Politics
Horwath to Wynne: Call public inquiry into gas plant scandal

NDP leader Andrea Horwath speaks with media at Queens Park.

Credits: Dave Thomas/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency

JONATHAN JENKINS | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- Ontario New Democratic Party Leader Andrea Horwath is setting a tough new condition in front of incoming premier Kathleen Wynne - call a public inquiry into the gas plant fiasco or face a dysfunctional legislature, maybe even an election.

"One thing about a public inquiry - they're prorogue-proof," Horwath said Monday.

Horwath, who was set to speak to Wynne later in the day for the first time since her Liberal leadership convention win, said Wynne's predecessor, Premier Dalton McGuinty, blocked Ontarians from learning the truth about two gas plant relocations before the last general election.

"The new premier has to do better," Horwath said.

Horwath is Wynne's best bet to reach some sort of deal to keep the minority legislature going if she wants time to find her feet in the new job. The Liberal boss reached out to the NDP in her first press conference, naming youth unemployment and social services improvements among her top priorities.

But the new condition Horwath is imposing could make that difficult, as a public inquiry into the gas plants would be an unwelcome drag on efforts to distance Wynne from the last few years of McGuinty's reign.

Moving the two plants from unpopular and politically sensitive ridings in Oakville and Mississauga has cost taxpayers at least $240 million. One plant is now destined for Sarnia.

Wynne controls 53 seats in the legislature while the combined opposition parties hold 54. Those numbers allowed the PCs and the NDP to control committee hearings in the last session and haul Liberals before them to answer pointed questions on the Ornge air ambulance scandal and the cost of the gas plants.

Those uncomfortable hearings led directly to McGuinty's decision to prorogue the house when he announced his surprise retirement in October.

Horwath said Monday that she'll ensure Queen's Park peace but only if Wynne calls a public inquiry into the gas plant fiasco -- and suggested it's a prerequisite to any deal to put off an election.

"She has a pretty basic choice," Horwath said of Wynne. "We can either take it out of the legislature and find a place for people to get their answers, or we can go through the process inside the legislature. That's her decision to make.

"I'll be raising over the next couple of days some other things I think we can achieve, but this I think is a primary matter."

The PCs have signalled they will continue to pursue contempt motions against Energy Minister Chris Bentley over the cancelled gas plants.

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