Privatization mania and NIMBY myopia behind Ontario gas plant scandal – by Martin Regg Cohn (Toronto Star – April 16, 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.

The real gas plant scandal in Ontario was our own wooly thinking — a highly charged blend of NIMBYism and ideological myopia.

Now that the auditor general has exposed the stench over the cancelled gas plant in Mississauga, Ontarians have every right to be angry. Let me count the ways:

Angry at the Liberals for overplaying their hand at election time — and downplaying the total $275 million cost until they were caught out.

Angry at the fledgling local contractor who constantly under-delivered on the stalled electricity project — yet overstated its costs when extorting more money from taxpayers.

Angry at the U.S. hedge fund that overcharged with an astonishing 14 per cent interest rate — then aggressively litigated when it had taxpayers trapped. Angry at the Ontario Power Authority for overestimating our electricity needs all along — then overpaying to dig the government out of a hole.

Angry at the opposition parties for whipping up local fears about the plant location — then pouncing over the cancellation costs.

And angry at ourselves for letting it all happen — lapsing into NIMBYism and then complaining about the costs of relocation.

Only the auditor general’s office has clean hands and a clear head on this muddled story. Everyone else has their fingerprints on what reads like a case study in human decision-making gone awry.

The political, emotional, hysterical and financial miscalculations will provide fodder for the media and the (ever-earnest) opposition parties for months to come. The gas plant mess may yet prompt NDP Leader Andrea Horwath to reconsider her tentative support for the upcoming Liberal budget, plunging us into another election.

She has not yet pulled the plug on the minority government for pulling the plug on the gas plant. But the NDP leader stresses she will listen to the people on this.

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