TORONTO — Ontario’s auditor general says she will examine the costs associated with the cancellation of an eastern Ontario wind farm, as the opposition New Democrats call for a special investigation of a move they say could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.
Bonnie Lysyk confirmed in a letter to the NDP she will be looking at the costs to scrap the project near Cornwall, Ont., in her annual audit. But in order to conduct a full probe, Lysyk said she would need a request from a cabinet minister, the legislative assembly or a legislative committee.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek revoked the Nation Rise Wind Farm project’s approval late last year, citing the risks to three bat species. The company has launched a legal challenge of the decision, asking the Ontario divisional court to set it aside.
The auditor said her review of the cancelled deal will be similar in scope to one her office conducted into scrapped energy agreements by Premier Doug Ford’s government in 2018-2019.
“We assessed the reasonableness of the province’s estimate for the cancellation of other energy contracts,” Lysyk said. “As part of this, we looked at contract cancellation terms, liability limits, and supplier claims.”
NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns wrote to the auditor general last week to request that she review the cancellation costs, which the government has not disclosed.
Party Leader Andrea Horwath said Thursday she is concerned the cancellation could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, given a recent revelation that the province is spending $231 million to cancel more than 750 renewable energy contracts.
“The public has a right to know the cost of tearing down and scrapping the Nation Rise project,” Horwath said. “That’s why the NDP … wrote to the auditor general requesting an investigation into the costs as well as an investigation into the flimsy excuse given by the environment minister to justify this cancellation.”
Yurek’s decision last month came despite a ruling from the province’s Environmental Review Tribunal that determined the risk the project posed to the bat population was negligible.
A spokesman for Yurek said Thursday the government cannot comment on the wind farm matter because of the pending court challenge.
The Progressive Conservative government has blamed the previous Liberals for signing the bad energy deals while the province had an oversupply of electricity.
It has also said that by cancelling contracts last July, it would ultimately save ratepayers $790 million _ a figure industry officials have disputed.
At the time, the government also said it would introduce legislation that would protect hydro consumers from any costs incurred from the cancellation.
It has since acknowledged it will have to pay some companies to cancel the deals and set aside $231 million to reach agreements with those firms.News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2020