Horwath Questions Energy Minister on Thunder Bay OPG PLant

OPG Generating Station
OPG Generating Station in Thunder Bay.

Queen’s Park – UPDATED – During Question Period today Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath pressured the Minister of Energy to explain his government’s confusing position on the Thunder Bay Generating Station gas conversion. Last week the Minister during question period in the Ontario Legislature offered what appeared as confusing statements in response to questions from the NDP Leader.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Energy said, “Our priority is to ensure there continues to be a stable, reliable and cost-effective supply of electricity in the region. The Ontario Power Authority’s draft North of Dryden Integrated Regional Resource Plan lays out options to meet the growing demand for electricity in the region over the near, medium and long-term.  To meet future needs, the report recommends establishing a new transmission line to Pickle Lake and upgrading the transmission system between Dryden and Red Lake. The OPA will be soliciting feedback on the draft study from stakeholders over the coming weeks and we’ve asked NOMA to provide their feedback to the draft report.” 

OPG Generating Station
OPG Generating Station in Thunder Bay.

“We have a responsibility to wait for the full assessment by the OPA before making any final decision on conversion. In the meantime, OPG is continuing to explore options.  Minister Chiarelli has been working closely with local MPPs and has met with the Northwest Energy Taskforce. The Minister has been very clear that our top priority is to ensure that Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario have the power they need, when they need it, including the power required for economic expansion in the Ring of Fire,” added the Minister’s spokesperson.

Several members of Thunder Bay Council in conversation with NNL commented how the Minister seemed out of touch.

Today NDP Leader Horwath said, “This government has got its wires crossed when it comes to the power needs of the northwest. Last week, the Minister of Energy sent some very mixed signals to the people of Thunder Bay. He said, ‘Any future generating plant in Thunder Bay will be used six hours per year.’ ”

Horwath brought the concerns of Thunder Bay residents to the floor of the Legislature. “Is this government looking for fresh excuses not to honour its commitment to convert the Thunder Bay generating station to gas, or is the minister ready to admit that he got his facts wrong?”

The NDP in a media statement issued today say, “Even as the Minister tried to calm worries about energy supply for the Northwest, he refused to say whether the Liberal government has finally made a decision about the Thunder Bay Generating Station gas conversion. Horwath wouldn’t accept the government’s mixed messages”.

Thunder Bay Superior North MPP and Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle said, “I continue to work closely with Energy Minister Chiarelli, my colleague Bill Mauro, and the Northwest Energy Taskforce to see that the best decision is made regarding the future of the Thunder Bay Generating Station”.

“I was pleased last week in Question Period, and again today, that Minister Chiarelli stated so clearly that he understands that the energy needs in Northwestern Ontario will significantly increase over the next couple of years; resulting in a need to ramp up energy capacity to meet the new industrial and mining operations we will see in the Northwest,” added Minister Gravelle.

“As for the future of the Thunder Bay Generating Station, Minister Chiarelli reiterated that no decision has yet been made; I will continue to press hard to get that decision; as I will also press hard to see that it is the best decision. We are on the cusp of some exciting new mining and forestry developments in Northwestern Ontario and I am determined, both as MPP for Thunder Bay-Superior North and as Minister of Northern Development and Mines, to see that those energy needs are met so we can continue to take advantage of the new jobs and economic growth that will result”.

“People in Thunder Bay have been waiting a long time to hear some straight answers from this government”, said Horwath. “Now, is the minister’s confusion a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, or is it simply a sneaky way of pulling the plug on the Thunder Bay generating station gas conversion?”

Transcript from Ontario Legislature 

Ms. Andrea Horwath: My question is for the Minister of Energy. This government has got its wires crossed when it comes to the power needs of the northwest. Last week, the Minister of Energy sent some very mixed signals to the people of Thunder Bay. He said, “Any future generating plant in Thunder Bay will be used six hours per year.”
Is this government looking for fresh excuses not to honour its commitment to convert the Thunder Bay generating station to gas, or is the minister ready to admit that he got his facts wrong?
Hon. Bob Chiarelli: Mr. Speaker, I’m happy to speak to this issue again. First of all, I want to say that there is already a conversion under way, and the Atikokan plant will be available next year for 200 megawatts. There is significant—
Interjection.
Hon. Bob Chiarelli: We’re already in procurement of east-west tie line, Mr. Speaker, to bring another 400 megawatts or 500 megawatts into the Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario area. Investments are being made.
But the good news, Mr. Speaker, is that more investments are going to be made, and the draft plan for northwest Ontario energy is circulated. Everybody in the north has it. The task force has it. Thunder Bay has it. We’re waiting for some response on that. We expect to get that response soon. We shared that with them at the AMO conference around August 20, last month. We are waiting for the response. We are committed to having energy in Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario when they need it and in the amount that they need.
The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary?
Ms. Andrea Horwath: People in Thunder Bay have been waiting a long time to hear some straight answers from this government. Instead, they have a minister who claims the plant is only working six hours a year when, in fact, it’s 70 times as much. They have a minister who wrote to me to say that the plant is running at 4% capacity when it’s much, much more, Speaker. And they have a minister who promised answers in “three or four weeks,” then promptly took it back and, at the same time, told Thunder Bay citizens to get ready for a long, long wait.
Now, is the minister’s confusion a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, Speaker? Or is it simply a sneaky way of pulling the plug on the Thunder Bay generating station gas conversion?
Hon. Bob Chiarelli: I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that the leader of the third party was playing politics with this issue. Mr. Speaker, I wouldn’t dare say that. The task force that has produced the draft report has a massive investment strategy for northwest Ontario. We’re already creating new generation in Thunder Bay. We have not made a final decision on Thunder Bay at this particular point. We are still awaiting—I would remind the leader of the third party that we have not had all the results back in from Thunder Bay and the task force in terms of the response to the northwest draft plan. It is an extensive promise of investment. We’re doing it. We’re going to continue to do it. Thunder Bay has nothing to fear about the reliability
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