I’m pleased to address a private member’s public business as it arises before us, because I see in those bills a genuine effort on the part of the member to try to advance life here in Ontario. I have to say today that I’m extremely disappointed to have to rise in this House. I’m disappointed with the amendment to the amendment—
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Sit down. We don’t need to hear you.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I think, opposition party, that they showed you respect and listened. They might not have liked what you said, but they listened to you intently. I would expect the same courtesy to be given to them. The first person who yells out is going to get a first warning.
Ms. Helena Jaczek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
We are now debating an amendment to an amendment to a motion brought by the member from Cambridge. We are not discussing, as I would have hoped we would, some of the important legislation to improve public services here in Ontario. Yesterday, we were supposed to have a third reading vote on the healthy homes renovation tax credit, something that will improve Ontarians’ lives and help our seniors. I was eager to vote on that excellent piece of legislation. 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.
When I was re-elected last October and it became apparent to my constituents that we were in a minority Parliament situation, many of them said to me, “Please, please, make this Parliament work.” I know that on our side of the House we’ve shown every willingness to make this Parliament work. What we see from the opposition is a concerted effort to derail the business of this House, the people’s business.
Now, let’s turn particularly to the issue of the power plants and the cancellation of both the Oakville and the Mississauga facilities.
I was very involved with the issue of where the power plant in northern York region would be situated. Certainly, when the public looks at major infrastructure investments in their community or adjacent to their community, they’re concerned. People hear terms like “megawatts,” and for some reason they find this intimidating. When I hear the term “megawatt,” I see turbines turning, and I see industry being supplied with a reliable source of power.
In the case of northern York region, there was certainly controversy about the location, adjacent to the Holland Marsh—perhaps not an ideal location, situated in the greenbelt. But the need for power was such in northern York region—for our businesses, for our residences—that overall, after many public meetings and much consultation, I’m happy to say that the York Energy Centre is now up and running; it has been for some six months. And those who were extremely opposed at the time to the placement of that power plant in that location in northern York region have publicly acknowledged that, in fact, they do not see any detrimental effects, either to human health or to the health of the vegetables in the marsh. All is working as it should.
However, in the case of Oakville, it was determined that the public, the community in that area, was raising significant concerns. They were voiced by the community and by local elected officials, including the mayor of Oakville, Rob Burton; our own colleague MPP Kevin Flynn; and yes, of course, MPP Ted Chudleigh. Our government’s decision that was made in October 2010 for the project not to proceed was supported by Tim Hudak and the Ontario PCs, and I’d just like to quote and remind the members that on June 1, 2010, according to Hansard, Mr. Chudleigh said, “The people of Oakville have told you they don’t want the proposed gas-fired power plant … and I agree with them.” So clearly, we were previously in agreement on the relocation of the Oakville facility, and I’m very happy to hear from the Minister of Energy that a resolution was successfully reached on September 24, 2012.
Now, when it comes to the Mississauga situation, there were many concerns raised over several years; in fact, since April 2005, when the Ontario Power Authority contracted with Greenfield South to develop and operate a 300-megawatt natural-gas-fired electricity generating station in Mississauga.
Over the course of the next number of years, particularly as construction got under way at the facility, community concerns were brought to the attention of the government, and all three of the political parties during the fall 2011 general election campaign turned their attention to this particular issue and they made the same commitment as we had made during the course of the campaign. Both the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and the Ontario New Democratic Party made the same commitment. And the Globe and Mail of September 25, 2011, quoted Mr. Hudak as saying, “We’ve opposed these projects in Oakville and”—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Well, I guess you didn’t take me seriously. There are five people talking over there. If you want to hold court, go out there and hold court. I want to hear the speaker. This is a serious issue. Thank you.
Ms. Helena Jaczek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Shortly after being re-elected, our government did announce its intention to relocate the Mississauga facility. In this case, there were some formal litigation proceedings under way, as well as confidential settlement discussions in relation to the cancellation of this project, and a resolution was successfully reached on July 10, 2012. I think what is so telling is that, immediately after that, the Minister of Energy released the documents that had been requested by the committee on estimates.
My other colleagues have detailed some of their experiences on the estimates committee. They were there between May 9 and July 11 when the Minister of Energy appeared before the Standing Committee on Estimates for the purpose of answering questions regarding the 2012-13 estimates of the Ministry of Energy. And while the minister answered questions relating to a number of issues, the committee members from the official opposition spent considerable time asking the minister questions relating to the two gas plants, which were to have been built in Oakville and Mississauga, respectively.
I think we should all acknowledge, as the Auditor General himself did, that it was a very difficult position for the Minister of Energy. The overwhelming majority of the questions asked by the committee related specifically to the ongoing outstanding legal proceedings and confidential negotiations. The Minister of Energy attempted to strike an effective balance between the committee’s authority to ask those questions and request those documents and the need to protect the public interest in the midst of highly sensitive commercial negotiations and litigation. He has a responsibility as minister of the crown, and it is different from the responsibilities that we have as members.
The Chair of the committee, the member for Beaches–East York, recognized the precarious situation of the Minister of Energy. In fact, he repeatedly ruled that, while committee members were permitted to ask such questions, the minister was able to exercise his discretion and respond to such questions in a manner that protected the interests of the province.
Mr. Prue, on May 16, as Chair of this committee, is quoted in Hansard as saying: “The minister has the right to decline either giving that documentation or giving voice to that documentation during his answering of the questions.”
And further on that day, Mr. Prue said, “I would advise that I’m going to allow the motion to proceed, but I would also advise—and I think the minister, being a lawyer himself, knows full well that he may choose to answer the question in such a way as not to prejudice the province in any way, and I would expect him to do so. That would be my ruling.”
The minister relied on the Chair’s repeated statements and rulings that the minister was permitted to respond to questions and document requests from committee members in a manner that protected the interests of the province. As a result, the minister wrote to the committee on May 30 and advised the committee that he was exercising his discretion and would not be able to produce the requested documentation as they were confidential, subject to solicitor-client privilege, litigation privilege or highly commercially sensitive.
Unfortunately, the official opposition ignored these flags that were raised by the minister. They showed no restraint, and on June 5, the member from Cambridge moved a motion to report to the House the minister’s failure to produce all responsive records pursuant to the motion of May 16 and to kick-start these contempt proceedings.
The official opposition and the third party have attempted to vilify the Minister of Energy, and they have implied that the minister hid or concealed these records. This is simply not true; let’s deal with the facts. The record shows that the Minister of Energy, at all times, was trying to balance two important yet competing public interests: the supremacy of Parliament versus protecting the taxpayers’ interests. I think the proof, as I’ve already alluded to, is shown, because on July 10, when the minister announced that the OPA had reached an agreement with Greenfield to relocate the Mississauga facility and that the government had accepted the OPA’s recommendation to relocate the Mississauga facility to the Lambton station in Sarnia, he released the documents. In fact, he directed his ministry to provide the committee with all correspondence relating to the Mississauga facility that was responsive to the motion of May 16, except for records that were subject to solicitor-client privilege, and these documents were provided to the committee. He was not trying to hide or conceal anything.
Now, we know that on September 13 of this year, the Speaker ruled that while a prima facie breach of privilege had been established, he would set the matter aside and ask the three House leaders to take it upon themselves to find a path that can satisfy the request of the estimates committee. I think this was a highly appropriate ruling. The minister himself clearly said he respected the ruling, and in a minority Parliament, it’s very appropriate that the three House leaders should meet and try to resolve the issue.
The Speaker clearly recognized that there were two competing public interests at play: the interests of the committee in exercising its parliamentary privileges, and the interests of the Minister of Energy in temporarily refraining from the disclosure of sensitive information in the midst of commercial negotiations and related proceedings. There was an opportunity for the three parties, through frank communication, to settle the matter in a way that satisfied the request of the estimates committee. The Speaker’s ruling clearly laid out that this was a unique situation, unlike other cases of privilege, that warranted a unique solution.
What happened since September 13? The House leaders met on four separate occasions to determine whether a solution could be found. On this side of the House, we had high hopes that the parties would ultimately reach a solution that struck a balance between the competing public interests identified in the Speaker’s ruling. The government tabled two separate proposals that would have facilitated the public release of the records, while accommodating the government’s concern about the ongoing commercial negotiations and related proceedings. Unfortunately, these proposals were not received in any serious way by the opposition House leaders.
In fact, last Friday, I’m informed that when our House leader asked the other two House leaders to attend a meeting, they stayed less than five minutes. They basically threw in the towel and made it clear they were not interested in negotiating, so I find it extremely disappointing, as I said at the onset of my remarks, that the opposition decided on Friday to walk away from the negotiations. Instead of trying to find common ground, as the Speaker requested, they left and used the time to spin the media with inaccuracies.
After a weekend of long negotiations, difficult negotiations, it was very interesting to hear from the Ministry of Energy that finally there was a settlement in the Oakville case. Shortly after announcing the settlement of the Oakville matter, the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority released all 36,000 records that were responsive to the original motion of the estimates.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to make sure everyone knows that the Minister of Energy has attested, as an honourable member of this House, that these are the full and complete records. I think that that should be respected. I would hope that each of us, when we make a statement of that significance, would be respected. Unfortunately, it appears not.
Mr. Speaker, I’m so disappointed. This is about the politics of constant conflict, and we’ve seen this from the Ontario PC caucus over the past 12 months in this province. This is the party that opposed the first budget in the first minority government in years in Ontario. We question whether they even read it. This is the faction that voted to remove interest arbitration reforms from the budget, even though they had proposed these sorts of changes in their own platform, in Changebook. It’s the party that rang bells, filibustered committees and blocked legislation for months in the spring session.
Why are we here? It’s simple: The opposition is on a political witch hunt. I’ve known the Minister of Energy for 10 years, and he’s a man of great integrity. He has served as Attorney General of this province for four years. He has been a well-respected and honourable member of this Legislature for nine years. Before he came to this place, he was a member of the Ontario bar of the highest standing and reputation for over 25 years. He opened community law clinics and taught law classes in his spare time. He has put the public interest first, as the deal reached clearly shows.
The Minister of Energy gives of his time, as we’ve heard, with his community activities. Just last week, he came to the Whitchurch-Stouffville Chamber of Commerce for a breakfast meeting with that organization. The community of Whitchurch-Stouffville is very dedicated to sustainable energy policies, and there’s a co-operative group there that was extremely interested in hearing from the minister. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the minister spoke to that group for some 20 minutes and took a number of questions from members of the audience. I am still receiving emails from people in attendance at that meeting about how grateful they were for the clarity with which he explained Ontario’s Green Energy Act—the value to Ontario, the jobs that it has created and the clean, sustainable source of power that we’re putting in place that is exemplified, in fact, by the range of energy options that we have created in this province.
As I said before, the fact that we are here debating an amendment to an amendment on a motion by the member from Cambridge disappoints me. It’s not what my constituents are expecting of the role I will and should be playing in this House. That role is to improve services and the quality of life of Ontarians, through thoughtfully considered government bills and through private members’ public business. It is a duty I think that we all need to think about long and hard. Surely, there’s some room for some frank discussion, some compromise, some idea of putting the people’s interest first as opposed to the political vindictiveness that we see so often from the other side. It’s not what I was elected to do, and I think the sooner we bring this matter to a conclusion, the better for all Ontarians.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate?
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I’m grateful to be part of this historic debate that I believe is going to fundamentally shape the way our Parliament and our government’s cabinet interact moving forward. I think that the previous speaker may be misinformed. It is within the people’s interest that we have this debate. It is within the interest of the people of this province that we find out how much of their hard-earned tax dollars have been mismanaged.
I’ve been listening intently to my colleagues from all political parties during this unprecedented situation. I’ve also listened to my constituents and many members of the public. In fact, as the education critic, I’ve heard from many of those who are in teachers’ unions, wondering why, at a time when they’ve been vilified by this Liberal government and asked to take a pay freeze—which we did support—they would actually have to watch this government effectively shred money.
It’s very difficult for people in the public to understand why $650 million and counting of their money has gone out the door, with little, if nothing, to show for it. And it is clear, Speaker, that without a doubt the cancellation of the Mississauga and Oakville power plants has cost those Ontario families hundreds of millions of dollars. As I said, and as many of my Progressive Conservative colleagues have said, we are now estimating that this decision by the energy minister, the Liberal campaign team and the Premier has cost Ontario families $640 million. This is money that my constituents and many members of the public say could have been spent elsewhere. They say it could have been spent on MRIs. They say it could have been spent on other ways to help cancer patients. It could have been used in classrooms across Ontario. It could have been used for so many other reasons. But it is not, Speaker, because $640 million is now going out the window for cancellation fees and projects that will never see fruition. Speaker, that is very, very serious.
It’s also clear that in cancelling the power plants, particularly in Mississauga, those outside the traditional lines of decision-making in government—an unelected, unaccountable campaign team—made costly decisions for the people of our province.
Let’s put this into perspective. People who work on campaigns are all tireless individuals; we all know that. We respect volunteerism, particularly on political campaigns throughout the political spectrum because those folks are hard to come by. They’re diligent. They believe in something. However, they’re not entrusted by people in this province to make those types of decisions, of cancelling a power plant.
First and foremost, that affects our energy grid. Secondly, it affects the money that people send to Queen’s Park that they expect will be used in a responsible manner. They expect members of a cabinet, they expect members of the assembly, not members of a political campaign team, to make decisions about their money and power in this province. That in and of itself is a serious breach of trust, and if the member that just spoke from the Ontario Liberal Party cannot understand that, then maybe she should consider whether or not this place is her vocation or not. At the very end, Speaker, it is an inappropriate—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I would suggest that we don’t have any personal attacks on the member from—it was kind of a bit of a stretch, so I’d appreciate it if we would stick to the issue. Thank you.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Thank you, Speaker.
Simply, this is an inappropriate way for government decisions to be made. It was a project that cost literally hundreds of millions of dollars. It was entrusted to this assembly, and by extension to that cabinet, by the people of Ontario, and it was sadly mismanaged. To make matters worse, the decision by the Liberal campaign team was made mere days before a provincial vote.
We have a right in this assembly to ask questions, demand documents, probe this situation. That is our responsibility in the official opposition. It is our responsibility to the people of Mississauga and Oakville and to the rest of the province to get to the bottom of whether or not this was a vote-buying scheme. We have an obligation to the people of Ontario to protect their money. We have an obligation to talk about this government’s energy policy.
Now, when members of this assembly, most notably my colleague from Cambridge, Dr. Leone, sought information and sought answers from this government and its new minister on why the Liberal campaign team was quite frankly given extraordinary and exceptional powers over our electricity system, regardless of its cost to taxpayers, we rightly felt obstructed when that information was not given to us. We rightly felt, in the official opposition and I believe in the third party, obstructed, Speaker. We felt we were being denied relevant information for us to do our job. After all, we are in the opposition to keep an eye on the government. That is why we are here. I hate to break it to members of the government, but sadly, Speaker, I think after nine years in office, they have forgotten why they’re there and why we’re here, and that is a sad testament.
That brings us to this point. We arrived at this point because the energy minister refused to adhere to the responsibilities that he was given, through the cabinet, to this assembly. He has a responsibility to give us information when it is requested through the committee structure. The Minister of Energy—and I want to make this very abundantly clear to members of the Liberal government—had a choice. He had a choice he could have made.
Chris Bentley could have shared those documents requested by Dr. Leone and others at the standing committee on estimates or what he ultimately chose to do, which was refuse to hand over the documents and inhibit the committee’s work, as well as members outside of that committee to do the work that they are expected to do and get to the bottom of this multi-million-dollar scandal.
Speaker, again, he had a choice. He could have done the right thing, the honourable thing, what was expected of him at the estimates committee, and handed over those documents to Dr. Leone. He chose not to do that. This is not the opposition’s fault. It is the government’s fault. It is the Minister of Energy’s fault. He chose to do that. He made the decision. He should be smarter than that. But he chose to do that, and we were left with whatever options we have in the opposition to get the information that we require.
Had the minister made a better decision—and I have a seven-year-old. I know all about talking to children about good decisions and bad decisions, like taking a pair of scissors to school, and when your friend says, “I want to have a fashion show; can we cut up the dress?”—that’s a bad decision when your child decides to do that. Trust me; I know. That’s a bad decision. I know what bad decisions are.
I hate to have to talk to the Minister of Energy as if he is my seven-year-old child. However, similar to taking the scissors to school to cut the little girl’s dress because they think it’s a fashion show, his decision on the Mississauga power plant, and then to conceal the information that we requested, was a bad decision.
He had a choice. He had a choice, and it was a clear one. He could have made a better decision and he would not have been in this spot. We would not be undertaking an unprecedented step today had he made a better choice. He would not have been found in a prima facie breach by the Speaker of the assembly had he made a better choice.
But we are here, because the rules of this assembly allow that. The rules in this assembly have been created to protect the opposition, the minority, from the tyranny of the majority, so that we are having abilities to protect our right to speak in this assembly, to ask questions in this assembly, to gather information in this assembly. After all, that is why we have been sent here. There is only one person who can be blamed for bringing us here to this day, to this contempt motion, and that, Speaker, is the Minister of Energy himself.
I’ve listened, as I said, intently to the debate. Members of all three political parties have had their opportunity to voice their displeasure with this unprecedented situation. I listened, for example, to the remarks of the government House leader, he of the now-famous quip that the Ontario Legislative Assembly is a kangaroo court. I think that is probably the saddest commentary I’ve heard since being elected here, that the government’s own House leader would resort to calling a duly elected assembly a kangaroo court. Speaker, he should apologize to every member of this assembly for that transgression. He should be held accountable for saying that.
That was the same member, Speaker, who said that there have been no redactions; there has been nothing hidden—no omissions. My staff member Justin Ferguson spent the last three days with another group of staffers from the Progressive Conservative caucus. I want to thank every single member of the Ontario PC caucus staff team who went through those 36,000 documents. They have been here 24 hours a day, the last three days, and you know what? Of just but two documents that I was given this morning are pages that say, “18 pages redacted, not relevant; 31 pages redacted, not relevant.”
Mr. John Yakabuski: That’s just two documents.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: That’s just two documents of how many pages that have been redacted in over 36,000 documents. And that government House leader has the audacity to stand in this place, call us a kangaroo court and then lie to us and tell us that those documents were not redacted.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Nepean–Carleton will withdraw that word.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Yes, Speaker, withdrawn.
But, Speaker, I also concentrated on the remarks by the Attorney General, the successor to the Minister of Energy. He wants this whole distasteful mess to just go away. He just wants to go to sleep tonight, wake up tomorrow and talk about some fluffy, happy thing—maybe it’s about wind turbines on Wolfe Island; I don’t know. But that’s what he chose to do and I think that’s really nice.
I think that’s really simplistic and I think that’s incredibly naive, because as I have said, his predecessor had a choice, a very clear choice: It was hand over the documents or obstruct and stall. He chose the latter; he made a choice. We’re here because of your colleague’s choice.
Now I agree that every member here comes to this place for the same reason: We want to do well for the people of Ontario; we want to put them first. We may have different ideas on what that is and how to make life here in Ontario better, but at the end of the day, right from wrong is pretty damn clear.
He had a choice: Hand over the documents or obstruct. He chose obstruction, and as much as I wish the Minister of Energy and the Attorney General well in their life outside of this place, and even inside of this place, I must say it’s incredibly naive to think that we can gloss over this historic breach of parliamentary trust. We can’t just do that because you want to; we are obligated to have those fulsome debates.
I also listened to the Minister of the Environment. He was interesting because he decided to spend a lot of time name-dropping Conservatives, and he also name-dropped a lot of New Democrats, to be fair. He said, “Oh, my goodness, these Conservatives would just be so upset that today’s Conservatives will be doing this.” I can tell you, I was sitting in a caucus meeting yesterday when one of the name-dropped Conservatives he was talking about sent another one of my colleagues a note and said, “You know what? We should not only have these guys in contempt, but we should have a confidence motion and boot them out.”
I’ve got to tell you that the Conservative family in Ontario has never been more united. The Conservative family in Ontario is ready to govern this province. The Conservative family in this province would never do what this government did and sacrifice $650 million of taxpayer money for what you’ve done and put our energy grid in Ontario at the brink. You have put more politics into our power system than any government in previous incarnations.
So to the Minister of Environment, who used to be a government House leader, I must say, I was never more displeased from hearing someone—who I consider a statesman in this House—want to gloss over a situation as serious as the one before us.
Let’s put this, again, into perspective. It is a chaotic mess at their government’s own doing. They did this; they had a choice. It was they who made the campaign decision to cancel the power plants. It was they who wasted $650 million and counting on a politically motivated, election-driven decision. It was they who refused to hand over the documents to this assembly when those documents were requested. It was they who were found in breach of the rules when they refused to hand over the documents, and it was they who redacted, omitted and hid documents once the Speaker ordered that they comply.
Speaker, it is very clear we are here because of them. I showed you the pages that have been redacted, and I am reminded again of the words of the government House leader, who said to us that they weren’t redacted. Well, they were; I know that he likes to play with the truth, but there you have it. After all, it is they—and I cannot say this enough—who are responsible for this contempt motion.
To the Attorney General’s point again, we all want to do what’s best for the province, but in this case, you and your government failed utterly and miserably.
I cannot answer why the Minister of Energy, the Liberal campaign team or the Premier made the decisions that they did. I can speculate that it was more about winning seats in the GTA than it was about good energy policy here in Ontario. I can speculate that it was more about winning seats than it was about bringing affordable energy to the seniors in my riding, who are having a very difficult time paying for it. And I think it was more about winning seats in the Ontario Legislative Assembly than it was about their so-called pride-and-joy green energy program.
