Costs of contempt and energy mismanagement

By MPP Toby Barrett

Queens Park played host to long and raucous debate this past week as we learned taxpayers are stuck with a $640 million bill for government’s cancellation of the Oakville and Mississauga natural gas plants – saving the seats of two government members in the process.

The cost of Mr. McGuinty’s politically-driven business was revealed after government finally released contracts and other related documents to end months of stonewalling – in the end the documents were produced under threat of being found in contempt.

The latest unparliamentary slap-in-the-face to legislative rules was all in an effort to hide the truth about the seat-saving decision that cancelled the Oakville natural gas plant sticking Ontario ratepayers with the bill.

For these reasons the Official Opposition brought forward an historic legislative motion of contempt.

Speaking to the motion last week gave me the opportunity to outline my contempt for a government that has manipulated and mismanaged an energy sector that was once Ontario’s strongsuit – mismanagement that has led to 400 lost jobs at Nanticoke OPG while, for example, saving two MPP jobs in Mississauga and Oakville.

Two weeks ago we celebrated 40 years of, reliable power production at Nanticoke – at four cents a kilowatt hour. We recognized a proud workforce that up until recently numbered well over 600 employees: technicians, engineers, mechanical and electrical maintenance tradespeople, equipment operators, environmental technicians, managers, administrators. At one time we provided 25 per cent of Ontario’s electricity.

In return for the four decades of reliability government basically said, “No thanks. Here’s the boot. Don’t get hit by the door as you leave.” I find this contemptible.

As I reported in the Legislature, even when we’ve attempted to allow the government to save face somewhat and send the cancelled energy projects Nanticoke’s way we are rejected. Government’s latest decision sends the Oakville project to the Napanee area where it will cost somewhere in the order of $200 million to transmit electricity back through Toronto to the western GTA where it’s needed

“What happened? How come we didn’t get a natural gas plant?” I asked in the Legislature, “We’ve got this gigantic facility. We have the assets there. This government has just signed its death warrant. We have a century and a half of natural gas experience down in Norfolk, Haldimand and Wainfleet.”

Of course, Nanticoke, Oakville, and Mississauga are only a handful of examples of a long line of questionable decision-making on the energy front.

I think of the $1 billion and counting with respect to Big Becky, the tunnel at Niagara. I’ve reported over the past six years the inability of Hydro One to complete a $116-million transmission line upgrade because Mohawk Warriors won’t allow workers to wire the last towers through the stalled Niagara-Caledonia-Middleport transmission corridor. As well, we received a $1 million bill for the sabotage of the Caledonia Transmission Station during the mayhem at Douglas Creek Estates.

And what of government’s continued missteps on wind power, foisting massive towers on rural Ontarians without allowing them a say? We’re being invaded by turbines we don’t want, due to government’s questionable decision making, guaranteeing energy contracts forcing all to pay ever-increasing electricity bills for the next twenty years.

It’s little wonder many locally and across the province hold this government in contempt.