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McGuinty: Committee investigating gas plants 'a partisan exercise'

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Toronto - 

Former premier Dalton McGuinty dismissed a government committee investigating the $585-million gas plants scandal as too “partisan” to have any value.

McGuinty went on to criticize his own recordkeeping law as too vague, and in response to the deletion of e-mails by his senior staff, suggested that most government conversations should be private.

McGuinty adopted a more aggressive tone Tuesday in the second of two appearances before the Standing Committee on Justice Policy which is investigating the cancellation of gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga.

“This is not a determined effort to pursue the truth. This committee is a partisan exercise, and I think we need to be honest about that,” McGuinty said. “If you go to the Oxford dictionary and look up ‘partisan,’ it defines it as ‘prejudiced in favour of a particular cause.’

“This committee, dominated as it is by the opposition, is prejudiced in favour of the defeat of a government, and that colours everything that they do,” he said.

Former Liberal finance minister Dwight Duncan has taken to tweeting that the committee is a “kangaroo court.”

McGuinty was brought back to committee to explain why his most senior political staff deleted all e-mails that might have shed light on the decision to cancel the gas plants, one cancellation announced during an election campaign.

The opposition say the Liberals axed the plants at a potential cost of up to $1 billion to save their political seats, and then tried to cover up the electronic trail.

Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian said she could find no evidence that McGuinty ordered his staff to wipe out their records.

But it was “simply not credible” to believe that senior staff did not possess gas plant records or were unaware of their responsibility to retain the documents.

Cavoukian has found that staff violated the Ontario Archives and Recordkeeping Act, brought in by the McGuinty government, which requires that documents on policy and program development, stakeholder relations, legislative activity and ministers’ and premier’s correspondence be retained in the interest of transparency and accountability.

“I’ve never seen a situation where individuals we have interviewed in the context of an investigation have deleted every single record associated with the area of inquiry,” Cavoukian said.

McGuinty told the committee that the recordkeeping law was never clear.

Cavoukian’s report also slammed the verbal culture in the premier’s office, where important decisions were discussed rather than written down, but the former premier said he saw no problem with that.


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