Energy Minister Chris Bentley.
Credits: Jonathan Jenkins/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency
TORONTO - Energy Minister Chris Bentley pulled a $40-million rabbit out of his hat Monday, announcing a surprise deal with TransCanada Energy to move an unpopular gas plant to Eastern Ontario.
"I am pleased to advise the House that agreements have been reached which will result in the relocation of the Oakville gas plant to the Lennox facility in eastern Ontario," Bentley said during Question Period.
The plant will be moved to an Ontario Power Generation site in Napanee.
"The unrecoverable costs from that are $40 million," Bentley said.
The Liberal government killed the Oakville plant in 2010 and another in Mississauga in the midst of the 2011 election after residents bitterly complained.
Opposition parties say the moves -- costing at least $230 million -- were naked efforts to protect nearby Liberal seats, and demanded government records related to the decisions be released.
Bentley had resisted, saying doing so would make any settlement with TCE more expensive and difficult, but was ordered to do so regardless by Speaker Dave Levac.
The surprise announcement came just hours before the 6 p.m. deadline Levac had imposed.
But while Bentley's sleight-of-hand took the spotlight off the opposition victory in forcing the humiliating release of 36,000 pages of potentially embarrassing government e-mails, he couldn't make a looming contempt of Parliament motion disappear.
Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak said he intends to hold the Dalton McGuinty government to account for the costs of moving those plants.
“I don’t know whether it was orders from the Liberal campaign team, I don’t know whether it was orders from the premier’s office, but they’re putting Minister Bentley out on the cross on this,” Hudak said.
The Liberals spent a minimum of $190 million to cancel the Mississauga plant during the middle of the last provincial election campaign after backing it for six years, Hudak said.
“A lot of people say to me the Liberal Party should pay for that, not the taxpayer,” Hudak said.
Hudak appeared in the riding of Mississauga South just prior to the campaign to announce he wouldn’t build it.
The PC leader said previous local Conservative candidates had opposed it, and his party had never supported plants in unwilling communities.