TORONTO - Ontario's New Democrats poured cold water Wednesday on efforts by the Progressive Conservatives to force a snap election over the $1.1 billion the Liberal government spent to cancel gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
The Liberals killed the gas plants to hang on to power in the 2011 election, and should be defeated in a non-confidence motion as quickly as possible, said Opposition Leader Tim Hudak.
"They have no moral authority to govern this province when they're willing to use whatever it takes, $1.1 billion, to save a handful of Liberal seats," he said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused Hudak of "playing games" because the governing Liberals determine which bills and motions get called to the legislature for a vote.
"I think it's pretty clear that there's nothing that can be done at this point to force an election unless the Liberals call it themselves," said Horwath. "So Mr. Hudak can stand on his head and spit nickels, but it’s not going to create an election in Ontario."
But Hudak said the minority Liberal government would have a hard time ignoring the will of both opposition parties.
"I think it would be pretty hard for the Liberals not to call an election if the NDP supported our non-confidence motion," he said. "The problem I have here is the Liberals sold the taxpayers down the river with $1.1 billion to cancel the gas plants, and the NDP sold their soul to prop them up."
It appears there won't be a chance for the opposition parties to vote on a confidence motion until next spring's provincial budget.
The Liberals could declare any bill to be one of confidence, but the only absolute confidence measures are the Throne speech, the budget bill, the budget motion and a supply motion that allows the government to keep spending money.
Former premier Dalton McGuinty didn't offer any apologies Wednesday when asked about the $1.1 billion cost of his decisions to scrap the gas plants.
"I regret the fact that it has cost so much," McGuinty told reporters in Elliot Lake, Ont., where he was testifying at the inquiry into the deadly collapse of the local shopping mall.
"I regret the fact that we hadn't acted sooner as a government, but it was right to relocate those plants."
Meanwhile, Hudak went on the attack in the legislature, demanding a judicial inquiry into the cancelled gas plants.
"Premier, when a group of people choose to misuse taxpayer dollars — $1.1 billion — and then cover it up and destroy evidence, you know what they call that, premier? asked Hudak. "They call it fraud. They call it perjury. That's criminal activity."
Wynne, who was on the defensive for most of question period, again apologized for the way the gas plants were handled.
"I was part of a cabinet that made this decision and ... there were mistakes made," Wynne told the legislature. "I have apologized and I do apologize for those mistakes but my responsibility now is to make sure that this never happens again."
The New Democrats also expressed outrage at the Liberals for wasting so much taxpayers' money to save Liberal seats.
"The Premier likes to talk about how much things have changed, but she was part of a team that signed off on this crass decision in a desperate bid to hold on to power," said Horwath. "So, if the Premier thinks this was wrong, why didn't she stand up and say so when she had the chance?"
Hudak also promised to call a judicial inquiry into the gas plants scandal if the Tories win the next election.
"One of the first things I'll do is put Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty before a judge to get the truth here," he said. "We need that threat that a judge can deliver to actually get answers for taxpayers."
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