Charles Sousa joins Ontario Liberal leadership race

Charles Sousa announces his Liberal leadership bid in Mississauga Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012....

Charles Sousa announces his Liberal leadership bid in Mississauga Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012. (JONATHAN JENKINS/QMI Agency)

Jonathan Jenkins, Queen's Park Bureau

, Last Updated: 3:48 PM ET

TORONTO -- Liberal leadership contender Charles Sousa says he’ll ensure rural towns can say no to wind energy in the same way his Mississauga constituents said no to an unwanted gas plant -- at a cost of $190 million.

“I am going to support communities in having a say in citing power plants,” Sousa said after launching his bid Saturday to replace Premier Dalton McGuinty.

“I’ve always said we should have legislation to allow for proper distances and the cumulative impact of emissions to protect the health and safety of those communities. I will always fight to support the health and safety of those communities.

“I will take every step possible to ensure that the communities have a voice in anything that we do going forward.”

Sousa was a backbench MPP in the Liberal government when it passed the Green Energy Act, which restricted the ability of municipal governments to say no to renewable energy projects. At the time, McGuinty said NIMBYism “would no longer prevail” -- infuriating town councils and wind energy opponents across the province and leading to electoral carnage for Liberals outside of big cities.

But at the same time small towns were having to put up with unwanted wind farms, voters in Oakville and a Mississauga riding near Sousa’s successfully petitioned the government to scrap proposed gas plants in their areas. The one near Sousa’s Misissauga South riding -- which he opposed both before and after he was first elected in 2007 -- cost taxpayers $190 million to move to Sarnia.

The former Royal Bank exec barely referenced energy in his speech to an enthusiastic crowd of about 400 at a banquet hall in Mississauga, focusing instead on his promise to be Ontario’s “jobs premier.”

Unemployment is too high, Sousa said, vowing to kickstart rural manufacturing, speed up development in the Ring of Fire mining region and continue support for the auto sector. And he threw a line to hook voters in Northern Ontario by promising to reinstate passenger rail service through the Ontario Northland Transportation Corporation, which his government ended.

Sousa also said he would speed up a government commitment to open up three new university campuses in the province, build high-speed rail between Oshawa and Toronto, with an eye to expanding that to Windsor-Quebec City, and put Toronto’s transit system under the authority of the province’s transit planning agency, Metrolinx.

Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Jackson said Sousa’s overtures to rural Ontario -- where the Grits need to gain ground -- won’t work.

“Rural Ontario understands what the Liberals are all about,” Jackson said. “They continually overpromise and underperform.”

The launch brings to four the number of declared candidates for the Liberal leadership convention in January -- including Sousa, Kathleen Wynne, Glen Murray and Sandra Pupatello. Eric Hoskins and Gerard Kennedy are expected to join the race next week. Pupatello, from Windsor, is the only candidate so far from outside the GTA.

Former revenue and environment minister John Wilkinson announced Saturday he would not enter the race.


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