TORONTO - Ontario's opposition parties flexed their muscles Tuesday to send Energy Minister Chris Bentley to answer a charge of contempt of parliament.
"Clearly there has to be some sanction for this type of behaviour," Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said, arguing there are still some 2,000 documents missing from a trove of papers Bentley was ordered to release by Speaker Dave Levac.
Tory and NDP MPPs joined to vote 53-50 against the government on the issue. Bentley must now appear before the legislature's finance committee to answer questions on why the government cancelled two unpopular gas plants just before the 2011 general election, costing taxpayers of at least $230 million.
"It's obviously a very difficult thing to have to live with," Bentley said of the possibility -- however remote -- he could be sent to jail or stripped of his standing with the Law Society.
"Everything I've been doing in my public life, as it was in my previous role as a lawyer, was to always do the best that I could possibly do for those that I represent. I've always done that."
Hours before the vote, Premier Dalton McGuinty pleaded for the opposition parties to back off Bentley, saying it was unfair to single him out for punishment.
"These attacks, these threats, this heavy-handed, unprecedented process -- using the full force of the legislature against one MPP -- are decidedly not in keeping with the standards and traditions we seek to uphold as honourable members of the legislature," McGuinty said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called the request "very curious" and wondered whether McGuinty wasn't prejudging the committee's work.
"We're doing our job," Horwath said. "He's obviously worried about what the committee is going to uncover."
PC finance critic Peter Shurman said no one disputes that Bentley -- who wasn't even minister when the gas plants were cancelled -- is a "man of honour" but said the opposition is going through him to get at the government.