I cannot answer why the Minister of Energy and why the Premier and the Liberal campaign team chose to withhold documents from the Standing Committee on Estimates, but I can speculate, Speaker. I think it was because they didn’t want to be caught mismanaging our energy system at the expense of about $650 million, at a time when we’re asking teachers and doctors and every other public servant to take a wage freeze, which we support. But my gosh, it’s awfully hypocritical when you go out and—I’m going to send the Minister of Finance a shredder just so he can start shredding money—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member will withdraw that one word, please. It’s unparliamentary.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Withdrawn, Speaker.
I can’t answer why the Minister of Energy, the Liberal campaign team or the Premier thought it was a good idea to redact, omit and further hide additional documents after the Speaker’s ruling. But again, I can speculate, and again that’s why we’re here.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Please do.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I think they don’t want to get caught, to the colleague from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. I think they want to contain this embarrassment.
You have to understand that, after nine years in office, this government has become incredibly entitled. They find the opposition and any stakeholders or communities that are opposed to their agenda as irritants. They’re incredibly arrogant and incredibly entitled. That is why we have had to pursue this rare, unique and unmatched situation at the assembly. This hasn’t been done in over a century, and it’s for good reason, Speaker: because any responsible opposition, like the one Tim Hudak is leading in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, is going to take its time, do its due diligence and make sure that we get this right. This is an extraordinary measure because these are extraordinary times.
You cannot just take $640 million and put it through a shredder and expect the people of Ontario to ignore that, and expect the people in the opposition to roll over. You can’t expect that; these are too-important times. We have to get our economy back on track. We cannot afford to mismanage more money.
Speaker, at a time when we’re assaulting rural communities, just like mine in North Gower, with wind turbine developments that aren’t wanted, this government decides to play fast and loose with the facts on a major power station in Mississauga and a major power station in Oakville.
Now, if we want to talk about people, like the previous speaker did from the Ontario Liberal Party, and putting people first, then she would understand that this decision by our caucus and the third party is an important one, because we have the right to get that information. We have the right to ask those questions. We have the right to speak on behalf of the people who feel so disenchanted by this government. Speaker, we’re going to continue to do that.
I would expect after today that this Liberal government will hand over those redacted, omitted and hidden documents and give them to Dr. Leone’s committee and send this immediately to the finance committee so that we can get to the bottom of it and find no more surprises, and know once and for all how much money they have wasted.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate?
Mr. Bill Mauro: As I was reflecting on my remarks and what I was going to say about this last night, Speaker, it occurred to me that it has been almost nine years to the day since I was elected into this place. I would almost always start my remarks on whatever the issue may have been that we were debating by saying that I’m pleased to rise and offer my comments on whatever the issue may have been. I will tell you that I am not necessarily today pleased to rise and offer my comments, but I do feel, as a member who has been here for nine years representing my riding of Thunder Bay–Atikokan, that it’s almost incumbent upon me—and I would expect on other members in this place—to rise, even though I’m not pleased to do so. But it’s almost incumbent upon all of us to rise and put our comments on the record on this particular issue. The reason I say that and phrase it that way is because I see this, and I don’t—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I believe that the government gave you the courtesy of listening to you.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I’m just coughing.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I’m sure you’re coughing. The rest of your party would want to listen to this serious issue, and I would appreciate a little decorum.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Speaker, I thank you for that. I would ask maybe next time that it occurs if you could just ask to stop the clock.
As I’ve said, I feel it’s incumbent upon all of us to put our remarks on the record on this particular issue. Now, the opposition—the Conservatives and the NDP—will not agree, but I see this issue as just completely one that is politically motivated. I know that they don’t agree with that. They’re on the record as saying they don’t, but both the Conservatives and the NDP are engaged in concert, I would say, in an exercise that I see as completely politically motivated.
Sometimes, when you come into this place, this being one of those days—and I say this with some reluctance—you have to sort of hold your nose and inject yourself into an issue that you would prefer not to. I thought, “Maybe I’ll just stay away and not be bothered with this,” but I don’t think that we have that particular choice.
The member who spoke just before me, Speaker, talked about how the electricity system has become too political, in her words. I would love to just use my 20 minutes speaking about the Conservative record when they were in government and the electricity system in the province of Ontario. I would love to spend more time reminding people about how, in 2002 or 2003, their attempt at privatization led to disastrous outcomes, and how they artificially capped the price on everybody’s bill that showed up at their door every day.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Point of order.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Stop the clock, Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Stop the clock. Point of order.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, I believe that the motion before the House is a contempt motion, amended twice. There’s an amendment and a sub-amendment. It is not about policies of a previous government or anything else. It’s about a contempt motion directed at the Minister of Energy of this government. I would ask that the member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan speak to that motion.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I appreciate the point of order, and it’s duly noted. If I feel that the member has strayed too far, I’ll certainly inform him. At this point, he’s on the line.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Thank you, Speaker. As I mentioned, the member who spoke just before me referenced politically motivated electricity decisions, and that’s why I would remind people only that they artificially capped the price of electricity in 2002 and 2003 because they didn’t want to deal the issue of electricity pricing, and they were hiding the real price on people’s tax bills and not allowing people to see the real price on their energy bills that came to their house. I could talk to that for a long, long time and would love to.
Speaker, this is, as I’ve said, nothing more, in my opinion, than a personal assault—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Stop the clock again. The member from Renfrew, the member from Simcoe–Grey, if you want to talk out loud, I suggest you go outside, not here, not across the floor. Last warning.
Mr. Bill Mauro: So as I’ve said, I see this as nothing more than a personal assault, which is why I feel it’s necessary to speak today on the integrity and on the character of a member of our caucus who’s been serving this place with distinction for over nine years. I see it as nothing more than that. It’s unseemly, in my opinion. Quite frankly, I think it’s distasteful.
We’re not talking about education here. I’ve listened to the other members talk about what we could have done with the money. I’d love to sit here and debate at length our record on education compared to the record on education—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan is drifting. Stay to the issue, and I won’t stop the clock on that one.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Thank you, Speaker, but clearly they have raised the issues of education and health care in their remarks, and I would expect the same latitude to address it. We’re a government that has hired 10,000 teachers, many of them new and young, newly graduated teachers—15,000 nurses. The list goes on. So we would love to have that debate at any time they’d like to and compare records.
Speaker, to be clear, this is a Conservative motion. They’ve brought it forward, but I want to address as well—I wasn’t here yesterday when the NDP spoke to this, but I was told that the leader of the third party made a remark about them seeking the truth. I’ve noticed now that they are sitting down there, Speaker; they are not coming forward, I guess some attempt to stay above the fray on this contempt motion. But they clearly spoke to it, and I’m told the NDP leader said, “We’re seeking the truth,” which in my mind is a very clear and direct attack on the integrity of the member, saying the same thing, that what he’s done to this point is not truthful and that it is not fully transparent. So, in my opinion, while they’re attempting to stay above the fray—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I will ask the member to sit down, and I will not stop the clock. In his reference to the third party, it’s within their ability to say they want to seek the truth. It wasn’t a personal attack on the member, as you stated. I’ll ask you to withdraw that. Don’t shrug your shoulders. Withdraw.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Withdraw.
Interjection: Thank you.
Mr. Bill Mauro: You’re welcome.
Speaker, I’m going to read the motion, if I can, just so that people who are interested in the issue know what it says:
“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.”
And I understand now that one of the amendments is changing the date on that, I think, to November 23. So let’s sum up what they are suggesting and saying.
They are saying that at committee, the Standing Committee on Estimates, when they requested documents, they were not submitted to the committee in a timely manner. They are completely ignoring a ruling of the Chair, the NDP member who was the Chair of the Standing Committee on Estimates; they are completely ignoring the ruling of the Speaker that very clearly articulated that there are two very obvious and apparent competing interests here and that the minister was completely within his rights and his obligations on behalf of all of the people in the province of Ontario in the way in which he addressed the issue.
Now, Speaker, I’m going to read for you—I’ve got four minutes before we break here, but I want to read for you what the Chair of the Standing Committee on Estimates said in terms of the release of the documents—the timely release, or the release at all, of some of the information contained in there. This is what Michael Prue, the NDP member from Beaches–East York, who is the Chair of the Standing Committee on Estimates, said on May 16.
He said two things. He said the minister has the right to decline either giving that documentation or giving voice to that documentation during his answering of the questions. On its face, that doesn’t mean a lot until you hear the second part, which explains why he ruled that way.
Here’s what Mr. Prue, the Chair, said: “I would advise that I’m going to allow the motion to proceed, but I would also advise—and I think the minister,” that being the Minister of Energy, “being a lawyer himself, knows full well that he may choose to answer the question in such a way as not to prejudice the province in any way, and,” further, he goes on to say, “I would expect him to do so. That would be my ruling.”
So, Speaker, clearly the Chair of the Standing Committee on Estimates, as well as the Speaker, has acknowledged that there are two very clear competing interests here when it came to the submission of the documents at any point. Everybody gets it.
Now, here’s where we find ourselves. The minister subsequently has released and provided all of the documents, 36,000 pages, so here’s where we get to the point. Some of them have talked a bit about pieces being redacted. Speaker, my goodness. Commercially sensitive information should be released? Solicitor-client privilege should be released? That’s what they’re saying. I would find it interesting if members of the press gallery were here, and maybe next time we’ll see some motion from one of the parties opposite that’s going to say that the press gallery, when they do a story, are going to have to reveal their source to us. I don’t know where this goes.
Everybody understands that there are reasons for keeping some of that information away from public scrutiny. Everybody gets it. Here’s what I would say if you want to solve it: Step outside the legislative chamber, a member of either party, and make these same allegations outside of the confines of this chamber. Step outside and say that the Minister of Energy has not released all of the documents, when he says very clearly that he has. Step outside of the legislative chamber and say that he hasn’t done it. Not only has he done it, but he’s gone further than that. Not required, he has provided a personal attestation to the fact that he has released all of the documents that were required. He’s done that. He’s done that.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Well, do it. We’ll look forward to it.
We’ve given the example of the press gallery—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I thank the member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan. He will continue when this starts again at 10:30; he has the floor.
This House stands recessed until 10:30 this morning.
The House recessed from 1015 to 1030.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further debate? The member for Thunder Bay–Atikokan has the floor.
Mr. Bill Mauro: I’m pleased to continue today, Speaker, with my—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Forgive me; I have a point of order. The member from Nepean–Carleton.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: I know all members will be very excited to see that Jean-Marc Lalonde, from Glengarry–Prescott–Russell, is here. I just want to say a quick hello to the former member.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I guess I’m supposed to say that that’s not a point of order, but I would be remiss in saying the Speaker always acknowledges former members. We do thank the member for bringing that to our attention.
The member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan will have a few extra seconds to compensate for that wonderful introduction of Jean-Marc Lalonde.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Thank you, Speaker. I’m pleased to continue my remarks. I think where I left off before the break was that, in fact, the 36,000 pages, all of the documents, have been delivered, which leads us to the obvious question: Why continue with the motion? If the minister, with a personal attestation, has delivered 36,000 documents, which he says is all of the documents that were requested and delivered, why, then, go forward with the contempt motion? Because, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, it is nothing more than a personal assault and pure politics. It’s a Conservative motion, supported by the NDP; it’s nothing more than personal.
I also think it’s important for people that are interested in this particular motion—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): That’s better.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Speaker, I think it’s also important to let people know, who may be interested—I don’t know how many really are. None of the press gallery is here. I don’t know how many people watching this on television are truly interested in this personal, personally motivated motion. But what it has meant is the entire House—it’s important for people to know the entire House has basically been shut down. No government legislation is being introduced or debated. No private members’ legislation can come forward. I know that all members here, all 107, short of cabinet, take great pride in being able to introduce private members’ bills on behalf of their constituents or on behalf of the entire province of Ontario. No committee work is going forward—all shut down for what? Completely—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Renfrew is warned—one and only.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Speaker, the member from Renfrew was warned before you were here. Now we’ve got a new Speaker and he’s been warned again. He’s getting multiple warnings. But anyway, that’s all fine.
No committees, no private members’ bills, no government legislation: This particular motion has shut everything down. It’s important that we share with people how long this contempt motion can actually shut this place down, because this motion allows all 107 members of the Legislature to speak for 20 minutes each on this particular motion—20 minutes each. Each amendment allows each of 107 members to speak for 20 minutes. There have been two such amendments. Two amendments times 20 minutes each is 40, plus 20 minutes each on the original motion.
That means that all 107 members of this Legislature can now speak for one hour each on this particular motion. That’s 107 hours of debate that’s allowed on this particular motion to go forward. What that means is 107 hours where we won’t be talking about government legislation, where we won’t be able to pass our home renovation tax credits to annually give $1,500 maximum relief to seniors. None of that work can go forward.
Now, that assumes, of course—and I know members won’t like to hear this—that there are no further amendments put on the floor. Any member at any time can put another amendment on the floor, so each time there’s another amendment, another 20 minutes is allowed per 107 members of the Legislature. Clearly we’re in a situation here where the Legislature has been shut down. No relevant debate is going to take course on anything but this particular motion. It’s important for people who are interested in this to understand that.
Here’s where I go with that, and I want people in my riding to know that: 107 hours and growing. I’m going to make a prediction. I’m going to make a prediction today that at some point—what’s today? Today is September 26. I’m predicting that somewhere along the line here—I think it’s going to be the Conservatives but it might be the NDP; I’m not sure—before 107 hours of debate has transpired, one of them is going to stand and invoke a closure motion. It’s just a prediction. They’re going to invoke a closure motion, non-debatable. Nobody will get to debate the closure motion. That will, at some point, end this, because I think they’re going to come to the conclusion that enough is enough. I think they’re going to do that.
What it will mean is that when they do it, it will mean that they themselves are shutting down debate on a motion that they brought into this Legislative Assembly, because I think at some point the light is going to go on for the opposition parties that they probably feel, “Okay, the jig is up. We’ve exacted what we’ve attempted to do,” and what they’ve attempted to do is nothing more than take a pound of flesh, publicly, in a very public way, in a very personal way, from an individual member of this Legislature. Today is September 26; that’s my prediction—
Mr. John Yakabuski: Point of order, Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Point of order, the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Standing order 23(i) prohibits a member from impugning the motives of another member of this House. What I just heard from the member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan does exactly that. I would ask him to withdraw that.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I’ve been doing my utmost to listen carefully, over some volume, and I personally did not hear unparliamentary language and impugning motive, but I take the member’s concern seriously and I will listen intently to ensure that it does not take place.
I would also ask again, while I’m speaking, that people do not speak and that we bring the tone down. I’d appreciate that.
Member from Thunder Bay–Atikokan.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Thank you, Speaker. I want to congratulate the member for that interjection. He managed to stand in front of the cameras and get it all out without smiling. I’m not sure how he did it, but he managed to do that. I can’t stand and respond to it without smiling, because it was very interesting.
Anyway, I want to recapture: That’s my prediction. At some point, one of the Conservatives, maybe an NDP but—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): There are people I’d like to rein in, and if they would actually self-discipline themselves, we wouldn’t have this problem—including those who are not in their seats.
Mr. Bill Mauro: Speaker, I’ll just recapture—I’ve only got a couple of minutes left—what I think is going to happen here on this debate. At some point, the opposition, likely the Conservatives—maybe the NDP, but likely the Conservatives—will invoke a closure motion to limit debate. It’s a non-debatable motion. They will invoke it to limit debate on their own motion that they’ve brought into this House, because at some point I think they’re going to come to the conclusion that they can’t do anymore. They can’t exact a pound of flesh from an individual member more than they already have. The point will have been made. It may be the wrong point to try and make. That’s just my prediction. It’s September 26. I hope I’m wrong. We’ll see where this goes, because on our side of the House, as I’ve said at the beginning of my remarks, I think it’s incumbent upon individual members to rise and speak to this. I’ve got 20 minutes on the amendments. I’ve got 20 minutes on the sub-amendment. We’ve got 20 minutes on the original motion. If there are further amendments, all 107 are allowed another 20 minutes, so there’s much to do.
This is really a serious issue. This is very, very serious. There will be casualties. There will be casualties as a result of this approach, but personally I don’t think it’s going to be the casualties that the opposition members may have expected. I think what you’re going to see is a bit of a recoil from members of the public, those who may be following this—and I’m not really sure how many are, but for those who are, I think there will be a bit of a recoil. My goodness, they’ll look at this and think, “Boy, what are these people doing to each other? What’s the cause? Why would they do it? What’s the result?”
If anybody is out there watching this debate, you would have to think that anybody who is seriously considering running for political office, whether it’s at the municipal level, whether it’s at the provincial level, whether it’s at the federal level, whether it’s as a public school board trustee—you’d have to think that anybody who’s giving any consideration to that, who is following this debate with any closeness, and I don’t believe too many are, would have to probably step back, pause and give some consideration or reconsideration to whether or not they really want to go forward with this, because the way that people in this chamber are treating each other, since I arrived here in 2003, is not getting any better.
Mr. Grant Crack: Point of order.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): A point of order from the member from Glengarry–Prescott–Russell.
Mr. Grant Crack: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Merci, monsieur le Président. C’est une grande journée pour moi aujourd’hui. C’est Glengarry–Prescott–Russell day. I’m very, very pleased to have six of the mayors and a number of members of council and other members from my riding here to witness a historic event here at Queen’s Park. I’d like to welcome them all up here.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I thank the member for his point of order. Indeed, it is not a point of order. I know that we do recognize our guests—except under these circumstances, we’re not doing introduction of guests. Since that wasn’t a point of order, they weren’t introduced.
It is now time for further debate. The leader of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this opportunity to lend my voice, as the MPP for Niagara West–Glanbrook and the proud leader of the Ontario PC Party, about the breach-of-privilege motion that stands before the House today.
I want to begin by saying how utterly regretful it is that we have had to come to this point, to the point where a minister of the crown, somebody entrusted with billions of dollars of investments and taxpayers’ money, is on the verge potentially of being found in contempt of the very Ontario Legislature that he is here to serve, in contempt of his colleagues in his own party and the parties on the other side of the House, and thereby in contempt of hard-working taxpayers across this province.
It has not been, as I understand, since 1908—104 years ago—that we’ve come this close to finding someone, let alone the energy minister, in contempt of the Ontario Legislature. It should never have come to this, but it has. Taxpayers have been ripped off, potentially to the tune of $650 million. Documents have been buried, hidden from MPPs.
I know it has got to be a concern for the energy minister’s colleagues—their privileges were abused, just as they were for Mr. Leone, the member for Cambridge, or any of us in the Legislature—that documents were hidden from view. And it’s an ongoing concern: They continue to be hidden from view.
I won’t apologize for this for one minute, that the Ontario PCs are going to stand up for taxpayers, stand up for MPPs, and say, “No more.”
The sad thing is, it’s the Premier himself, his energy minister and his cabinet colleagues who are the authors of their own misfortunes, the indirect authors of the motion before the Legislature today—an extremely serious motion. It’s their actions, their choices and their ongoing deliberate decisions that have created this mess: a mess in the assembly, a mess for taxpayers, and a huge cost—again, up to $650 million that ordinary families and businesses are going to have to shoulder for decades to come.
Quite frankly, Speaker, listening to the debate across the way, they can’t blame the power plant fiasco, they can’t blame the jobs crisis, they can’t blame the debt crisis—they can’t blame anybody but themselves that we’ve come to this point.
Today’s motion isn’t simply about the government squandering hundreds of millions of dollars—although that is an important point—of burying information and hiding the truth to save seats to maintain a loose grip on power. But importantly, too, as we consider the motion standing in the name of the member for Cambridge—this contempt motion before the House, based on the actions of the energy minister, the Premier, the Liberal campaign, is signalling to job creators, to investors, that the current government of Ontario is entirely incapable of being entrusted to manage complex files like the province’s $15-billion energy sector. While they were busy burying documents, trying to save Liberal seats, that meant that they spent time on these distractions and not on the basics of providing reliable, affordable energy and ensuring we can create jobs in the province of Ontario.
There are many costs to the actions of the minister being framed by the contempt motion today. But let’s not forget the cost to ordinary, hard-working families, the 600,000 women and men who woke up this morning with no job to go to, who have seen their energy bills soar, who have seen companies vacate this province, because they took their eye off the ball to provide reliable and affordable energy to the province of Ontario and to fuel our economy. So they seemed try every measure they were able to discover of keeping documents away from the MPPs on the committee, of keeping documents from you, Speaker, and members of the assembly. While the Ontario Liberals were focused on their own jobs, they forgot about the jobs of millions of Ontario men and women today, who can’t fathom that up to $650 million has been blown to save Liberal seats. It is going to cost us jobs and drive up hydro bills for average, hard-working families.
While the government was more concerned about digging a hole to bury documents and stalling on information about who made the order, why they made the decision and the true costs of cancelling the power plants in Oakville and Mississauga, tens of thousands of Ontario men and women lost their jobs. Hundreds of thousands more have sent out their resumés every day, over and over again, knocked on doors—can’t find a job in this stalled economy. One of the drivers is runaway energy prices, and a signal to job creators and investors—businesses today—that these guys can’t run the show. They can’t handle their internal squabble and they can’t look out for a $15-billion energy sector that is a prime driver of our economy.
For the Ontario PCs, everything starts with creating good private sector jobs. Unfortunately, as the motion before us speaks to, the same can’t be said for many of the members opposite. This is Ontario, where energy supply has always been a strength; it’s been a competitive advantage. For 100 years, we had lower energy costs than competing states and provinces. That made beautiful cities like Brantford—where I come from—Niagara, Hamilton, the manufacturing heartland not just of Canada but of North America. This was an incredible strength. With these types of ad hoc decisions made on the spur of the moment to cancel power plants for short-term communications advantages, they’ve now saddled us with among the highest rates for job creators in Canada and North America. We’re on a path to having the most expensive energy of any state or province.
