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Despite prorogation, Ontario Liberals must still release all gas plant documents: opposition

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath addresses the press at the Ontario Legislature in Toronto on Tuesday October 16, 2012.


Ontario's opposition parties said Friday the Liberal government still has an obligation to produce all the documents on the cancelled generating stations in Oakville and Mississauga, even though the legislature has been prorogued.

The Progressive Conservatives said even though the contempt motion against Energy Minister Chris Bentley died when Premier Dalton McGuinty suddenly prorogued the legislature after resigning Monday night, the motion requiring the government to release all gas plan documents did not.

"Once this part passed it became an order of the House and it survives prorogation," said PC house leader Jim Wilson.

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Mr. Bentley was charged with contempt for blocking the release of correspondence and other data related to the cost of cancelling the two energy projects, which the Liberals put at $230-million but the opposition parties say is at least triple that amount.

The Tories and New Democrats are convinced the Liberals still have not disclosed everything, despite an initial release of 36,000 documents Sept. 24 and another 20,000 last Friday, which showed the government had assigned the talks code names.

"They must release all remaining documents related to the power plants scandal, including those code named Project Vapour and Project Apple," said Mr. Wilson.

The opposition parties say Mr. McGuinty prorogued the legislature until sometime next year because he and Mr. Bentley were facing another contempt motion for saying all documents had been released in September when they knew there was no mention of Project Vapour until last Friday's second document dump.

Prorogation also killed scheduled committee hearings into the gas plant cancellations, the scandal at the Ornge air ambulance service, and almost 100 pieces of legislation.

"The Liberal government does not want any further fallout from the gas plant cancellations and those costs," said New Democrat Cindy Forester.

"They knew things were going to continue to heat up and boil over, and they were bound and determined not to set up those committees and they don't want that information to come out."

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"It's part of a huge, unprecedented cover up and to use the legislature for crass political reasons demeans the legislature, demeans the work of the people and elected officials, all to save the premier's personal skin and that of the Liberal Party of Ontario," added Mr. Wilson.

"These people clearly bought an election, and spent $1-billion doing that."

The Liberals came up just one seat short of a majority Oct. 6, 2011, and Mr. McGuinty's attempts to turn his "major minority" into a majority in a by-election were quashed last month when voters in Kitchener-Waterloo elected a New Democrat for the first time ever.

The NDP announced Friday they were launching a campaign to get the public to apply pressure on Mr. McGuinty by e-mailing and phoning the premier to say prorogation is an abdication of his responsibility and to bring the house back before the Liberal leadership convention.

"We need such public pressure to take place that Mr. McGuinty relents and calls it back much sooner than that," said NDP finance critic Michael Prue.

Government house leader John Milloy issued a statement Friday insisting, as Mr. McGuinty did, that the legislature was prorogued because of the "poisonous" atmosphere created by the opposition parties, and to give the Liberals time to negotiate a wage freeze with public sector unions.

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"The opposition has slowed progress in the legislature every step of the way," said Mr. Milloy.

"We managed to pass only half of the government bills we introduced because of the opposition's unwillingness to work constructively."

The Tories and NDP said there was no need to shut down the legislature for months while the government negotiates with unions on a proposed two-year wage freeze for nearly half-a-million public sector workers.

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