The Orillia Packet & Times
August 19, 2015
Patrick Bales

Ontario Clean Air Alliance trying to make nuclear power a byelection issue in Simcoe North

Why the province would waste money on its aging nuclear infrastructure when cheap energy can be purchased in Quebec is a question the Ontario Clean Air Alliance wants more people to be asking.

The alliance is making its presence felt in the Simcoe North byelection, asking each candidate if the province should “negotiate a long-term water-power contract with Quebec to lower our energy bills.”

While not an explicitly Simcoe North issues, many of the area candidates have considered the alliance’s request.

Green party candidate Valerie Powell officially responded to the alliance, answering with a resounding “yes.”

“We don’t want to be spending more money on nuclear power plants,” Powell said. “It doesn’t make economic sense when Quebec has clean hydro power to sell us.”

Liberal candidate Fred Larsen pointed out policies enacted by the Liberals are already fulfilling some of the desires of the alliance.

“The Liberal government has also recently expanded its clean-energy imports from Quebec,” he wrote in an email. “The new and unprecedented 500-megawatt seasonal capacity exchange allows Ontario to take advantage of the fact that electricity demand peaks in the winter in Quebec and in the summer in Ontario.”

One of the prime concerns of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance is the cost associated with rebuilding the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station near Lake Ontario.

“According to Ontario Power Generation’s so-called ‘high-confidence’ estimate, the cost of power from a rebuilt Darlington nuclear station will be 8.9 cents per kWh,” Angela Bischoff, outreach director for the alliance, wrote in an email. “But every nuclear project in Ontario’s history has gone massively over budget — on average, by 2.5 times. If history repeats itself, the cost of power from a rebuilt Darlington station will be 16.6 cents per kilowatt hour.”

The alliance claims purchasing hydro power from Quebec instead of rebuilding Darlington could save Ontario $14 billion to $52 billion over the next 20 years and help the province move toward a 100% renewable electricity grid by 2030. But if the Liberals go ahead with selling a portion of Hydro One, the NDP argues the province couldn’t afford to do either.

“The sale of Hydro One will make it almost impossible to buy clean energy from Quebec,” NDP candidate Elizabeth Van Houtte said, noting the potential loss of revenue that is currently generated by Hydro One would be needed to make such a purchase.

Representatives from the alliance were in Orillia recently, speaking to residents at the farmers’ market and Downtown Orillia Classic Car Show Saturday. Progressive Conservative candidate Patrick Brown spoke with some of its representatives there and encouraged them to find more local volunteers in Simcoe County to support the cause.

While he said he shared the group’s support of hydro energy and is disappointed in the energy policy of the Liberal government, he didn’t answer the group’s call directly.

“I’m trying to keep the issues local in Simcoe North,” Brown said. “There are a lot of serious issues we need to talk about in Simcoe North, but I realize provincial-wide organizations tend to use byelections as an attempt to get attention to their issues.”

As the leader of the Opposition seeking to secure a seat, Brown acknowledged his involvement in the election might have ramped up interest from groups in the province looking to expand their influence.

Pamphlets from the Ontario Clean Air Alliance are being mailed to residents in the riding. As well, a billboard sponsored by the group has been erected on West Street South, near King Street.