The Contempt Situation

As a rule, I try to stay out of provincial politics, because I’m not smart enough to fight a 3-front war. I barely have the cognitive capacity to fret over Federal politics, and when I lump municipal in to the mess as well, I have trouble remembering what meeting I’m at and for what reason. But I’ll make a temporary exception to give my take on the current contempt discussion going on in the Ontario Legislature.

Background: Last year, the Liberal government cancelled/relocated 2 gas power plants that were under construction, in response to the local residents demands. One was in Oakville, the other near Mississauga. And since the initial contracts with the construction firms were being changed, the government had to negotiate a settlement with the firms to compensate them for the changes. As of last week, the Mississauga negotiations were complete, and the Oakville negotiations were underway.

The opposition members demanded that the details of the Oakville contracts be revealed publicly, even though revealing them would compromise the negotiations, most likely costing the province a considerable amount of money needlessly. The Liberal government offered to release the documents privately to the committee who had requested them. The opposition refused, even though this would have given them all of the information they needed to do their job.

It’s important to distinguish that the government did not intend to withhold the documents indefinitely. This wasn’t a case of trying to hide the cost of cancelling, it was about trying to get a fair negotiation before publicly releasing the documents.

The Speaker of the Legislative Assembly gave all 3 parties a deadline of Sept. 24th to come to an agreement on the release of the documents. And on the 24th, after the  negotiations had finished, the documents were released, fully and publicly. That should be the end of it, but the opposition is determined to continue pressing for a contempt motion. And, ironically, by refusing to stop chasing a flimsy contempt accusation, the opposition is bringing all other business in the legislature to a halt. While they yell and lecture, all other work stops. No bills, no debates, no question period.

 

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