This is the tragedy: that they have turned what has been an historic strength for our great province into a major shortcoming. Now we see with the conduct—just trying to get some basic documents about how they arrived at these decisions—they have completely politicized the energy process. They put Liberal seats ahead of jobs for regular, hard-working Ontario families.
So do you want to know why we’re bringing this forward, Speaker? Well, we’re standing up for hard-working taxpayers. We’re standing up for the rights of MPPs to do the job that they’ve been entrusted with; for the people of the province of Ontario, the voters, to bear scrutiny on the government’s decisions—and that’s of all parties. It’s incumbent upon the Liberal members, too, to hold their ministers to account.
And then, when a committee of the Legislature votes to see these documents, to see them try to bury them, and still we have—what?—2,000 documents that have been obscured—I guess the technical term is “redacted,” basically hidden from view. Hopefully, in the time this debate takes place, those documents will be forthcoming. The House leader, I did hear, said that they’re going to make all the documents available. About 2,000 have not been available yet, so hopefully we will pursue that.
Let me address another important aspect of this, too. As this very motion was being prepared by Mr. Leone in the event that the Speaker’s order was not followed, the energy minister made an announcement that seems to reflect the type of thinking that resulted in the Mississauga and Oakville cancellations at the cost of $640 million. The minister announced a new deal with TransCanada to build a plant in Lennox and then, I guess, to ship the energy, to transmit it, from eastern Ontario to the southwestern GTA. I have concerns that some of the elements behind this motion—about short-term communications, political interests ahead of economic interests, the interests of taxpayers or those of MPPs—are reflected in that decision as well.
Between Oakville and Mississauga and the Lennox plant, we already have the Pickering nuclear generating station, we have the Darlington station, let alone the Lennox generating station itself, which is Canada’s largest oil- and gas-fuelled electricity generating station, and, I know from the comments of the member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke this morning, a tremendously underutilized station as well. If it was indeed in the best interests of taxpayers to send the hydro from eastern Ontario to Mississauga and Oakville, through all those current generating stations, why then not use the capacity of the Lennox generating station to produce that power instead of this deal, Speaker?
Why Lennox? It’s an important question. This Premier, his minister, his campaign team did not even attempt to explain. This motion, then, would give the finance committee the availability, the opportunity to ask those questions on behalf of taxpayers as well.
Sadly, a cynical pre-election seat-saver had nothing to do with delivering reliable, affordable power to the people of the province, which is one of the most important points in governing and one of the most important jobs of the energy minister, who chose to bury documents instead of taking on that important duty.
Sadly, in the procedures we’ve seen that we’re debating in the Legislature today, the documents that have come before the House as a result of the contempt motion coming from the committee, this government’s decisions have turned natural gas into a four-letter word. This is an important supply of power in our province. It has enormous potential. We see what can happen in the shale gas not too far from our borders, beyond Lake Erie, and this government’s political decision-making has turned natural gas into a dirty word. We disagree.
The $640 million, $645 million, $650 million, whatever—when we get all the documents we’ll find out exactly what it is, but between $640 million and $650 million—could have built two Highway 7s. It could have extended subways here in the city of Toronto. It could have built hospitals, like those in West Lincoln, in Cambridge and other parts of the province.
Mr. Tim Hudak: Fergus, Milton.
Not only have they abrogated the rights of members to see documents, even in their own party, not only do they continue that by trying to bury documents—it still happens today with 2,000 unavailable documents. The complete waste of $640 million that they could have invested in subways, in hospitals, in MRI machines and in our highways to move our economy forward is an incredible tragedy.
In addition, a very good reason why this debate should continue in the finance committee for further investigation: Confidence in investment in this province of Ontario is on the line. Why would somebody who can invest in another state or province invest in Ontario if they think that big decisions like these hydro plants are made by campaign teams, are made on the whim of the Premier, if they think they can change, after six years of heading in one direction, to the opposite six days before an election, or whatever it was? What does that do for investment in our province? What does it do for the long-term job creation picture? The economic vitality of our province is on the line. That’s why this is so important.
Our commitment to holding this government accountable over its mismanagement of the energy file is evident by the fact that our inaugural Paths to Prosperity white paper, the very first one, was about affordable energy, ideas to keep prices under control for entrepreneurs, businesses, industry, households and taxpayers alike, to ensure a reliable, sustainable system that brings jobs back to the province of Ontario and so families can afford their bills.
Speaker, I commend the members in the PC caucus who have brought forward some very passionate, serious speeches here today on this historic debate. Former President Harry Truman once said: Don’t give them hell; give them the truth, and they think that’s hell. That’s what it’s all about.
The truth of the matter: Between $640 million and $650 million wasted to save Liberal seats; an ongoing attempt by the energy minister and those in the Premier’s office to hide documents from MPPs of all parties; 300,000 manufacturing jobs lost and no sense of contrition, no apology from the government for this abuse of taxpayers’ dollars. They shrug it off. They say, “Well, we got a few plans right; we got a few plans wrong.” The incredible arrogance, the lack of contrition and the lack of understanding of the violation of the rights of MPPs and taxpayers and the impacts on the vitality of this great province of Ontario is beyond them. We’ll stand up for it. We’ll fight each and every day to say, “No more. It’s time for a change in course.”
We have tremendous potential in this province. We want to see that potential unleashed: a private sector economy that actually leads Canada again, world-leading, driven entrepreneurs, companies that I would have compete with anybody around the world and not lose a wink of sleep because I know that Ontario workers are among the most productive worldwide. They’ll win every time.
I’m proud of the folks here in the assembly. I’ve known many in all three parties for many, many years. I know they’ve been sent here for the right purpose. I know where their hearts are, and I know in their gut, in their heart, they know the actions of the Premier are wrong, they know the actions of the energy minister are wrong, and they know a signal needs to be sent that we cannot conduct business in the province this way.
Speaker, throughout this debate and in the time forward, the Ontario PC Party will stand up for those taxpayers who are struggling, paying more and more and seeing so much money wasted; taxpayers who believe, and families who believe, that better days are still yet ahead, that this great province of Ontario can actually lead again, that we will have a strong manufacturing sector, a strong resource sector, a strong services sector, that we can build this province and grow.
How do we do that, Speaker? We do that by making Ontario open for investment again, sending a signal of confidence, sending a signal that when someone is entrusted with the reins of a file as important as energy, a Premier who’s supposed to watch over those files, that, first and foremost, it will be in the interests of bringing jobs to our province, in the interest of taxpayers in the province of Ontario, not the interests of the Ontario Liberal Party and the campaign team, but to actually make decisions on files like energy with a single focus of making Ontario grow and lead again, to bring jobs in our province.
Speaker, we don’t apologize for standing up for those principles. We’ll fight for those principles each and every day, principles that say energy policy should encourage investment into infrastructure, the best rates and the best quality for the families who have to pay the bills, a sensible energy policy that looks to the long term, that recognizes these investments, our infrastructure that lasts from 20 to 100 or more years, billions of dollars that require responsibility in judgment. A look to the long term: What will this mean for jobs? What will this mean for investment and the future vitality of our economy, not short-term political interests to advance the careers of some Liberal campaign team, no matter who they have to clear aside to get their way? An energy policy that’s about affordability and reliability and that builds on strengths in our province in nuclear energy, in hydroelectricity, that builds on the potential of natural gas, but put in place in willing communities—sensible decisions for the long term, and not the short term, and an end to unfair, huge subsidies for feed-in tariff programs that are imposing projects on communities that don’t even want them and are driving up prices to the taxpayer.
Affordable energy; lower taxes; a regulatory environment that says we’ll get behind businesses to help them create jobs again and get out of their way; modernizing labour rules to bring them out of the 1940s and into the 21st century; infrastructure like subways—not ripping up roads—that will break gridlock and help people get to work and spend time with their families: That’s what this is about, Speaker. Those are the principles ahead—and a government, sadly, that after nine years has lost its way, that sets all of these considerations aside for short-term decision-making based on communication advantage, coupled with trying to bury documents.
We are proud to stand up on behalf of taxpayers, stand up on behalf of MPPs, to say this: Put the documents on the floor. Let’s move forward and let’s build an energy system that will power jobs in our province of Ontario, not elect more Liberal members.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.
Further debate? The Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The member for—
Mr. Jim McDonell: A point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): A point of order: the member from Glengarry—
Mr. Paul Miller: Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Yes.
Mr. Jim McDonell: Thank you, Speaker. I just wanted to rise and to introduce my much older brother, who is in here with the mayors from Prescott, Russell and Glengarry today. I just want to welcome them to the House. Thank you.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): As the member may or may not have heard earlier, that indeed is not a point of order, but we definitely welcome your guests here, particularly your brother, and—stop the clock.
I also would thank all members for their patience during these particular moments under a very serious debate. I also remind the members that we’ve been relatively respectful and quiet during this debate. I expect it to stay that way, and I will act to make it that way.
The Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, with new time.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: Thanks, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite closed by saying, “We don’t apologize.” Maybe that’s a very good place to begin. I don’t think his party does apologize.
I’ve had to apologize in this House, unfortunately, because I did something thoughtless and careless. I retweeted something on a social media outlet, and I didn’t read it properly, and I was out of town at the time. I apologized to the member, and I went over personally to the Leader of the Opposition, because I was wrong, and I apologized personally.
Having come from a minority who lost jobs, I’m a little more hypersensitive than some other people, maybe, than I should be, having lost jobs, having grown up in a country where being gay at 14 or 15 makes you a little sensitive. Sometimes I hear attitudes that I think are just poorly chosen words, opposite, about that.
When I watched the debate on Bill 13—well, I’ll choose my words carefully here—it was clear that a lot of members opposite didn’t have the kind of sensitivity to create the kinds of schools and safe places we did.
When I watched the member from Newmarket–Aurora launch a campaign on the McVety show—someone who has said things that destroy the self-esteem of many young people—
Hon. Glen R. Murray: I don’t use that language, even though I think people are wrong, because the language we use is important. It is important. While I may have profound disagreements, I may be uncomfortable with the language and attitudes about people like me—and some of the people that some of the members opposite associate with—I should treat you with respect. I shouldn’t allow you to live in a place where some human characteristic that you have means that you’re implicitly thought lesser of because of some others.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: You know, sir, I did not interrupt you, and I would like the same courtesy.
Many of us in this House come from a municipal background: Ottawa West–Nepean, Leeds–Grenville, Nipissing. One of the differences, and I think we should learn, and there’s a lot of object lessons today for us here—the first thing I was taught by an older member of city council was, “Glen, whatever you do, no matter how passionate you get about something, you never ascribe motive to another city councillor or the mayor. Never assign motive or ascribe motive.”
Part of that, in most legislative councils, is that we know each other. We know Chris Bentley as passionate, as someone who has devoted his entire life to law and justice and upholding the law: 25 years as a passionate lawyer, donating his time, working on civil litigation, working with folks as an Attorney General, as a Cambridge and University of Toronto educated professional. This man is everything that we aspire to be as MPPs. This is a man who has put in great sacrifice. We know this man is not contemptuous of this Parliament or the law.
It is in the knowing that all members here know each other. I’ve become quite good friends with the House leader of the New Democratic Party. I was up in his constituency; we know each other. Ms. Munro from York–Simcoe has become a personal friend; I know her to be a woman of extraordinary character. The reason that we have this extraordinary privilege in this House, to act almost with the weight of the law and a court on each other’s reputations—the reason that we are called honourable members and we have this exceptional privilege is because we know each other.
In the same way that I was wrong and apologized, and I have now gotten to know the member opposite and have respect for him—because we now find out we have personal friends. His roommate is a great friend of mine who speaks very highly of him. He’s a young gay man who talks very highly of his passion and his sensitivity, and I think it is in that knowing that we exercise these extraordinary privileges.
What I find so profoundly sad is that I’m part—let me just go back a second. Anne Swarbrick is a friend of mine; she never mentioned what Bob Nixon did. We all knew Anne Swarbrick. Anne Swarbrick left this place and went to run the Toronto Community Foundation. She continues her personal commitment to public service.
It is so that we treat each other honourably—we don’t just assume innocence when the member for London West actually signs those documents and says, “I’ve given you everything. I’ve complied with the law.” That is his personal integrity and honour.
We are asked, Mr. Speaker—and you are asked—to measure in the knowing, in the familiarity. In that knowing, we have to exercise extraordinary powers. I do not believe that there is a single member opposite who actually believes that the member from London West is in contempt of anything. As a matter of fact, you know that when people pass on, we all stand up and pay tribute to them. When new members come in, as they often joke, having been a rather recently minted MPP, we all stand up and applaud for them. That is the tradition of the House that, in my mind, is on the line here.
We are held to a higher standard. We all know Mr. Bentley is an honourable man. He is a lawyer; he is a man who has taken great sacrifice. We know his wife, Wendy; we know the family. He has not done anything wrong. He has complied with the Speaker’s order, and we know him to be of character. And that is the way. So, people—
Mr. Randy Hillier: Just following McGuinty’s orders, I guess.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: The member from Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington is saying he’s following the Premier’s orders. That is both insulting and offensive and is a great disservice to the seriousness of this process, especially coming from a member who blocked the Sergeant-at-Arms, undermined the authority of the Speaker with the member from Haldimand–Norfolk to block the proper execution and removal of the member—who truly was contemptuous of this House—from being removed under order of the Speaker. This is the man who is now lecturing Mr. Bentley and this party. I cannot ever imagine the member from—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): I am going to ask the member to stay as focused as he can under the circumstances. I understand the to-and-fro and the emotions that are involved in this, but I’m going to ask all members to just tone it down and stay focused, please. Thank you.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: Mr. Speaker, I think I’m very focused on it. The member for London West has always respected the Speaker, he has always respected the law, and because you know that, you have the responsibility to act responsibly.
Imagine your reputation. Imagine you were as honourable a man as Chris Bentley is, without the benefit of an impartial adjudicative body. This is no time for partisanship, because you have dropped the clothes of partnership and you have put on the cloak of judgment, and with that comes a much higher standard of responsibility.
Mr. Speaker, you know and I know there is not an iota of truth, there is no evidence base that Mr. Bentley, the member from London West, has done anything but uphold the law and, more than the law, the finest traditions of this House.
Can you imagine if we had held that same standard to the behaviour of some of the members opposite, who banged desks and disrupted and undermined us and the Speaker, who actually really interfered with the process of this House? We didn’t. I’m very proud to be of the party of Dalton McGuinty and Bob Nixon.
I want to say something to my friend the House leader and my friend over in the New Democratic Party: I think this is something we share. I think of the tradition of Tommy Douglas and Stanley Knowles as great parliamentarians. If they were sitting in this House, they would not support this nonsense. They wouldn’t. I appeal to your better nature to not descend into this kind of nonsense and character assassination where someone doesn’t have the benefit of a lawyer, doesn’t have the proper adjudication.
The members opposite spend a great deal of time intimidating in many ways, in my interpretation of it, by referring to the horrible consequences that they were prepared to bring down by abrogating and not upholding the proper traditional standards of this House and the treatment of them. Because the only thing that Mr. Bentley, the member for London West, has to fear is an inappropriate execution of a judicial process. We can debate power plants, we can debate financial policy, we can debate all kinds of things about whether governments did things that are right or we have good policy, but this isn’t about that, and when you confuse that, you do a great disservice to this House. This is about someone’s reputation, about their conduct as a member, about their conformity and respect for the law and the process.
I listened carefully to the member opposite, and I would make a personal appeal to him, because I do think he’s a man of good character and I think he’s a fair-minded person. I think if he was, upon reflection, asked, “Would you like to be like Mr. Hepburn from my own party, years ago, who rather knee-jerkily moved a motion of censure in this House which was successful and which hurt a member opposite? Do you really want to carry on and be the third in the tradition of Mr. Charlesworth, who wrote a personal letter to a member here and was called before the bar down here and humiliated as a journalist?”—that’s Victorian. That’s back with buggy whips and Jack the Ripper. This is something out of our past. We certainly have evolved, Mr. Speaker, to a higher standard of law and civility. We have human rights charters that—
Mr. Gilles Bisson: It was King Edward.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: Sorry, King Edward and the Edwardian period. I have no doubt that I make mistakes sometimes. Mr. Speaker—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order, please.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: You know, I can tell my appeals to the better nature of my friends in the NDP obviously fell short if we’re down to debating which king or queen was in charge at the time. It must be cold comfort to the member from London West, who knows how seriously his reputation is held by the members of the third party if that’s their response to an appeal from me, who considers you a friend, to behave in an adjudicating way.
I don’t think we understand the gravity of this. One of the things that we have as a great privilege in this House is that we can stand up and say anything about anyone without fear of litigation, charge or court. We cannot be charged in civil court while we sit here. That is an extraordinary privilege. As a matter of fact, there are very few people, and almost no one in Ontario, who hold that kind of privilege.
I have to tell you, where this is going and where this House is descending to is deeply sad. I think it will give people of great character in public service, of Mr. Bentley’s stature, great pause before they ever think about seeking elected office if their reputations are so easily open to being made fodder in a partisan political game. It is particularly sad, too.
Then we get into these, quite frankly, somewhat fallacious arguments around confidence. The Leader of the Opposition, the member for Niagara West–Glanbrook, made the statement that somehow, you can measure the impacts of this by investor confidence, that money will run out of this province. Well, Mr. Speaker, that’s true: Taxes are 18% lower than they were under the party opposite. Direct foreign investment: That money that he’s talking about has actually got a measure; it’s called direct foreign investment. It is at an all-time high. We are second only to California. We have passed Massachusetts, we have passed New York, and we have passed Illinois. We have passed all the other large-scale regional industrial service economies. We attract more private capital each and every month in this province than we ever have before.
So let’s take his standard of capital investment as confidence in the competence of this government and the efforts of the member from London West, the Minister of Energy. By his own standard, the market continues to vote in favour of this government economically, because people put more capital here than anywhere else in North America save California. I’m happy to take all of these standards that they keep throwing out that have absolutely nothing to do with the matter—even the standards they throw at us that have absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand.
It just saddens me. It saddens me because we are not just taxpayers, as the party opposite says. We are not just consumers; we are actually citizens, and we forget that. My grandmother would always get upset when people were referred to as taxpayers. She said, “I don’t have a taxpayer certificate; I have Canadian citizenship. I came halfway around this world and I sacrificed a lot.” She used to tell me about what it was like growing up in eastern Europe, where there was no organized government, where her brother and sister were killed because they were pressed into armies and where there was no civil authority, no reliable courts, no Legislatures and no justice. She said, “The taxes I pay”—and she paid taxes. She had nine kids. Her husband had a stroke. She was the only person raising them. She used to talk about the civility. When I chose to go into public service, she was really impressed. She said, “Our family for generations could never put someone in elected office because there was no office to elect anyone to.” There were no courts. Then we pay a relatively small price. I am more affluent than my grandmother’s dreams. I have more money to spend. Every time my father used to complain about his taxes, my grandmother used to look at my father and say, “Ron, you are richer than anyone else ever in our family. You have health care, you have everything. Show a little bit of respect.”
We are a generation that is so privileged, and we have such important challenges that should be occupying the House at this time. This is not, in my mind, what the people of Ontario want us to be doing. They want us to be working on the seniors’ bill. They want us to be working on jobs. They want us to get back to work.
All of us are sent here. We have to make our case to tens of thousands of people—in my constituency, about 160,000. Our character is constantly being judged. I have gone through an election every year I have served in this House. If I can’t pass the good-character test of my constituents, I don’t have the privilege to serve here. Well, Mr. Bentley has passed that character test over and over again. Mr. Bentley, the member from London West, doesn’t just represent Chris Bentley here; the member from London West represents a whole bunch of Londoners who see him as one of them, who sent him here to represent their character. Mr. Bentley has never done one thing to make them embarrassed or ashamed, and I wish we could all say that. I can’t. But motives are important. All of us have family. All of us have been victims of horrible things said about us that we can never prove.
The member from Newmarket–Aurora was quite rightly offended, and I was really shocked when I saw a horrible letter circulated about him that was unsigned, that no one takes responsibility for, because how does he defend himself? If we don’t have his back—and this party stood behind him and said that was wrong. I would like to know one day who did that, because he has a family, he has a reputation and he’s a person of good character. He shouldn’t have to put up with that, and we were all rightly outraged. So how do those same people play that kind of poker game with the member from London West’s reputation? How do you do that and hold yourself to that standard?
It would be gracious if you did what was asked last Friday, which was to resolve this between the House leaders. That lasted five minutes. Mr. Speaker, we were asked, and you asked us as a government to try to work with those folks. We expected that was going to be hours of conversation. We didn’t expect this was easy. This is difficult, one of the hardest things. All of us who have been mayors—the member from Nipissing, the member from Leeds–Grenville, the member from Kingston and the Islands, the member from Ottawa-Nepean—all know, those of us who have been in municipal politics, that you have these tensions. You want to tell the public everything. Having sold the hydro utility, I was constantly called on the carpet to tell all, but you’ve got to protect the value and assets of those utilities, which means you can’t put proprietary information out there. These power bills were at the very centre of proprietary information.
The party opposite, when it privatized and deregulated power, dropped the value of the assets by several billion dollars, which created a liability. So we don’t have to take great lessons from them on protecting the value of public assets. That’s obviously not a part of it. You have to be transparent. This is the people’s money. This is the people’s Legislature. It’s not ours.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: They’re all getting a bit chippy now.
