It is time for top McGuinty office insiders, Jamison Steeve and Sean Mullin, to be recalled before the Justice Policy Committee again. Today’s Auditor’s report makes its clear that they have some reexplaining to do about what really went on at those meetings with TransCanada Energy.
Auditor’s Report (p. 9 and repeated elsewhere): “By October 2010, TCE had five appeals pending with the Ontario Municipal Board and four outstanding legal proceedings in Ontario divisional court. We understand the Premier’s Office gave TCE assurances at a meeting at this time that if the government cancelled the plant, TCE would be kept whole (that is, the profit stream it was anticipating from the Oakville plant would be preserved).”
Compare that with what Steeve told the Committee under oath:
Mr. Jamison Steeve (under oath): “I can’t speak to that, sir. The only time that “whole” or “close-to-whole” was used was that TransCanada articulated that position to me when I met with them in October. But as far as a decision on the government’s bargaining position, as I say, it’s difficult for me to answer as a result of the fact that I was taken off the file as of April. I believe settlement negotiations concluded sometime this fall—sorry; the fall of 2012.”
Post Script Oct 9 5:40 am
The Toronto Star quotes Premier Wynne making the following comment about political staffers:
Steeve and Mullin both swore under oath that they were not negotiating with TCE, a claim that is Wynne appears to be contradicting. Either they had the authority to make promises/deals/agreements or they did not.
The Auditor determined that the OPA had a legal opinion in hand in early 2010 saying that the OPA had strong contractual rights to get out of the TCE contract without ratepayers getting stung with a severe penalty. Despite this, the Auditor determined that Steeve and Mullin bound ratepayers to a massive give-away:
The Premier’s Office (meaning Steeve and Mullin) assured TCE it would be compensated for the financial value of the contract for the Oakville plant instead of relying on protections in the OPA/TCE contract that could have minimized any damages paid to TCE as a result of cancelling the plant.
Little wonder as to why these people were scorching all the public records they could.
Throughout the Justice Policy Committee hearings, one of the talking points repeated dozens of times by Liberal witnesses and Liberal questioners was that throughout the process of resolving the contractual issues arising from cancelling the original contracts, the government sought to avoid litigation. This talking point plays on widespread distaste for litigation but it also exploits one of the weakness of the opposition at the committee. None of the opposition MPPs active in questioning at the Justice Policy Committee have any formal legal background.
Over the course of the Gas Busters series, I have remarked on the careful, disciplined scripting and coordination of the talking points used by the Liberal witnesses. The line about “we were just trying to avoid litigation” appears to be another example of this effort at work. I can’t recall a single instance of any of the Liberal witnesses being closely cross-examined on how they prepared for their appearance before the committee.