LONDON – Contempt charges levelled by the Progressive Conservative party against Chris Bentley will not follow him into private life, the Tory energy critic said Friday after the London West MPP's surprise resignation announcement.
The Conservatives have charged Bentley with contempt, saying as Energy minister he didn't release all documents pertaining to cancellation of new energy plants in Liberal ridings in Oakville and Mississauga before the last election.
Bentley announced he is resigning his seat effective Feb. 14. That means his successor will face the charges, not Bentley, said Victor Fedeli, Tory MPP for Nipissing.
"We're going ahead with the charges against the minister, not him personally," he said. "It's the position that is charged, not the individual."
Bentley did not address the power plant issue specifically during his news conference Friday.
"There have been many challenging issues I have confronted over the past 9 1/2 years, some in the last year," he said.
"Not every day is as bright as you hope it will be . . . I have confronted challenges just as I confronted opportunities, with determination to find a resolution for those I serve."
The provincial Liberals have put the cost of the cancelled plants at $230 million while Opposition members believe it may top $1 billion, Fedeli said.
Fedeli said he was surprised by Bentley's sudden resignation, but believes he's leaving because he was "thrown under the bus" by his party on the power plant issue.
Bentley was not Energy minister when the projects were cancelled and may not have been aware of the details, or the crisis looming, but remained loyal to his party, Fedeli said.
"You could say he was loyal to a fault. He's a decent man" he said.
"You could tell in the legislature he had had enough. He was not the minister who caused the problem, but he was put out there to deflect it. This was not what he signed up for, not what a former attorney general wants to do."
Bentley was named Energy minister after the 2011 election.
As Energy minister, he also led the contentious push for wind turbine development in rural Ontario.
Bentley had announced he would not run for re-election but decided to leave office now as the election of a new leader and premier made this "a time of renewal," he said.
It is expected the premier-elect will call a byelection in the riding, but it is not known when.