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McGuinty admits to flip-flopping position on Hydro One privatization

Canadian Press - June 3, 2002

TORONTO -- After weeks of insisting he'd always opposed the sale of Ontario's electricity grid, Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty admitted Monday that he flip-flopped on the issue. {See also Ontario Liberals' McGuinty calls for breakup of Ontario Power Generation, Financial Post, March 15, 2002, and make up your own mind on this issue.}

Saying he'd rushed to a judgment he now regretted when he initially supported privatization, McGuinty said he'd given more thought to the idea of selling Hydro One and had come to a wholly different conclusion.

"From time to time, when a politician changes his mind, that may not be the worst thing in the world, especially if you're moving in a better direction," McGuinty said.

"I changed my mind."

When former premier Mike Harris unexpectedly announced in December the planned privatization of the power grid, Dalton McGuinty said he fully supported it, along with deregulation and competition on the generation side.

His only concern, he said at the time, was his lack of confidence in the government's track record on privatizing effectively. However, he was soon crusading against the sale of Hydro One, all the while denying that he'd ever held a different position -- until he was confronted with tape of his initial comments late last week.

"I honestly believed I'd never said that (I was in favour)," McGuinty said. "I didn't recall at the outset that I'd said what I'd said."

However, the opposition leader said he'd learned a valuable lesson.

"You've got to be careful about coming to a quick conclusion about a very complicated matter," he said. "When this story broke, and it broke very quickly, the subject to that point in time had been the privatization of generation. I was called upon to make a very quick decision and I did, and upon reflection it was the wrong decision."

Harris's December announcement to offer shares in Hydro One surprised almost everyone, including members of his own cabinet and caucus, and sparked widespread public opposition.

While the New Democrats opposed the plan from the start, it was left to two unions to successfully challenge the government's plans in court.

The Superior Court ruling that the government didn't have the authority to sell the grid blocked that plan, prompting new Premier Ernie Eves to shelve the plan pending passage of new legislation.

Despite tabling of the legislation that would allow the sale last week, Eves insists he still may not privatize Hydro One.

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