What follows are the remarks I tried to present to the Justice Policy Committee today along with a description, as best as I can recall, of the fight to make these remarks on the record.
Between objections to my remarks during my opening statement and problems with the webcast, it would have been exceptionally difficult for the public to follow the proceedings. The appearance will be rebroadcast on Friday morning at 10 am.
The objections focused on my summary of what transpired during the gas plant cancellation and relocation. The objections were lead by Bob Delaney, Liberal MPP for Mississauga-Streetsville. He had two main complaints — that my comments used “unparliamentary language” and that I was making “unsubstantiated allegation”. From memory, specific instances that he objected to included the use of the terms or phrases “cover-up”, “planned, coordinated avoidance of documentation” and “web of false statements”. Examples of points that he considered “unsubstantiated allegations” included my claim that politics intervened in the siting of replacement power for Lakeview and that relocating the Oakville and Mississauga power plants created a hole in western GTA’s power supply.
After my fractured opening statement, while I was being cross-examined, Mr. Delaney also warned that I was defaming some Liberals.
As the questioning unfolded, I regretted that I had no opportunity to provide substantiation for my observations.
In preparing my comments, I had focused totally on being clear, concise, and accurate. I had not considered the limitations of parliamentary language. On the fly, I rephrased the term “cover-up” as “information management”.
My summary attempts a point-by-point response to the specific questions put to the Committee by the legislature in the following resolution:
Committee Mandate: Review of the matter of the Speaker’s finding of a prima facie case of privilege, with respect to the production of documents by the Minister of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority to the Standing Committee on Estimates and to consider and report its observations and recommendations concerning the tendering, planning, commissioning, cancellation, and relocation of the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants.
Thank you Mr. Chairman and members.
I am an electricity consultant and researcher. I have been investigating and reporting on the gas scandal, including the work of this committee, for 2 and a half years. My findings and all your early exhibits are posted in searchable form on the Gas Busters section of www.tomadamsenergy.com.
The evidence before you represents an unprecedented record of the inner workings of a systemic failure. So that we might avoid such weakness in future, citizens must have access to your record. I urge you to ensure that your vast library of exhibits be placed on-line in a properly archived structure with all content searchable. I have done my best, but Gas Busters is only current up to the May 2013 releases. Making all original gas scandal documents accessible should be a taxpayer expense, not a private one.
The legislature ordered you “report”. I ask you to heed that wise direction.
While the gas plant cancellation and relocation costs are small in the context of Ontario’s soaring electricity bill, there is a scandal here that must be laid bare. Consumers deserve answers to the questions in your mandate.
I submit that answers to the questions the Legislature passed to you can be summarized as follows:
1. An engineered cover-up centred around offices of Premier McGuinty and Minister Bentley.
2. The cover-up included planned, coordinated avoidance of documentation, public business communicated only on private networks, illegal email destruction, and possibly cyber crime.
3. Experts advised that replacement generation for Lakeview’s coal power be sited at Lakeview but politics intervened.
4. The Energy Ministry’s 2005 decision to take a lowball price from Eastern Power backfired.
5. Cancelling the original contracts was all about electoral advantage but created a hole in western GTA’s supply.
6. The OPA Board did nothing to protect ratepayers.
7. During the 2011 election, all parties made promises to cancel Greenfield South.
8. Cancelling without relocating the plants might have cut losses but the AG didn’t quantify those.
9. Responsibility for the renegotiated contracts rests solely with the Liberals.
10. Kicking off the renegotiation with TransCanada, McGuinty’s representatives Steeve and Mullin gave TransCanada assurances that unjustifiably escalated costs, although only TransCanada knows by how much.
11. Relocation turned into a windfall for EIG when Robert Prichard, doing Minister Bentley’s bidding, stung ratepayers for hush money.
12. As the recontracting, cover-up, and web of false statements drew complaint, the Premier and all the key ministers resigned en masse while trusted agents destroyed records and frustrated FOIs.
Given this late hour, I urge you pass the baton for sorting out the document destruction issues to the OPP, the courts, and the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Don’t allow the gas scandal investigation to get waylaid again. You must report, even if only with an interim report, no later than the earliest date the Legislature could be prorogued. (At this point, my 5 minutes opportunity was exhausted due to the objections, and I did not get a chance to say my last two prepared sentences.)
Running the clock out without publishing any conclusions would constitute even more careless waste.
If you can draw insight from the evidence before you, this committee can impart to the people of Ontario a lasting benefit. You have a golden opportunity.