It is an interesting time in Ontario politics with energy at the front and center of the debate.
Daily proceedings at the Ontario legislature were brought to a halt last week due to a contempt motion against Energy Minister Chris Bentley, a motion that took precedence over daily routine proceedings.
PC MPP for Cambridge Rob Leone brought forward the motion against Minister Bentley regarding the release of documents pertaining to the cancellation of two power plants in the Greater Toronto Area.
The Ontario government cancelled the Oakville power plant on October 7, 2010 and the Mississauga power plant on September 24, 2011. less than two weeks before Election Day in the province. The costs associated with the cancellations are significant: $190 million to Eastern Power for the Mississauga plant and $40 million to TransCanada for the plant in Oakville.
On May 16, 2012 the Estimates Committee requested documents on the cancellation of the power plants. Minister Bentley did not provide these documents.
Speaker of the Legislature Dave Levac on September 13 ruled that a prima facie breach of privilege was found. He said he would give the three parties in the legislature until September 24 to work out how to release these documents.
Minister Bentley released 36,000 pages of documents on September 24. Though the documents were released, the Opposition still moved forward with a contempt motion, as they believe not all the requested documents were released. Although is seems some documents were redacted, the Government disagrees and says they’ve done what was asked of them.
The Opposition parties, having the majority of the votes in the Legislature, voted in favour of the motion 53 – 50. The Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs will now investigate and report back to the legislature on November 19, 2012.
The politics around this event is expectedly high. The tension in the legislature this last week did not go unnoticed. Media have been following this closely sharing their opinions such as Adam Radwanski’s take that the Premier’s indignation is only attracting more attention to the issue in the Globe and Mail and Christina Blizzard’s call for Premier McGuinty’s resignation in the Toronto Sun.
We await the findings of the committee, a committee with not only a significant task at hand but also an historical one. Never, in the history of the legislature of Ontario has an MPP been found in contempt.