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The Ontario Liberals are currently under fire for grossly underestimating, willfully or in blissful ignorance, the cost of relocating two gas-fired power plants — one in the lead-up to the last provincial election campaign and the other in the thick of it. It was $190-million for the plant in Mississauga and $40-million for the one in Oakville, the Liberals said once; as of this week a combined figure in the neighbourhood of $600-million is in play.
Goodness knows they deserve the beating they’re getting over this. The only caveat I would add is that spending $230-million in public funds to shore up a party’s chances in a few ridings is no more defensible than spending $600-million. It’s like the old joke about prostitutes: We’ve established what the Liberals are. Now we’re just haggling over the price.
That said, the ultimate cost of this fiasco is relevant — at least I dearly hope it is — because people seem to draw a distinction between corruption that takes place behind closed doors, or is clearly illegal, and corruption that takes place out in the open where everyone can see it. (I almost find the latter more appalling; it’s like Dalton McGuinty smiling at you and patting your head — “good citizen; such a pretty Ontarian” — as he steals your wallet and tosses it to his campaign team. But clearly mine is a minority view.)
But there must be some level of expenditure so obscene, so grotesque, at which even quiescent Ontarians would rise up in fury at the Liberals’ actions, even if they see them as merely an extreme form of politics-as-usual. If it wasn’t $40-million or $190-million or $300-million, is it perhaps half a billion? The full billion? Two? Surely we must be approaching that level of waste, if we’re not there yet.
Ah, but then we arrive at an unpleasant truth: The Progressive Conservatives (in no uncertain terms) and New Democrats (in somewhat less certain terms) also said they would relocate the plant. Infrastructure and transportation minister Glen Murray tweeted as such this week in response to some expressed annoyances about the ever-rising price tag of the Liberals’ staggering cynicism: “All 3 parties announced at the same time that they would relocate the plants,” he said.
For the rest of this editorial, click here: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/05/02/chris-selley-ontario-liberals-employ-kindergarten-logic-on-gas-plant-fiasco/