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Power system in chaos

By Christina Blizzard, Special to the Sun

(QMI AGENCY PHOTO)

(QMI AGENCY PHOTO)

Skimming through the documents released by Energy Minister Chris Bentley on the gas plant cancellations, you get a glimpse of the chaos our electricity generation system is in.

One e-mail exchange between Michael Killeavy, Director of Contract Management at Ontario Power Authority (OPA) and Susan Kennedy, another OPA director, discussed how much it would cost to cancel the two plants and whether they could sweeten the pot by giving TransCanada, the company building the Oakville plant, another contract.

“I like $0 to $1.4 billion myself,” says Killeavy, who then asks Kennedy of she has any idea of the legal fees.

“I’d guess north of $200,000 (possibly pushing $500,000) — figuring some novel analysis and two OMB hearings, plus all the other stuff they’ve probably had to look at,” she says.

In the end, Bentley told us Monday it will cost $40 million to move the Oakville plant that was scrapped in 2010 to Lennox, an OPG facility near Napanee.

And legal fees — who knows?

Thumbing through these e-mails, what’s shocking is the amount of political interference that happened.

Politicians kept sticking their oars into decisions — up to the premier’s office.

This was frustrating to OPA officals, since their organization was created precisely to keep power decisions at arm’s length from the political process.

Bentley was forced to release the documents having been found in contempt of the Legislature by Speaker Dave Levac.

The London West MPP is the fall guy. He wasn’t even energy minister at the time of the cancellations.

Make no mistake, though. Bentley will wear this contempt. It has likely nixed any hopes he had of running for the Liberal leadership when Premier Dalton McGuinty moves on.

But he won’t resign.

You do start to long for the days of integrity in government. In a scrum, Tory MPP Jim Wilson recalled how as health minister, he’d been forced to resign for a gaffe a staff member made.

I can remember now-Senator Bob Runciman resigning as provincial solicitor-general in Mike Harris’s government because of a mistake someone else made in revealing the identity of a young offender in a Throne Speech.

Runciman was so deeply wounded by that forced resignation, he had tears in his eyes as he left the Legislature.

Yet here we have a government that will survive a scandalous contempt ruling and likely get re-elected. No one resigned over Ornge. No one will resign over this power plant boondoggle.

Taxpayers paid $40 million to cancel the Oakville plant and another $190 million to scrap construction in Mississauga — for what? To save a couple of Liberal seats.

In a bizarre lend-lease plan with TransCanada, the company building the Oakville/Lennox plant, OPA will spend $210 million to buy the turbines from TC and the company will then use them in the new plant.

Remember when this province attracted manufacturing plants with cheap electricity?

The old Ontario Hydro may have had its problems, but it had a planning department of engineers who planned generation 20 years ahead of time — independent of politicians.

Now we have lawyers doing it on the back of a napkin.

How does it make sense to move a plant from Oakville to Napanee? Eastern Ontario doesn’t need more generation. West Toronto does.

The politicians are calling the shots on power plants — and our system is a mess.

Is it any wonder we’ve lost so many manufacturing jobs? We can generate electricity for 2 cents a kilowatt hour at Niagara Falls, but we don’t. We must buy solar energy at 54.9 cents and wind at 11.5 cents.

We used to hold people accountable for these scandalous messes.

Not any more. These days they smile — and get re-elected.

 


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