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Hudak lights into McGuinty for ‘giving the finger’ to auditor on green energy

Toronto Premier Dalton McGuinty is “giving the finger” to Ontario’s auditor general by ignoring his stinging criticism of the Liberals’ cherished green energy policies, Opposition leader Tim Hudak charged Tuesday.

McGuinty snubbed watchdog Jim McCarter by skipping question period in the legislature to attend the opening of a plant in Windsor that makes wind turbine towers, the Tory leader said.

McCarter, who released his annual report Monday, found that the government rushed into a $7-billion deal with Korean giant Samsung without consulting its key energy agencies or conducting any formal economic analysis.

“In light of what the auditor general said yesterday in his 460 pages, isn’t Dalton McGuinty, by going to a Samsung-related plant, basically giving the finger to the auditor general, who tore apart that report?” Hudak asked in the legislature.

The Tory leader withdrew the remark after being called out by Speaker Dave Levac, but was unapologetic outside the chamber.

“I think it’s extraordinarily disrespectful of the premier – the day after the auditor general tears apart that program – to go and boast about it,” said Hudak.

But the auditor’s report doesn’t appear to have swayed McGuinty.

The cost of green energy may be high, but it will save heath-care dollars by reducing the province’s dependence on dirty coal-powered generation, he said in Windsor.

“It’s a deliberate choice that we had made,” McGuinty said while visiting Korean-based CS Wind.

“We’re getting off of coal, which is always less expensive, and we’re moving on to renewable technologies.”

McCarter’s report raised serious concerns about green energy – a cornerstone of the Liberal campaign in the Oct. 6 election that saw the party reduced to a 53-seat minority.

His findings cast doubt on the Liberals’ job-creation figures and exposed how independent decision-making over renewable energy projects has effectively been quashed by concentrating power in the energy minister’s office.

McCarter found that the government fast-tracked billions of dollars of wind and solar energy projects with little oversight, a move that will add about $220 million a year to the cost of electricity in Ontario.

The program the Liberals put in place to attract green energy producers by offering to buy their electricity at high prices was also far more expensive than the provincial program it replaced, he concluded.

Hydro bills have already gone up 65 per cent since 1999 and are expected to rise another 46 per cent in the next four years.

McCarter’s report stirred up more controversy surrounding the Samsung deal, saying the government reduced the $437-million bonus it had promised the company to $110 million after the auditor’s team started doing some digging.

He also took aim at government promises that its green energy policies would create more than 50,000 jobs, saying 30,000 of them will likely be short-term construction gigs.

Studies in other jurisdictions have also shown that for every job created through renewable energy, two to four jobs are often lost in other sectors due to higher electricity prices, he said.