Full court press for Tories to share energy plans
TORONTO - Ontario's Liberal government went on the offensive Thursday, gearing up into full campaign mode even though the provincial election isn't until next October.
The election issue, according to Finance Minister Dwight Duncan, is energy and what he says is the Progressive Conservatives lack of credibility on the issue.
The Tory experiments with opening the electricity market to competition and then freezing rates left Ontario struggling just to keep the lights on after they were defeated in 2003, said Duncan, who claimed the Opposition doesn't have a plan for the future.
"It's the beginning of an election and it's about time the Opposition said where they stand," said Duncan.
"(Opposition Leader Tim) Hudak's hiding out, distorting facts."
Spoiling for a fight, Duncan noted that Hudak's mentor, former premier Mike Harris, "had the guts" to release his campaign platform a year before the 1995 vote, and said the new Tory leader should be prepared to do the same.
"I challenge Mr. Hudak to show some backbone and put out a plan, subject it to scrutiny," he said.
"Just do what your hero did and say what you're going to do. Give us a plan so we can have a debate."
The Liberals released their $87-billion, long term electricity plan this week, showing rates will jump 46 per cent in the next five years as the province turns off coal-fired generation, builds new nuclear reactors and moves to more green energy sources.
It's the Liberals who are in power so it's their energy plan that should be debated, said Opposition energy critic John Yakabuski.
"It's clear that he doesn't want to talk about their plan," said Yakabuski.
"I would think the people of Ontario would rightfully want us to question, debate and analyze their plan. They're the government."
Duncan flatly rejected suggestions the Liberals are trying to change the channel from their electricity strategy by attacking the NDP and Conservatives for their lack of plans, and noted the Tories haven't asked a single question on the Liberals' new 20-year energy plan.
"They've gone radio silent," he said. "Not only did they change the channel, they turned off the television."
Other Liberal cabinet ministers were scheduled to fan out across the province Thursday, making announcements in Opposition-held ridings and "talking about truth and fact" that the Tories have distorted, added Duncan.
"We're out fighting the next election and we're laying out what we're going to do, how we're going to do it," he said.
"We're going to keep out there, pounding them. We're going to pound the NDP too for their misrepresentations of fact."
The New Democrats said the Liberals have signed private power deals worth billions of dollars, but the details are all secret.
"The government refuses to hold up its numbers, give us the details of how they get their figures, particularly around the nuclear refurbs and new builds," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"If they're so darn proud of this plan and think it's the wave of the future, then why won't they give us the numbers to back it up?"
Premier Dalton McGuinty began the Liberal offensive Wednesday, "calling out" the Tories and New Democrats to put up their energy plans if they want the right to engage in a debate. The premier kept up the attacks in the legislature Thursday.
"We're talking about a visionary approach to meeting our electricity demands for the next 20 years," said McGuinty.
"It's a solid, well-crafted, thoughtful, responsible plan, and it would be nice if they had even the semblance of a plan over there to produce for Ontarians to take a look at."