TORONTO – The gloves came off Thursday at Ontario legislature’s justice committee hearings into cancelled gas plants when the Liberals targeted the wife of Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who did some work for the developer of one of the projects.
The Tories and New Democrats voted to defeat a motion from Liberal Bob Delaney to demand Deb Hutton produce all documents related to her work for TransCanada Enterprises (TSX:TRP) — the developer of the Oakville plant.
“She is entitled to seek employment and we pass no judgment on that,” said Delaney.
“What we wanted to find out was there any correspondence between her and TransCanada on matters that pertain to negotiations with the government of Ontario, and that is a sensible act of due diligence.”
However, the opposition parties accused the Liberals of playing games by going after Hutton, who was once a senior adviser to former Ontario premier Mike Harris.
“They have no desire to actually get to the truth,” said PC energy critic Vic Fedeli.
“These little games that they play, I think people are sick and tired and pretty darn fed up with this nonsense from them.”
The New Democrats accused the Liberals of trying to dig up dirt by asking for Hutton’s correspondence with TCE.
“We weren’t set up to be a fishing expedition to go after everyone’s personal records,” said NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns.
“The Liberals were just playing bully boy with their resolution to go after Deb Hutton.”
Earlier Thursday, TCE lobbyist Chris Breen told the committee it appeared to TCE that the company was told by the premier’s office that the Oakville gas plant was cancelled before anyone told then-energy minister Brad Duguid.
The company was told the project was being killed by senior staff in the office of then-premier Dalton McGuinty, and went directly to a meeting with Duguid who appeared unaware of the decision, testified Breen.
“I actually stepped in and said we just came from the premier’s office and we understand the (cancellation) announcement is to be made on Friday, and at that point the minister politely wrapped up the meeting,” he said.
“Our CEO did say ‘that was strange.’”
However, Duguid testified Tuesday that he had been made aware of the decision to kill the Oakville plant, but for some reason did not want to disclose that to TCE.
“When I met with TransCanada, I knew the cancellation was happening because it was within 48 hours of me making the announcement,” Duguid testified.
“I was advised that the decision was made. I don’t recall the exact date I was advised, but I knew that was happening.”
Breen also testified TCE asked the Liberals to pass a regulation to exempt the gas plant from local bylaws passed by Oakville to try and block the unpopular project, something he noted they did for energy plants in other regions such as York.
The opposition parties said they Liberals are only too willing to bypass local objections in Conservatives or NDP held ridings, but wouldn’t take similar action in the Liberal held ridings in Oakville and Mississauga.
“All this talk of the people not wanting something, if it’s in a riding they don’t consider theirs, they’re quite happy to abandon that riding,” said Tabuns.
“If they don’t think they’re going to take any political damage in a riding they’ll do whatever they want, (but) if they think they have to protect a seat, they’ll do whatever they can.”
Note to readers: The is a corrected story. An earlier version wrongly named Vic Fedeli as NDP energy critic.