National News

PCs accuse Wynne of secret $317-million deal

By Keith Leslie, The Canadian Press

TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservatives released cabinet documents Thursday that they said show the governing Liberals secretly approved a $317-million bailout of a downtown Toronto real estate development.

The Liberals gave $71 million to build a second tower at the MaRS innovation research centre, and provided a $234-million loan for the project, but the documents show the registered charity and the real estate developer behind it couldn't repay the money, said former Tory MPP Frank Klees.

Premier Kathleen Wynne approved a multi-million bailout without the public's knowledge in a cabinet room right before the election, added Klees.

"They've been in default for months and the government is now using tax dollars to secretly bail them out, and the reason is obvious: they want to avoid the political embarrassment of having this deal come down around them," said Klees.

"It's another blatant attempt to hide it all from the taxpayers and the legislature."

The Liberals also failed to put the liability on the books in the May 1 budget, which couldn't get any opposition support, triggering the June 12 election, added Klees.

It's clear "they intentionally withheld that liability," he said.

During an election campaign stop in Toronto, Wynne called the allegations untrue and accused Klees of trying to divert attention away from allegations that the PCs used bad math in their Million Jobs plan.

But Klees said it's obvious the Liberals learned nothing from their lack of oversight that led to mismanagement and scandals at eHealth Ontario and the Ornge air ambulance service, which is now the subject of a police investigation.

"These documents read like a repeat of the Ornge documents that were sent to me by whistleblowers who could no longer stand the corruption that was going on there."

"The project was a failure from the outset," he said. "They paid too much for the property and for the construction, but now it’s the taxpayers of this province who will pick up another $300 million plus liability _ all due to the lack of oversight, the mismanagement on the part of this government."

The Tories say the government should take the hit on the books and let MaRS suffer the consequences of bankruptcy from a bad real estate deal.

But Wynne said the documents refer to negotiations that are underway, but not completed, to purchase the building.

If finalized, she said the agreement would ensure that MaRS could fulfill its mandate to create jobs and support research and innovation.

Wynne said it would also allow the consolidation of government offices into a building owned by the government so it would not be paying leases on that space.

"It’s the kind of responsible decision that government needs to make in order to use taxpayers dollars as wisely as possible."

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