In brief: The missing $32 million, the missing $100,000 apology, the missing 25,000 students, and more

In brief: The missing $32 million, the missing $100,000 apology, the missing 25,000 students, and more

Responding to a question by PC energy critic Todd Smith, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault mistakenly said today that the Independent Electricity System Operator is still in discussion with nine companies to recover $32 million in funds. That number represents the difference between the $168 million in recouped settlements and what the IESO says is $200 million in ineligible costs.

Thibeault's office later clarified that there are $32 million in disputed costs, which doesn't mean that the IESO is actively trying to recoup all of that money — in fact, it is only trying to recoup a very small portion of that.

The $168 million represents the most the IESO thought it could get out of the process without a prolonged court battle, while it maintains that the other funds should have been paid too.

Thibeault's office told QP Briefing that new controls have been put in place to ensure that overcharging does not occur again, and that the program eventually will be phased out with the introduction of market renewal.

In a scrum on Tuesday, PC Leader Patrick Brown weighed in on the overcharging scandal, and reiterated the party's call to have all $92 million – the number the Auditor General cites, rather than IESO – paid back by Dec. 31. Due to the fact that settlements have already occurred, that is unlikely to happen.

A day after Kathleen Wynne filed her $100,000 statement of claim against PC Leader Patrick Brown alleging that he libelled her and defaming her reputation, the two party leaders clarified where they stood.

Asked by moderator Steve Paikin at a Toronto event this morning about her intent behind the lawsuit, the Premier said: "I just want to debate truth in the public realm. Let's leave it at that, Steve." Wynne later added that this could all be over if the PC Leader apologized for incorrectly saying the Premier was "standing trial" in Sudbury, and that she "remained hopeful" he would do so.

Brown would not back down. In his first post-question period scrum in more than two weeks — he's been busy touring the province promoting the PC platform, the People's Guarantee – he declined to apologize, and instead argued the lawsuit was a diversionary tactic to distract from the Liberal record.

"It was another Liberal stunt. The fact they [first] gave the statement of claim to you, the media, and not to me speaks to the theatrics Wynne is engaged in. We all know these are diversion techniques."

Brown has called for an expedited timetable for any legal proceedings.

Wynne said that "the most expeditious timeline would be for him to step up to the mic and say he was sorry."

Ontario has passed marijuana legislation  that will see the province ready for legalized weed by the federal government's July 1 launch. The Liberals and NDP supported the bill while the PCs voted against it. Although the third party voted for the legislation, Leader Andrea Horwath expressed concerns afterwards that only launching with 40 stores would do little to combat the black market.

The legislation restricts marijuana sales to people 19 and over, bans consumption in the workplace, and implements a zero tolerance policy on young people smoking weed and driving (except for those with trace amounts of medical marijuana). One hundred-and-fifty stores are projected to be open by 2020.

While Premier Kathleen Wynne did not comment on the legislation after the vote, she expressed her satisfaction with the revenue sharing agreement provinces struck with the federal government on Monday. The deal sees 75 per cent of reefer revenue go to provinces, up from a previously proposed 50 per cent.

"I'm happy with the arrangement," said Wynne in a morning presser alongside Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, who also expressed his support.

But there will be next steps to take care of.

"We need to work with municipalities to understand what their costs are going to be, what our costs are going to be," Wynne said, indicating that there will be future negotiations to determine how much the province will share with Ontario cities.

For the past three years, NDP LGBTQ critic Cheri DiNovo has asked the legislature to observe a moment's silence to honour Trans Day of Remembrance every Nov. 20. Now, weeks before the 11-year MPP leaves Queen's Park, legislation will enshrine the recognition as an annual ritual.

Trans Day of Remembrance, first celebrated in 1999 in Massachusetts, is now recognized around the world, and provides a time to reflect on trans folk who are disproportionately subjected to violence.

The results are in, and 10.1 per cent of Ontario college students chose to take the government up on its offer and withdraw from classes without penalty.

The option was given following the longest college strike in Ontario's history, which ended after five weeks with back-to-work legislation. When school returned it was with a compressed work schedule that some students feared would not be conducive to learning the material. A total of 25,700 of 250,000 students chose to withdraw within two weeks of classes resuming, and received a full refund.

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development expects many of those students to re-enroll in a subsequent semester.

Over 12,000 faculty were on strike for increased labour protections and job certainty, among other issues.

David Hains

QP Briefing Reporter

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