‘Tis the season for ideas, information and debate

By MPP Toby Barrett

As debate grows locally with regard to solar, wind, biomass and coal, I will be hosting a third Energy and our Environment Symposium to bring issues to the local stage. Once again, the Jarvis Community Centre will feature presenters and exhibitors from 5-to-9pm on Wednesday, November 10th. All are welcome.

Between 100 and 200 people have attended past symposia to discuss issues ranging from the future for OPG Nanticoke, wind development, and the Bruce Nuclear proposal. At time of writing confirmed presenters include Grant Church, OPG Nanticoke, and Samsung, among others.

I encourage anyone with interest in setting up a display regarding environmental or energy issues, concerns or proposal to contact my office at 1-800-903-8629.

Ontario, and our area in particular, needs a long-term, pragmatic plan for our use of energy vis-a-vis our economy and our environment. Energy policy is economic policy, and environmental policy. It is important to balance environmental responsibilities with economic growth. Our decisions must meet our short and long term needs in a responsible, stable manner.

And we must put consumers first – both families and businesses – and respect that they pay the bills.

Pragmatic decisions must be made on a diverse supply mix to fuel economic growth.

A balanced supply mix has always been our strength. I think of coal and biomass.

Nuclear facilities supplied more than 50 per cent of Ontario’s electricity last year and given the 10-year lead time for any new build, decisions need to be made. We must work with the natural gas industry to fully leverage the recent advances in the exploration and distribution of this vital natural resource. New hydro electricity also should be an important part of our future supply mix.

Given our aging infrastructure and looming supply crunch beyond 2014, we need to ensure Ontario has a reliable electricity system Energy is one of the principal expenses in the cost of doing business, and by extension, one of the top factors that any business must consider before investing or relocating in Ontario. We cannot continue to pursue so-called green energy policies that unnecessarily drive up the cost for consumers and that have punitive results on our broader economy.

We must work with the industry to develop a long term policy framework that grows our economy. And once set, it shouldn’t be directed on a daily basis by Queen’s Park or special interests.

The constant change of direction in government policy means investors no longer find Ontario a safe and stable environment in which to invest in energy projects. Ontario is failing to attract pension funds and other large pools of capital to finance electricity infrastructure due to the instability in the market place. A stream of Ministerial Directives means a fractured, splintered approach has replaced long- term planning and stability. We owe it to the families who pay the bills, and we owe it to ourselves to establish a stable marketplace that will attract investment to Ontario’s economy.

Government must separate politics from energy policy and planning. All players in the sector – from the smallest to the biggest – must be accountable to the consumer. That means we need to examine all of the lines and the inputs on families’ electricity bills to ensure they are affordable.