The Ontario government will draw up new rules to make sure local residents have a say in where future power plants and other energy infrastructure is built, in a bid to avoid a repeat of the costly cancellation of two gas plants before the 2011 election.
In a letter to the Ontario Power Authority and the Independent Electricity System Operator, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli ordered the two agencies Monday to prepare a report for him on what the new rules could look like. The report is due Aug. 1.
The directive comes just a day before former premier Dalton McGuinty is scheduled to testify before a legislative committee investigating the plant cancellations.
The committee has already heard that Mr. McGuinty made the decision to cancel the plants, in Oakville and Mississauga. In the case of the Mississauga project, Mr. McGuinty is said to have even overruled his own energy minister in deciding the plant had to go.
The cancellations, which cost an estimated $585-million, were widely seen as a ploy to win area seats.
Premier Kathleen Wynne has said that the problem was with the fact that the Liberal government allowed the plants to be located in communities that did not want them in the first place.
"I very much regret that we're in this situation and I take responsibility for providing all the information and making sure that, more importantly, making sure that, as we go forward, this doesn't happen again," she said Monday.
In his letter, Mr. Chiarelli told OPA and IESO to recommend a process for the government to consult with municipalities, aboriginal groups and others on regional energy plans and on the locations of new power plants. The recommendations must also reflect the findings of the legislative committee probing the gas plant cancellations, Mr. Chiarelli wrote.
"I encourage you to engage and involve any stakeholders necessary for ensuring that the recommendations you develop will achieve the objectives outlined above," he wrote.
The agencies' report will also suggest a more detailed process for energy planning in future.