A few days ago Premier Wynne admitted to the Legislature that the decision to cancel two gas-fired generators in Oakville and Mississauga was a “political” decision — something everybody already knew. The cancellation will now be subject to an inquiry by the Legislature’s Justice Committee. If there is a more useless institution than the Ontario Legislature’s standing committee system, we haven’t seen it. Regardless of the topic, Legislative committees in Ontario lack the research and resources necessary to do meaningful work, and their deliberations tend to be echo chambers for the highly partisan views of the members.

The exercise will be a complete waste of time. More promising is word that the auditor general will also look into the cancellations. This should provide Ontario taxpayers with at least an accurate accounting of the cost of cancellation. Hopefully the auditor general will also take into account the opportunity cost of the cancellation; because like it or not, more electrical generation capacity will soon be needed in the fast-growing 905 area. The entire problem could have been avoided, had the McGuinty government announced the retrofitting of the Lakeview coal-fired generator with gas equipment.

The plant was ideally situated to serve Mississauga and Oakville, and was accepted by the public for power generation purposes. Instead the plant was closed and demolished in a dramatic gesture aimed at showing this government meant business about going green even if it had absolutely no plan. In 1999 then Premier Mike Harris broke up what was Ontario Hydro, because it had become too big, too expensive and was not accountable to the public. Fast forward to the McGuinty era where we have an alphabet soup of power corporations that appear to be too weak to stand up to unelected political advisors in the premier’s office who have proven to be clueless when it comes to hydro. It is a 180 degree shift from the pre-Harris Hydro and unfortunately, it doesn’t work any better.

John Best has had a lengthy media management career, in television and radio and now print. As Vice President, News at CHCH in Hamilton, John oversaw a significant expansion of the news operation. He founded Independent Satellite News, Canada’s only television news service providing national content to Canadian independent TV stations. John is a frequent political commentator on radio and television, a documentary producer and author of a book and numerous articles on historical and political subjects. John is a past recipient of the New York Festival’s award for writing in the International TV category.

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