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McGuinty retreats on controversial gas-fired power plant plan

Premier Dalton McGuinty speaks during a campaign stop at the Kellogg's factory in Belleville, Ontario on September 21, 2011.

Lars Hagberg/THE CANADIAN PRESS / Lars Hagberg

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty has for the second time pulled the plug on his controversial plans to build a power plant west of Toronto, this time less than two weeks before voters go to the polls.

The surprise announcement on Saturday morning marks a victory for residents of Mississauga, who vigorously opposed the Liberals' plans to build a 280-megawatt, gas-fired electricity plant in their neighbourhood. But it further calls into question Mr. McGuinty's pledge that he won't tolerate the "not-in-my-backyard" attitude of opponents to green-energy projects, his flagship job-creation initiative that he is campaigning on for the Oct. 6 election.

Residents complained that the proposed site on the Mississauga-Etobicoke border is too close to homes and a hospital and had vowed to make the plant their number one election issue. The community has the support of Charles Sousa, the Liberal incumbent who is seeking re-election in the riding Mississauga South.

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"Since the plant was proposed in 2005, our neighbourhoods have grown considerably and I know folks in the community are concerned," Mr. Sousa said in a statement on Saturday.

The Liberals will work with developers to find a new location for the plant, the statement says. But the plant would not be located in either Mississauga or Etobicoke.

This is the second time the Liberals have retreated on a power project in the face of opposition from local residents. The Liberals' rivals said it once again shows they are willing to allow politics to trump policy.

Last October, the Liberals abandoned plans to build a 900-megawatt, gas-fired power station in the affluent enclave of Oakville, west of Toronto, after residents complained that it would be too close to neighbouring homes and schools.

Opposition members said the Liberals cancelled that project when they realized it could cost them a seat in this year's election. Kevin Flynn, who is seeking re-election for the Liberals in the riding of Oakville, had introduced a private member's bill, opposing the plant.

This time around, the Liberals are pledging to work with community groups and the energy sector to develop a "more rigorous way to site gas plants in a way that works for local families and energy producers," it said in the statement.

The Progressive Conservatives said in a statement on Saturday that the Liberals are backtracking "in a show of panic and desperation" to try to salvage a seat in Mississauga South.

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"The Dalton McGuinty Liberals have a long history of ignoring people for four years between elections, and doing anything at any cost to taxpayers a week before the election to try and save their seats," the Tory statement says.

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About the Author

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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