My point was this, Mr. Speaker, my point was simply this: You made mistakes on hydro. Some of your hydro policies were colossal failures. We have made mistakes. Some of the things that we have done have been failures. You don’t build a province on every success. You try things and they don’t work out. So let’s keep some perspective here, and a little humility. Why don’t we try to behave to at least the standard of a small town council and not ascribe motives? If there isn’t evidence of wrongdoing—and there really isn’t evidence that there wasn’t compliance with the Speaker’s order or with the orders of the House.
It takes a huge amount of time to assemble 36,000 pages of documents that are legally sensitive. I have looked at them. I don’t see a lot wanting. I don’t see much substantive that’s missing. Both the president and CEO of hydro and the minister have signed off on those. Unless we have evidence to the contrary, it is our responsibility to take their word as honourable people. Mr. Andersen and Mr. Bentley are honourable people. We should take their word. We always have. Why would we change that now? We have an opportunity to be better people here. We really do.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Point of order, go ahead.
Mr. Jeff Yurek: I’d just like to announce that I’ve got some clients here from the ODSP office, down from St. Thomas, who are here to see the minister and make a statement to the media. I’ve got Dave Kerr, Wendy Lafrance, and Richard Sitzes, and on top of that, other community volunteers and organizers here for the visit.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): It being close to 11:30, this House stands recessed until 3 p.m. this afternoon.
The House recessed from 1124 to 1500.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further debate.
Mr. Frank Klees: Speaker, it’s not often I would refer to the Toronto Star in my speeches in the Legislature, but I think it’s appropriate that I begin with this quote from the editorial in the Toronto Star today: “Instead of trying to convince skeptical Ontarians that these decisions were mere ‘missteps’ and things aren’t as bad as they seem, McGuinty and his energy minister ought to come clean and issue a frank apology for what is, at root, a political fiasco driven by electoral considerations.”
Speaker, the issue before us is a very serious matter, and you ruled in your ruling on the point of privilege that was put forward by my colleague Mr. Leone that there is in fact a prima facie case of privilege.
Now, for the benefit of my constituents who have been following the debate here, I want to refocus this debate and remind us all what this debate is about, because I heard from members of the government over the last two days references to intentions to impugn the personal integrity of the Minister of Energy, many suggestions that somehow, because we are raising this important point of privilege and pointing out what the implications are to our ability to do our work as members of the official opposition whose job it is to hold the government accountable—I want to make it very clear that no one in this place has even suggested that the personal character of the Minister of Energy should, in any way, be questioned. No one has questioned his past performance as Attorney General. No one has questioned his career as an attorney. We are here to speak to the point of privilege that you, sir, as the Speaker, ruled was in fact a legitimate point of privilege for the members of this House.
I want, for the record and for those who are observing this debate, to read your conclusion: “The Standing Committee on Estimates was unquestionably entitled to request the documents sought from the Minister of Energy, and in the end the minister had an obligation to comply with the committee’s call for those documents. The committee did not accept the minister’s reasons for withholding the documents and persisted in its demand during an extended period of time.
“I am therefore satisfied that a prima facie case of privilege has been established.”
Speaker, we want to thank you for that ruling because at the heart is the ability of this chamber, the members of this Legislature, to do their job.
I want to also read into the record from O’Brien and Bosc, where there is a distinct differentiation between a point of privilege and contempt of the Legislature: “It is important to distinguish between a ‘breach of privilege’ and ‘contempt of Parliament.’ Any disregard of or attack on the rights, powers and immunities of the House and its members, either by an outside person or body, or by a member of the House, is referred to as a ‘breach of privilege’ and is punishable by the House. There are, however, other affronts against the dignity and authority of Parliament which may not fall within one of the specifically defined privileges. Thus, the House also claims the right to punish, as a contempt, any action which, though not a breach of a specific privilege, tends to obstruct or impede the House in the performance of its functions.”
Speaker, the reason we are debating today is not because of any individual’s character or reputation; it is specifically because a committee of this Legislature attempted, for months, to get important documents that it felt were important to its work, and the Minister of Energy repeatedly refused to produce those documents. The committee relied on this House and the rules of procedure to have access to that and, unfortunately, that’s what it took. We would not be here today if the Minister of Energy had simply complied with the request of that committee months ago and provided the documentation that involved a multi-billion-dollar transaction in this province. Multi-billions of dollars are at risk on the green energy policy of this government. The Minister of Energy chose to hide, not to disclose, the documents. That’s why we are here, and I want the people of this province to know that’s why we are here.
For any member to stand in their place and suggest that somehow this is a personal attack shows, once again, what this government’s focus is, and it’s not transparency and it’s not accountability; it is all about putting up a shield between what the public deserves to know and what it wants the public to know. What are they hiding? That’s the question.
This is against the backdrop of a file I know quite well, and it’s called Ornge. Speaker, for months we have been conducting hearings on the Ornge scandal in this province, and what has the government done? At every turn, we were obstructed from access to information. The minister repeatedly told us she didn’t know anything about it, and yet eventually, after a great deal of effort, after demanding that documentation be produced for that committee, what did we find out? We found out the minister knew full well. There was document after document that disclosed that there were briefings of the minister, the Premier and staff from the top down to the bottom. And guess what the government did? They did nothing, and multi-millions of dollars were wasted in the health portfolio.
Now we have a very consistent demonstration of a minister of this government who, rather than be transparent and rather than work with the committee of this House, chose to use every excuse not to disclose that documentation. I repeat again, Speaker—and to those who are observing this debate, understand what members of this government are trying to do when they suggest that somehow we are disrespecting honourable members by simply following the rules—had the Minister of Energy produced the documents for the committee when they were asked for, we would not be here, and the Minister of Energy would not be facing the prospect of this House voting a contempt motion and declaring and demonstrating to this House that we, as elected representatives in the Parliament, representing our people, our voters, the taxpayers of this province—that they still have responsible people who will represent them and not take no for an answer from a government that wants to hide important information. It’s about preserving the credibility and integrity of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario—that’s why we are debating this—not a personal attack against any individual member. It’s about what the minister, in his capacity as Minister of Energy, chose to do, and that is to not disclose information.
I had a very interesting meeting with someone whom, over the years, I grew to respect highly. His name is Walter Kimmerle. He was the president and CEO of Berkim Construction. He was an individual who came to this country as an immigrant; chose Canada, as he told me, because of the prospects of a democracy that would be stable. From time to time he would call me, because we emigrated from the same country, his family and mine. He and my father were friends, and they would often talk about why they chose the difficult path to immigrate to this country. They both knew what it was like to live under a government that was essentially a dictatorship and essentially held its citizens in contempt, and they made the decision to choose Canada and Ontario.
Walter would often call me, and he’d want to talk politics. I’ll never forget the last time I saw him—because he passed on at the age of 80 last April. The last meeting I had with him, he said, “Frank, I want to give you some advice. The next election you go into, your party should have as its motto ‘Accountability and transparency for Ontario.’ And I’ll tell you why. The more I see what is happening, whether it’s at a provincial level or whether it’s at the federal level of government, the very institution that should be there to protect citizens is more interested in preserving its power rather than representing the people who have elected them. If that’s the direction that we’re going to go, Ontario and Canada will be no different than the country we left.”
He said, “We’re taking for granted that we have a parliamentary institution that has as its core the cornerstones, if democracy is to function effectively, of accountability and transparency.”
Speaker, over the last number of months those words have become incredibly insightful. I think they’re very, very relevant to this debate. I’ve heard a lot of talk about partisanship. It’s interesting how, over the last number of months, every time we in opposition raise an issue about how the government is not doing its job or we expose a lack of oversight, we expose a lack of accountability, we challenge the opaqueness of how the government is doing its business, we are accused of partisanship. How many times have we heard the Premier stand in this place and say, “Well, in answer to the member, of course that’s a partisan attack. We have the public interest at heart”?
I raised a point of privilege with you, Speaker; I don’t think you agreed with me at that time, but maybe eventually, one of these days, you will on this issue, because I believe it is impugning motive to a member in this House when someone is allowed to stand in their place and say, “What you’re saying is partisanship and what I’m doing is in the public interest.” I still fail to understand how an honourable member is allowed to get away with that.
Look, all of us are here. We may not have the same political views, we may not have the same philosophical views, we may disagree on how we get from here to there or how we would serve the public interest, but because we disagree I don’t believe gives anyone in this place the right to suggest that our motive is wrong. Our motive is what is in the best interest.
I will accept that the Premier and every member in the government has pure motive, but I will also reserve the right to disagree with how they get there, and I will also disagree, right to the last ounce of debate in this place, that what the Minister of Energy did for months on end by ignoring the will of the committee that was asking for information—I will disagree that the minister did the right thing and acted in the public interest. The public interest is always based on accountability and transparency. The minute that any member of this House or any member of any government or any bureaucrat at any level of government chooses to suggest that the public is not mature enough to absorb the information that is all about them, we are on the brink of losing the very essence of what democracy should be: open and transparent and accountable. Government is there to serve the people. Government is not there to set its own standard of performance. We have a responsibility, the official opposition, to ensure that we can go back to our constituents and tell them what we did to hold the government accountable.
Speaker, I’m going to refer again to the Toronto Star. I think there has been an awakening at that place. It’s either that or this government has gone so far in the wrong direction that even the Toronto Star has to say, “Enough is enough.” I’m going to quote from today’s article: “This is a dismal waste of money that could have been used to create jobs, increase assistance to the poorest, or help fund a much-needed expansion of affordable daycare for children or home care for the elderly,” referring to the fact that this government has now wasted $650 million on preserving two seats so that they could come close to a majority, and even that didn’t help them, thank God.
The fact is that because the government, first of all, made the wrong decision—here’s the point, Speaker. This goes beyond the current decision about the minister holding back information. We know why he was holding it back: because it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to have to admit that the decision in the first place to put those plants in those neighbourhoods was fundamentally wrong. You couldn’t justify it if you tried, but they did, at great expense.
The second decision that was wrong was to withhold information about the fact that it is going to cost taxpayers $650 million without getting one—not even one—spark of energy out of that $650 million. I have to go back to my constituents and have to explain to the parents of an autistic child why this government doesn’t have enough money to ensure that their children can have the basics of an education so that they can learn how to eat and how to talk and how to walk. Not enough money for that, Speaker, but a lot of money to buy two seats so that two members of this Legislature can take their place.
I make absolutely no excuse for the fact that, yes, we’re passionate about this. I believe the people across this province are passionate about it, too. I’ll tell you what else I believe. I fundamentally believe, because I know the honourable members in this place, that every single member of the government who has stood up and has tried to make a lame excuse for what has gone on in the halls of this government—that they don’t believe that. I believe that every member here wants to do the right thing. I believe they are embarrassed at the kind of decision-making that went on in this government. I believe they were even more embarrassed when my colleague Mr. Fedeli stood up here and started to show what the disclosure was of the thousands of documents that finally were presented in the House, with everything that was relevant blacked out; sheets that talked about the memorandum of agreement blank.
Folks, we know you’re embarrassed. You have to be. My suggestion is: Tear up those speaking notes, get up and talk from the heart, and let us know that you disagree as well. That’s what your constituents are asking you to do. Your constituents are saying: “Stand up for us,” not the minions in the leader’s office or in the Premier’s office. Do the right thing. That’s all they’re asking, for goodness’ sake. It doesn’t take anyone with a great deal of insight to realize what’s going on here, and we’re appealing to you. Speaker, we’re appealing to this government to understand that the people of this province see through this charade, and we in the opposition parties have a responsibility to stand up for the hard-working people in this province and to stand up for democracy, accountability and transparency.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further debate.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: Speaker, I’d like to tell you a tale of two committees because, contrary to what most would assume from what they’ve heard in the House, estimates was not the only committee that was seized of this issue. In fact, public accounts also had a look at this issue. The difference with public accounts, which works with the Auditor General, is that we had the advantage of having the Auditor General sitting in the room advising us.
The motion that public accounts had before the House was “that the Standing Committee on Public Accounts immediately request that the Auditor General examine the contracts between the Ontario Power Authority and gas-fired plants proponents TransCanada Corp. (Oakville) and Greenfield South Power Corp./Eastern Power (Mississauga), focusing specifically on the potential cost to ratepayers of the government’s 2010 and 2011 decisions to cancel the projects, and report back in a special report.”
This was actually something that first came up at public accounts back, I believe, in March because at that point we did not yet have the special report of the auditor on Ornge, and that was before we became totally engrossed in Ornge. It came back for debate, this motion about whether to ask the auditor to do a special report, in September—on September 5, I believe.
When this motion was first tabled, if I recall, perhaps neither Mississauga nor Oakville had been resolved, but by the time we got to the majority of this discussion, Speaker, we were in the situation where Mississauga had been resolved in terms of how that was going to go forward with the relocation to Sarnia–Lambton, but Oakville was still under negotiation—under arbitration, in fact. So that’s the situation we were dealing with.
In fact, what the auditor had indicated to us when we first discussed this motion back in March was that he was seized trying to complete the special report on Ornge and then getting geared up for his regular report, which will be tabled in December, and regardless of the outcome of the motion, he really didn’t have time to do a special audit. But he had indicated to us in late August or early September that, in fact, he probably did have a few weeks in which he could do a special audit if so directed by the committee.
That’s the circumstance in which we were looking at this particular situation at the public accounts committee. But what was recognized by Madame Gélinas—sorry; I will keep saying that accidentally, Speaker, because that appears in Hansard, but I mean the member from Nickel Belt, representing the third party. The member from Nickel Belt recognized actually even in her opening remark on the motion that she understood that if sharing information was to have a negative impact, as in increasing the cost that the ratepayer would end up paying, “Then I will trust his”—that is, the Auditor General’s—“judgment that he would let us know that and not share any information.”
So we had quite an extensive—
Mr. John Yakabuski: It wasn’t the Auditor General who redacted the pages, Liz.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: Excuse me.
We had quite an extensive discussion that went on for quite a long time, and it went back and forth. At various points the Auditor General was asked to comment on what his position on this difficult issue would be. At one point, we were looking at an amendment about what documents the auditor could actually access, and then, having obtained access to the documents, what documents the Auditor General would actually disclose to the committee and then on to the public. I’m quoting here the Auditor General, Mr. McCarter: “On the Mississauga one where there has been a settlement, my sense is that we would get access to the documentation that we need, in order to be able to fulfill the intent of the committee’s motion.
“My sense on the Oakville one, where it’s currently in arbitration—and taking into consideration Madame Gélinas’ comments about not disclosing any information—is that it could very well be that some of this information could be subject to client-solicitor privilege, or even if we were to get it, in my opinion, it could be damaging to the province’s negotiating position.
“In either one of those situations I think that I”—this is the auditor speaking—“would basically—it might be a much shorter report relating to the Oakville one basically saying that here’s sort of the state of the nation on this, but at the end of the day, all I can do is come up with a fairly broad range”—we had asked him about cost. “Because of these other factors, in my opinion”—and here’s what’s interesting; this is the auditor’s opinion—“it’s not appropriate either to divulge the information, or it’s protected by client-solicitor privilege. That could very well be the end result.”
That’s what the auditor had to say in terms of this issue around Mississauga—“Okay, it’s done; tell everybody everything”—versus Oakville, where there are, in fact, questions of solicitor-client privilege and risk to the integrity of the taxpayer; that is, we don’t want to damage the position of the government—of the taxpayer—at negotiation. That is what was said there.
We then got into a bit of a discussion—the member from Willowdale is not here at the moment; sorry, I can’t say that; he just disappeared and traded chairs—around who actually was going to be able to decide what documents to release. We got into quite a discussion about who makes that decision. In the circumstance where the auditor was asked to do something, would it be the minister, would it be the courts, would it be the Auditor General? Who would ultimately have call on which documents should become part of the public venue and which not?
Again, as this discussion unfolded, the auditor, Mr. McCarter, commented—he’s again talking about the Oakville situation—“I think there could be some of the documents or some of the information for which the Auditor General would have to use his or her professional judgment to make the call.” Then he went on to say that he might conclude, “‘No, I think they’re just saying this because they don’t want the information disclosed,’ or ‘I think what they’re saying is reasonable. It could affect the province’s negotiation position and therefore, in my opinion’”—that is, the auditor—“‘notwithstanding that I have right of access, I’m not prepared to disclose it.’”
So the auditor was looking at this and saying, “Yes, I have the right to see these papers”—in fact, he also said at various points that he expected that the ministry would give him access, because the auditor often sees privileged documents, learns what he may from the privileged documents and then doesn’t publicly disclose them. It’s often a situation the auditor is in that he has to make those sorts of judgment calls. But he again recognized that in the case of Oakville, there were some bona fide issues, as opposed to what and when it would be appropriate to disclose, because of the fact that the file was under negotiation.
Then, the member for Whitby–Oshawa—now we have a member of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition weighing in on the issue—observed that the auditor “routinely looks at all documentation, not just contracts. We trust his judgment and ... if there are conflicts that arise in the course of examining the documents, whether they’re privileged or not, the Auditor General will make his professional determination in that case, and we certainly are satisfied that he would exercise that judgment accordingly.”
Now, the reason I mention this is because, in fact, one of the suggestions that our House leader put forward when you, Speaker, suggested that the three House leaders should get together and find a mutually agreeable resolution to this was precisely that: that the Auditor General, who is in the habit of reviewing, and in fact is actively reviewing Mississauga anyway, be asked to look and decide what should be disclosed. Interestingly, when we were at public accounts, both other parties’ representatives indicated that they trusted the Auditor General’s judgment with respect to precisely the same documents that are being requested in the case that we are debating this afternoon.
Last Friday it seems that the members opposite didn’t think that the Auditor General could make that determination, but about a week ago before that they actually thought that he could be trusted to make that determination, so I’m not sure what intervened, other than perhaps we’re talking to different members representing the opposition. Just wanting to be sure that we understood the auditor’s position, I eventually asked him the question: given that Oakville is still under negotiation and that it would be the auditor’s view—I think I’m paraphrasing you accurately, Jim, if I say—this time me—that it would not be your intent to interfere with negotiations over Oakville if that would interfere with the public interest. Is that fair? And the auditor said, “Yes, that would be fair to say.” And I went on to indicate that we saw the Mississauga issue quite differently than the Oakville issue because in the Mississauga issue it had been resolved. We were quite prepared to see the documents disclosed; we were quite prepared to have the Auditor General go in and look. This was not the case with the Oakville plant, where the arbitrator was still involved.
There was quite an extensive conversation. We came back to the issue later that same afternoon on the 5th and got into a question of when would it be possible, if we did say to the auditor, “Go and do both jobs. Look at Mississauga; look at Oakville”—how would we want the auditor to behave if that were the case? Again, the member for Bramalea–Gore–Malton indicated on behalf of the third party that with respect to Oakville, “we get updated with as much information as possible as soon as possible, even if”—and this is in quotes—the auditor would say, “It’s in arbitration. We can’t release very much information to you,” but “we’d like to have whatever is possible as soon as possible,” so an acceptance of the principle that what is not subject to solicitor-client privilege, what is not sensitive to negotiations, the auditor would report back on as quickly as possible, and other information, we’d have to ask him to revisit it later.
Interestingly, again, the member from Whitby–Oshawa seemed to agree with Mr. Singh’s position that, in the case of Oakville, “we would understand.” They would like the auditor to report back as quickly as possible, but they would understand that he might not be able to fully report because of the fact that this issue is under negotiation, under arbitration.
In the end, Speaker, what happened was that we eventually—
Mrs. Liz Sandals: No, I’m not. I am reporting on what happened at public accounts.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: I am simply giving us the record of what happened at public accounts.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Order, for the third time.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: What actually was finally the outcome was that there was a motion passed which said that the auditor would go in and have a look at the file on Mississauga, do a special audit, and I fully expect that when we have committees resuming we will have a motion that says there should be a special audit on Oakville as well.
The fact situation has changed in the last few weeks because we now have Oakville negotiations completed and the information is now available about Oakville, and we would have no concern that the auditor would now be able to go in and have a good, thorough look at Oakville as well as Mississauga.
The reason for which I raise all of this is, what we’ve got here is two committees that were looking at essentially the same issue. We want to know what’s going on at Mississauga with the cancellation of the gas plant; we want to know what’s going on at Oakville with the cancellation of the gas plant. One committee got advice from the Auditor General, an officer of this Legislature, who advised us that if he went into Oakville while there was still negotiation going on, he would be very selective about what information he released around Oakville.
We had another committee, the committee on estimates, which got essentially the same advice from the Minister of Energy—formerly the Attorney General—which was: “When Mississauga is complete”—and then once Mississauga was complete—“we’re willing to release all the documentation around Mississauga. But as long as Oakville is under negotiation, I need to advise you that there are concerns around solicitor-client privilege, and there are concerns about having a negative impact on value for the taxpayer if we reveal what’s under negotiation.”
In fact, if you look at the Hansard of the estimates committee, the Chair of that committee is on record advising the committee that “the minister has the right to decline either giving that documentation or giving voice to that documentation during his answering of the questions.” And then he goes on to say, “I would advise that I’m going to allow the motion to proceed, but I would also advise—and I think the minister, being a lawyer himself, knows full well that he may choose to answer the question in such a way as not to prejudice the province in any way, and I would expect him to do so. That would be my ruling.”
So what we are doing here today, which is what I find really offensive about this process—
Mr. John Yakabuski: Point of order.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): On a point of order, the member for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, I believe that your ruling made it crystal clear that the minister was to turn over—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): My ruling has been made. The member is speaking to the issue—
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): —I wish you wouldn’t say something when I’m in the middle of a sentence—and the member will finish.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: What we are doing here is, we are discussing whether the minister should be found to be in contempt of this Legislature for essentially behaving in the same way as the Auditor General said he would behave and for giving the committee the same advice as the Auditor General gave the committee. I would point out that the minister—Oakville now being settled—has in fact tabled all the documents.
