Source: National Post
This guy is bankrupting Ontario with his unnatural fetish for green power. He has some odd ideas, such as placing gas fire power plants in the peoples backyards too! He should’ve cancelled this damn project a long time ago, and now his screw-ups are costing us $82,000,000!
Seven months after the fact, the bill has arrived for Dalton McGuinty’s precipitate decision to cancel a gas-fired power plant, which was already under construction but threatened to cost his Liberals a seat in the October provincial election: $82 million. At least.
Yes, $82 million. From a government that has spent the months since its re-election lecturing Ontarians on the dire state of the provincial economy and the need to carefully nurture every penny squeezed from hard-pressed taxpayers. The premier is so seized by the necessity to control spending that he’s thrown his government into ill-tempered confrontations with the doctors, teachers and civil servants he babied through previous mandates with generous contracts. Saving money is almost all he talks about any more. Somehow, spending got way out of control in his first eight years as premier — he can’t imagine how — and now Ontarians have to make up for it with several years of penny-pinching and homilies about austerity.
But $82 million, to win a single seat, apparently that’s perfectly acceptable. Even if the government still hasn’t figured out how to replace the lost power the plant would have produced, and even if the seat (which it did win in the end) didn’t manage to deliver the Liberals another majority.
The gas plant in question was to be built in Mississauga, in the suburbs just west of Toronto. The Liberals had cancelled another, larger, gas plant project in Oakville, another Toronto suburb, a year earlier when that seat too looked in jeopardy. In Mississauga, Mr. McGuinty held out against fierce local opposition right up until the election was under way, when — with just 11 days until the vote — the numbers for the Liberals looked bad, and he suddenly pulled the plug. At that point, the developer had already begun pouring concrete for the foundations, and work continued for several weeks even after the cancellation as the developer shipped in men and equipment, erecting steel frames for four large buildings until November, when everyone finally went home.
Mr. McGuinty defended his sudden reversal, insisting he was only listening to the voice of the voters, which he somehow hadn’t managed to hear for many previous months. “We’ve responded to a compelling argument put forward by the folks living in that community,” he said, denying suggestions from pundits that it was a panicked move to save the party’s skin.
After the cancellation the government resisted demands it come clean about the cost. In March, EIG Management, a U.S. finance company, launched a suit for $300 million in damages for breach of contract, contending it was given no notice of the abrupt cancellation. It is also suing the developer for $237 million. Energy Minister Chris Bentley insisted the government would vigorously defend itself, but last month, according to New York Supreme Court records, the Ontario Power Authority offered to settle with EIG for $82.3 million. The finance company rejected the offer, reportedly because it involved removing claims on Greenfield.
Since it’s unlikely EIG will accept less than has already been offered, the $82.3 million proposal sets a base on whatever payout is finally reached. Thank you Dalton McGuinty. To win one seat, you’ve saddled Ontarians with an extra $82 million (and counting) to pay.
No doubt the premier thinks it’s worth it. He’s probably wondering why he didn’t cancel a few other projects, if there was a chance it would have given him the one extra seat he needed for a majority. At $82 million each, why should he care? It’s not like it’s coming out of his own pocket.
The provincial NDP is demanding the auditor-general investigate the two cancelled projects, as the government has resolutely refused to talk about it.
“I think it is an embarrassment because they were in such desperate shape they were willing to sacrifice the people of Ontario’s money in order to secure those seats,” said NDP energy critic Michael Prue. “It worked politically, but I think in terms of economics and doing the right thing, it was not.”
Conveniently, the NDP has considerable leverage over the government at the moment. The party struck a deal to support the Liberal budget in return for a new tax on high-income earners, but the vote has been delayed until later this month, giving NDP leader Andrea Horwath plenty of room to add to her demands. Mr. McGuinty has shown he’ll do pretty much anything to win a vote — hang the cost — and if the budget fails it would be the end of his government.
Let’s see if the NDP means what it says about the auditor-general, or if, like the McGuintyites, it’s all just talk and posturing.