More documents mysteriously found in controversial Ontario gas plant cancellations

Bob Chiarelli (L) swears in as Minister of Energy of Ontario in the Legislative Chamber at Queen's Park in Toronto February 11, 2013.

Credits: REUTERS/Jon Blacker


TORONTO -- The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) publicly apologized Thursday after more documents surfaced related to the controversial cancellation of gas plants.

OPA CEO Colin Andersen acknowledged mistakes had been made by his organization in its hunt for records, including forgetting to include "government project code words" such as Project Fruit Salad in the search, which led to the exclusion of 600 pages of e-mails and other material.

The OPA was given the job of renegotiating the gas plant contracts after the both unpopular projects were axed -- one in Oakville and one in Mississaugs -- at a minimum cost to taxpayers of $230 million.

A legislative committee ordered the Ontario government and the OPA to provide any records related to those decisions, and opposition parties have been arguing for months that the government is withholding documents.

The Tories reintroduced a contempt motion Wednesday to pursue their claims of more documents, and are now accusing the Kathleen Wynne government of a "cover-up."

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli rose in the House Thursday to announce he had learned the previous evening that there were additional documents, after telling reporters earlier in the day that all records had been turned over as requested.

"I was extremely surprised and shocked learning that there were more documents," Chiarelli said.

"These documents are owned and controlled by the OPA."

Andersen said the OPA became aware last October that there likely were more records and advised bureaucrats at the ministry of energy at that time that a new search was underway.

This is the second time that the Ontario government has had to come forward and admit that it had not fully complied with the request to turn over all records.

"I learned last night that there were documents," Wynne told the legislature. "It's disappointing that we didn't know about it."

The newest documents, like the tens of thousands already released by the government, do not name the individuals who made the decision, although former premier Dalton McGuinty as leader of his government has taken responsibility.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath demanded to know why the government keeps finding documents that it previously claimed didn't exist.

"I think it's really apparent that the government has had a role to play in making sure documents have not been released to the public," Horwath said.

Tory MPP Vic Fedeli said Chiarelli has blamed bureaucrats for the snafu, but only two weeks ago the PCs exposed an e-mail from a senior OPA official who indicated an energy ministry staffer was involved in the document vetting process last fall.

"Now we know that there were documents that were covered up," Fedeli said.

Andersen denied political interference in the document search, blaming it on a lack of experience with this type of request.

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