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Wynne broadens powers of committee probing cancelled gas plants

Premier Kathleen Wynne at Queen's Park, Feb. 28, 2013. CITYNEWS

Premier Kathleen Wynne has ordered all government departments to release “all relevant information” relating to the two cancelled GTA gas-fired power plants, but it failed to appease Opposition parties which are calling for a public inquiry.

On Thursday, Wynne announced she was broadening the powers of a justice committee tasked with examining a contempt motion against the Liberals. The motion claims former energy minister Chris Bentley purposefully withheld documents on the cancellation of the power plants in Oakville and Mississauga.

Wynne said she wants to “work with the Opposition to broaden the mandate of the justice committee to look at the tendering, planning, commissioning, cancellation and relocation of the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants.”

The premier’s announcement coincided with the justice committee’s resumption of its investigation into the plant cancellations. The committee’s work was put on hold when former premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the legislature in October.

The Progressive Conservatives and the NDP claim the Liberals scrapped the plants, which local residents had protested, before the provincial election in order to hold on to the Liberal ridings.

On Thursday, Wynne admitted the move was a political one. The Liberals have said the cancellations cost taxpayers about $230 million. The PCs claim that number is more than $1 billion.

Wynne also said Thursday that she’ll table a motion calling for all relevant information, including emails, letters and other correspondences, to be released within three weeks.

“Yes, documents will continue to be brought forward in three weeks and for weeks afterward,” she said. “That process will not stop until we are assured that all relevant information has been received.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath wasn’t impressed with Wynne’s approach.

“I don’t think the people have a lot of confidence in the committee process, which is why I suggested the public inquiry,” she said.

“This is about accountability of a government that’s decided to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars of the people’s money on saving their own seats.”

Last fall, the Liberals said that all 36,000 documents relating to the plants had been released. But another 20,000 documents surfaced a month later.

And last week the Ontario Power Authority said it had uncovered additional documents.