Just how important are jobs in our region?

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wind farm development
This is a picture from a wind turbine construction site at Backbone Mountain, Tucker County, West Virgina. - Photo from FNMEP
THUNDER BAY – Editorial – Just how important are jobs in our region? Imagine if some company were to approach our region, and tell us that they would provide some jobs, but the cost would be to mine the Sleeping Giant? Imagine if they said they would have to flatten out the peninsula, and process the minerals?

Imagine if the company promised that years from now, they would return the Sleeping Giant to its original condition. Would we do it? Probably not.

So the question must be why on earth would we consider any similar plan for the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment? Despite concerns and opposition from residents, and the statements of all candidates in the recent provincial election, and a letter from the former Minister of Natural Resources that a wind farm would not be approved because of danger to the endangered perigrine falcon population, the proposed wind farm atop the mountains has not gone away.

There is a windfarm in Dorion, yet there has been, excuse the pun, but hardly a breath of protest against it. The contrast between the different locations lays aside the common complaint that Thunder Bay is a community of “Nimbys” – People who say simply “No in my backyard”.

windfarm

Thunder Bay, as a community presents itself to the world as a place that is surrounded by natural beauty. Our mountains, fresh water lakes, and wilderness offers a respite to people from around the world.

Yet our region seems to be seen, by people from outside, as a place where others can arrive and sell us on their ideas, and we buy in.

Heck in some cases those coming in might even see us as so desperate for jobs that we will buy into whatever schemes are presented. The task is not to jump and on the way up be asking “how high”, but rather to make sure that the investments in our community are really going to make a difference, and actually create employment. And actually benefit our community.

The latest is a proposal that will reportedly see 25 jobs created building wind turbines in Thunder Bay. This apparently has some excited and hopeful that it will serve as the impetus to gain approval for the Nor’Wester Escarpment wind farm.

If Thunder Bay is seen as a place where a company can come here and build their economic future, then fantastic! However if the project is one that starts needing massive government “investments”, then perhaps one of the questions that should be asked is will the business be a success?

However in making decisions that have long and potentially serious impact on our community and region’s environment, the McGuinty Government has put a high focus on protection of the environment. The Far North Act was considered important enough to pass over the concerns and objections of Northern Mayors, First Nation leaders, and the Chambers of Commerce. So the idea that putting a windfarm in an hyper-sensitive place should not be far out from not being a priority of this government. It should not b

Perhaps the real question that should be asked is exactly what right does City Council, the Ontario Government or any company have to make a decision that would impact this alpine environment in such a manner?

For example, in Nipigon right now, the town council is looking at becoming a storage spot for the waste from nuclear power plants. The timeline for the materials to be considered safe is about a million years. While the decision is said to be one that residents will have the final say on doesn’t put aside the message, why are they being asked such a question in the first place?

The question that the people in Nipigon are being asked is one that will impact our entire region for a million years. Is that something any resident, or government has the right to ask?

Over the past five years, we have all seen several times when companies have received federal, provincial or even municipal support, and not lasted. We have all witnessed millions of tax dollars spent on projects that have not succeeded. Sure the prospect of jobs is one we need, but honestly, at what cost?