Committee makes 16 specific recommendations

It took the Standing Committee on Justice Policy more time, and more documents, to understand the relocation of two natural gas-fired, peak-power thermal generation plants (the “gas plants”) than it took for Lord Mersey’s inquiry into the sinking of the RMS Titanic (36 hearing days, 100 witnesses) to complete its work, or for the Warren Commission in the USA (10 months, 552 witnesses) to complete its investigation into the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Almost 2½ years after it began its work, the Standing Committee on Justice Policy has tabled its final report in the Ontario Legislature.

The committee heard from 93 witnesses during more than 140 hours of testimony. It examined more than a third of a million documents. It listened to then-Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion, and Oakville Mayor Rob Burton. It heard from ministry staffers and employees of the two power plant proponents. It talked with the current and former Premier, twice each.

The committee’s mandate: to report its observations and recommendations on the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services regarding record keeping practices of the Ontario government and, the Ministry of Energy on the tendering, planning, commissioning, cancellation and relocation of the Mississauga and Oakville gas plants.

  • Click here for the full report of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy on the matter of the relocation of the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants.

And was there any question of contempt?

The first matter before the committee was whether the former Minister of Energy was ‘in contempt’ of the Legislature, in this case whether information had been inappropriately withheld from the Legislature and its committees. It took one hour, on day one from witness one, former House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken, to definitively conclude “No“! No other ‘procedural witness’ was ever called.

Where did the two gas plants go?

The Oakville plant was moved to the Sarnia area, and the Mississauga plant was relocated to Napanee, near Kingston. In both cases, they were received by ‘willing-host’ communities, and in areas where the power each plant will generate between its completion and its decommissioning more than two decades later is needed by the local grid and the surrounding community.

The Committee’s recommendations

Energy Planning

  1. Communities across Ontario should be engaged in energy planning, which can no longer be left exclusively to provincial agencies and proponents. Regional energy plans should be mandatory and cover the whole province;
  2. The Ontario Government and agencies must consult with local authorities on large-scale energy planning matters;
  3. Engagement should begin at the earliest stages of planning processes, and include official representation of municipalities, First Nations and Métis communities;
  4. Multiple opportunities for engagement should be encouraged to ensure awareness of and involvement with planning for our energy future.

Integrating Energy Plans with Municipal Plans

  1. Municipalities should be required to integrate energy plans into their municipal plans, to ensure that energy needs match up with appropriate corridors and sites designated for energy infrastructure;
  2. Municipal land use plans must recognize and incorporate not only local or regional energy needs, but also provincial energy priorities and needs;
  3. Provincial energy agencies or the Government of Ontario should provide support and resources to municipalities in order to assist them in integrating energy plans into municipal plans.

Procurement and Siting Processes

  1. Procurement processes for large-scale energy projects should take into account the needs of the regions and municipalities to which they apply, as described in regional energy plans. This should extend to the criteria for choosing winning projects;
  2. Energy agencies conducting procurements for large-scale energy projects should undertake substantially more community engagement prior to and during procurement and siting processes. As much as possible, information sharing should be timely and should be in a form that is understandable and useful to average citizens;
  3. Rules should be formulated and shared publicly about the siting of large energy infrastructure, such as setbacks and authorized uses for land in buffer zones, so that regional energy plans and municipal land use plans can designate appropriate lands for future development.

Document Retention

  1. The Government should work regularly with the Information and Privacy Commissioner to ensure that Ontario remains up to date on document retention practices;
  2. The Government needs to continue to develop mandatory training programs for all political and non-political staff to ensure training and awareness of their record-keeping obligations;
  3. A working group should be created to clarify and strengthen the Government’s records retention policies and practices so that they can be successfully implemented;
  4. The Government should appoint persons accountable for the implementation and compliance with records management policies in each of their respective offices;
  5. Archiving requirements should be improved by conducting a review of the archiving schedules;
  6. Formal document training must be integrated into transition briefings for any new Premier, Minister, Premier’s Office staff, and Minister’s Office staff.

What else to know about the report?

  • It took the Standing Committee on Justice Policy at the Ontario Legislative Assembly longer to produce its report on the relocation of the two gas plants than the combined total of Lord Mersey’s investigation into the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the Warren Commission on the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy;
  • In Ontario, opposition parties can table a report that is not approved or discussed by the committee. These are called “dissenting reports.” Two such reports, one each by the NDP and the PC Parties were tabled along with the standing committee’s approved report. Neither dissenting report contained any details on costing by either opposition party. Despite being asked repeatedly by the government during the two years of the committee’s work to show their own costing and schedules to support their own commitments during the 2011 election, neither opposition party tabled a single document to support their allegations, either during the two years the committee sat, or in either dissenting report;
  • The official committee report had 16 focused and workable recommendations for the Province and its power-producing agencies to incorporate into how electricity infrastructure decisions are made, and how documents are managed. Beyond wanting the process, already months into the law of diminishing returns, to continue, the two dissenting reports offered no recommendations at all. Absolutely none. Nothing!
  • The Ontario PC Party and the Ontario NDP have fought two elections on the issue of the gas plant relocations, and lost both of them;
  • Both dissenting reports seemed to be all about allegations concerning activity by former staffers within the former Premier’s office. The dissenting reports were about allegations of activity that took place after all the decisions about the two gas plants had been made, by people who were not involved in making decisions, and thus outside the committee’s terms of reference. As well, the dissenting reports dealt with activities subject to an investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police, and thus upon which elected Members may not comment in any event.

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