Ontario court dismisses lawsuit over sale of Hydro One shares

Hydro One has spent $9 million in a $15 million dollar project to redesign its bills for customers. Roberto Machado Noa / File / LightRocket / Getty Images

TORONTO – An Ontario court has thrown out a lawsuit against the provincial government over the controversial partial sale of Hydro One.

The lawsuit filed last December by the Canadian Union of Public Employees alleged the sale of shares in the utility was “motivated by improper and ulterior purposes,” namely to reward benefactors of the Ontario Liberal Party.

It aimed to stop the sale of any more shares of Hydro One, though the government has since moved forward with its plan.

READ MORE: Ontario premier, 2 senior ministers sued for ‘misfeasance’ over sale of Hydro One

Lawyers for the government had filed a motion asking that the lawsuit be dismissed, arguing there was no basis for challenging government policy and no conduct was unlawful.

In a decision released this week, Justice Peter Cavanagh sided with the province, calling the lawsuit an “impermissible attack on a core policy decision taken by the ministers.”

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He said the plan is “immune from judicial review in a civil tort action.”

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The government, which is prohibited by law from reducing its ownership of Hydro One below 40 per cent, put its final offering of shares up for sale in May.

The Liberals have said they plan to use $5 billion from the sale of the shares to pay down some of the $8.3 billion in debt left after the old Ontario Hydro was broken into five companies, while a remaining $4 billion would fund transit and infrastructure projects.

More than a year before the Liberal government announced in 2015 that it would partially privatize Hydro One, polling showed strong opposition to the idea.

Pollara conducted research at the government’s behest in January and February of 2014 asking people for their thoughts on selling Hydro One, and just 25 per cent of respondents supported the idea.

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