Wednesday, October 9 Commentary
I am going to give you the abbreviated version of some of the top news stories of the morning and then some thoughts on what I consider to be the biggest story...the gas plant cancellations.
Off the top...Toronto City Council has narrowly approved Mayor Rob Ford's push to extend the subway line up McCowan to Sheppard. The city will kick in a billion dollars, which will come out of your property taxes...a surcharge added onto whatever regular tax hike is approved.
The Globe and Mail has 7 sources saying Mayor Rob Ford's friend and occasional driver Sandro Lisi has been dealing coke and marijuana in central Etobicoke since the 1990's; that he has been charged with 36 criminal offences, convicted of 6 including threatening to kill a woman.
In Ottawa Senator Mike Duffy now being investigated for possible fraud and breach of trust....allegedly giving a Senate contract to a pal of his from CTV days. The RCMP wants authorization to check the Senator's bank records to see if any of that money ended up in Duffy's pockets.
And Samsung today launched the Galaxy Round, the first smartphone with a curved display screen. For now it's only available in South Korea...a test market to see if people even want a curved screen. The ultimate objective...bendable, unbreakable phones and screens of all sizes.
Now the big story. The story of arrogance, deceit and I would offer, a violation of trust by Dalton McGuinty's Liberals. A trust voters gave them to act in our best interests.
After reading the Provincial Auditor General's "Special Report" on the "Oakville Power Plant Cancellation Costs", the conclusion I come to is this: government at Queen's Park didn't give a damn about what was in the public interest only political self-interest. The evidence began even before the decision was made to put a gas-fired electricity plant on Ford of Canada land at the QEW and the 403.
This story begins with the need for more electricity to meet a growing population in the southwestern section of the Greater Toronto Area...ie: Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga. Fair enough.
However, before the decision was made about where the plant should go, the Town of Oakville made it clear it did not want this power plant anywhere within its boundaries. There were 4 bidders but only one, Trans Canada proposed Oakville.
Why Oakville in the face of the town opposition? Because the Ontario Power Authority told TCE to ignore the town's demand. They signed a contract which allowed each side to bail out with no financial obligations if there were events beyond their control which stopped the plant from going up. The Auditor General says Oakville's opposition was sufficient grounds for the government, ie Ontario Power Authority to wait it out. Let the town go to court, force a halt, let the plant fail and the government could walk away with no penalty and no cost. Lawyers being lawyers argue this point, but the fact is the government decided not to see how it played out. The Liberals you see, were gearing up for an election...about a year from then so they cancelled the plant and did a new deal with Trans Canada to build the plant in Napanee.
In the original contract for Oakville, the company agreed to pay the cost of getting the natural gas into the plant by pipeline...the gas needed to fire the generators to churn the electricity out to us. But in the new contract for Napanee, the GOVERNMENT agreed to pay that cost not the company. We the taxpayers and electricity consumers would pay the cost to Trans Canada. The AG's report says, and this is the very crux of the document, costs shifted onto us totalled: 6-hundred-75-million dollars. Almost all of it is the contract change...a direction that the AG says came right out of the Premier's Office.
As for that 40-million dollar sunk costs line item the Liberals kept flogging in the beginning, that is a real number but it was also a Liberal lie. A lie of omission. They knew, or at least they should have known, that sunk costs were a miniscule amount of the whole tab, but they never said a thing about it. They just let a largely uninformed media run with that 40-mill and incorrectly label it the total cost. I can only conclude the Liberals overriding concern was political survival at all costs, as long as the costs fall onto you and me; our kids; and our grandkids.
If you add in the Mississauga gas plant cancellation, the total tab is roughly a billion dollars with the potential for it to go higher.
The amount is not the issue. It is the careless disregard for your hard earned money that's at issue. The McGuinty Liberals simply didn't give a damn. They put most of that money into corporate coffers.
We trusted the Liberals to act in our best interests at all times, not just when it was politically expedient. After reading the Auditor General's report, I want revenge. I want the Liberals out of office. The only problem is, and I'm sure there are others of the same view, there's no reason to trust the other parties to do the right thing either.
Look at what has been going on at Queen's Park, Ottawa, Washington. 3 classic examples of why the political party system no longer serves the needs of a modern democracy. I am not naive enough to think those parties will evaporate in my lifetime, but it's a dream I will never surrender. In the meantime, here's hoping for endless minority governments until these parties cannibalize from within.