TORONTO — Energy Minister Chris Bentley was at a loss Wednesday to say who made the decision to cancel a proposed gas plant in Mississauga just a few days before last year’s election, a move that will cost the cash-strapped province $180 million.Bentley said the announcement was made through a Liberal party press release, but couldn’t clear up whether it was the party or Premier Dalton McGuinty who ultimately made the call.He was only appointed energy minister after the election, he told a legislative committee.“I wasn’t part of that decision,” he said.“I can’t answer that. I wasn’t there, I wasn’t part of it.”Bentley’s comments came a day after he revealed the price of relocating the 300-megawatt plant to an existing coal-fired station close to Sarnia. But the minister couldn’t say whether taxpayers are on the hook for the move or whether the cost will show up on hydro bills.The province is facing a $15-billion deficit this year and isn’t expected to emerge from the red ink until 2017.Both opposition parties have accused the Liberals of scrapping plans for the Mississauga plant — and another in Oakville in 2010 — in a cynical move to save seats amid fierce protest by local residents.Taxpayers deserve to know who made the decision, whether it was the Liberal campaign director or the premier, said NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns.“Frankly, we’ve been stuck with a $180-million bill and we should now who is responsible for doing that,” he said.“People will be paying more for their electricity so that the Liberals could save a number of seats in the last election.”Bentley insisted that the government only had a change of heart after listening to the strong objections of local residents.He also pointed out that both opposition parties also promised to scrap the plant during the election and wouldn’t have been able to get a cheaper deal.Tory Leader Tim Hudak, who promised to get rid of the plant the day before the election, said it should have never been built in the first place.But he couldn’t say whether he could have struck a better deal if his party had won the Oct. 6 election.“You can’t accuse me of holding the shovel that dug that hole in the first place,” he said.“That was their decision, that was the wrong decision and now taxpayers are on the hook as a consequence.”The opposition parties want Bentley to produce documents about the deal, as well as those related to the cancellation of a proposed gas plant in Oakville in 2010. The minister has rejected the demand, citing solicitor-client privilege.Tabuns said he believes the documents will show that the party made the call because they believed they would lose those seats, not because they’d analyzed the area’s power needs or the impact of the plant on the surrounding communities.Governments and parties can make promises during election campaigns and follow through with them, he said.“What’s broken here is that cancelling a plant in the middle of an election, incurring a $180 million cost for a seat-saver is indefensible,” he said.“It may be legal, but it’s certainly distasteful and wrong — epically wrong.”The Conservatives said the final cost of relocating the plant will actually be much higher than Bentley claims, because a brand new plant will have to be built at the new location in a Tory riding.
In welcoming the visit, Deputy High Commissioner Tim Huggins said “Australia is fully committed to increasing women’s leadership, women’s economic empowerment and addressing violence against women and girls.“Australia’s aid investments in Sri Lanka are designed to ensure that women benefit from all our economic growth-related programs. Ms Broderick’s visit and her engagement with private sector leaders will encourage the development of policies that maximise the participation of women in Sri Lanka’s economy,” Mr Huggins added. Prominent Australian gender equality advocate Elizabeth Broderick (AO) had talks in Sri Lanka with business and public leaders on the important issue of promoting gender equality.Ms Broderick met with business leaders, including members of the Prime Minister’s taskforce on female workforce participation, to discuss the business case for gender equality. Broderick, a former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner (2007-15), is the Global Co-Chair of UN Global Compact Women’s Empowerment Principles, Special Adviser to Under-Secretary UN Women on Private Sector Engagement, and Founder of the ‘Male Champions of Change’ initiative – working with influential male leaders to become advocates for gender equality. Broderick also met with senior members of the Sri Lankan Police and Defence Forces to share experiences of building cultural change within Australia’s Police and Defence Force agencies. Broderick welcomed the opportunity to meet with Sri Lanka’s private sector leaders and prominent women representatives.“I am excited to be meeting with business leaders and other influential men and women to share innovative strategies, learn from each other and discuss how to accelerate the pace of change” Ms Broderick said. “Women’s participation in all aspects of Sri Lanka’s economy is critical to realising its economic potential.”The Economist listed Ms Broderick as one of the World’s Top 50 diversity figures in public life in 2015, alongside His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Barack Obama, and Bill Gates.