Mayoral candidate George Smitherman is putting a green spin on his opposition to privatizing Toronto Hydro, saying rival Rocco Rossi’s proposal would “destroy” the city’s ability to promote the production of clean energy.

Smitherman, a former Ontario energy and infrastructure minister, told reporters it would be reckless for “some with ideological right-wing interests” to sell off the city’s ability to ensure businesses and homeowners can benefit from, and participate in, the production of wind and solar power.

“Under privatization, profits and not the public interest would drive all decisions,” Smitherman said Friday at the Green Living show, where he was to square off with rivals Rossi, Joe Pantalone and Rob Ford on environmental issues Saturday.

“A privatized Toronto Hydro would be in the business of making money for its shareholders and executives, not focusing on innovative ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions and deadly smog.”

Smitherman, who has said before that he wouldn’t sell Toronto Hydro, didn’t offer any specific ways he would spur clean energy production, pointing instead to existing provincial incentives.

In an interview, Rossi made no apologies for his pledge to sell Toronto Hydro, saying the city needs the cash to help pay down the $2.5-billion debt and reduce $450 million in annual principal and interest charges.

“So what’s his plan? I take no pleasure in (proposing) this, but what has Mr. Smitherman got on the table?”

Smitherman’s other main challenger on the right, Etobicoke Coun. Rob Ford, has said he will get the city’s finances in shape but sees no compelling reason to sell Toronto Hydro.