Wynne asks auditor general to probe gas plant cancellation

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Ontario premier-designate Kathleen Wynne has asked the auditor general to investigate the cancellation of the Oakville gas plant, but opposition leaders say that’s nowhere near enough to dispel the bad smell.

Wynne wrote to auditor general Jim McCarter, who is expected to report this spring on the cost of axing a south Mississauga gas plant, to formally request that he include the Oakville plant in his investigation.

“It is my hope the report can be completed in a timely manner,” Wynne said in her letter. “I am confident that the work of your office on these transactions will provide valuable insight to both the legislative assembly and the residents of Ontario.”

Wynne will be sworn in as premier Monday and one of her first commitments is to make public information around the controversial cancellation of the gas plants.

The opposition at Queen’s Park have dubbed the decisions to stop the two plants “seat saver” programs for Liberal MPPs who represented the areas.

Both leaders — NDP Andrea Horwath and PC Tim Hudak — were unimpressed with Wynne’s suggestion that the matter be handled only by the auditor general.

“Let’s face it, the auditor general does not have the capacity to get at some of the very important information that we need — who was making the decisions to cancel the gas plants, where did the directive come from, who make the decision to try and cover it up and withdraw documents from public scrutiny?” Horwath said Thursday.

“Ultimately, the people deserve the answers and the Liberals need to be accountable for the decisions that they made.”

Horwath initially recommended a full independent public inquiry into the gas plant cancellations, but said she would settle for striking a legislative committee with the power to explore the political decision-making process.

Hudak said the auditor can look into expenses but cannot subpoena individuals to testify, which a committee could certainly do.

“I’m worried it’s simply an issues management strategy,” he said. “I do have concern that this may simply be an attempt to kick it down the road. And maybe it will be up to the next government to actually get the answers to the taxpayers who are stuck with the bill.”

The two plants were cancelled at a cost of at least $230 million, with the Mississauga plant halted mid-construction during the last provincial election.