Outspoken Mississauga mayor Hazel McCallion lit up the Standing Committee on Justice Policy at Queen’s Park Thursday morning with testimony on the government’s 2011 decision to cancel a proposed gas plant in a residential neighbourhood.
Though a witness called by the Liberal government, McCallion was blunt in her appraisal of the proceedings that have ground on at the provincial legislature for more than a year, calling the committee’s investigation into who knew what and when a “waste of time.”
“I don’t know why you’re wasting a lot of time at Queen’s Park on something that in my opinion is deadwood, and get on with looking after the affairs of the province,” notably issues of transit and gridlock in the Greater Toronto Area, she said.
On the opposition claim that the Liberals cancelled the Mississauga plant immediately ahead of the October 2011 election to save Liberal seats in the area, McCallion was incredulous, almost dismissive.
“Was it cancelled to save positions? Who can deny it?” she asked, adding “I think all parties would have cancelled it; there’s no question about it.”
Both the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats also stressed before the election they would cancel the plant, though opposition MPPs today go to great lengths to differentiate themselves from the government position by saying their party would never have sited the plant in Mississauga over such overwhelming local opposition.
McCallion went on:
I’m absolutely frustrated after being mayor for 35 years to think of the way in which you folks are dealing with this at Queen’s Park. The people are fed up with this, ‘Well, who did it? Who made a decision? Who sent an email?’ Is that important? I don’t think it is, unless you are after character …
The point is, the contract was cancelled at the wrong time. Okay? It was cancelled obviously for political reasons and, thirdly, it’s going to cost. Now how much more do you want to know? How much more do you want to know and waste time at Queen’s Park?
Moreover, the 92-year old Mississauga mayor told committee she doesn’t care who made the decision to cancel the plant or when the choose to do it.
“Is it important who did it?” she asked. “It’s a wrong decision, and you’re going to pay for it. The taxpayers are going to pay for it. It’s as simple as that. So why emphasize this, ‘Who did it? What email went?’ I don’t know. I don’t follow it.”
Blame should rest with the Ontario Power Authority, she argued. The OPA, the arms-length governing agency which was responsible for citing the plant in southern Mississauga in 2004 (financing issues kept the plant dormant from 2004 until 2009), opted to approve construction by Greenfield South Power Corporation despite strong local opposition.
On OPA’s responsibility:
I’ve told the Premier from day one, the OPA will take you down the drain because of their bad decisions, not doing their homework and making recommendations … The OPA, in my opinion, is the guilty party. They’re the ones that caused the very expensive cost of cancellation of this.
So let’s zero in on the OPA. They’re the ones that caused all this problem. I can assure you, I dealt with them. They ignored any concern of the citizens. They ignored any concerns of the professional staff of our city and said ‘We’re bulldozing ahead.’
The mayor also railed against “special purpose bodies” like OPA which she accuses of spending recklessly without little government oversight or accountability, pointing to the scandal-plagued organizations eHealth and Ornge as examples (the later which was heavily investigated by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts in 2012).
On “special purpose bodies,” McCallion said:
How many more do you need of special purposes bodies that all governments, all parties appoint and they forget about and they go off and wander—expense, embarrassment second to none.
When you read the newspapers every day, I think the special purpose bodies are on the carpet, not just the OPA.
Justice committee returns Tuesday, March 26 with further testimony on the estimated $240 million cancellation of gas plants in Oakville in 2010 and Mississauga in 2011.