TORONTO – Electricity prices will be driven even higher in Ontario because of the Liberal government’s decision to scrap a gas-fired generating station in Mississauga to save Liberal seats, the opposition parties charged Monday.
Premier Dalton McGuinty did an about-face in the middle of the Oct. 6 election campaign and announced the government would stop the gas plant and move it elsewhere, but construction at the site has continued for another two months.
Even though the uncompleted plant is now several stories high, construction will stop immediately, Energy Minister Chris Bentley announced Monday.
“This is good news,” Bentley told reporters. “This fulfills the commitment that we made to the residents of Mississauga and Etobicoke: there will not be a gas (fired) generating facility on this site.”
However, Bentley could not say how much it would cost taxpayers to break the original deal or how much costs went up during the nearly two-month delay after the premier’s campaign announcement.
The Ontario Power Authority is still negotiating with Greenfield South Power Corp. to find a new site for the Mississauga plant, he added. “They have reached an agreement with Greenfield South to
permanently stop construction on the site, and they’re working on the details of relocating that project,” said Bentley.
The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats said Ontario taxpayers have a right to know how much it cost to scrap the Mississauga gas plant and what sort of deal was struck to get the company to finally halt construction.
“We think it was a Liberal seat saver promotion, (and) yes it worked, but at what cost to the taxpayer,” asked Tory energy critic Vic Fedeli. “It’s shocking that we don’t know how much it’s going to cost to relocate it and how much the 57-day delay has cost us.”
Playing politics with generating stations is a costly exercise, said NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns. “You have to realize that when the Liberals make a decision about power plants in Ontario based on whether they’re going to win or lose seats, then the people of this province pay a lot more money for their electricity,” said Tabuns. “We’re just seeing that open up today.”
Electricity demand has been dropping for six years and there isn’t even a need for the Mississauga gas plant, added Tabuns. “This government didn’t have to wait until days before the election to make a decision on this plant,” he said.”It could have made the decision before any construction went forward and could have saved a lot of money.”
Bentley also couldn’t say how much taxpayers will have to fork out for the Liberal’s decision to cancel another gas-plant in Oakville last year, but said they would review the way gas plants are located.
“It’s pretty clear during this time that our rules and approach has not been exactly as strong as we would like it to be,” said Bentley.
“So I’m involved in some determination, taking a look at what’s going on in different jurisdictions, so we can strengthen the procedures that we have for locating gas generating facilities.”
There will still be some workers left at the Mississauga gas plant to secure the site for health and safety reasons, said Bentley.