Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley stands up to vote against a motion sending him before a Legislative committee for contempt. The motion passed
Credits: JONATHAN JENKINS/QMI AGENCY
Tory MPP Christine Elliott said her party would pursue a second contempt motion against Bentley, Premier Dalton McGuinty and House Leader John Milloy who told the Ontario legislature they had complied with a Speaker's ruling ordering the disclosure of all relevant records.
"Clearly, the Liberals are hiding something," Elliott said. "Try as they may to blame this on their officials as a bureaucratic mix up, what we are really witnessing here is a political coverup."
Bentley rejected Elliott's suggestion that he step down as minister, but said he deeply regrets the delay in getting out the full documentation.
Bureaucrats at the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) realized after the initial release of 36,000 documents that there could be more, and undertook a review which uncovered 20,000 more pages, he said.
"My position throughout has been get it right, get it done and get any additional documents over there," Bentley said.
An opposition-dominated committee demanded Bentley turn over all records related to his government's decision to cancel gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, a move he resisted while compensation negotiations were ongoing with their private owners.
Speaker Dave Levac ordered the government to release the material after the Tories introduced a contempt motion against Bentley, one that is still being pursued by the opposition.
"It was always our intention to provide all responsive records and to respect the ruling of the Speaker," OPA CEO Colin Andersen says in a letter. "Our initial efforts fell short."
Deputy Engery Minister Serge Imbrogno explains in a letter that records of five former employees who were likely to have information on the plant cancellations were not searched in the initial review for documents.
"It is regrettable that these additional documents were not identified as part of the ministry's original search," Imbrogno says.
E-mails disclosed during Friday's document dump provide a window into the reactions of some OPA officials after the cancellation of the locally-unpopular Oakville generating plant.
"I feel that the cancellation of the Oakville plant gives a big hit to the OPA's credibility... a part of me questions whether or not this is the beginning of the end of the OPA?" one staffer says.
Another e-mail says, "The problem with oakville is right in the Premiers lap and he is setting himself up for the Opposition to nail him to a cross or two... (sic)"
Yet another e-mail probes the fallout of the decision: "If you're ever talking to developers or manufacturers there, can you please try to find out if the recent ‘cancellation' of the Oakville Generating Station is likely to have any negative impact on their decision to come to Ontario? I fear it might... please be subtle."
It was made clear in internal correspondence that the OPA learned of the Oakville decision only a few days before it was announced in October 2010.
Officials also noted that the flexible Oakville plant was rendered more necessary by the FIT program, which is bringing less predictable wind and solar power online.
The announcement to cancel the Mississauga plant was made by the Liberals last September in the middle of a provincial election campaign.
Opposition parties have dubbed it a "seat saver" program, designed to protect several Liberal MPPs in the Oakville and Mississauga area.
The Liberals say the cost of cancelling the plants add up to $40 million for the Oakville facility and $190 million for the Mississauga plant - figures the opposition dismiss as low balling.
"(The Liberals) do have to deal with the fact that people just don't believe them any more," NDP MPP Rosario Marchese said.