Dec 10, 2014

By Jane Brown

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Interim Progressive Conservative leader Jim Wilson is calling on Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli to resign over his remarks.

“I think what we’ve just seen is an unprecedented level of arrogance from the Liberal government,” Wilson explained, “I, in my twenty-four years have never seen two ministers challenge the auditor in the ways those ministers, Minister Chiarelli and Minister Duguid, and they’re misleading the public.”

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli disputes the auditor’s conclusions, suggesting her numbers were off because she doesn’t understand the “complex” electricity system.  Chiarelli was asked why taxpayers should believe him.  “I believe I’m an honest politician. I’m a hardworking politician,” Chiarelli responded.

Auditor Bonnie Lysyk found that billions of dollars extra are being paid for electricity. She laid blame for the overruns on a flawed smart meter program and the above-market rates the province pays most power generators.  She says she’s surprised the report is being questioned by the governing Liberals, since her staff consulted with representatives of the Energy Ministry.

“There were some comments from the ministry that the $400-million that we have on the analogue meters wasn’t right, and I said ‘no no we worked it through with your staff and cleared it with your deputy minister’. We’re really confident that’s a good number, but I didn’t anticipate that there would be an issue taken with the report or with our facts,” Lysyk revealed.

She found ratepayers will pay $50-billion between 2006 and 2015 because of an extra charge to cover the gap between guaranteed prices paid to contracted power generators and the market price.

As part of the 600-page report, Auditor Lysyk also took aim at the government’s controversial bailout of the mostly vacant MaRS biotech office tower at the corner of College and University, saying a $224-million loan to keep it afloat was questionable. Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid maintains there’s been no money wasted.

“The way this has been portrayed, often by our opposition friends, has been that somehow there’s been money that’s been spent, that’s been lost, that’s been wasted, when what we’re talking about here is a loan that is fully secured and fully repayable,” Duguid defended.

Duguid plans today to announce letters of intent from prospective tenants that would boost the occupancy of the 20-storey tower to 65 percent from the current 31 percent.

Both P.C. leader Jim Wilson and Auditor Bonnie Lysyk will be guests on The New AM 740’s Goldhawk Fights Back after today’s 11am newscast.

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