The behaviour is the behaviour that we were all seeking and talking about, which is: “Mississauga is a done deal; here are the documents. Now Oakville is a done deal; here are the documents.” That’s what the minister argued, and that’s what the minister did. I find it quite contemptible that we are debating whether we should find somebody in contempt for giving a position which is similar to the position that the Auditor General gave.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Further debate?
Ms. Sylvia Jones: Normally when I rise to speak in this chamber, I start by saying that I’m pleased to join the debate. I can’t say that today. I’m actually quite disappointed that we have to be spending our legislative time talking about such an extremely disappointing matter that we have before us. But we’ve been forced here because of some inaction on the other side.
We find ourselves debating a motion respecting a prima facie breach of privilege found against the Minister of Energy on September 13, 2012. I for one think it’s worth recapping and sharing with the general public how on earth we got here. How on earth did we get to a point where despite the fact that there are over 600,000 men and women out of work in Ontario right now, all we can debate in this House is focused squarely on the Minister of Energy and his total disdain for the sacred rules of this House?
It’s a sad day for sure, Speaker, when we have a government that not only flagrantly disregards the rights of individual MPPs, but also recklessly refuses to strike a standing committee of this Legislature—any standing committee. Now all business here at Queen’s Park has truly ground to a halt. This is because there are no committees. There’s no time to debate anything other than the Minister of Energy’s disregard for parliamentary privilege. This place has been gripped in a severe parliamentary paralysis. Make no mistake: All of this was caused solely by the governing Liberal Party.
And to think that all this occurred under the watch of a Premier who campaigned in the last election on the idea that, with him in charge, there would be a steady hand on the tiller. It hasn’t quite turned out to be the case. How ironic, then, that since being elected, this Premier’s government has been defined by rampant mismanagement and disgraceful opportunism.
People viewing this at home may be asking, “What has Dalton McGuinty’s government gone and done now?” That’s certainly what I get in Dufferin–Caledon. When you boil it down, it’s actually relatively simple. Phrases like “prima facie” and “parliamentary privilege” aside, what essentially has happened here is that the minister knowingly refused to release documents he did not have the right to keep confidential. You see, the minister—or any minister, for that matter—must be subjected to review and oversight from the Legislature and its committees. That is our job, ultimately. So when the Standing Committee on Estimates passed a motion that required the Minister of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority to provide the committee with documents relating to the Oakville and Mississauga power plants, the minister had to comply.
That motion was tabled at committee on Wednesday, May 16, over four months ago, and yet, until Monday, the minister refused to release any documents in question, and now we see they have given us only a small pittance of what was demanded. We now know that, despite assurances from the government House leader to the contrary, the documents provided yesterday were heavily redacted, or whited out or blacked out. Use whatever word you want; the reality is that the documents were handed in and they were not complete.
Speaker, this pattern of suppression, this culture of secrecy that has become the signature of this government, is frankly shocking and downright shameful. Time and time again, it seems, we are witness to this government’s disregard for anything other than its own self-serving interests. This disturbing pattern is worth outlining because it illustrates an alarming trend on the part of this government.
Consider the Ornge fiasco. First, the Minister of Health presides over the despicable greed and waste that took place there, and then this government does all it can to hinder proper legislative oversight of the rogue agency.
The word “Ornge” has become the epitome of scandal and incompetence in the province of Ontario when it once stood for a very proud ambulance service. Ontarians know about the web of for-profit entities created by the former president of Ornge and ignored by the current Minister of Health. Ontarians have learned about the alleged financial impropriety of such enterprises. The only reason we have delved into it as deeply as we have been able to is because we had that standing committee, because we were afforded those responsibilities as MPPs for oversight and transparency. They’ve seen the testimonies outlining the totally unprofessional and inappropriate way the agency was run by its senior leaders. Most disturbingly, Ontarians have learned, with sadness, of the tragic patient safety issues at Ornge.
This is why both parties in opposition diligently questioned the minister for months on end on the troubling situation at Ornge. It is also why, after receiving virtually the same non-answer for weeks on end, a majority of this House voted to establish a select committee to investigate Ornge. Let me just repeat that so we’re all clear: The majority voted to have a select committee investigate Ornge. Yet here we are, many months later, and no such select committee has been struck. The reason, one may assume, is because this government does not want further investigation into the happenings at Ornge.
One may also assume this could be part of the reason the government has refused to re-strike—re-form—the standing committees since we began the fall legislative session over four weeks ago. But the problem is that in doing so, since it has disregarded the majority of Ontarians’ representatives here in the chamber, the government has chosen to disregard the majority of Ontario voters. That is not right, and it’s not acceptable. Yet now we’re here, debating repercussions for the Ministry of Energy showing the same sort of disregard for the member from Cambridge’s parliamentary privilege.
I fear that the Liberal culture of secrecy may have proven to be quite pervasive, for just last week, the Environmental Commissioner tabled part 1 of his report, Losing Touch. In it, he goes into great detail about the degree of disregard and contempt shown by ministries for the Environmental Bill of Rights.
He goes on to state—and this is the Environmental Commissioner—“[V]arious ministries persist in hiding environmentally significant decisions from public scrutiny and comment in open defiance of the clear intent of the statute.”
Open defiance? That sounds familiar, Speaker. It was the Minister of Energy’s open defiance of parliamentary privilege that brought on our current debate that we’re having today. This is what happens when bold and principled leadership takes a back seat to crass political opportunism. This is what happens when you have a government that defers to the will of unelected and unaccountable campaign teams to make serious policy decisions.
Furthermore, the Environmental Commissioner draws the conclusion that, “Perhaps it is understandable that the ministries are no longer referred to as the ‘civil service,’ because there is nothing civil about the way citizens are often treated when they exercise their legislated right to file a request for investigation or review.”
Speaker, if there’s nothing civil about the way citizens are treated when they exercise their legislative rights, then there is also nothing honourable about the way members of this House are treated when they exercise their legislative right, which is why we are debating this motion here today: The Minister of Energy blatantly breached the parliamentary privilege of the member from Cambridge and every other member in this chamber.
Just how did the minister breach the member from Cambridge’s parliamentary privilege? Well, as we all know, the Liberal government cancelled a major natural gas power plant in Mississauga while it was in the middle of construction. The Legislature and Ontarians deserve to know what the final cost is going to be for this cancellation. It was raised by the press and the opposition within hours of the announcement being made during the election period: “How much is it going to cost?” Those questions began immediately.
Back in May, no one, except maybe the Minister of Energy, had any idea what the cancellation of the Oakville power plant would be, because the minister refused to provide any documents related to this when asked by committee.
When the documents were requested, the Minister of Energy, on behalf of the ministry, responded to the committee on May 30 and stated, “In light of the confidential, privileged and highly commercially sensitive nature of these issues, it would not be appropriate for my office or the ministry to disclose information that would prejudice these ongoing negotiations and litigation.” As such, the estimates committee tabled a report to the House advising the Speaker that the minister could be in breach of privilege for contempt of the Legislature because of his refusals to table documents in the committee.
Fast-forward now to July 11. The minister then provided some documents to the committee. However, the documents provided were far from complete. The energy minister then had the audacity to state, in a letter attached to the documents, “Certain information remains subject to privilege and has not been included”—this in addition to the minister also failing to provide any documents pertaining to the Oakville power plant in his submission, as requested by the committee.
There’s a lot of legal-speak in there. There’s a lot of legislative jargon. The bottom line is, the people of Ontario had the right. We asked, as members of the opposition, to review how much it was going to cost, because ultimately we are on the hook for it—the province of Ontario, the voters of Ontario, the people of Ontario—and at every opportunity, the Liberals, the Minister of Energy, the Ministry of Energy blocked.
It’s painfully obvious that a standing committee of the Legislature needs to conduct an in-depth study of this issue. The Liberal government’s refusal to table documents and their failure to be transparent makes it clear that the government is hiding something. Ontarians and the Legislature deserve to have access to these documents to hold the government to account. Ultimately, based on all of the information before the Legislature on this issue, it is clear that this matter needs to be brought to committee to be tabled in depth and reported back to the chamber.
The committee would also be able to study what appropriate measures could be taken against the minister should he be found in contempt. This is essential because, as was outlined in the Speaker’s ruling, a prima facie breach did, in fact, occur. First, the minister failed to table the documents with the committee within the acceptable time frame, and then he did not table what was ultimately requested. When he did table documents, they were incomplete and not what was requested.
As a further example of his contempt for his fellow parliamentarians, he has now tabled literally thousands of redacted and, again, whited-out, blacked-out—call it what you may, but the reality is, there were literally thousands of pages that had only a title, or even less, nothing: blank documents regarding the Oakville power plant, as the member for Nipissing illustrated so well for us during yesterday’s debate. I believe and my colleagues in the PC caucus believe wholeheartedly that most Ontarians find that unacceptable, obstructionist and totally unacceptable.
In closing, I would just like to draw the attention of my colleagues across the aisle to a significant symbol here in this sacred chamber. Here behind me there’s an owl. That owl is here to serve as a reminder to the government members for those on the government benches to “use power wisely,” to be wise in their stewardship of our beautiful province and to be wise in the management of Ontarians’ taxes.
Behind you, in the government benches, you will see an eagle. That eagle serves as a reminder for us in the opposition to always be vigilant.
To be wise and to be vigilant: That is our responsibility.
As I stand here today, I say, without a shadow of a doubt, that we in the official opposition have lived up to the message of the eagle perched high above the floor in this chamber. It is with great regret that I can also say that the government has most sorely failed to live up to the message in the owl, and it is the people of Ontario who are ultimately paying for that.
You can make it right. Comply fully with the Speaker’s ruling and, yes, just like a bank robber who has been caught in the act, the Attorney General and the Premier must admit what they did was wrong and take responsibility for their actions and accept the punishment.
I had an email from a constituent today. He’s been watching some of the debate and been following it, because like many of us, right from the very beginning he had concerns about how much these two cancellations were going to cost the taxpayers in the province of Ontario. His question to me was: “How can I initiate a class action suit against the Liberal Party?” Because, ultimately, it was the Liberal Party campaign team that made the decision. It wasn’t a decision made in the Ministry of Energy. If there’s anything that should disturb individuals, families, people who are watching this debate, it’s how far out of the process, out of the balance of power we went when you decided within your campaign team during an election that you were going to make an arbitrary rule of changing a location of a power plant that was under construction—and not think that there was going to be any repercussions.
I found it quite interesting that he was looking at the class action angle. It goes beyond what we’re discussing here, but it does get to the nub of the issue of how angry, how frustrated people get when they see their government spend money like sailors on leave. It’s an indication to me of when they get frustrated and they see the things that they cannot have within their community, when they cannot get that MRI in a timely matter, when they cannot get a hospital expanded or a new hospital built—and then they see the waste. They see the waste at Ornge; they see the waste at eHealth; they see the waste with—we’re now talking about $645 million, and I’m sure there will be more that comes forward.
It’s a very disturbing trend that we have been watching for many years on this side of the House, and it’s one that needs to stop. And if the way it’s going to stop is to deal with this matter and the Minister of Energy and his breach, then so be it, because it needs to end. The concept that you can have a campaign team, a Liberal Party make a decision that’s going to impact the province of Ontario for the next 40 or 50 years, is unconscionable to me.
I think that that ultimately is why we have to have this debate today and why we have to resolve this issue now, so that we ensure that down the road this never happens again, because, quite frankly, the province of Ontario can’t afford it. And we need to have a better government who’s looking out for all of the residents, and not just simply two seat-saver decisions that didn’t end up ultimately giving them the treasured majority that they were so desperate to have.
As I said when I began participating in this debate, I’m not pleased that we have to have it. I’m not pleased that this is what the chamber has been seized with for the last three days. But without a doubt, it is what needs to happen, because we cannot have the same disregard, the same ignoring the needs of people, the needs of residents, continue. We can’t afford it, and it’s not right. I will leave it at that.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate.
Hon. Charles Sousa: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the motion, a motion that I believe is completely self-serving on the part of the official opposition. It’s shameful that they are trying to besmirch the integrity of an honourable and hard-working, decent man like the Minister of Energy. It’s an attempt to assassinate the character of a man who’s devoted years of his life to public service and who has done so honourably and selflessly. Opposition efforts are even more shameful, considering their role in the cancellation of the Mississauga gas plant and the Oakville gas plant.
As the member for Mississauga South, I’m very familiar with the community’s concerns about local air quality. It’s important for all members to be aware of the context behind the issue in Mississauga.
Hon. Charles Sousa: It sounds as though the PCs have chosen to forget about the role they played, so it’s important to remind them.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I’ll remind the official opposition that as I sat and listened to their speaker, there was hardly a word mentioned over here. So under consideration for fairness, I think you should allow them to speak. If you don’t like what they say, that’s understandable—it works both ways—but I would expect that something as serious as this requires listening and not a shouting match. The next person who shouts out loud will get a last warning. Thank you.
Mr. Randy Hillier: Point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Stop the clock.
Mr. Randy Hillier: The difference, of course, is that on this side of the House the truth is not being bent or slanted at all.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I thank the member for his point of order. I guess it will be up to the Chair to determine what happens in here and not the member from that area.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): And the member from Etobicoke North shouldn’t be talking when I’m standing. Thank you.
Hon. Charles Sousa: Let me remind the House and those watching what has happened. My community has been voicing concerns about air quality for many years, concerned about the levels of particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Minister.
I’ll remind the member from Nepean–Carleton that I just said, before she walked in, that the next person who speaks out loud will get their last warning. Since you didn’t hear it, now you know. Next time, last warning.
Hon. Charles Sousa: We on this side of the House sat here quietly and listened. I’m asking you guys to do the same, please.
My community was concerned about the particulate matter in their community. When the community came together to voice their concerns, the community and the government of the day listened. In fact, in 2000, the Ministry of the Environment commissioned a Clarkson airshed study. Results from that study were released between 2006 and 2008 and confirmed that our airshed was stressed. So the community took the next step. They gave of their own volunteer time to participate in the Clarkson airshed advisory committee. They pushed for a task force to examine the problem and provide solutions.
Our government listened and formed the Southwest GTA Air Quality Task Force, under the leadership of Dr. David Balsillie, in 2009. They produced a report to the Minister of the Environment in 2010. The report made it clear that the local airshed was already stressed. It noted the need to think about the cumulative impact of multiple emitters. It reinforced local concerns about introducing new emitters to the airshed. This led our community to become the site for a new pilot project that will help model a national air quality management system. So, years of effort, science on their side and the recommendations of experts in hand, the people of Mississauga and Oakville worked hard to protect their local air quality, and they made great progress.
It truly was a community effort, supported by several great local leaders like Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion; former ward 1 councillor Carmen Corbasson; current ward 1 councillor Jim Tovey; ward 2 councillor Pat Mullin; Oakville Mayor Rob Burton; community leaders and long-time advocates like Dr. Boyd Upper and Julie Desjardins, a strong advocate in the community; Dorothy Tomiuk of Miranet; Wendy Davies, who that side of the House may know was Chair of the Petro-Canada public liaison committee. There were others like Mike Douglas and Irene Gabon, and Steve Thompson and Tony Jones of CHIP. Thousands more wrote letters and signed petitions. They attended rallies. They called their politicians and requested meetings. The community was united. City council was united, including all other councillors like Maja Prentice, Frank Dale, Eve Adams, Carolyn Parrish, Nando Iannicca, Katie Mahoney, Pat Saito, Sue McFadden and George Carlson.
Even so, electricity planners were saying that local demand for power was growing, citing and remembering the blackouts that had occurred years earlier. The previous government knew this all too well. They had done little to secure the integrity of the grid. That’s why the former PC government approved the environmental assessment to site a gas-fired power plant in Clarkson in the southwest area of my riding next to Oakville. But our government was always looking at ways to ensure that we had the generation capacity we needed, especially when we also wanted to stop burning dirty coal. That brings us to the Lakeview coal plant, which was on our waterfront for decades. It was the worst polluter in the GTA. The community rejoiced when our government tore it down. I was proud to fight alongside our community as we pledged that Lakeview would never host another power generator. Instead, we’re going to revitalize that precious lakefront.
But after years of PC neglect of our electricity system, there was indeed a lot of work to do to keep the lights on. So the OPA contracted the Oakville facility to meet energy demands of the time. But in October 2010 the government determined that the project would not proceed. It did so for two reasons: There was clear evidence that it no longer required a facility in Oakville to meet energy needs; and in response to significant concerns voiced by the community, including Mayor Rob Burton, MPP Kevin Flynn, MPP Ted Chudleigh and many others in our community, science told us that our airshed was stressed. The point of impingement of emissions from the Oakville plant would adversely affect our and other communities.
The government decision was even supported by the leader of the PCs, Tim Hudak. I quote now Mr. Ted Chudleigh, the member from Halton: “The people of Oakville have told you they don’t want the proposed gas-fired power plant … and I agree with them.” In the Globe and Mail, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Hudak, said, “We’ve opposed these projects in Oakville and Mississauga.” And now they’re against the government’s decision. If so, they have to come clean to the people of Oakville and Mississauga.
In April 2005, before I was elected, Greenfield South Power Corp. was contracted to develop and operate a gas plant in Mississauga. Since I was first elected to represent the good people of Mississauga South in 2007, I have been consistent. I opposed the location of that plant and believed it was poorly sited. The people of my community did not want any new emitters constructed. They were concerned about the local air quality, and they needed to be protected. I shared their concerns. My first responsibility is to the people who sent me here, and I was proud to stand with them consistently to protect our air, including—
Mr. John Yakabuski: Point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Stop the clock. Point of order, the member from Renfrew.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Speaker, the matter before the House is a point of privilege on behalf of the member for Cambridge. It is not designed to be an opportunity for the member for Mississauga South to tell us why he wasn’t able to stop his own government from beginning the building of the plant before they cancelled it. I would ask that he speak to the point of privilege.
Hon. John Gerretsen: Point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Before we go to the next point of order, I’ll deal with the first point of order. The first point of order is not a point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Secondly, I don’t appreciate the government talking when I’m standing. They won’t do that next time, will they? Thank you.
The next point of order.
Hon. John Gerretsen: Thank you very much, Speaker. This morning, we listened quietly and silently while the Leader of the Opposition spoke to this issue, and I would hope that the members of the opposition will show that same kind of respect for our speakers on this side of the House.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): If the Attorney General was noticing, I’ve admonished them twice already. Secondly, I already warned them that when I warn them for the last time, it is the last time. They haven’t got to that level yet, but they’re certainly working on it. I’ll decide when that happens. Thank you for your sort-of point of order.
Hon. Charles Sousa: Mr. Speaker, as I said before I was rudely interrupted, I stood with my community throughout. I raised our concerns with my colleagues in the government. Let’s contrast that with the PC record. From 2005 to the start of the election in 2011, they were completely silent. Members of my community, many of them lifelong Conservatives themselves, reached out to the party and its leader. They asked the PC Party to take a position on the plant. The response from the PC Party was deafening silence. For six years, they ignored the people of Mississauga.
Then came the 2011 election campaign. Concerns were mounting, and people were asking where the candidates stood on the issue. As their local candidate, my position was unchanged. I was opposed to any new emitters being built in our airshed from the very beginning. I had stood in the House to speak against increased emissions at Lakeview, Clarkson, Oakville and Sherway. The PCs’ position was also unchanged. They ignored the community and refused to speak up.
The community felt so strongly about the issue that they held a public rally on September 15. The community felt so strongly that they asked all local candidates, including the members from Etobicoke, to attend. As the incumbent MPP asking for the renewed confidence of my neighbours, and as a resident, I felt it was my duty to attend, and my colleagues from Etobicoke attended as well. I told the people there what I had been saying all along: that I opposed any new emitters being built in our sensitive airshed. I was concerned about the cumulative impact of further emissions. I was concerned about the point of impingement on neighbouring regions and the effect it would have on future generations, irrespective of election cycles.
Up until now, the PCs have been completely AWOL on the issue. Now was their chance to finally look community members in the eye and tell them where they stand. But they didn’t. Not only did they not speak up; they didn’t even respect the community enough to show up.
Later in the campaign, the Ontario Liberal Party made a commitment that, if re-elected, the government would relocate the Mississauga facility to another location. The community was ecstatic. After years of hard work, one of the parties had clearly been listening and taken their concerns seriously.
But the question remained: Where do the other two parties stand? The Hudak PCs and the NDP decided to play johnny-come-lately. They responded to our announcement by saying that they too would make the same commitment. The Globe and Mail cites Mr. Hudak: “We’ve opposed these projects in Oakville and Mississauga.” Having finally been awoken to this issue, my PC opponent even went further when he told the Mississauga News this: “Only Conservative leader Tim Hudak will cancel the Eastern Power gas plant slated to be built on Loreland Avenue.” The Leader of the Opposition came to Mississauga with a bus and a big pink elephant to talk about how they would cancel the power plant; they would cancel the power plant, not relocate it. The implications would have been severe. Then they robocalled the people of Sherway to tell them this: Only the Hudak PCs would cancel the power plant. They were asking the people of Mississauga to vote for them so that they could cancel the power plant themselves.
This twisting and turning by the PC Party was clearly seen in the community for what it was: a last-ditch attempt to do anything, say anything to try to win a seat—the worst kind of political pandering to try to win votes. And after six years and half of an election campaign of silence, the people of Mississauga were not fooled by this sudden conversion.
