The Ontario government is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at stopping the further sale of shares in Hydro One in an “attempt to avoid a public trial,” says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
CUPE filed the malfeasance suit in early December against Premier Kathleen Wynne and two cabinet ministers, calling the former Crown utility a “vital asset” that the Liberal government had “no mandate” to sell.
“Through out the sell-off of Hydro One shares, this government has tried to avoid any form of public scrutiny or debate,” Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, said Wednesday.
“It’s not surprising that they want to try and stop the public spotlight this case will bring to their actions.”
CUPE said it had expected the province to file a statement of defence but received the motion to strike down the lawsuit late Tuesday.
“We’re confident they won’t be successful in their attempt to have the suit dismissed and strongly believe that it is in everyone’s best interest that this case to proceed to trial before the next election,” said Hahn.
“Privatizing our hydro system only hurts the people of Ontario in the long-run. If anyone may have benefitted from the sale of shares, that is simply wrong and the courts need to have the chance to review the evidence.”
About half the Hydro One shares designated for sale have been sold on the stock market.
No date has been set for the sale of another tranche of shares, which depend on market conditions.
In the suit, CUPE claims the government was in a conflict of interest by holding political fundraisers — including one where tickets were priced at $7,500 each — in which cabinet ministers mingled with investment bankers hoping to win lucrative contracts to handle the share offerings.
The Ministry of Energy has said there was nothing improper about the fundraising, with the province’s integrity commissioner ruling there was no wrongdoing.
Under the privatization, no one private shareholder is allowed to hold more than 10 per cent of the shares, which leaves the province as the largest single shareholder with 40 per cent once the transactions are complete.
CUPE said it will move quickly to have the court rule on the government’s motion to strike down the lawsuit in hopes of proceeding to trial.
“In the meantime, we are counting on the Premier to hold off on any further sale of Hydro One shares until the court has been able to hear the case,” said Hahn. “The people of Ontario still own the majority of shares and the vast majority of Ontarians want to keep it that way.”