10.09.2013 08:25 AM

About those gas plants

For those Gotcha Conservatives (hello, Andrew Harris!) who were impatiently bombarding me last night with emails and tweets, demanding my reaction to the gas plant schmozzle, I say this:

  • I was on TV, co-hosting the Sun News Network’s excellent coverage of the Nova Scotia Liberals’ smashing victory, and therefore a little, you know, busy; and
  • I don’t have any association whatsoever – zero, zippo, zilch – with the Ontario Liberals, so stop asking me to be their spokesperson.  Given who is running the show over there, I can assure you: I am an Ontario Liberal in Exile.

That said, I have penned a column about the gas plant schmozzle for this Sunday’s Sun.  I want you to buy the Sun, so here is a taste, but not the whole meal. You’re welcome.


…I’m from Calgary, and I’m a little slow, but I can tell you any oil patch boy or girl knows this much: the energy sector is like the stock market.  It is, in its essence, totally unpredictable.  And don’t just take my word for it.  The tall foreheads at Harvard University, for example, call it “predicting the unpredictable.”  Said one of them, in the august pages of the Harvard Business Review: energy prices and costs are “devilishly difficult to analyze, let alone predict.”

“Devilishly difficult.” I like that, because I’m a sucker for alliterations.  But also because it’s Harvard, and it’s true.  Predicting the unpredictable is bad, bad politics.

The Ontario Liberals’ mistake was that they were too helpful, and they tried to answer the question.  Had I been asked at the time – and I wasn’t – I would have said: “We promised to move those gas plants, and we’re making good on that promise.  Citizens didn’t want those gas plants, and we listened to them.  All of Ontario’s political parties favoured moving them, and all acknowledged there would be a cost.  We intend to do everything we can to keep the cost down.”

See? No numbers.  No predictions. No risk.


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    Sean says:

    Hah! Excellent! Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between the numbskulls in power and the McGuinty / Chretien folks. This is the difference.

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    Robin says:

    Herle and Murphy? LOL All they need to do now is add Scott Reid and it would be a Three Stooges reunion. Hopefully, they have learned some lessons from the Martin debacle.

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    Cliff Ridge says:

    Let’s move on and look at the future of the Wynne Liberal minority government.

    Hudak is calling for (a) Wynne’s resignation as premier and Liberal leader, (b) a vote of no confidence in the Liberal government asap and an immediate election, and, (c) a royal commission headed up by a judge over the $1.1 Billion gas plants snafu.

    Now the ball is in Horwath’s court to decide who she will support; sister Wynne or hated Hudak to precipitate an election. So far crickets.

    Wynne’s strategy may be to avoid confidence votes until she can bring down a Budget filled with goodies for the Dipper leftists. Gonna be interesting as Wynne takes a hard turn Left.

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    Ian Howard says:

    The question that has yet to be answered is why did Dalton McGuinty lie about the cost of cancellation. Did he believe if he won a by-election the real numbers would be buried until they made the archives and became publicly available. It was obvious from the start that the combined cost of 230 million was a fantasy. There was ample evidence from the start that the figures used by McGuinty were fiction . A quick perusal of the released documents on Tom Adams web site reveal that. There was no crime in cancellation but to believe that the true costs would remain hidden is just a monumental blunder that can only be explained by stupidity or arrogance.
    Dalton McGuinty should have owned that lie when he resigned but it appears that his loyalty was to his legacy not his party or province.

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      Warren says:

      Ian, he didn’t lie. He got it wrong.

      I know him. He is a good and decent man. He made mistakes, like us all. But lie? No way.

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    Ian Howard says:

    Nobody could have got it that wrong he either lied or was lied to. If from the start the McGuinty government had been honest and said the cost of cancellation is going to be more expensive than we ever imagined and we are prepared to accept those consequences at the polls in the next election the issue would now be an unpleasant memory. Instead they chose to make it a hyper partisan issue and sacrificed Chris Bentley. Sticking with the sunk cost number for Oakville and failing to mention they had to give Eastern Energy an interest free loan in Sarnia because they failed to guarantee their financing in the first place were tactical blunders. The strategy seemed to be deny, deny, deny.
    If Dalton McGuinty is still a decent man after his tenure as Premier he must come forward and take full responsibility for the way this issue was handled. It was his office that managed this baby and as leader it is time for him to fully own it.

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      Paul says:

      Oh, the did complain, A LOT! Remember the Erin Brockovich visit?
      When the election started, the Liberals were still supporting the plants. That changed during the election.

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    steve says:

    I wonder about this

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    Andrew says:

    While I would hardly call “looking to see what @kinsellawarren has to say about the AG report, and the lib gov spending 1.1 billion cancelling gas plants to win seats” bombarding you for answers. I am just curious to know your thoughts. And I hope you address it on sunday, because it’s not really mentioned above. which is basically, a guy you volunteered for, and championed pissed away an obscene amount of public money for partisan purposes, maaaaaaaaan

    Your Pal

    Andrew Harris

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      Ian Howard says:

      To paraphrase the AG ” the McGuinty Liberals demonstrated the same business accumen one would expect from drunken sailors in a brothel after six months at sea but at least in that scenario there may have been some enjoyment for those being screwed. “

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    James Bow says:

    Outside of Toronto, people who are upset over the gas plants issue are upset because they’ve had to accept the imposition of power plants themselves (such as wind power plants in the Bruce) because these installations were said to be “good for the province” (a defendable position, in my opinion). It is aggravating to have the same government turn around and appear to cancel power plants in the GTA when votes appear to be at stake.

    However, the anger can only be blunted when the Tories and the NDP face up to the fact that they too had promised to cancel these power plants if elected. Calling out the Liberals for the cost overruns makes little sense when the Tories and the NDP themselves would have made the same decision and potentially faced the same costs. On this, the opposition is trying to have its cake and eat it too, and that doesn’t reflect well on them.

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      Ottawa Civil servant says:

      BIG difference: Both the NDP and PCs fought the placement prior to the contracts being signed. Both, had they won, would have negotiated and perhaps cancelled the contracts for little to no cost, as the AG said in her report. Instead, the Liberals demanded a quick resolution (so they could announce it during the campaign), basically signing a blank cheque by abandoning their own contract.

      $1,112,000,000 = 139,000 years of tuition for the average student in Ontario.

      Warren, for the love of God, show some anger at this abuse.

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