Shortly after being re-elected, our government announced the relocation of the Mississauga facility, as promised. We listened to the community. Following through on the commitment made by all three parties, OPA and the proponent reached a deal to relocate the plant.
Let’s remember that the PCs tried to put a power plant in Clarkson. Then they were silent on it. The PCs had no position on the Sherway plant for six years. Then they said they would cancel the plant if they had the chance. Now the PCs oppose the government’s decision. Remember, this was a commitment that all three parties made to the people of Mississauga. So I challenge the PC Party to speak directly to the people of Mississauga. Where do you actually stand on this? You did nothing for six years; then, halfway through an election, you decided you were against it. Now you don’t want to cancel it.
What will happen during the next election? I think the people of my community have a right to know. They’ve had the right to know ever since 2005, and I am proud that the people of Mississauga and surrounding areas can rest assured that Lakeview, Clarkson, Sherway, Oakville and Etobicoke will be protected for future generations.
It’s clear that the PCs aren’t interested, however, in talking about the environment or our health. This is really about the politics of constant conflict. This is the same regressive crew that referred to new Canadians as unwelcome foreigners in the 2011 election campaign—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): All right. I would suggest that the member will withdraw that last comment. That was unnecessary, about immigration. That’s not part of what we’re talking about. Withdraw that.
Hon. Charles Sousa: I withdraw. But during that campaign, when they were making promises about cancelling the power plant, they were spreading literature of other sorts. This is the same party that opposed the budget in a minority Parliament before they even looked at it. It’s the same party that’s ringing bells and rang bells that blocked legislation for months this spring. They’ve been playing political games on bills like the Accepting Schools Act; the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act; the family caregiver leave; the Ambulance Amendment Act to secure and resolve the issues at Ornge; the Strong Action for Ontario Act in the budget; and now this budget motion that’s going to—Mr. Speaker, they’ve rung the bells 45 times, with over 22 hours of delay. Just yesterday, we were supposed to vote on a bill to help seniors make their homes more accessible. This would allow our seniors to live in their homes for longer more comfortably. It’s not being done. Instead, the PC Party is more interested in wasting the Legislature’s time and the taxpayers’ money than they are in working for Ontarians.
The PC Party wants us to believe their motion is about the release of documents. On Monday, the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority released 36,000 records requested by the estimates committee. The government put each and every document on a USB key and provided one to each to the opposition parties and the Clerk—some additional items of that USB key. The request of the committee for these documents has been satisfied—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member from Nepean–Carleton is getting very close to her last warning.
Hon. Charles Sousa: The matter should be over. We should be standing here today working together, debating legislation to make this province a better place.
Why are we debating this contempt motion? This isn’t about the documents at all, is it? The PC Party is attempting to smear the good name of an honourable man. It’s shameful. It’s disgraceful.
The Minister of Energy is a man of integrity. He has served as Attorney General of this province for four years—
Mr. John Yakabuski: Point of order?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Stop the clock. Point of order: The member from Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke.
Mr. John Yakabuski: Standing order 23(i) prohibits a member of imputing the motives of another member of this Legislature. I just heard the minister—
Mr. John Yakabuski: I’d like to make a point of order. Apparently, they don’t like it.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): I don’t really think that’s a point of order. Certainly, if you have a problem with it, you should bring it in a different form.
Secondly, that’s the last warning to the government. When I stand, you’re quiet—last warning. I’m going to start throwing people out.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: Point of order, Mr. Speaker?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Point of order.
Hon. Glen R. Murray: If the member opposite is concerned with imputing motives, is he prepared to withdraw the motion before the House?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): That’s not a point of order. Thank you very much.
Hon. Charles Sousa: Mr. Speaker, before the member, the Minister of Energy, came to this place, he was a respected member of the Ontario bar of the highest standing and reputation. He’s well respected and he’s an honourable man. The Minister of Energy has put the public interest before his own and has dealt clearly to reach those initiatives. Speaker, this is indeed a sad day when members resort to degrading personal attacks like this. After years in the private sector, I chose my civic duty to serve my community. The community does come first.
PCs should respect this place and engage in civil debate, not hyper-partisan personal attacks. They’re playing political games with a man’s reputation. I proudly stand and support the principled actions of this minister. The witch hunt the opposition is undertaking is about scoring cheap political points; it’s about dragging a good man’s name through the mud. It’s beneath them. It’s beneath all of us. They should do the honourable thing and withdraw this reprehensible motion.
To my colleagues in the NDP: I know you are women and men of good conscience. I know you entered politics to try to do what’s right. The minister has complied with the committee’s request and the ruling of the Speaker. He has personally attested to the documents being complete, and as parliamentarians, we are bound to respect that.
To proceed with this motion is to call the integrity of every single member in this chamber into question. It will send a message that no member’s word is to be trusted. The implications for our democracy are enormous. This is an assault on our traditions of respect and democracy in this very place. We may disagree on policy, we may disagree on priorities or on how we manage the province’s finances, but we can have the discussions without impugning each other’s character.
This motion belittles all of us, and I urge you not to support it.
I ask the opposition members and all of us in this House to reflect on what it is that’s being done here. I chose to do my civic duty not to get into political gains such as this. We all have a responsibility to the broader public. We all have a responsibility to our neighbours and friends at home. We all have a responsibility to work together, especially now in this minority government. We can do that. We can do that with respect. We can do that with collaboration—not always easy to do.
I don’t question your motives because I believe everybody’s intentions are good, regardless of political stripe.
Hon. Charles Sousa: But your motion has put into question that integrity, and we were asked—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Stop the clock. Member from Renfrew, last warning. Member from Nepean, you’re very close. You know what the next move is.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: Point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Point of order, the member from Nepean–Carlton.
Ms. Lisa MacLeod: The member just actually did impugn motive when he questioned our integrity. In earlier speeches when the member went to that close of the line, that member was asked to withdraw that statement.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Thank you. I appreciate that point of order, and it’s a good point of order. However, I didn’t hear it because there was too much action over here. So maybe if you were a little quieter I might catch those things.
Hon. Charles Sousa: I’m asking members across the way, and all of us, to reflect on what’s being done. I’m asking the member opposite who put forward the motion to withdraw it. I’m asking everybody to reflect on the long-term implications of what this means. The member—the minister—has attested to saying that he has provided all of the information. If you have some blank forms on some UBS key, go downstairs and see the hard copies where they are. Get the info. It’s there. What I’m saying is, you’re now challenging the word of a man who has been so honourable to us all, and I ask all of you to do the same.
The opposition has suggested—from both sides, I must say—that we’re playing political games for whatever reflection of elections and so forth. I tell those who are watching: This is all about political games in this instance. I would ask them to stop playing nonsense and get back to work. Thank you.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate? The member from Durham.
Mr. John O’Toole: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It’s a privilege to, in a very serious and genuine tone, address the House this afternoon on this motion.
Just to start with the previous speaker from Mississauga South—I believe he was trying to shift the focus here. I think if the viewer at home—I think it’s important to kind of review where we are and what we’re actually talking about. I know that it would be worthwhile if persons looked at the statement made today—the speech made by the member from Newmarket–Aurora.
This is not about personalities; this is about transparency and accountability. Names will be mentioned only as their duties as ministers or Premiers or other members of cabinet—here’s exactly where we are: The motion, as it stands, by Mr. Leone, is “that this House direct 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.”
Now, there have been two amendments moved, so we’re actually debating the amendments. The amendment on September 25 by Mr. Leone was to delete the “November 19” reference and make it “November 23.” So he’s giving more time to the committee to report. Mr. Tabuns, from the NDP, moved an amendment that the words “November 23” be removed and the following added: “November 26.” So we’re just adding time for a fuller, more wholesome debate.
So really it comes down to the points that have been made repeatedly. I’ll try not to repeat all of them, but it is about transparency and accountability.
Now, for the general public who may find a lot of this an inside story or inside baseball, it’s important to put in some context what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a potential, scandalous waste or a lack of accountability and transparency of some half-a-billion-plus dollars of taxpayers’ money with nothing to show for it—no highways, no hospitals, no MRIs and no daycare for children.
Our leader, Tim Hudak, has spoken on this, shown leadership. Our caucus has been consistent in not going into the ditch, as mentioned by the Liberals, using personal slurs.
The leader of the NDP has taken the time out of her busy schedule to address this House, and yet the Premier and senior cabinet officials, the Minister of Energy—not been in the House for any part of this debate. I think that is actually sort of dismissing the importance of this important debate, and I would say to you this: I would hope that the Premier would take this issue of being in contempt very seriously, because it is.
Now, the history isn’t something that just happened last weekend. According to the record, and this is from the decision and background of the original Speaker’s decision, on September 13, the Speaker—the following rules were issued on Monday the 27th. This is a sequence for the people to understand the context of the debate here about transparency and accountability of half a billion dollars of taxpayers’ money, and they’re still trying to make this into a personal slur—we’re not. I have the greatest respect for Mr. Bentley. I’ve spoken to him on a number of issues in my riding, one of which I’ll mention later. But there is a point where the committee asked him for information where he deliberately did not produce the information, and of the 36,000 pages that were produced, many of them are blank. There’s no correspondence from any of the last three Ministers of Energy: nothing from Mr. Smitherman, nothing from Mr. Duguid, and nothing from the current minister as well. There’s no information on anything after December 2011.
What’s happened? The purchase agreements and the cancellation of contract have all transpired; there’s no paper in the 36,000. The 36,000 pieces of paper were strictly another barrier to prevent the opposition from finding out the truth, and the truth is what the people of Ontario want us to pursue.
Now, if you look at the transition here, Mr. Speaker, it’s important in the context of how frustrated we are in the opposition. We don’t have the resources of cabinet and all of the civil service working feverishly on our behalf. We have great staff that have done some great work, and Mr. Leone and the members of that committee that brought this thing to the attention of the Legislature.
On Monday, August 27, the member for Cambridge, Mr. Leone, rose on a question of privilege covering the government’s failure to produce certain documents requested by the Standing Committee on Estimates. The government House leader, Mr. Milloy, and others spoke on it and spoke on the matter.
“Having reviewed the notice”—this is the speech from the Speaker. We should listen to this. The Speaker of this Legislature is really the judge and referee, if you will. “Having reviewed the notice provided by the member from Cambridge, the subsequent written submissions of the government House leader and of the member from Cambridge, the August 27 report of the Standing Committee on Estimates, relevant Hansards for the committee and various parliamentary authorities, I am now prepared to rule on the matter.”
Now, this is what we should respect, the Speaker, and I thank Mr. Speaker here as well that’s sitting today.
Here’s the sequence: On May 16, the standing committee formally adopted a motion requesting this information. On May 30 the minister responded by saying it would be inappropriate. On June 5, the standing committee brought a motion, forwarded by Mr. Leone again, calling for the report from the committee to the House with respect to the minister’s May 30 decision not to provide the requested documents, and finally adopting the version of a motion contained in the committee’s report. And it goes on, on July 11, an agreement having been reached to reallocate the Mississauga plant to Sarnia, and the minister provided some requested documents: very, very lack of full disclosure, a real unwillingness to co-operate on behalf of the taxpayers and the opposition.
On August 27, shortly after the member from Cambridge rose on his question of privilege, the Standing Committee on Estimates reported that for the reasons indicated in the report, the government had not produced all the documents. And it goes on at some length. A great job done by the Speaker; I commend him and the table clerks for their thoroughness.
Here’s the real decision, and don’t be distracted—the people viewing today and reading Hansard, do not be distracted. Here’s what the referee and judge of this House told us as members. We’re all subject to this order. Who’s in compliance may be a question as well.
“The Standing Committee on Estimates”—this is the Speaker’s ruling—“was unquestionably” denied “to request the documents sought from the Minister of Energy”—so that’s clear, unquestionably denied—“and in the end the minister had an obligation to comply with the committee’s call for those documents”—
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Can I ask the third party and a couple of visitors down there—is the third party listening? Is the House leader for the Liberals listening? I would suggest, if you want to have a big meeting, you might want to go outside. I can’t hear. It’s so loud down there I’m having trouble hearing him. I like to spread it around for everybody, so take it outside, and I see we have a visitor to the Attorney General over there. That’s fine. Keep it down. Thank you.
Mr. John O’Toole: Can you reset the clock, please? I’ve lost—I’d like to go back to 20 minutes.
I thank you for that interruption because most people aren’t as focused, perhaps; I know on the government side they’re not focused. It’s a tragedy because of the work I put into this, and our caucus, and our leader, Mr. Hudak as well.
It says: “The Standing Committee on Estimates was unquestionably entitled to request the documents sought from the Minister of Energy, and in the end the minister had an obligation to comply with the committee’s call for those documents. The committee did not accept the minister’s reason for withholding the documents and persisted in its demands during an extended period of time.” There’s the ruling. Here’s the judge. You got a ticket here. This is a ticket, and you’ve got to pay up. He said, “I am therefore satisfied that a prima facie case of privilege has been established”—period. The judge has ruled. Why are we trying to deflect it? Why?
Here’s the Toronto Star. This again has been referred to by others—very important. It’s kind of a third party commentator, mostly in favour of the Liberals, but nonetheless. It goes on here to say, “Liberal MPPs Vent over ‘Embarrassing’ Power Plant Payouts.” That’s not me; it’s a little blunter than I would say it. It goes on here and it says, “Liberal MPPs let off steam behind closed doors in a heated debate over the government’s ‘embarrassing’ $230-million payouts to close controversial power plants in” Mississauga and Oakville. It’s not $230 million; it’s half a billion dollars. It’s a new billion-dollar scale—
Mr. John O’Toole: Minimum. The lawyers are just salivating. Here it is. This is important: “Senior” Liberal “ministers used terms like ‘shameful.’” I honestly say—
Mr. John O’Toole: Now, I don’t question the integrity at all. I would hope they all feel shameful. If they just stood today and apologized—I believe that our leader is prepared to make Ontario much more transparent and accountable, and we’ll get the job done. We may need the keys to the car.
I would add this: “Some MPPs insisted”—these are Liberal MPPs—“they would have been just as candid if McGuinty had been in the room, while others said that his absence made it easier to rage”—afraid of not getting into cabinet. “‘This is embarrassing,’ one minister” said, and I could almost put names to these. The “shameful,” “embarrassing”—all of them are true.
Here’s what the Premier said. This is what the Premier of Ontario said. This is quoted. I hope that Hansard is paying attention: “‘We made two missteps; we recognize that,’ he told reporters in Oakville, a riding held by Liberal MPP Kevin Flynn, where a natural-gas fired power plant was cancelled two years ago because of strong community opposition.
“That settlement cost at least $40 million.” Those are not the facts.
Look, do you know what it costs for a plant? Do you have any idea? A nuclear plant that you had a bid on in Darlington in my riding was $25 billion, so $40 million wouldn’t buy you the property. The numbers they’re giving us—the member from Mississauga South knows, as a former banker. A wealthy Bay Street banker, I think, really.
Here’s the other thing. It goes on in this article. It just basically tells that many of the Liberals are as frustrated as the people of Ontario. I just want to go on the history that I’ve made and remind members to have a look at the Hansard; look it up.
The member from Newmarket–Aurora talked about accountability and transparency, and the threat to the very democracy that makes this place legitimate. So we have to take our work seriously and remember that the $650 million—probably much more. I say it’s a billion-dollar boondoggle. It’s the third one. Here’s the issue: It’s better off now to admit you’re wrong. The Premier has as much as said it. Almost everyone over there has said a mea culpa in some respects, and the Toronto Star is trying to help you get out of this.
I think it should go to committee as soon as possible so that we can call the real witnesses—the head of the OPA; call the deputy ministers. Let’s get to the facts here. I would say this: Everything I’ve read by almost all the experts—including Vic Fedeli, our critic; the great work he’s done on this—is that you have made a complete, disastrous mess out of the energy file—absolutely unmistakable.
This is shameful, because our leader has said, even during the election, that this is an economic file, not a social file. You tried, with the Green Energy Act, to change the channel; I get it—
Interjection: It was a social experiment.
Mr. John O’Toole: It was a social experiment that has, at this point, failed. That doesn’t say—we’re not against renewable energy. We’re against power that costs 30 cents or 80 cents a kilowatt hour, when it used to cost about five cents a kilowatt hour. That’s the real story here—
Mr. John O’Toole: As my friend here from Sarnia–Lambton said, Adam Beck’s principle was power at cost. I think he went on to build the strongest economy in Canada, and others would agree.
As I said, I’ve read the one Toronto Star article, but there are other articles in the paper that I think support many of what I’d call—the one I’m looking for here is what Mr. Tabuns said. He’s the NDP critic. It’s not just our people saying it. It says, “‘We want to uncover the truth—that’s our goal....’” That’s what Mr. Rob Leone said, and then it went on: “NDP MPP Peter Tabuns said it’s not clear from the documents how ministers even communicated with each other.
“‘We can’t do our job and the public cannot do its job if documents are obscured and withheld.’”
The public needs to know this is what we believe. This is what the Speaker, the judge of the Legislature, said—all the documents are incomplete. They’ve been redacted—blank pages, missing pages, and it’s sent us on a wild goose chase with 36,000 pages of needless dribble. The content is, how much did it cost and who signed it? They tried to make the argument—Mr. Speaker, in truth, to you, with the limited time I have left—that we somehow agreed with the cancellation of these plants. No, no, no, no. The truth is this: We never agreed with the Oakville and Mississauga plants as the sites. The Liberal cabinet made decisions and signed expensive contracts to go ahead with these sites. Mr. Sousa, Mr. Flynn and others were upset with that because they were going to lose their seats. During the elections and prior to, they actually decided not to.
Having been here for 17 or 18 years—we closed the Lakeview plant. The minister at the time—
Mr. John O’Toole: I was here; you weren’t.
The minister at the time was Elizabeth Witmer, and that plant was closed by us. They knew there was going to be a hollow-out of a generation facility like Lakeview and that they needed more power for that southwest part of Ontario—an important part of Ontario, you might say. The decisions you made were flawed. You might be correct that you ran on not building it. Our candidate certainly did; you made that clear. But it’s not about that; it’s about the correct policies. That’s what this is about. You made an error. McGuinty admitted it right in this article. He says, “We made two mistakes,” and that was it. He finally did the right thing: He produced the documents. We want to know what it cost. He said “$40 million.” If he’s sticking to that number, and he—here’s the issue: As a judge would look at it, an outside—if he thinks it’s $40 million, let’s have an auditor come in. Why did he say “$40 million” if he didn’t know it was $40 million? If he knew it wasn’t $40 million, then he was lying. Do you understand? He was either ignorant or lying.
Mr. Jeff Leal: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Point of order.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Sit down, please.
Point of order, the member from St. Catharines.
Mr. Jeff Leal: Peterborough. That’s okay. I like the member from St. Catharines, too—great guy.
I would think that that point needs to be withdrawn. Saying that a person’s a liar is unparliamentary.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): The member will withdraw.
Mr. John O’Toole: I withdraw.
I’m sure he didn’t do it on purpose, anyway.
But the fact is, you shouldn’t make promises. He promised to close the coal plants in 2011. He promised to do it in 2007; he promised in 2003, in 2007, in 2011. You cannot trust the Premier now. And now they won’t tell us the truth and now they won’t give us the documents.
So I think you’re in the shady part of your rule of Ontario. I think this is a great opportunity for the Liberal Party and some of its members to come clean. Come clean and do the right thing. Just produce how much it cost—we can cut right to the chase here—and start listening to the policies that we’re putting on the table, addressing the needs of the economy.
Two more things: one of the most scandalous things—you should look it up. The people of Ontario should look up the whole issue when people are talking about energy costs. Look at the Auditor General’s report on the global adjustment. It’s going to cost $8 billion because of the Green Energy Act and the global adjustment. I’m not making these numbers up. It’s the Auditor General’s report: $8 billion. It’s going to cost six cents a kilowatt hour for energy—not that you consume—to support or subsidize a failed industry, a failed experiment, if you will.
The people of Ontario, the businesses of Ontario and the economy of Ontario have been put at severe risk because of the mismanagement of this government, and the Premier has not even spoken on the issue, except to the media. Step forward and show some leadership.
Our leader was here today, and I would recommend that people take a look back at Hansard and see our position. It’s not to deal with personal smearing; that’s what they’re doing on the other side. What this is about is accountability and transparency and respect for the Speaker of this Legislature.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate?
Mr. David Zimmer: I’m looking forward to joining in this debate. I think what we have to do—there’s been a lot of debate and a lot of generalities passed back and forth from the opposition parties, but the fact of the matter is, nobody has spoken yet to the very detailed response that the Minister of Energy made when asked to respond to the motion to produce the documents, and I think what’s important for me to do is to refer to the motion that’s before the House now.
The motion says: “Despite … [the] directive of the committee, and despite giving ample time to comply, the Minister of Energy, the Honourable Christopher Bentley, MPP for London West, on behalf of the Ministry of Energy, responded in writing to the committee on May 30, 2012, which included the following excerpt”—and it’s a short sentence: “‘In light of the confidential, privileged and highly commercially sensitive nature of these issues, it would not be appropriate for my office or the ministry to disclose information that would prejudice these ongoing negotiations and litigation.’”
So they’ve extracted that one sentence from what was a very detailed reply––four pages, single-spaced, small type––that went into a very detailed rationalization about why the minister was claiming privilege over certain documents. I think, in fairness, by any measure of fairness to the minister, that this chamber should be privy to or have the benefit of that whole explanation of the minister.
