TORONTO – Ontario’s opposition parties want a police investigation into allegations that Hydro One misled the government about the extent of billing problems created by a new computer system.
The Progressive Conservatives asked the Ontario Provincial Police for a probe after Ombudsman Andre Marin complained he was misled and lied to by Hydro One officials as he investigated billing problems affecting about 100,000 customers.
“As a result of the ombudsman’s report and remarks, I ask that you direct the Ontario Provincial Police to conduct an investigation into … the serious breaches of conduct committed by employees of Hydro One,” PC house leader Steve Clark said in a letter to OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes. “No government organization or the employees who work for them should be above the law.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she’d welcomed a police investigation if it gets to the bottom of what went on at Hydro One, the province’s largest utility which also serves as a local electricity distributor for 1.3 million customers.
“If the OPP are in a situation where they believe this is something that warrants investigation, then I’m all for them investigating what’s happening here,” said Horwath.
Hydro One CEO Carmine Marcello insisted he’s not concerned the Opposition asked police to investigate allegations the utility lied about its billing problems.
“I’m not worried at all because we’ve done nothing wrong,” Marcello said in an interview. “I’m really disappointed that it’s come to this, but the reality is we’ve always co-operated with every single step of the ombudsman’s investigation.”
Marin released a special report Monday on the 10,700 complaints from Hydro One customers about their billing problems, with a chapter called “obstructing the ombudsman,” an offence punishable by a fine or even a jail term.
But the ombudsman rejected the idea of laying charges.
“We’d have to build a new courthouse because there are a lot of people that you’d have to charge,” Marin said.
Marcello said he’s concerned about the impact of the ombudsman’s allegations on Hydro One workers who face “unfounded comments that question the integrity of the organization, which I think is really sad.” A police investigation will prove Hydro One did not mislead the government, added Marcello
“The truth will set you free, and if it this is what it takes, then so be it,” he said.
The Conservatives also want the Speaker to find Hydro One in contempt of the legislature for misleading the ombudsman because he was investigating billing complaints raised by MPPs, who were acting on behalf of their constituents.
The Ombudsman will lose oversight of Hydro One once the budget bill passes, approving the Liberals’ plans to sell 60 per cent of the utility to the private sector.
The New Democrats, meanwhile, said the Liberals should get approval from Ontario voters before selling Hydro One. Premier Kathleen Wynne used “weasel words” in last year’s election campaign about provincial assets but never said she would sell Hydro One, said Horwath.
“I am putting the premier on notice that the people of this province, the people who own Hydro One, are demanding a referendum,” she said.
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