Ontario Speaker denies feeling pressured to change gas plant contempt ruling
Dave Levac (QMI Agency files)
Ontario Speaker Dave Levac says he did not feel politically pressured to change a gas plant contempt ruling, despite meeting with a senior Liberal staff member who wanted him to change his mind.
In a statement issued Tuesday, Levac said he meets with representatives from all three political parties on a variety of issues.
“The fact that the ruling did stand should also speak for itself,” Levac said. “While I believe it is important to consider the various sides of an issue, I have never felt unable to make an informed, objective and procedurally sound decision, free of political interference … in the best interest of the institution of parliament.”
New gas plant-related e-mails show that Ontario Liberal campaign director Don Guy was concerned about Levac’s finding last September that there was a case for contempt against former energy minister Chris Bentley over the failure to release documents to an investigating committee.
“Dave is putting the member from brant (sic) on notice that we need better here,” Guy’s second-in-command, Laura Miller, wrote, referring to former premier Dalton McGuinty’s aide Dave Gene.
Levac is the Liberal MPP for the riding of Brant.
Guy and Miller have said that they were upset with a statement from the PCs that they intended to continue to pursue the contempt charge against Bentley even after documents were produced, and that they hoped to bring the unfairness to Levac’s attention and avoid a costly provincial election.
Duff Conacher, a spokesman for Democracy Watch, said it was inappropriate for Levac to even meet with the McGuinty staffer and believes he may be in contempt of the legislature.
It is likely common practice in all parliaments for Speakers to be pressured by their own parties, he said.
“You just never see it — they do a phone call,” Conacher said. “They don’t send an e-mail around saying, ‘I just talked to him.’”
With a majority of seats, a government can muscle itself out of a contempt finding, he said.
The power shifts to the opposition parties in a minority, allowing them to pursue their own political agenda, he added.
“The Speaker is supposed to be an impartial judge, but is actually a biased judge of a kangaroo court,”
PC MPP Vic Fedeli formally requested Tuesday that integrity commissioner Lynn Morrison investigate whether the Liberals “attempted to hijack a Speaker’s decision.”
Fedeli said that he has copied his correspondence with the integrity commissioner to the OPP anti-rackets division.
“Clearly there was movement by the Liberals to influence the Speaker’s decision, and that influence, we need to know what was applied, what pressure was applied,” Fedeli said. “Are they going to sign his nomination papers? Are they going to support him in the next election? What was the threat?”
NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said he intends to call the senior Liberals to testify before the committee looking into the $585-million cancellation of gas plants planned for Oakville and Mississauga and the release of related records.