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Gas stains: Dalton McGuinty testifies before gas plants committee

“I’d like to say I’ve missed you” said Dalton McGuinty with his trademark impish grin.

The former Premier stood at the podium in the Queen’s Park media studio addressing reporters following his 90 minutes of testimony to the committee looking into the gas plant scandal.

With taxpayers and ratepayers looking down the barrel of a $600 million bill because of decisions McGuinty made, the folksy charm that helped win him three straight elections was just as pronounced as ever.

Under questioning, McGuinty talked about not wanting to leave a legacy of kids playing in the shadows of power plants, and how it was never too late to do the right thing.

Doing the right thing it seems, never included telling the people of the province the full cost of those decisions.

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With the subtlety of a man attacking a sports car with a nine iron, PC Energy Critic kicked things off by saying although McGuinty conceived of the crime, it was his henchman who drove the getaway car.   Fedeli, who repeated the line outside committee and on twitter, had little shame in crowing about his perceived bon mot.

It was his colleague, the usually more brusque John Yakabuski, however, who had the best exchange with the Premier.

“You’re a lawyer, you’re an educated man, you’re a smart man.  You can’t tell me you believed those numbers.”

$40 million to move the Oakville plant?   A plant five times the size of the Mississauga plant which the government said cost $190 million to move?  (The Auditor General eventually revealed the full cost to be $275 million)

One doesn’t need a background in electrical engineering to realize the $40 million number seems mighty low.   Still the government and McGuinty stuck with it.

“I found out when you found out,” McGuinty told the committee.

Only when the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) recently revised its estimate of the cost of moving Oakville to $310 million, did the man who held the reins of power for nine years know the figure he had repeatedly claimed was wrong.

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Was he kept in the dark or did the former Premier engage  in willful blindness?   The OPA says it cost $40 million, so $40 million it is, next issue.

When his Energy Minister Chris Bentley was about to be hauled before a committee for contempt for not releasing documents, McGuinty stepped down and prorogued the legislature to buy time for the Liberal party.

Pulling out some his favourite homespun stories, the Premier told this committee of his mother’s advice to him on his wedding day.

“Never stop talking” she told me.

Perhaps he would have been better served had she added “but every once in a while ask a question.”

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