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New committee should be struck to look at gas plants controversy: Wynne

TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne threw a bone to the opposition parties Thursday, offering to create a special committee dedicated solely to examining the controversy over the costly cancellation of two gas plants.

“Where mistakes were made, they must be addressed and prevented from happening again,” she wrote in a letter to Opposition Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

The move is a win for the Tories, who asked for greater scrutiny of the decisions that will cost taxpayers at least $230 million. The New Democrats wanted a full public inquiry.

Both have accused the governing Liberals of cancelling the plants in Oakville and Mississauga to save Liberal seats amid fierce local opposition to the projects.

In the letter, Wynne said she wants to strike the select committee once the legislature resumes next week, as well as the nine standing committees.

Wynne has said that she’s willing to appear before the committees if they call her to testify — something her predecessor Dalton McGuinty refused to do.

But she’s denied any involvement in the decision to cancel the Mississauga gas plant during the 2011 election.

Two former cabinet ministers have said that the decision on the Mississauga plant was made by the party.

Progressive Conservative Frank Klees said Wynne should take a lie-detector test if she wants the public to believe her, as she was a major player in the Liberal election campaign.

“If she insists that as the campaign co-chair and as someone who sat at the cabinet table to approve this deal that she has no recollection, she may want to establish her credibility by submitting to one of those lie-detector tests, because I don’t believe it,” he said.

A spokesman for Wynne said she’s been “very clear” about wanting to make the legislature work and building common ground with the opposition, and Klees’ remarks “devalue” the work of the legislature.

In addition to getting the committees up and running, Wynne said she also wants to launch public pre-budget consultations across the province — something the NDP had requested.

“I am encouraged by the productive meetings held by our house leaders and want to convey my support for three proposals that we can pursue together at the outset of the forthcoming legislative session,” she wrote.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who met with Wynne on Thursday, said she gave her a list of “expectations” for the budget.

They include a 15 per cent cut in auto insurance premiums and $30 million to eliminate home care waiting lists and institute a five-day guarantee for seniors who need health services at home.

The party also wants Wynne to close $1.3 billion in corporate tax loopholes, spend $200 million to create jobs for youth, and call a public inquiry into cancelled gas plants.

The governing Liberals need the support of at least one of the opposition parties to pass the budget and avoid an election.

Horwath wouldn’t say whether the NDP would vote against the budget if it doesn’t include everything on her list, saying she remains optimistic.

“It’s not so much a matter of talking and listening, it’s a matter of action, and that’s what I’m looking forward to seeing,” she said after the half-hour meeting.