TORONTO – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and two of her senior ministers are alleged to have committed “misfeasance in public office” when they sold off Hydro One shares and used the public sale to enrich the Liberal Party, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
In a statement of claim filed with Ontario’s Superior Court and obtained by the Toronto Sun, the Canadian Union of Public Employees alleges Wynne, Finance Minister Charles Sousa and former energy minister Bob Chiarelli engineered the multibillion-dollar sale to “reward private investors” who could then in turn support the party through lavish fundraisers.
“The claim alleges, among other things, that the sale was approved and conducted, in whole or in part, to curry favour with an elite class of financial institutions, law firms and investors who stood to benefit from the sale, for the purpose of rewarding their past, and encouraging their future support for and financial contributions to the Ontario Liberal Party,” CUPE’s statement of claim says.
None of the claims made in the lawsuit have been tested in court.
The lawsuit asks for a declaration that the conduct of the premier and her ministers amounts to “misfeasance” — as would any future sale of further Hydro One shares. It also asks for punitive damages of $1 million and damages for a further $100,000 for misfeasance in public office.
The suit alleges that because of the sale, Ontario taxpayers are being forced to pay in excess of $1.2 billion more in debt retirement charges than necessary and will be deprived $500 million in annual revenues that would flow into provincial coffers.
The lawsuit alleges that the legal and banking firms that carried out the sale of Hydro One were paid more than $75 million for their services. In turn, the government solicited “hundreds of thousands” of dollars in donations from those same firms. who profited from the sale.
In particular, the suit points to an October 2015 Liberal fundraiser as an example of the party allegedly profiting from the Hydro One sale. The event was billed as an “appreciation of the transaction,” referring to the sale of the first tranche of Hydro One shares weeks before. The suit says 24 individuals from financial institutions, unions, government relations firms and the energy sector paid $7,500 each to attend. The Liberal Party allegedly raised $165,000 from the event.