PoV: Gas plant decision just won't go away

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For Opposition members, the Liberals' decision to cancel construction of a gas-fired generating plant in Mississauga just prior to the October 2011 election is the gift that keeps on giving.

There's not a month that goes by when the good people of Ontario aren't reminded that the decision to halt construction wasn't made by their government, but by members of Dalton McGuinty's campaign team.

They apparently feared that continued construction of the plant, necessary to boost electricity for the Greater Toronto Area, might cost a riding or two in the Mississauga area. So campaign bosses, and not elected officials, made the decision to scrap the plant, even though construction had already been started and millions of public dollars had been spent.

The gas plant will now be built in the vicinity of the Lambton Generation Station near Courtright, in a riding held by the Progressive Conservatives, and in a part of Ontario that apparently doesn't have a problem with the nuts and bolts of producing energy.

Perhaps the plant should have been located in Lambton County from the very start. But the Ontario Power Authority choose a Mississauga site, ostensibly because the additional electricity was required by customers within the GTA.

Yet smelling a possible electoral defeat in the wind because of the gas plant's location, Liberal party brass yanked the plug on the project.

This is the kind of scandal that holds the potential to defeat powerful governments, and even though McGuinty has stepped down and has been replaced by Kathleen Wynne, the gas plant cancellation will likely be the Liberals' undoing in the next provincial election.

Why? Because it just won't go away. As recently as Feb. 22, the OPA revealed there were an additional 600 pages or 67 previously unknown documents associated with the decision to close the Mississauga plant. That's after 50,000 pages have already been released.

Oddly, it was only days after the OPA released 20,000 pages last October that McGuinty announced his departure from politics. He also shut down provincial parliament. It only resumed sitting last week.

When the most recent raft of documents was released last Thursday, Colin Anderson, the CEO for the OPA, admitted that the power authority "would have seen the plant through" to completion if not for the interference of Liberal campaign bosses.

This is damning stuff. Not only were non-elected party hacks meddling in a public project, but a public agency apparently stepped aside and allowed it to happen.

On Monday, Wynne rejected pleas from the Progressive Conservatives that a judicial inquiry be launched. She cited the cost of an inquiry, but it's obvious the Liberals are sensitive to what such an inquiry might uncover.

But they can't hide forever. The court of public opinion, in the form of an election, might be more damning.

peter.epp@sunmedia.ca

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