This is what the minister said in his written correspondence, May 30, 2012, addressed to the Chair of the Standing Committee on Estimates, Mr. Michael Prue:
“Dear Mr. Prue”—and this is important. This is important for the viewers; this is important for the media; this is important for everybody who has to address this issue of whether the minister was in contempt, because I think on any fair reading of the minister’s written response about why he was not in a position to release the documents at that point in time, it’s clear that the minister was not in any way, by any stretch of the imagination, in contempt.
This is what the minister said: “I am writing in response to the May 16, 2012, estimates committee motion brought forward by MPP Robert Leone under standing order 110(b) directing the Minister of Energy, the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority to produce all correspondence ‘in any form, electronic or otherwise, that occurred between September 1, 2010, and December 31, 2011, related to the cancellation of the Oakville power plant as well as all correspondence, in any form, electronic or otherwise, that occurred between August 1, 2011, and December 31, 2011, related to the cancellation of the Mississauga power plant.’”
Now, here is the minister’s position: “I respect the authority of the committee and its interest in receiving this information. The committee has an important role to play with respect to review of ministries’ operations and is entitled to ask questions and seek answers”—hardly a contemptuous opening.
“As previously discussed with the committee”— the minister was at the committee day after day after day—“over the last number of sessions, there are confidential, privileged and commercially sensitive issues involved with ... the Oakville and Mississauga power plants. There is ... ongoing litigation”—that’s court proceedings—“with respect to the Mississauga power plant.
“In response to the committee’s motion, the Ministry of Energy has undertaken a search for the requested correspondence.” They’re not ducking the issue. “It is clear that these files are indeed confidential and in many cases the documentation is subject to solicitor-client privilege, litigation privilege and/or is” of a highly sensitive commercial nature.
The minister just didn’t get the request to produce the documents and say, “No, I’m not giving them to you.” They went back and did a detailed analysis. They sought the best legal advice. They carefully and sensitively responded to this.
“Disclosure of these documents is anticipated to have a negative” effect “on resolution of these files in light of ongoing, confidential discussions, as well as litigation, in these files. The realities of the sensitive discussions that are occurring, as well as ongoing legal issues, cannot be forgotten as the committee pursues its objectives.”
Here we get into the nub of it: “As a threshold issue in response to the motion, you had to determine whether MPP Leone’s motion was in order. In your May 16 ... ruling, you noted the committee’s right to ask for documents. You also noted that I”—referring to the minister—“have the right”—this was the committee that made this recommendation, and this is important.
“In your May 16 ... ruling, you noted”—referring to the committee—“the committee’s right to ask for documents. You also noted I have the right”—and this is from the committee—“‘to either decline giving that documentation or giving voice to that documentation during ... answering of the questions.’ You further stated that I ‘may choose to answer the question in such a way as not to prejudice the province in any way.’ Moreover, you”—again referring to the committee—“indicated that you expected me to approach my responses in this way.” They’re inviting the minister to exercise his judgment as to whether the documents should be released and in what form.
The minister took up the committee’s invitation and said in the letter, “In light of the confidential, privileged and highly commercially sensitive nature of these issues, it would not be appropriate for my office or the ministry to disclose information that would prejudice these ongoing negotiations and litigation. I also note that these very commercially sensitive negotiations between the OPA, the government and TransCanada Corp. and Greenfield South Holdco Corp. and Greenfield South Power Corp. ... have been carried out on a without-prejudice basis”—that is, between the parties. “Thus”—as a result of that without-prejudice basis—“both the government and the OPA have legal obligations to not disclose the content of those negotiations”—and listen to this—“at this time.” It’s not a blanket “I’m not going to give it to you.” The implication is, “You’ll get them at the appropriate point in time.”
“However, I am able to provide a chronology on both plants and outline why the decisions were made to locate them.
“Mississauga gas plant chronology
“On April 12, 2005, the OPA and Greenfield executed a clean energy supply contract to develop and operate Greenfield South generation station, a 280-megawatt combined cycle natural gas plant in ... Mississauga. This contract followed a competitive procurement that was run by the Ministry of Energy. This contract was amended and restated as of March 16, 2009.
“Over the ensuing six years, requisite environmental and generation approvals were obtained, but local public opposition to the gas plant grew. Mississauga council and local residents’ groups expressed concerns about the proposed plant.
“On December 10, 2008, the Ministry of the Environment issued a certificate of approval for air and noise” for the Greenfield South project.
“On June 3, 2009, an electricity generation licence for Greenfield was issued by” the OEB.
“In May 2011, Greenfield entered into a financing agreement with EIG Management Co. to finance the gas plant. Greenfield subsequently obtained a building permit from the city of Mississauga” to allow construction.
“On May 30, 2011, the city of Mississauga issued a building permit” to permit the construction.
“On June 15, 2011, the Minister of the Environment requested Greenfield to provide an updated assessment of its anticipated emissions which conforms to the requirements” of the various regulations under the environmental act.
“On June 22, 2011, the city of Mississauga passed a resolution requesting ... the Minister of the Environment” to conduct a full environmental assessment, “and requesting that the Minister of Energy conduct a full review to determine the necessity of manufacturing 280 megawatts of electricity in a densely populated urban zone.
“On June 24, 2011, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion wrote a letter to then Minister ... Brad Duguid regarding” the resolution about the environmental assessment plan. She outlined her concerns about it.
“On September 24, 2011, a Liberal Party news release was issued which committed that under a future Liberal government, the plant would not go forward at the current location. It also expressed a commitment to work with the developer to find a new location for the plant, should the Liberals form a government. Around this time, the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democratic Party also committed”—also committed—“that they would not allow the plant to proceed in the community.”
So, going into that election, three political parties—PC, NDP and Liberal—were ad idem—in agreement—on what should be done with those plants.
“On October 12, 2011, the city of Mississauga passed a further resolution asking the government” to immediately stop construction.
“On November 21, 2011, the OPA issued a media statement indicating there would be no gas plant” in Mississauga. The discussions about where to relocate would remain ongoing.
These are the confidential, commercially sensitive and privileged documents in negotiations between the parties regarding not proceeding with that plant, that all three political parties in that campaign agreed to.
“On November 21, 2011, the Ministry of Energy also issued a media statement.”
On March 27, there were various negotiations held, and “EIG for itself and as agent for—and this is the important part: “On March 27, EIG, for itself and as agent for note holders under the note purchase agreement, simultaneously brought a claim”—a piece of litigation—“against Greenfield in New York state for breach and default of” the contract.
On March 27, “EIG served a statement of claim naming Ontario and the OPA as defendants.” So now we’re into the complicated litigation.
The minister goes on to say in the letter, “Even as the parties pursue their legal rights through court proceedings” that I’ve just outlined, “discussions between the parties are ongoing.” The minister said he was providing this chronology and his intention was “to highlight for the committee the sensitivity of the commercial interests that are at stake and the important context surrounding the committee’s request.”
Then the minister goes on to outline the Oakville chronology. With respect, the Oakville chronology is a long one, but essentially it goes through the same sort of thing: There were discussions with the community and feedback from the community, all parties decided it was not a good idea and that was their campaign position, it was announced that the project was not going ahead, and then litigation arose.
So the minister’s final conclusion on this is that “this chronology of events with respect to the Oakville gas plant is intended to highlight for you the” sensitive “commercial context surrounding the ongoing ... discussions” to resolve the situation. He concludes in the letter—this is the end of the four page letter—“Disclosing anything more at this time would significantly prejudice the province’s interests.
“I hope this information is helpful and is sufficient for ... the committee.” It then goes on.
The next letter was submitted to the committee at the same time as the minister’s letter. So now we have a situation where the minister hasn’t just walked away from the committee’s request; he has provided a detailed and thoughtful answer. The core of the answer is: There are sensitive litigation matters, sensitive negotiations. It’s in the public interest for the minister to get the best possible deal for Ontario. So I’m not in a position to disclose those documents—always in his letter—at this time.
The OPA also wrote to the committee Chair on May 30, and offered its response and essentially made the same arguments that there are sensitive commercial negotiations, there’s litigation involved and there are privileged documents involved. The idea is not to disclose Ontario’s negotiating position, not to expose what its bottom line is when it’s sitting down with these power companies trying to strike the best deal for the people of Ontario to make it as least costly as possible.
For those same reasons, the chief executive officer of OPA, Colin Andersen, after detailing the technical reasons why the documents could not be released, summarizes the position in the last paragraph or two of his letter. He says, “The provision of correspondence to the committee related to these two matters”—Oakville and Mississauga—“would disclose material which is legally privileged”—that’s something the courts protect and lawyers get involved in, and even if the minister wanted to release it, there’s a legal privilege attached to it—“and has been provided by other parties in confidential, without-prejudice negotiations. Such disclosure is likely to significantly prejudice the position of OPA and the province in the ... highly commercially sensitive negotiations and in the current litigation”—“litigation” is the court case.
“I hope that this response is of assistance to the committee....”
What do we take from these two very detailed responses from both the minister and the CEO of OPA? What they tell us is that they recognize this issue between the builders and the province on these two plants that are not going ahead, keeping in mind that all three political parties were of the view that they ought not to go ahead. So it falls on the government of the day to conclude the negotiations. The government of the day, the minister of the day, in this case Minister Bentley, the ministry and, I dare say, everybody in this chamber, wants to get the best deal for the taxpayers of Ontario, to get the most advantage that we can get out of this very sensitive commercial litigation. So all the minister and the CEO of OPA said was, “At this point in time, we’re not in a position to release those documents.”
I was at estimates committee. If you check the Hansard, what I said at estimates committee on behalf of the minister and on behalf of the government was that, on the conclusion of these negotiations—they’re signed, stamped—they would be released. In fact, early on, some time ago, we released the Mississauga negotiations, and we know what that cost. The Oakville negotiations were still at that very sensitive stage where parties were jockeying for position, and the position at estimates committee that I conveyed on behalf of the minister and the government—and I did so at length; you’ve got the correspondence here, which was filed with the committee—was that when Oakville was concluded and we had struck the best possible deal for the taxpayers and the people of Ontario, those documents would be released.
Those discussions were concluded a few days ago, and lo and behold, the documents were released.
Mrs. Liz Sandals: All of them.
Mr. David Zimmer: All of them. In my submission, it would have been negligent for the minister or the ministry or the CEO of OPA to release those documents at a time when their negotiations were still outstanding and the release of the documents could have prejudiced Ontario’s position. The minister and the CEO of OPA were upholding the highest possible standard. The minister did not walk away from that committee’s request for documents; he submitted a detailed response to it, as did the CEO of OPA. There is nothing contemptuous there.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Thank you. Further debate?
Mr. Toby Barrett: I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion—obviously a historic motion that this government has brought upon itself, essentially, through this constant secretive hide-and-seek game playing, all at the cost of $640 million to ratepayers, taxpayers, citizens of the province of Ontario. In my view, it’s an egregious example. We see a government out of ideas. Through the estimates committee we have asked for some paperwork, some documents, and again, after some foot-dragging and after a historic Speaker’s declaration, we now have been provided with documents, documents that have been redacted.
That’s a word that isn’t necessarily that familiar in my riding, “redacted.” I assume that means manipulated, edited, revised. I suppose we could look up the word “redacted.” We know some of the documents were whited out; some of the documents are incomplete. That’s unparliamentary. That isn’t the way things should work. It’s a slap in the face to what we try to do in this Legislature, and, obviously, it’s an effort to hide something. I assume it’s an effort to hide the truth, given that the decisions, both Oakville and Mississauga, were politically driven to save some jobs, cancel the plants, again at a cost of $640 million, although we are counting. We may be getting up to $650 million.
Again, who pays that? Initially, the ratepayer; probably, through various means, the taxpayer as well.
When debate commenced, in what I consider his first kind of desperate response to our motion, House Leader Milloy—I wish to quote Hansard—stated, “I’m old enough to remember the party of Bill Davis.... What’s going on here today ... is not the party of Bill Davis or John Robarts.” If I could paraphrase a Democratic vice-presidential representative—he was up against Dan Quayle. Some may remember watching this on television. It was a 1988 vice-presidential debate. We had a kind of similar line of reasoning—
Mr. Jeff Leal: Lloyd Bentsen.
Mr. Toby Barrett: Lloyd Bentsen, thank you.
If I may paraphrase Democratic vice-presidential candidate Lloyd Bentsen: Mr. Milloy—he was with the NDP recently—you’re no Bill Davis. Mr. Milloy, you’re no John Robarts. The reason I say that—perhaps the whip did watch that on television—
Mr. Jeff Leal: I did watch the debate. He said, “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Mr. Toby Barrett: Good for you.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Sit down, please. I’m glad you two are having a lovely discussion between you. Don’t forget the little Speaker.
Mr. Toby Barrett: We’re going down memory lane.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Yes, well, while you’re going down memory lane, tow the Speaker with you. Thank you very much.
Mr. Jeff Leal: I apologize, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Toby Barrett: No apologies necessary, in my view—
Mr. Jeff Leal: I just had the exact quote, and that was it.
Mr. Toby Barrett: Well, we looked it up, and back then the Republican Dan Quayle—we all know Dan Quayle—said, “I have as much experience in Congress as Jack Kennedy when he sought the presidency,” and Mr. Bentsen rebutted, “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.” By extension I say: Mr. Milloy, you’re no Bill Davis.
In the opening debate Mr. Milloy also stated, with reference to the member of Haldimand–Norfolk—Speaker, can I call you to order for a second here? I pointed out the potential for Nanticoke OPG instead of the proposed Clarkson plant. We called it the Clarkson plant; that’s the Oakville TransCanada operation. I proposed in writing that Nanticoke receive consideration. Of course I would request that, as did area mayors up in that neck of the country, our local Haldimand county mayor as well.
I wrote a letter to the minister on June 21, 2010. At that time, as we would recall, this government hadn’t put a shovel in the ground at Oakville. You hadn’t dug any footings; you hadn’t poured concrete. We told you it was not a good location again and again. It wasn’t up to us to make the decision. The government made the decision. The gas plant was located in—as was referred to earlier—the Clarkson airshed. That was a government decision.
What have they done now? They’ve moved it to Bath. They’ve moved it to Lennox and Addington. Not much demand for electricity down in that part of Ontario, I understand, from my colleague opposite. That plant is close to mothballed—
Mr. Randy Hillier: Less than 1%.
Mr. Toby Barrett: There’s an interjection—something like 1%; we’ve heard 5%, 10%. There are no wires, no capacity—the transmission to get the electricity from down in the Kingston/Bath area back up through Toronto over to the west side of Toronto, the western GTA: Oakville and Mississauga area; even if they were to do that, it would cost something like $200 million.
Going back to Nanticoke: Nanticoke has the infrastructure and has had the infrastructure for well over 40 years. It has a massive transmission corridor; many corridors run north and south through my riding from Middleport up to the western part of Toronto. We are southwest of Toronto, as you would know. I normally say we’re south of Hamilton; in this case, we’re southwest of Toronto. We have the workforce, as you know. We have received an environmental assessment approval for a natural gas pipeline, a $300-million project, to run—again, looking at the future and the declining and very competitive rate for shale gas—shale gas. Anyone in the United States knows shale gas is the future for manufacturing.
My son and I were down south of Pittsburgh a few months ago trying to get a motel room anywhere south or west of Pittsburgh—the drilling rigs down there. Things are cooking, Speaker.
I mentioned we have the workforce; I should have said we had the workforce. Mr. McGuinty has eliminated over 400 jobs now at the OPG Nanticoke power generating station. Granted, he saved two jobs here; my riding lost 400 jobs. So this government makes an ill-conceived decision to locate a gas plant in an area where nobody wants it.
I wrote the minister with an alternative, as was pointed out by Mr. Milloy, the government House leader, an alternative that municipalities in the area felt made sense: Reconsider. Look at Nanticoke as an alternative. Further to that proposal—ask the Power Workers’ Union. Nanticoke assets are already paid for, and that’s with selling electricity at four cents per kilowatt hour. Convert the plant to natural gas, convert it to biomass; don’t build a brand new plant. I’ll come back to Nanticoke, if time permits.
Before there was any talk of the Oakville/Mississauga project, we had Lakeview, an OPG property. It was destined for natural gas. As I recall, Hazel McCallion put pressure on this government, indicative of how this government makes some decisions, and again the politics kick in. Now it’s become obvious over the past few years—and very clearly we knew this—people in Mississauga/Oakville don’t like natural gas. We recognize natural gas as a greenhouse gas, something this particular government also has concerns about. But you know, in that area—and there are probably some members here from that area. I would assume, Minister, that every single home in Mississauga and the Oakville area has a steel pipe coming into the house, piping in natural gas—natural gas for furnaces, for home heating, for air conditioners, for cooking stoves.
The good people down in that part of the southwestern GTA may not want natural gas in their backyards, but they have it in their basements and they have it in their kitchens. But again, a government such as this government—they flip-flop, they weather vane—I’m not sure if that’s a verb or not—with the changing direction of the wind. That’s no way to make a decision about something as important as Ontario’s energy.
People are now raising the question with respect to the decision-making of other energy-related issues in this province. Go a little further north in the western GTA; there’s a new gas plant in Halton Hills. Anyone who drives on the 401 saw that one go up. Go a little further north and to the east. There’s the Holland Marsh peaker plant. Ask Jamie Reaume and the Holland Marsh vegetable growers’ association about that one. So I see a trend here. Liberal ridings don’t have to put up with industrial generating stations, hence saving the jobs of people like Kevin Flynn and Charles Sousa. Let’s not forget Laurel Broten—I’ll name some names—from Etobicoke–Lakeshore, and Donna Cansfield, the member for Etobicoke Centre. Let’s throw in Mississauga–Streetsville—Bob Delaney, just to be clear; Mississauga–Brampton South—election politics at the expense of the electricity ratepayers.
So here’s the tally: six jobs saved. My riding lost 400 jobs with the shutting down of coal at Nanticoke. The fact that you vote Conservative—and there are some Conservatives in here behind me, I notice—you get the Halton Hills generating station, you get the Holland Marsh peaker plant. You get Mississauga’s plant transferred to Sarnia–Lambton. You get Oakville’s plant transferred to the great riding—I wrote this one down; someone asked me not to mention names—of Lanark–Frontenac–Lennox and Addington. Did I get that right?
Mr. Randy Hillier: You got it right.
Mr. Toby Barrett: Randy Hillier said I got it right.
I’m a Conservative; 64% of the people in Haldimand–Norfolk voted Progressive Conservative. We’re proud to have OPG Nanticoke. To the question I’m asking: What happened? How come we didn’t get a natural gas plant? We’re a Conservative riding. We’ve got this gigantic facility. We have the assets there. This government has just signed its death warrant. We have a century and a half of natural gas experience down in Norfolk, Haldimand and Wainfleet. We drill for natural gas. We work on the lake. We’ve been drilling on Lake Erie since 1913. Haldimand-Wainfleet has more holes pumped in the ground than Saudi Arabia. This is what we do. We are part of a natural gas culture. We would welcome a facility like that, knowing years ago that people in western Toronto did not want that kind of a facility. We have the expertise. We have a wealth of electricity generation knowledge as well, going back 40 years.
It was some 15 years ago that I stood in this House and delivered a speech recognizing the 25th anniversary of the Ontario Hydro, as it was known then, generating station at Nanticoke. Go forward a decade and a half, and here we are: It was about two weeks ago that we recognized 40 years of stable, reliable power production, again, at four cents a kilowatt hour, and a proud workforce that up until recently numbered well over 600 employees at OPG Nanticoke: technicians, engineers, mechanical and electrical maintenance tradespeople, equipment operators, environmental technicians, managers, administrators. At one time we provided 25% of Ontario’s electricity. It’s the largest plant of its kind in North America and one of the largest in the world. Bill Davis opened it. Mr. Milloy is here, the House leader. We emulate Bill Davis during this debate. Bill Davis opened Nanticoke in 1973. I think he was something like two and a half, two hours and twenty minutes late, they were telling me. We had a little bit of a ceremony a week or so ago. Mr. McGuinty wants to close it, as we know.
That’s the difference between Bill Davis and Dalton McGuinty. Bill Davis would open the very large, industrial, primary industry generating facilities like Nanticoke; Mr. McGuinty closes them. That’s the history. That’s the legacy that both parties have.
I see at Nanticoke this experience being tossed out of the window by this contemptible government––we’re debating a motion about contempt. There are people in my area, and think of 400 people that aren’t working there anymore––they have nothing but contempt for this government. They worked for an organization that has one sole shareholder, the Ontario government. They cannot speak out. They have to remain silent. That contempt is there; you can see that on their faces.
To the members opposite: Congratulations for destroying our coal-based electricity-generating economy. That will go down on the record.
There have been some other successes over the last 40 years. I’m part of a government that brought in SCRs, selective catalytic reduction units that get rid of the NOx. We switched over to low-sulphur coal; no more SOx, no more sulphur emissions. Work could have been done. It would have been an ideal opportunity to do research on carbon dioxide sequestration. That’s kind of out of the window now.
During the blackout that wiped out this part of North America, workers there toiled around the clock to get production up again, literally moving those turbines by hand with levers to keep them from seizing up. We have a lot of reasons to thank the people who work down there at OPG.
What has this government done? It’s basically said, “No thanks. Here’s the boot out the door. Don’t get hit by the door as you leave.” I find that contemptible. People in my area have contempt. I know that doesn’t specifically address the meaning of this contempt motion, but it kind of goes with the flow of what I’m trying to explain here, and it’s important to explain this amendment to the amendment of the motion that we’re debating today, which is basically just about what date the report comes out. I’m not going to spend too much time on that part of it.
So we’ve got the missteps in Mississauga, the omission of Oakville, and send it east down towards Kingston, examples of what I consider questionable decision-making exhibited by this government.
