For Premier Wynne, when it comes to the Mississauga and Oakville gas plant cancellations, being an Ontario Liberal Premier, means always having to say you’re sorry.
On April 15, 2013, Ontario Auditor General Jim McCarter reported that the politically-motivated decision to scrap the Mississauga gas plant by the McGuinty government would cost the Ontario taxpayer at least $275 million.
Since that first announcement, Wynne has been in almost constant public apology mode trying to “mea culpa” herself and her party out of these terrible gas plant scandals. Trying desperately to put these gas plant cancellations behind her. But she has failed miserably.
Because, for the most part, these apologies are non-apologies. They are more about “spin” and “PR” than sincerely taking personal responsibility.
On April 30, 2013, Wynne testified before the legislative justice committee investigating the gas plant cancellations. In that testimony, she did not address, nor apologize for the “elephant in the room.” That is, the allegation that her Liberal government had cancelled the two gas plants for purely political reasons, in order to save the seats of five Liberal MPPs in Mississauga and Oakville during the 2011 provincial election.
Instead, Wynne blamed the “process” and she regretted that the Liberals did not have a different process in place.
“The siting of these two plants failed to take into account the feelings of the community,” Wynne said. “Despite expert advice, despite an open procurement process and all the decision points along the way, the overall process failed. I’ve been very clear that I regret that we didn’t have a different process in place.”
In that same hearing, Wynne took no personal responsibility for the decision to cancel the gas plants despite her role as campaign vice-chair of the 2011 Liberal provincial campaign.
“Those were decisions that were made by other people in other conversations and I wasn’t part of those conversations, I wasn’t in those rooms,” Wynne said.
I am sorry. I just do not buy that explanation. I have watched Wynne operate as a Premier. She is one tough, determined, hands-on, political operator. She appears to be the lead Minister on every file. She runs a very tight ship. She towers over her male-dominated Cabinet. She is our very own gay Margaret Thatcher. I say this with the greatest respect for her political shrewdness and toughness.
My point is that Kathleen Wynne was not appointed as campaign vice-chair of the 2011 Liberal provincial campaign, as a token female. She was a major force and political star. Wynne was a political giant killer for having soundly defeated John Tory in the Don Valley battle of 2007. She was appointed vice chair because she was expected to play an influential role in that 2011 campaign.
It is beyond reasonable belief that she did not know and was not privy to the discussions leading to the cancellation of the gas plants. Apparently as a Cabinet minister, Wynne signed off on these gas plant cancellations.
So Kathleen Wynne knew or ought to have known the estimated full costs of cancelling these gas plants and the enormous costs of moving these plants to other locations, all in order to save five Liberal MPP seats.
Fifteen days later, on May 15, 2013, Wynne provided the following ambiguous non-apology:
“There were things that happened in terms of relocation of the gas plants that shouldn’t have happened. I’ve apologized for that. I’m not defending those decisions. In fact, I’ve said that there were decisions that were made that shouldn’t have been made.”
What is Wynne apologizing for here? What is she talking about?
The fact that the Liberals decided to cancel two gas plants to save five Liberal seats? The fact that in the case of the Mississauga plant, the taxpayers were stuck with a bill for $275 million?
The fact that in the case of the Mississauga plant, the Ontario government may have unnecessarily paid out about $210 million to a greedy hedge fund and power plant operator, for which the Ontario government had no legal obligation. So that problem would go quietly away?
I do not think Wynne is talking about any of these matters or apologizing for any of these matters.
Note: Wynne spoke about these decisions, as if these decisions were made by others. As if Wynne had no role or involvement or knowledge of these decisions.
This is a very unacceptable non-apology.
On Tuesday, October 8, 2013, Auditor General Lysyck dropped another bombshell. She reported that the estimated cost of cancelling and relocating the Oakville gas plant was between $675 million and $815 million. And total estimated costs to the taxpayers for both gas plant cancellations: approximately $1.1 billion.
Once again, Wynne tried to apologize, but failed miserably. She said it was a big mistake and that her government had learned from its errors in siting the plants in the first place. And that political staff will no longer be allowed to participate in third party commercial negotiations.
Once again Wynne did not claim personal responsibility, other than she was one of many Cabinet Ministers who signed off on this decision.
Wynne did not apologize for her prior knowledge, her participation in discussions and in the decision making process.
Nor did Wynne acknowledge or apologize for the fact, that as in the Mississauga case, the Ontario government may have not been legally obligated to pay out any compensation to the power plant developer. And potentially the costs of $815 million to the taxpayers could have been entirely avoided.
Clearly, Wynne has learned little. And apologized for less.
As previously stated, as senior Liberal Cabinet Minister and very active vice-chair of the 2011 Liberal campaign, Wynne knew or ought to have known the estimated full costs of cancelling these gas plants and the enormous costs of moving these plants to other locations, all in order to save five Liberal MPP seats.
So how can Wynne still avoid taking full and personal responsibility for the decisions to cancel these gas plants and the billion dollar cost to the Ontario taxpayers?