Superstorm vs. teacup tempest – by Peter Foster(National Post – November 2, 2012)

The National Post is Canada’s second largest national paper.

TransCanada issue is ­nothing compared with Sandy-sized McGuinty scandal

The commentaries in this paper on Wednesday by Terence Corcoran and Tom Adams about the horrendous waste, foot-dragging and dodgy political meddling attached to the cancellation of two Ontario gas plants, and to Ontario energy policy in general, make for infuriating reading. The cancellation of the plants, in Oakville and Mississauga, could cost $1.3-billion or more. The costs of the Green Energy Act will be multiples of that amount.

Those commentaries provide ample support for suspicions that Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the legislature in an attempt to stonewall further investigation, even if the price was throwing himself out of office.

This case meanwhile throws up the issue of the enormously different standards to which the public and private sectors adhere, and are held.

The final figure for which Queen’s Park had to settle with ­TransCanada Energy, the company with the contract to build the Oakville plant, is not known, but could be up to $900-million. This sum is outrageous if you are an Ontario taxpayer, but certainly cannot be blamed on TransCanada, which has come under vicious — and unjustified — attack from other directions.

TransCanada’s parent, Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., has been under assault for several years from environmental non-governmental organizations, ENGOs, of the type that helped cook up Ontario’s Green Energy Act, for proposing the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry diluted bitumen from the Alberta oil sands to the refineries of the U.S. Gulf Coast. Bowing to a massive campaign of misinformation and protests outside the White House, President Obama pulled the plug on Keystone XL early this year. TransCanada reapplied for certification in May. Mitt Romney says he will approve the line on “Day One” of his presidency.

More recently, however, TransCanada has been the target of some crusading journalism by the CBC. According to a corporate whistleblower named Evan Vokes, who was put on “stress leave” by the company late last year and fired in May, the company has been flouting National Energy Board codes and regulations. After being approached by Mr. Vokes on May 1, the NEB investigated the complaints and publicly released a letter to TransCanada on October 11. This led to the CBC’s inquiry and “chief investigative correspondent” Diana Swain’s “exclusive” interview with Mr. Vokes.

The NEB letter in fact pointed out that the allegations did “not represent immediate threats to the safety of people or the environment.” The CBC nevertheless invoked potential “spills and explosions.” The letter confirmed that there had been “regulatory non-compliance” but that TransCanada had picked this up itself, and was implementing remediation measures. The letter also prefigured a full audit, which was announced this week. This audit would have been carried out anyway as part of the NEB’s regular auditing process, but was brought forward as a result of Mr. Vokes’ allegations.

For the rest of this column, please go to the National Post website: http://opinion.financialpost.com/2012/11/01/peter-foster-superstorm-vs-teacup-tempest/

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