LONDON, Ont. -- Ontario MPPs voted 53-50 Tuesday to send Energy Minister Chris Bentley of London to answer a charge of contempt of parliament -- a charge that hasn’t stuck in more than a century. At issue is how the Liberal government secretly agreed to pay $230 million to kill deals to build power plants in two Toronto-area ridings on the eve of the last election. It means an all-party committee of MPPs -- with the power of a court -- will decide the issue this fall.
QMI Agency quizzed Bentley on the fallout.
Q: Have Liberal colleagues left you to take a bullet for Dalton McGuinty over a decision that wasn’t yours?
Bentley: The premier and my colleagues have been enormously supportive . . . We took the decision not to proceed with these two power plants, a decision supported by both of the other parties and that decision meant there was going to be a cost.
Q: They’re not under a contempt investigation. You are ... Do you feel you’ve been left to face an ordeal that wasn’t of your own making?
B: As I said, the premier and my colleagues have been very supportive. Today is a difficult day. We have the committee coming up and I’ll be able to hear some of the facts.
Q: Will you run in the next Ontario election, or has this experience given you pause?
B: I’ll be running.
Q: Will you consider a run at the (Liberal) leadership?
B: My job is to represent the people of London West and in this role as the Minister of Energy. I don’t ever get ahead of my job.
Q: Your government paid $230 million to back out of building power plants in the GTA but pushed wind farms across rural Ontario. Do voters in small townships matter less than voters in Oakville and Mississauga?
B:Not at all. ... The new rules we’ve come up with ... make it much more likely that communities that either participate in or support renewable energy projects will get them.
Q: You want to take on the public sector over wage freezes and tame a $13-billion deficit. How badly are those causes damaged by the $230 million hole your government burned in the pockets of taxpayers?
We didn’t get the siting (location) of these two right. If you are asking me, ‘Can we could do a better job of bringing the willing community with the needs of the electricity system together at an early stage?’ Absolutely.
Q: Does that costly mistake make it difficult to push for budget austerity?
B: We have some tough decisions, as a province, to make. What we are doing with respect to the wage pause is trying to protect the very services that everybody has worked so hard over the past nine years to build up.
Q: What would you say to the two Opposition parties who have the numbers to decide what happens in the contempt hearing against you?
B: I’ll have the opportunity to speak to the committee directly and I’ll reserve my comments to that.