Liberals face tough opposition
Ontario’s newly instated Premier Kathleen Wynne may be facing an uneasy road ahead with another uncovering of controversial documents that shed light on the Liberals’ costly 2011 cancellation of power plants in Oakville and Mississauga. The plant cancellation cost Ontario taxpayers about $230 million.
The Liberal Party insisted that they had produced all information about the power plant cancellation in two separate pieces of data: one in September of 36, 000 pages and the other released a month later with 20, 000 pages. Last Thursday morning Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced that more unreleased documents had been found.
“From our point of view, we were beguiled and lied to,” said Conservative MPP and provincial accountability critic John O’Toole in response to the uncovering of the additional documents.
The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party was outraged by the revelation, alleging that the Liberal Party was attempting to withhold information from the public and the opposition. The NDP is calling for a public inquiry.
O’Toole asserted that the controversy over the power plant issue was indicative of a greater problem in Ontario’s Parliament. “I think the whole House is fazed by this,” he said. “I think that they have lost trust in the Liberal Party.”
John Milloy, Liberal MPP for Kitchener-Centre, defended the government, acknowledging that with millions of pages of documents, mistakes do occur.
“It’s regrettable, I think the Ontario Power Authority has apologized and certainly everyone has been acting in good faith to get all of the documents out there,” he said.
Wilfrid Laurier University political science professor Barry Kay commented on the Liberal party’s current situation saying, “The fact that the Liberals are now in their third term, means they’ve been in power for ten years. Usually governments turn over after a couple of terms. History would suggest it’s time for change.”
“It’s not just the power plants scandal,” he added. “Anybody coming into power, as Kathleen Wynne has come in, is facing real issues.”
While the controversy over the power plants will certainly call for an improvement in the provincial government’s transparency and has created a strong backlash from opposition parties, the government claims to have made positive steps in ongoing issues with provincial teachers that plagued the McGuinty government during his last few months in office.
“We had a very positive announcement from the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation that they were going to suspend their extra-curricular boycott because they feel they are making some progress in discussions with the government on how to move forward with their negotiations,” said Milloy.
Another issue the Liberals will have to address in the near future is getting their April budget passed by provincial legislature. Tim Hudak, leader of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Party, has publicly acknowledged that the Conservatives will be voting against the upcoming 2013 provincial budget, with the hopes of triggering a spring election.
“We have a budget that hasn’t even been written yet. We’ve offered to not only consult members of the public but also consult the opposition party and they’ve said that they’re not interested,” Milloy said in response. “I’m quite frankly appalled the Conservatives won’t even talk about it or engage in it, it’s quite disappointing.”
Catherine Fife, MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo, also commented on the current issues facing the Premier, acknowledging that “Kathleen Wynne is inheriting a mess. There are real challenges in front of the Premier and there are real challenges, more importantly, for the province.”
Fife emphasized that the NDP’s focus will be on getting results for Ontarians.
“Our approach to the legislature has been very open and transparent. We are in stark contrast to the PCs,” said Fife. “The onus is on Kathleen Wynne to work with the NDP and Andrea Horwath.”