Ontario’s gas-plant stink will linger after Dalton McGuinty’s departure – by Andy Frame (Toronto Star – January 26, 2013)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Andy Frame is a consultant in the electrical power industry. Formerly he was a senior adviser on electric utilities for the Ontario energy ministry, a municipal hydro chairman and chair of the Utility Association.

This weekend, the Ontario Liberal party will have a new leader, the province will have a new premier and — eventually — the legislature will begin a new session.

But one old question remains. The opposition parties are determined to force the government to bring out all the details of the McGuinty administration’s power plant selection process, which they claim will cost the province up to $900 million.

Let’s go back five years to when the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) first announced its plan to build two new gas-fired power plants to serve the GTA. At a meeting attended by more than 500 in Mississauga, an OPA manager explained the site-selection process and listed the 10 sites under consideration. Local meetings were to be held to meet with citizen groups and other interested parties to explain the need for more power and the site-selection criteria.

This writer attended that first meeting and, after the formal proceedings had concluded, asked the OPA director in charge of site selection why the former Lakeview Generating Station site was not on the list. The answer was brief: “Lakeview is not under consideration.”  I repeated the question, noting that Lakeview is not in a residential area, has a gas power supply, a switchyard and transformer and transmission ties to the rest of the province. Again the answer was: “Lakeview is not under consideration.” And she walked away.

As events unfolded, the OPA announced the selection of a site in east Oakville and a second one in mid-Mississauga. The Oakville site had good facilities but was located near a residential area. A well-organized and well-funded protest movement sprang up and in 2010 the government — not the OPA — announced the plant’s cancellation. Many suspect the real motive was to save the seat of the Liberal MPP for Oakville. Everyone knew there was a contract with TransCanada Corp. to build the plant; impartial estimates of the cancellation costs were pegged at $200 million.

The Mississauga plant was well under construction when the government, again under pressure from local groups, announced the cancellation of that plant as well. Estimated cancellation cost: $140 million. The announcement came with this comment from the government: “We no longer need the power.”

Today we have no Oakville plant and no Mississauga plant. Under pressure from the opposition to reveal the cost of the Oakville cancellation, the government said it would be just $40 million because of an agreement with TransCanada to build a new gas-fired plant at Lennox near Kingston. It added that new transmission facilities would be built to connect the plant to the GTA.

For the rest of this column, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1319752–ontario-s-gas-plant-stink-will-linger-after-dalton-mcguinty-s-departure