‘Power line to nowhere’ costing taxpayers millions

Nov. 17, 2015

QUEEN’S PARK – In Caledonia, an unfinished power line stands as a symbol of unresolved conflict as it continues to cost taxpayers millions of dollars in wasted money.

Originally intended to bring power from the Allanburg Transformer Station in Niagara to the heart of southwestern Ontario, the power line terminates at Caledonia. More specifically, the electrical wires are anchored to the ground and not used. Parts of the towers were removed and have been used to block roads during the Caledonia conflict. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars damage to the towers, millions paid to Hydro One in interest, there was $1million in fire damage at the Caledonia transformer station at the time.

Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett raised the issue while speaking to Bill 135, the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act in the Legislature on Monday.

“In addition to the $100 million in capital cost to build this power line, taxpayers have paid nearly $50 million to date in interest alone for a power line that has never transmitted any electricity, certainly in the last nine-and-a-half years,” Barrett explained in the Legislature.

He called on the Minister of Energy to complete the power line, even if it means getting an injunction to allow construction to go ahead.

“Like the 2010 film ‘Road to Nowhere’, the ‘Power Line to Nowhere’ is a flop,” Barrett said. “The tragedy remains, it’s the people of Ontario losing the money and continuing to pay for this flop.”

Barrett also again raised the issue of protesters holding up completion of the Highway 3 bridge in Cayuga and the potential for conflict with the Caledonia bridge slated for rebuild.

-30 –

For more information, contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446 or toby.barrett@pc.ola.org

NOV. 16, 2015


Mr. Toby Barrett: I appreciate the opportunity to join this discussion on Bill 135, which has a rather unimaginative title: the Energy Statute Law Amendment Act, 2015. It’s not a particularly gripping title. It really doesn’t tell us what’s in this legislation. In fact, the Minister of the Environment made a very brief speech about this and really didn’t tell us about anything that’s in it. I don’t know whether the parliamentary assistant explained what’s in this legislation either. So here we have a title that’s kind of repetitive: It’s a statute; it’s an act; it’s a bill; it’s a law. I’m not sure, if you pull out a dictionary, if a lot of people understand the difference in meaning between a statute and a law and a bill and an act. It is unfortunate that it has been written this way. This probably isn’t the reason, but I haven’t had any phone calls about this bill; I haven’t had any emails.
I knew I was going to be speaking to this today, so I googled the legislation on the weekend—there’s nothing there. The bill is there. Hansard is there. There’s a list of the various acts that it amends, but there are no comments from the public; there has been nothing in the media. I’m not sure if this government sent out any news releases about this legislation. Again, I just really ask the question: Where is the citizen participation? Where’s the involvement of people in this province with respect to what we’re told could be enshrining in law some very significant changes, changes that maybe have been going on for years under the table—and finally decided to make them legal?
So, Speaker, we have a bill before us: It’s an act to amend several statutes, to change some regulations and to deal with long-term energy planning. In a very brief statement in the House—I mean the minister had an hour to talk about this—he talked about increasing competition, it’s still a little unclear how that’s going to occur, and to enhance ratepayer value; that’s very important, given the tremendous increases in the price of electricity to ratepayers.
Now, he talked about empowering the Independent Electricity System Operator, the IESO. Just a bit of a fact check on that, my research—the research of my party—indicates that this will not further empower the Independent Electricity System Operator. In contrast, it will do exactly the opposite. It will remove much of the independence of the IESO—far from empowering this particular body. I guess we take the minister at his word—empower IESO to competitively procure transmission projects.
Speaker, I have a transmission project in my riding down in Haldimand–Norfolk. Electric power towers march across Haldimand county, coming out of Niagara. They run from the Allanburg transformer station, continue west across the county; then they stop. The lines go down into the ground; they’re anchored in the ground at the south end of Caledonia.
This project was sabotaged nine years ago. I vividly recall seeing the Mohawk warrior’s flag flying on top of the tower. This would be 300 feet up in the air, right where that tower meets the main street of Caledonia, Argyle Street, just a few hundred yards from the intersection with the main provincial highway, Highway 6, coming down south from Hamilton. Very clearly, Hydro One workers were not on those towers. Very clearly, Mohawk warriors were on the towers. That was nine and a half years ago. There are no wires. The towers march across. Regrettably, a number of them have been destroyed. They have been used as lookout towers by militants over the years of chaos and mayhem in the Caledonia area.
So what you see when you enter the main entrance of Caledonia, when you drive into town, there’s a nice green sign, I think it has a picture of the bridge, saying: “Welcome to Caledonia.” You see these gigantic pulleys up on the towers that were meant to pull the wires up to continue the link, essentially, not only to Allanburg transformer station in Niagara, that link with Niagara Falls in New York state through Allanburg, to the Caledonia transfer station which, regrettably, was torched—that was a $1-million damage done by militants—and to continue on to the gigantic Middleport transfer station, just north of Six Nations, just north of the Grand River.
It’s a 76-kilometre line, again, to ensure the transfer of electrons back and forth between the United States and Canada. Hydro One has been unable or unwilling for well over nine years now to complete the last five kilometres or so of this power line. You can see it when you’re on Highway 6. I think I count about 14 or 20 different power towers partly disassembled with no wires. They were famously used to blockade the main street of Caledonia. They were famously used to be thrown off an overpass onto the provincial highway down below, obviously not the original intent of this transmission corridor. No electricity goes through here to the Middleport transformer station.
There has been some media on this. Very recently, Paul Bliss, with CTV, reported something we’ve known locally, and I have certainly raised this a number of times in the Ontario Legislature. Again, the recent news from CTV: “Since 2007, Hydro One has had permission from the provincial government to bill taxpayers for its interest payments” on this $100-million project.
I think the original cost was projected at $116 million; I know that Hydro One did their due diligence. Years ago, I attended meetings where they mapped out where the new towers would be going on an existing corridor. That corridor has been there for many, many years. It was simply replacing antiquated towers. For $100 million in capital cost to build this power line, taxpayers have payed nearly $50 million to date in interest alone for a power line that has never transmitted any electricity, certainly in the last nine and a half years.
Much of this legislation is directed toward issues of transmission: “The powerline was designed to bring 800 megawatts worth of electricity into southern Ontario. This is equivalent to the amount of power that Ontario gets from one of the nuclear reactors at the Darlington Nuclear Station.” Again, this is according to Paul Bliss with CTV.
The provincial government indicated that it’s okay because Ontario doesn’t need the electricity right now. We do know that 300,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in recent years. The province made reference to the recession slowing down manufacturing, obviously reducing the demand for power.
I have a quotation from Hydro One. They were obviously asked, “How come you built this gigantic transmission corridor out of New York state and there has been no electricity?” I quote: We “respected the request by the community to stop work”—I represent that community, Speaker. “However, they remain hopeful that when outstanding issues are resolved”—they’ve been outstanding for nine and a half years—“we can proceed and complete construction of the line.”
Construction of that line was shut down in Caledonia, in Haldimand county, and in spite of what Hydro One says, the community did not request that Hydro One stop work; far from it. The community has had to put up for nine years now with a wireless, incomplete power transmission corridor scarring the south entrance of town. It’s adjacent to the still-occupied subdivision of Douglas Creek Estates.
Certainly, there are so many Liberal scandals locally that we talk about over the last 13 years. I consider this the mother of all scandals. One measure: There have now been four books written about the Six Nations/Caledonia scandal. I would suggest, if members here haven’t read any of those four books, that they please do so to get a better picture in your minds with respect to the chaos that has continued down there, south of Hamilton. . .