The $309 million bailout of the mostly vacant MaRS office tower is shaping up like the gas plants scandal with the Liberal government refusing to release documents, Progressive Conservatives said Monday.
Premier Kathleen Wynne came under attack as the legislature returned for its fall session with opposition parties pressing for the government’s agreement with a private developer and details on a loan to MaRS from Infrastructure Ontario made after a hasty rule change four years ago.
“You obviously haven’t learned anything from ORNGE, eHealth or gas plants,” said interim Progressive Conservative Leader Jim Wilson, referring to previous Liberal government scandals about the provincial air ambulance service and electronic health records agency.
“You’re continuing your propensity as Liberals to just throw more money after bad — rather than saying no,” he added in the first question period since the legislature rose in late July for its summer recess.
“You owe the taxpayers an explanation.”
Wynne replied those documents are commercially sensitive and said releasing them now would cause problems — echoing the previous Liberal administration’s line when opposition parties sought details about cancelled gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga before the 2011 election as compensation agreements were negotiated.
“We’re not going to undermine an arrangement that would be in the best interest of the people of Ontario by providing information publicly that needs to be confidential for a period of time,” Wynne told the legislature.
The Conservatives said such documents could be released to MPPs on the legislature’s estimates committee for an in-camera session.
Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid said that is “a possibility” and that he has asked officials to sift through MaRS documents to release “whatever it is they can that’s not commercially sensitive. I think that’s fair.”
He defended the bailout involving U.S.-based developer Alexandria Real Estate in the deal, which is now costing taxpayers another $450,000 in monthly interest payments.
MaRS is short for Medical and Related Sciences. The building in question is a 20-storey tower beside the original MaRS bioscience hub on the southeast corner of College St. and University Ave. across the street from Queen’s Park in Toronto. The new building, which is 30 per cent occupied, is known as phase two.