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McGuinty testifies at gas plant hearings

Former premier Dalton McGuinty testified under oath on Tuesday at the provincial hearing into two cancelled gas plants that cost Ontarians at least $585 million, taking responsibility for the decision and saying that it was the right one at the wrong time.

“The communities of Mississauga and Oakville were right and our government was wrong,” McGuinty told the Standing Committee on Justice Policy.

“Gas plants were located next to schools, condominium towers, family homes and a hospital. That wasn’t right. All parties agreed on that.”

He later said, under questioning from NDP MPP Peter Tabuns, that he should have shuttered the plants sooner. If he had, the government would have saved “a lot” of money.

The legislative committee is probing the Liberal government’s decision to shutter the two plants. The cancelled Oakville plant cost taxpayers $310 million, while cancelling a partly-built gas plant in Mississauga just days before the 2011 provincial election cost at least $275 million.

McGuinty had said cancelling both plants cost just $230 million.

“Our government’s ability to get the right numbers out in a timely way has been less than stellar,” McGuinty said.

Tory energy critic Vic Fedeli questioned McGuinty on Tuesday, asking when he knew the true cost of cancelling the two plants and calling the decision a “heist.”

McGuinty responded that he received his numbers from the Ontario Power Authority, and that he only learned they were incorrect when the auditor-general released his report.

Premier Kathleen Wynne, who succeeded McGuinty as Liberal leader, has admitted the decision to shutter the Mississauga plant was political.

The Progressive Conservatives have tried to introduce a confidence motion on the gas plants, with leader Tim Hudak accusing the government of a cover-up. However, the minority Liberals would have to allow a vote to proceed, which is unlikely.

Both the Tories and the NDP have accused Wynne of not being “forthcoming” in her testimony at the same legislative committee.

McGuinty said Tuesday he never had a formal meeting with Wynne about the plants and she never asked about the costs.

McGuinty stepped down as Liberal leader and prorogued the legislature on Oct. 15, 2012, after a string of scandals, including the two cancelled power plants. He was also unable to pass public sector wage freeze legislation and was facing the fallout from the Ornge ambulance inquiry.

McGuinty said Tuesday he though proroguing the legislature was the right decision.