Jim Wilson was shocked. Gilles Bisson was just pissed off.
The f-bombs were flying between the respective house leaders of the provincial PCs and NDP Thursday, February 28, just down the hall from where the Justice Committee's deliberations into the cancellation of the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants had been short-circuited for the afternoon, all thanks to a motion by NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns to adjourn the proceedings.
Apparently, Wilson mistakenly believed that the NDP would support Tory committee members' efforts to start establishing the parameters of an inquisition, er, investigation, tout de suite into the Liberals' alleged malfeasance in that matter. The NDP had other ideas, offering a subtle sign that relations between the governing Libs and the third party holding the balance of power in the house are, if not thawing, taking on a different tone. Perhaps that's why the PCs have been acting like a bunch of schoolyard gorillas ever since the legislature reconvened last month. They must have seen it coming.
Where the gas plants scandal, fiasco, whatever you want to call it, is concerned, the NDP is not interested in drawing blood necessarily - the documents uncovered so far have been anti-climactic. The party is more interested in using whatever leverage can be gained from the Justice Committee's review to win concessions from the Libs.
The PCs, on the other hand, are intent on throwing as much crap against the wall as they can to see what sticks in the hopes of riding the gas plants mess into an election. The PCs want a circus.
Before they were pre-empted Thursday, the PC members of the Justice Committee were prepared to table a motion asking the proceedings be televised and streamed online and that witnesses be made to swear an oath. It was all spelled out for them in the talking points on a sheet of paper with the header Tactical Considerations For Day 1.
Alas, the PCs' chest-beating would have to do for the camera crews who turned up to capture the drama.
For the procedural embarrassment, Tim Hudak's gang have only themselves to blame.
The premier had circulated a motion earlier in the day calling for the Justice Committee's mandate to be broadened while it looks into the disclosure of documents on the relocation of the plants. But the Tories weren't prepared to give the unanimous consent required for the motion to be formally referred to the committee for debate.
Instead, Timmy's crew continues to shout cover-up.
What a difference a week makes. It's an eternity in politics, or so the saying goes. And on the issue that has so far dominated the legislative agenda, the NDP has gone from levelling broadsides to showing signs of a détente with the Libs.
Outwardly, there's still much fence-mending to do, of course.
NDP leader Andrea Horwath emerged from a meeting of execs from the Insurance Bureau of Canada on Friday saying she's prepared to trigger an election over her demand for a 15 per cent decrease in auto insurance premiums. She may have to rethink that one. Hers is the party that promised public auto insurance way back when and ended up backtracking.
The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, meanwhile, has, unlike its brothers and sisters in the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, asked its members not to restart extracurricular activities - for now, though the ETFO's statement on that front was not as declarative as some in the media reported.
So the pressure on the Libs isn't off by any means. Indeed, the NDP has been tightening the screws on the home care issue ahead of next month's budget.
But it's no secret that union leaders have been whispering loudly in Horwath's ear in recent weeks about the need for cooperation. The party's calculation seems also to have been made on the basis of polls showing the public's appetite for an election seriously waning.
Both PC and NDP insiders seem to realize that the gas plants issue might not have much traction outside the Queen's Park bubble. Also, neither party can run from the fact they, too ,supported cancellation of the plants.
The NDP has a longer view. To earn credibility with voters whenever the next election comes, the party has to show it's serious about the business of, as Horwath likes to put it, getting results. On the gas plant mess, there's the paper trail, who knew what when and the role Dalton McGuinty played in trying to sweep the affair under the rug. All important questions.
However, it's worth considering the bigger stink the gas plant affair represents: the increasing privatization of our electricity system. And what happens when governments sign on to risky business ventures and leave taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions in costs when the shit hits the fan.
In the case of the Mississauga gas plant, a U.S.-based hedge fund pocketed $149 million after it filed suit agasint the government. TransCanada Corp. received $250 million to move its Oakville plant to Napanee.
Do we even need more gas plants? Environmentalists argue that the Libs have been overbuilding and that Ontarians would be better served by investments in efficiencies and conservation. The Pembina Institute says building additional gas-fired plants now will increase the cost of taking more ambitious action on greenhouse gas emissions in the future.
The NDP seems to want to have a serious debate about how to turn the gas plant mess into a discussion about energy planning. The PCs would rather showboat. All of which is spelling political isolation for Hudak's crew.