By DAVID LEA
Special to Focus
Relocating the 900-megawatt gas-fired power plant away from Oakville in 2010 came with a hefty price tag — but it was the right thing to do.
These were the sentiments expressed by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty Tuesday afternoon during a press conference at the Oakville Curling Club.
The conference came only a day after Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley announced that moving the proposed power plant from Oakville to land at Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Lennox generating station site near Bath, Ontario would cost taxpayers at least $40 million.
During his remarks, McGuinty acknowledged $40 million is a lot of money, but pointed out nearly $100 billion in improvements are being made to the province’s energy infrastructure.
“These were two instances where we didn’t get it right,” said McGuinty, referring to the Oakville and Mississauga power plant cancellations.
“We made the decision to relocate, there was a cost associated and we are responsible for that.”
McGuinty said the cancellations were not done to save Liberal seats in the 2011 provincial election and that the Oakville cancellation was not an example of the government appeasing NIMBYism (Not in my backyard).
The Premier said the government has done things in the past that people have not liked and has not reversed such actions simply because they proved unpopular.
The Oakville and Mississauga power plant projects were different and cancelling them was ‘all about getting it right,’ McGuinty said, adding his government would learn from the experience.
The 900-megawatt gas-fired power plant, which was proposed for the Ford-owned lands of 1500 Royal Windsor Dr., resulted in numerous community demonstrations by residents’ groups who said the facility would be far too close to area homes and schools.
At the time of the Oakville power plant’s cancellation, then Energy Minister Brad Duguid stated that in putting together its Long Term Energy Plan, it became clear the Province no longer needed the power plant.
The agreement reached with the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to build a power plant near Bath instead of Oakville was well received by energy giant TransCanada.
“We are very pleased an agreement was signed today to build a power plant in Ontario,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO, Monday when the agreement was first announced.
“TransCanada looks forward to expanding our contribution of clean, safe and reliable power to the residents of Ontario,” said Girling in a press statement issued in Alberta.
Ontario Progressive Conservative (PC) House Leader Jim Wilson was not happy with that agreement, stating the Oakville gas plant cancellation would actually cost taxpayers $450 million.
This cost, he said, includes the $40 million payment for unrecoverable costs, a $210 million payment to purchase TransCanada’s gas turbines and another $200 million cost for new transmission lines.
Oakville MPP Kevin Flynn disagreed with this assessment.
“The PCs seem to have some problems with their math,” said Flynn.
“You have to remember unnamed sources were quoting the settlement as $1 billion. Where are those people today? Where are those people who were trying to scaremonger? This is a responsible agreement that was made with the proponent that allows for the power supply in Ontario to continue safely into the future.”
Flynn also took issue with the power plant cancellation being characterized by the opposition as a $40 million Liberal seat saver, stating he never felt his seat was in jeopardy.
Between his work and his government’s work with the new Oakville hospital, the widening of the QEW and improvements to the school system, Flynn said he felt he had enough to stand before the people of Oakville and ask for their support again at the polls.
Oakville Mayor Rob Burton pointed out that back in 2010, the Liberals were not the only party who opposed the power plant locally.
“Since all parties promised they would stop the power plant, I’m not sure (the cancellation) could have been done better or cheaper,” he said.
“I hope everyone will join Oakville in congratulating all concerned with such a reasonable outcome.”
Before the press conference, McGuinty attended a meeting with numerous residents’ association leaders who had fought against the power plant when it was proposed.
McGuinty thanked them for standing up and drawing the government’s attention to the issue.
Citizens for Clean Air (C4CA) member Susan Hyatt said the $40 million needs to be looked at in context.
“You have to look at the $40 million in the context of the safety and health issues that we raised and the potential for injury to our families, our homes, and our businesses if there was an explosion, for example, or a train derailment at that site, ” she said.
“That would have been catastrophic compared to $40 million. So I think you really do have to weigh this out and say ‘Was it a good decision to cancel the plant?’ I feel it was a good decision.”
Frank Clegg, C4CA chair, said he remains deeply concerned that provincial policy has yet to change to prevent a power plant from being proposed within a few hundred metres of a residential area.
Flynn said he is hopeful a private members’ bill he has brought forward will stop such inappropriate power plant sites from being chosen in the future.
— Metroland News Service
By DAVID LEA