TORONTO— Premier Doug Ford’s government says its cancellation of an energy project nearing completion won’t cost taxpayers any money.
On Tuesday wpd Canada said the cancellation of the White Pines wind farm would cost ratepayers more than $100 million, but Government House Leader Todd Smith said Wednesday morning that the government is crafting legislation to avoid those costs.
The project was supposed to include nine wind turbines in Prince Edward County.
In the bill, Smith said, “we put in a plan, a procedure, that is going to deal with this wind farm project without costing the taxpayers.”
He refused to get into any detail about the procedure except to say it will become clear when the bill is tabled in the house.
“All of the details are going to be available when the legislation comes out. But unlike the gas plant scandal this is going to be a legislated end to this contract and the government holds that power to legislate the end to this contract,” Smith said. “What it does is immunize the province from any kind of domestic litigation.”
The government says the legislation would protect it from domestic litigation, but Smith wouldn’t speculate on whether the company could take action under an international trade agreement. Wpd Canada is owned by a German company.
[READ MORE: Cancelled wind farm to cost Ontario ratepayers $100 million plus: Company]
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government’s talking points remind her of the Liberal’s gas plant scandal where they first said cancelling the plants would only cost $40 million but it turned into $1.1 billion.
“It’s pretty shocking that this Ford Conservative government is doing exactly what the Liberals did when it comes to the cancelling of energy projects,” she said.
The company’s president Ian MacRae told iPolitics that it still hasn’t received any formal notice from the government about the cancellation of its project which was expected to start producing energy for the grid this fall.
“It is our position that we have every right that we can build our project, to sell those kilowatts into the grid and to receive remuneration for that,” MacRae said about the contract that was first signed in 2009.
“There is no off ramp for parties to change their mind,” he said.
MacRae said the government’s promise to “insulate” itself from litigation leaves the company in limbo because it doesn’t know if it will be able to pursue compensation either through the Ontario Energy Board or through the courts.
“That’s why we need to see the legislation, we have no idea,” he said.
Notice to proceed given during the election
The Progressive Conservatives are taking issue with the decision from Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) to give the final notice to proceed to the company during the election campaign.
MacRae characterized the “notice to proceed” as a housekeeping document to confirm that the company had all its ducks in a row but the Tories see it as a breach of the convention that governments avoid big decisions during elections.
“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” Smith said.
The IESO has yet to respond to requests for comment made by iPolitics on Tuesday.
Ending energy contracts that had yet to received their notices to proceed is a key part of the Tory’s plan to further reduce hydro rates by 12 per cent.
“Once you hit notice to proceed you get into unlimited liability,” MacRae said about the position his company is now in. “It’s a big number, we’ve been at this for ten years.”
Smith said cancelling the project will “be a net benefit to the people of Ontario. No longer are we going to have to produce electricity when we don’t need that power.”
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