Oakville—I don’t know whether it was mentioned so far today: Oakville was a $1.2-billion plant. That’s an awful lot of money. I think of $1 billion and counting with respect to Big Becky, the tunnel in Niagara. I’ve reported in this House—again, decision-making around the transmission corridor, the latest upgrade coming out of Niagara. Hydro One seems powerless to complete this $116-million upgrade. It’s been in abeyance for six and a half years. We have Mohawk warriors on the towers; we don’t have Hydro One workers on the towers. Again, I’m referring to the mayhem that we’re seeing at Caledonia. Everything has been completed except a short stretch with no wires on it in the Caledonia area. More mismanagement, more questionable decision-making.
Right next to those hydro corridors as it crosses the old number 6 highway at Caledonia, somebody sabotaged the Hydro One transfer station. That was a million-dollar fire—again, the mayhem at Caledonia, the lack of action and decision-making on the part of this government. We’ve got to get to the bottom of that. I’ve asked questions about that. I’ve asked questions recently in estimates. Very recently I’ve asked questions going back to 250 years of land claims. We’ll see if we get any response to the estimates committee on that one.
I’ve wrapped up, Speaker. I concur that there’s contempt in this House. I think someone has to resign.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate?
Hon. Rick Bartolucci: I am happy to be joining this debate. I only wish we were debating the healthy home tax credit, something that is going to mean an incredible difference to the seniors in every community in the province of Ontario. But unfortunately, because of a motion that has been put on the floor by a member of the official opposition, the member from Cambridge, we are now mired in that discussion.
Let me start by simply saying that I’ve seen serving since 1995. I don’t think it will be a surprise to anyone on any side of this House that I am an avowed, without-a-doubt partisan. I believe in the policies of the Liberal government that I represent. I believe that the people I represent in the city of Sudbury believe in those policies.
But I’m not unlike anybody else in this House. There are partisans on the other side of the House as well. Each and every one is partisan. Each and every one believes our point of view is the correct point of view. Each and every one of us shares something else in common: We’re called “honourable.” It is “the honourable member” for a particular riding that the Speaker refers to. I think “honourable” is a very, very important title.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Stop the clock.
I’d like to remind the official opposition that the government has behaved quite well today and has tried to listen, and they’ve been respectful. I can’t say that for you, so I’m going to lower the boom pretty soon if we don’t have a little bit of listening. This is a very serious matter. The people of Ontario want to hear it. They want to make a decision. If I can’t hear it, maybe some of the others are having trouble hearing it. I’m going to start naming people very shortly. Enough is enough. Thank you.
Hon. Rick Bartolucci: Thank you very much, Speaker. I appreciate the advice you give to the members of the opposition. I understand that the members of the opposition want to heckle. This is a part of this place. But I think in this instance, this is such a serious matter that we’ve embarked upon that we must remind ourselves—and that’s why I start off with this, Speaker—that the people of Ontario sent us here to represent their particular point of view. They sent us here because they wanted us to represent what they believe is in the best interests for them and the rest of Ontario.
The title “honourable” carries with it incredible responsibility. We are mandated by the privilege of being elected to office to act in that way, to act in a way that is befitting the confidence that the people have put in us. With that responsibility comes the option, at some point in time, that we have to make decisions. Those decisions are, do we do what is politically expedient or do we do what is in the best interests of the people of Ontario?
We’re here debating a sub-amendment to an amendment, then we’re going to be debating the amendment to the main motion, and then we’re going to be debating the main motion. We have the privilege in this House of spending 20 minutes of the House’s time debating each of these, this motion and these amendments. A simple calculation: 20 times three is 60. Sixty minutes is an hour. There are 106 of us who can speak to this. That works out to roughly 21 sessional days. So the people of Ontario, unfortunately, have the prospect of us debating this for the next 21 sessional days, and at the end of the time, there will be a possible vote. But the motion and the procedure that is allowed is that any one of 106 of us can entertain an amendment and put forth an amendment to this motion. We can only debate one amendment at a time. We can only debate one sub-amendment at a time. But each of us is entitled to spend 20 minutes on each sub-amendment, each amendment and, of course, finally, the main motion. I don’t know that the people of Ontario think that is an honourable way to use our time, because effectively what this motion and the amendment and the sub-amendment have done—and it is no surprise to anyone in this House, because we’ve lived it now for two days—is, we’ve shut down the business of the House. We have shut down the people’s business. We have, in fact, moved away from what I believe honourable members should be doing, and that’s debating that which is important to the people of Ontario.
I’d like to go back to what happened last week. Both new members aren’t here, but Catherine Fife from Kitchener–Waterloo, representing the NDP, and Steve Del Duca from Vaughan walked into this House as new members. I think that reminded each and every one of us of the privilege that we have. I saw the joy and the happiness on Catherine’s face as she walked in and on Steve’s face as he walked in. I looked at their families and I saw the happiness in their families. They were representing the people, their constituents that had voted them into office. They came in here, as we have when we were elected, with hopes and aspirations that they have for the people that voted them into office.
This isn’t what they ran for office for. This isn’t what you ran for office for. This isn’t what I ran for office for. This isn’t what our constituents elected us to do.
It’s important for the people of Ontario that we just review why we’re here, very simply, because the people of Ontario—and I’ll talk about the phone calls I’ve received over the course of the last day or so later on.
During estimates, the estimates committee requested from the Minister of Energy documents pertaining to the gas plants. There was a Speaker’s ruling that told this House that the three House leaders must come together and find a solution and that those documents must be released. The Minister of Energy and the government complied with what the Speaker had ruled—complied—and, by the required date, released 36,000 pages of documents. All the documents associated to those gas plants were released.
So what happened? The Speaker ruled. The estimates committee asked—you know what? Committees are very powerful in the Legislature, and they are respected. The Speaker is very powerful, and he is respected; the Speaker is respected. So the government complied, lived up to what the Speaker had asked of us, and released 36,000 pages of documents. Then, on a further ruling, the Speaker indicated that the member for Cambridge could move forward with the motion that he has put forward.
So I don’t understand totally why we’re debating something when what was asked of the Minister of Energy and of the government was given to the Speaker and to the opposition parties. In fact, it was done in a very sequential, logical way so that both opposition parties could follow and read the sequential factor as it played through these different documents. But the member from Cambridge submitted the motion.
Sometimes there are unintended consequences to our actions because they’re not well thought through. I would suggest in this instance that the unintended consequences were not clearly thought through by the member from Cambridge or the official opposition. Because what has happened? Remember, after the Minister of Energy has lived up to his responsibilities fully and totally as ruled on upon by the Speaker, the House has come to a halt. We are debating this motion. The people’s business has stopped. But I think the most serious unintended consequence of all of this is that at the end of the day, the reputation of an individual may be at stake here. I suggest to you that that’s not what any of us here, as honourable members, would ever have intended with this motion. So I’m suggesting that we try to look at a way out of this so that the people’s business can take place again.
What is it? I think I’ve been around negotiations, I think I’ve been around politics long enough to know that if you don’t find a quick solution, positions become entrenched, debate declines, it becomes ugly and what we do then is demean the definition of what “honourable” is in this Legislature. We demean the House, but most of all, we single out a member, a member who quite frankly, in my estimation, does not deserve to be singled out.
I know the Minister of Energy. I have worked with the Minister of Energy. I know him to be of impeccable character. He is a dedicated politician. He is a loving father and husband. He is a community activist, an innovative lawyer, a person who quite frankly has transformed some of the legislation in the province of Ontario to become some of the strongest legislation in all of Canada. In a previous role, I worked with him quite closely on drafting and revising certain pieces of legislation. I found him to be a man of the highest integrity.
I suggest to all of us in this House that as we move forward to a solution, hopefully sooner rather than later, we think about what our actions do—unintended as they may be, but the final result of our actions.
We move forward. I am a partisan, as I said. I will defend my fellow member with whatever legal tools we have in this House. So far, I have another 40 minutes after this 20 that I’m using to debate the sub-amendment. At another time, I will spend 20 minutes talking about the amendment, and then I’ll spend another 20 minutes talking about the main motion. Maybe by that time, we will have others who will put forth amendments and sub-amendments, and I will be speaking to them, because I know one thing: I was taught by a father who wasn’t highly schooled but very, very educated that the only thing we really own in life is our name, and we do everything possible to protect our name. I’ll tell you that I know that that Minister of Energy is an individual who does not deserve to have his name besmirched in any way by this House for whatever reason, and I will do whatever is necessary to ensure that that doesn’t happen.
In conclusion, it is very, very important that we find a way out of this. There is absolutely no question that I believe there should be dialogue between the three parties to find a solution—and there is a solution. No matter how entrenched positions become, there is always a solution. Speaker, you know that from your days in labour. Labour and industry have two opposing views. If it results in a strike, eventually the strike ends. We have something very, very similar here.
I believe it is incumbent upon us, as honourable members, to find a solution to this issue so that we can move forward and start to talk about the people’s business again. So I urge the House leaders or whomever to try to find that solution, move towards resolutions of this particular motion.
It would be easy if, in fact, the member from Cambridge was able to withdraw this motion, but he can’t now. It’s gone too far. There has been debate in the House, so withdrawal of the motion is not a possibility. But what is a possibility is a compromise motion that does not in any way, shape or form infer anything negative about a member in this particular House. I would hope that somehow, as we move forward, we find that sooner rather than later.
Let me talk, in summation, about a few of the people who have phoned me. One is a guy called Chris. He lives in Sudbury. He said, “I was watching question period. There was no question period. You guys were talking about some motion. I didn’t understand anything, but I knew you weren’t talking about what I sent you down there to do. So whatever you have to do, make sure you start talking about the healthy home tax credit.” He said that because he’s a senior, and he’s not a rich senior, but he’d like to do some renovations and he’d like a tax credit. That’s a real person, folks. Those are people we represent. It doesn’t make any difference whether we’re on this side or that side; those are the types of people we represent.
There was another call from a woman. Her name was Dianne. She said, “I’m hearing that there’s a lot of name-calling. What’s going on down there? They’re calling people different names back and forth.” I tried to explain to her what the motion was all about, and she said to me, “I voted for you because I wanted you to try your hardest to make sure you made a difference in my life. How does this make a difference in my life?”
You know what? As honourable members, maybe we should be asking ourselves: How does this makes a difference in the lives of the people we represent, and how are we going to ensure that we get back on track and find a way to get rid of this motion so that we can go and continue to do the people’s business?
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): Further debate? The member from Huron–Bruce—and I hope her fellow members don’t hold another caucus meeting while she’s speaking. Thank you.
Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I stand up today to join this debate, and I’d like to do so by quoting the Premier from today’s Globe and Mail. Essentially, he was stated as saying, “I’m hoping the opposition will have their fun and come to their senses.” Well, Mr. Speaker, I rise today to tell you that there’s nothing fun about this.
They say this is a historic moment in Queen’s Park. Sadly enough, I find myself disappointed to be participating in it because, really, going back to the word “sensible,” the only sensible thing is to continue with this debate so that we can justify to the Chair that this motion needs to be voted on positively, so it goes on to the finance committee so that we can deal with it in its proper venue, so that, as a chamber, we can get back to the business of the day, where we should be debating bills, working through legislation and, most of all, our committees should be up and running. Instead, we are here listening and trying to figure out why this Liberal government has shown a total disregard for the workings of this Legislature and, in turn, a total and complete disregard for the taxpayers of Ontario.
It’s a sad day when the Liberal government is willing to sacrifice one of their own in the Minister of Energy to hide these documents from the members of the Legislature and the public. It’s also sad when we can confirm that these decisions were made for political gains and not necessarily for the good of the Ontario people.
The motivation was clear behind the cancellation of the Mississauga gas plant last year. The Liberal Party and their backroom campaign operatives saw that they were behind in the polls. Mr. Speaker, what did they do? They made an abrupt decision to cancel the Mississauga gas plant.
But here’s what I find troubling: In the estimates committee, the Minister of Energy admittedly said that the decision to cancel the Mississauga gas plant was made by the Liberal campaign team. But now it is interesting that, in the tens of thousands of documents released, there are no emails from the Liberal campaign team, there are no emails from the Premier’s office, and there are no emails from the former Minister of Energy or his staff—very interesting. Perhaps those emails were in the 2,000-odd documents that were either fully or partially redacted, or perhaps those emails were in a group of documents categorized as “63 pages redacted, not relevant.”
I don’t understand how members opposite can stand and say with a straight face that all the documents were released when clearly they have not been. We respectfully ask that this House and all the elected MPPs be the ones to decide if these pages are relevant or not. That’s why we’re elected, and that’s why we are debating this today.
I think it’s quite rich for the government House leader, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and the various Liberal backbenchers to all say that the documents have been produced without redaction, when clearly they haven’t. Speaker, I don’t know whether you’ve ever participated in any spinning classes. Clearly I haven’t, and I don’t intend to; I hear it’s brutal. But I think some people across the floor have spent too much time spinning.
I want to draw your attention to the Hansard from yesterday when the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing was speaking. She said, “But I cannot imagine an Ontarian who would want to have a government in place that would not be able to say, ‘We made this decision. It was not the right decision. We’ve listened to the community; we’ve listened to the experts. It was not the right decision, so we are going to correct that.’”
In addition to that, yesterday in The Toronto Sun, under an article that was deemed “Preem Admits to Bad Gas,” the Premier was quoted as saying, “We think it’s right for us to listen to communities when they express their concerns.”
Speaker, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to say, “Seriously?” On behalf of all of rural Ontario, I’d like to say to that Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, to the Premier and to all the backbenchers essentially three words: industrial wind turbines.
But back to the Mississauga gas plant and the politically motivated decision that we have in front of us. My EA was one of the many people who spent all day and night on Monday and Tuesday combing through these documents. I want to say thank you to all the PC staffers who dedicated their time and energy. They care. We care enough to dig around and dig through and find out the true numbers for the cost of these gas plants, as well as the motivation behind it.
In the days immediately leading up to and immediately following the announced closure of the Mississauga gas plant, there are emails from the Ministry of Energy’s legal services branch and the OPA where they indicate that Liberal candidates in the Mississauga and Etobicoke areas were looking for briefing notes and talking points on the closure. These emails indicate that the legal services team at the ministry were scrambling. They were scrambling to produce the requested documents because—guess what?—it was a snap decision. It was a decision that was not caucused. It was a decision where briefing notes and talking points for closing the facility were not prepared in advance. This is not the way a government should be operating. In fact, emails indicated that the ministry officials had no idea that this was happening. They were completely taken off guard.
Speaker, we know the costs of this closure have been tallied at $190 million for the Mississauga gas plant. The message to stress to everyone watching today, to the media and to the rest of this House, is that this money is coming out of the pockets of Ontario’s taxpayers. It’s unacceptable. This money that is coming out of Ontario taxpayers’ pockets is to save the seats of four Liberal members: two cabinet ministers, specifically, and two backbenchers. I really don’t think Ontario families got much value for their dollar there. It’s absolutely shameful, and now, with the cost of closing the Oakville power plant rising to $450 million—
Mr. Robert Bailey: Plus.
Ms. Lisa M. Thompson:—plus, the people of Oakville and across Ontario need to ask if the seat of one Liberal backbencher is really worth $450 million. Mr. Speaker, we see these costs of the Liberal debacles continuing to climb well over $640 million, and we have to look at the value for money. Can anybody tell me why these three backbenchers and two cabinet ministers are worth over $100 million each?
I’ve said this in the House before: If I was a Liberal candidate running in rural Ontario last election, I would wonder why my seat wasn’t as valuable as urban seats. I just can’t imagine how it feels to sit across the floor at this stage of the game. It’s a sad, sad day, because when it comes down to this motion—just as the member from Nepean–Carleton pointed out this morning, it’s all about choices. It’s all about the choices we make and the consequences that you have to live with. The PCs, I’m proud to say—our leader, Tim Hudak, and our entire PC caucus are choosing to do the right thing. We’re choosing to do our legislative duty. We’re choosing to stand up for the people of Ontario by asking the minister to table the documents that have yet to surface.
There are documents that date back to May. The Standing Committee on Estimates have asked over and over again—I subbed in, actually, to the estimates committee on a couple of occasions, and I just sat there somewhat amazed. I don’t know, really, if it was poor advice or just plain arrogance that the minister failed to comply with the legislative directive. And yet, even today, the minister continues to fail to comply with the Speaker’s own directive, handing us thousands of redacted documents. It is sad.
Again, I repeat, I don’t know—I can’t imagine how it feels to be sitting opposite on the floor, because—there’s a part of me that genuinely feels bad for the Minister of Energy. The weight’s getting pretty heavy. I mean, he was not the Minister of Energy at the time of the two closures. It’s interesting; the closures were made when the current Minister of Economic Development and Innovation was at the helm, but in reality, today, who’s taking all the responsibility for it? The Minister of Energy apparently seems to be the sacrificial lamb, much like David Caplan was in the eHealth days. If I was a Liberal minister or a backbencher, I would wonder if my leader was going to throw me under the bus next.
But let’s get back to the $650 million. My riding of Huron–Bruce has lost thousands of good-paying jobs. The Liberal government has closed down Walkerton jail and the Bluewater Youth Centre. They’ve said, “Sorry; you can’t have the money we promised you,” to the Wingham hospital, as well as the Kincardine hospital.
I have people calling into my office every day who are looking for programs for developmentally disabled children, long-term care, home care for their parents, hip replacements for relatives. People are calling in because they need help, because they can’t keep the heat and lights on in their home. What are we to tell them? “Sorry, the Liberals needed $650 million, which could have gone to essential services, to cancel gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville to save the seats of five Liberal members.” It’s absolutely shameful, and a sad moment in Ontario’s provincial history.
Justifying $650 million-plus just doesn’t fly with the people of Huron–Bruce and it doesn’t fly with me. Constituents across this province expect more from this government, and they deserve better. Constituents deserve a government that can stand up, stand tall and make bold, transparent, accountable decisions that really make a difference for our economy, for our cost of living and for the future of our children. To the Liberal members who continue to say we’re derailing business: Simply I say, shame on you. You are the ones spinning out of control. Because we need to talk about this. This is Ontario’s people’s business. If I was just one of that staggering number of 600,000 people out of work and waking up without a job, I would think it was my business, too.
Members of this Liberal government have shown time and time again that they have zero regard for taxpayer dollars, from the $1 billion wasted on eHealth to Ornge, and now this. This government shows time and time again they are in no position to be holding the purse strings for the province of Ontario.
Speaker, when I had the opportunity to see the Premier’s comments yesterday at his good-news stop in Oakville, seriously, I thought I was watching a music video from circa 2000. It was like I was watching a Britney Spears song all over again: “Oops! ... I Did It Again.” Anybody know that song? Yes, think of that tune. Essentially, the Premier said—and I paraphrase just a touch—“Hey, we built some power plants. We only screwed up a couple, so we did okay, right?” Wrong, Premier McGuinty; wrong.
This government has tried to use every trick in the book to avoid disclosure of the documents pertaining to the cancellation of the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants, and it still continues today. If I’m to go back to the closures of the Mississauga and Oakville plants, then I must reference the then-Minister of Energy’s statement in a press conference in Oakville on October 7. That Oakville plant was not going to be constructed, and in the Q&A, the minister said, “The main reason we are not moving ahead with the construction of this plant (Oakville) is because circumstances have changed and we no longer need the power it would have provided. The need for reliability continues to exist and we believe this can be met with a transmission solution.”
Interjection: What was his name?
Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: What was his name? Yes, it’s interesting. I’ll let you guys throw that name out. But I find it very, very interesting.
What is even more interesting is that this contradicts a statement from the ministry’s later Q&A document: “Additional electricity is needed to supply the” southwest “GTA. The timing depends on a number of factors; our best estimate at this point is that it will be required by 2017-18.”
Speaker, I ask the government opposite: Do we or do we not need the power in southwest GTA? Nobody has any answers, but there’s got to be some more information that we can access in the documents that have been redacted.
In a briefing document from the OPA to the Premier’s office, dated September 13, 2010, that slipped through in the 36,000 pieces of documentation that came through, it states, and the OPA is telling the Premier’s office, that “The recession has reduced the demand forecast”—and I can tell you why that is: All the manufacturing is leaving this province—Volvo in Huron–Bruce; ED Smith is packing up and moving south next spring. It’s a sad state of affairs. That’s why there’s a reduced need for power, at this stage of the game anyway. But interestingly enough, that note in that briefing document that went to the Premier’s office said that we still need power in the GTA.
All I can say to that is, what the heck is going on? If ever this case of prima facie needs to be respected and properly dealt with—it is an absolute example of mismanagement and an absolute example of why this motion must be upheld and passed along to the finance committee so that we can get to the bottom of it.
I have additional good quotes from other documents my staff and PC staffers went through, and quite frankly, they look pretty damning. Just to give you a snippet of what they found before we close off for the day, I would like to quote James Hinds at OPG. James Hinds says, “As I am plowing through the slide deck”—interestingly enough, the slide decks we received had a lot of titles, but the body of the slide deck was completely whited out or removed.
Ms. Lisa M. Thompson: Yes, that’s the word; it was redacted. That’s right.
Interestingly enough, when he went through the slide deck, things were not redacted and he was particularly struck by two statements on slide nine, namely, that “replacement projects might cost the ratepayer more than our worst-case scenario in the event that it were to go to litigation … mathematically true.” To note, the worst-case scenario was deemed to be $1.2 billion.
Speaker, there’s so much more work to do, and we have to get to the bottom of it with the finance committee.
Debate deemed adjourned.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Paul Miller): This House stands adjourned until 9 o’clock tomorrow morning.
The House adjourned at 1800.
Board of Internal Economy