Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Speaker Dave Levac Says He Never Felt Political Interference from Liberals

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Speaker Dave Levac Says He Never Felt Political Interference from Liberals

Article excerpt

Levac says never felt political interference

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TORONTO - The Speaker of the Ontario legislature said Tuesday he never felt political interference that would prevent him from making decisions, despite opposition charges that the Liberal government tried to bully him into changing a key ruling.

Newly-released emails show senior Liberals in former premier Dalton McGuinty's office tried to get Speaker Dave Levac to change his preliminary finding that then-energy minister Chris Bentley was in contempt for not releasing all documents on two cancelled gas plants.

The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats accused the Liberals of trying to pressure Levac into changing his ruling, something they said was "akin to trying to influence a judge on a decision" in a court case.

"That's pretty serious stuff," said NDP house leader Gilles Bisson. "You don't do that. There are ramifications."

However, Levac issued a statement Tuesday saying he's frequently lobbied by members of all three parties on a range of issues, and has never felt undue pressure.

"I have never felt unable to make an informed, objective and procedurally sound decision, free of political interference," Levac said in the statement.

"The fact that the ruling did stand should also speak for itself."

The Conservatives said they wanted the integrity commissioner to find out if the Liberals threatened Levac or made the Speaker an offer to drop the contempt ruling.

"It's absolutely unclear what the threat was or what he was offered or what the demands of him were," said PC energy critic Vic Fedeli.

"I'm looking forward to the integrity commissioner looking into the very integrity of that conversation. What occurred? What was he threatened with?"

The New Democrats plan to call two of the McGuinty staffers whose emails talked about pressuring the Speaker to change his ruling to appear before the justice committee hearings into the cancelled gas plants, which resume next Tuesday.

"The first people we need to hear from are those people who were out there trying to bully the speaker," said New Democrat house leader Gilles Bisson. "What we hear from them will determine if we call the Speaker. …

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