Dalton McGuinty would rather swallow political poison than his pride.
Time and again on Tuesday morning the former premier squirmed before a legislative committee examining his government’s panicked decision to relocate the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants.
He refused to say sorry.
Instead, he scolded opposition members for having the temerity to question his judgment.
No sorry to the ratepayers and taxpayers of Ontario for his poor judgment in approving a decision that has already cost $585-million and rising.
No sorry to fellow members of the legislature for his poor executive judgment in not once asking his staff for a costing of the move.
No sorry to voters for proroguing parliament in the wake of the last election in a misguided attempt to defuse the growing scandal.
McGuinty simply maintained the smug, self-satisfied air of a man who thinks he has pulled off the crime of the century.
Here’s hoping he’s wrong.
Not many people outside the increasingly sclerotic McGuinty/Wynne government buy the notion that McGuinty didn’t act to secure five seats and thus ensure the Liberal’s political survival.
Precious few others will believe he and his successor Kathleen Wynne are so hopelessly inept, so unaware of the basic principles of ministerial responsibility and so bereft of basic decency that they just let the gas plant relocation issue slide rather than admit they sought to buy an election.
Well, hold on. Maybe a few more people will believe that after they regard the former premier’s slim testimony in committee.
The current beneficiary of the Ottawa South McGuinty family political peerage said he didn’t know much about pretty well anything at all to do with the two gas plants. He just wanted them moved. Whatever the cost to the taxpayer.
McGuinty certainly couldn’t recall when he was first told that the price had likely rocketed well past the original $40-million estimate for the Oakville closure.
He has company there. We know Wynne has already declined 32 times — under oath — to reveal when she was told.
I stopped counting when McGuinty refused a dozen times in less than 10 minutes to answer that very question from a dogged Tory MPP Vic Fedeli.
The latter understood the significance of a direct response to the charge of Liberal fiscal recklessness.
“If he (McGuinty) admitted he knew in advance, that makes every one of his caucus who stood up in the legislature and told us the $40-million number — that would make them all purposely deceiving the legislature,” a clearly frustrated Fedeli said.
McGuinty confessed ignorance over how much it would ding taxpayers to cancel the plants when he made the decisions in October 2010 for Oakville and in late September 2011 for Mississauga.
It says a lot about the benign leadership of committee chair Shafiq Qaadri that his curiosity wasn’t piqued by these McGuinty lapses. He could have asked the now backbench MPP to answer while reminding him that he was under oath.
Instead, the MPP for Etobicoke North just sat and beamed at every response delivered by the former premier.
The only time the increasingly dewey-eyed chair looked remotely engaged in proceedings was when he primly censured Fedeli for using “unparliamentary language.”
Whatever that is.
Seems on the evidence that committees at Queen’s Park exist solely to serve the government of the day rather than robustly seeking facts.
Truth decay is fast becoming a defining ailment of this McGuinty/Wynne government and voters need all the help they can get fighting it.
If they were hoping for relief in the form of the grandly titled Standing Committee on Justice Policy, then they would have been sadly disappointed.
Just more of the same old, same old from a very tired looking government.