Mayor Keith Hobbs plans to send a letter to new Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, urging co-operation on the halted conversion of the Thunder Bay Power Generating Station to natural gas.
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Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs likes the look of incoming Premier Kathleen Wynne’s new cabinet.
He’s especially pleased to see the apparent return of ex-Natural Resources minister Michael Gravelle to the Northern Development and Mines post.
“I think with all that’s coming at us, and our mining readiness study that we’re conducting right now, Michael is aware of it, we’ve been keeping him abreast of where we’re going and what we’d like to see and he’s right in the loop,” Hobbs said.
“I think it’s perfect for our region.”
Hobbs, who supported Toronto Centre MPP Glen Murray in the recent Liberal leadership race, also believes the interests of the North are well represented in Wynne’s cabinet.
With the widening of the Junot Street and Golf Links Road corridor and improvements to Innova Park, the mayor said Murray is a great fit for the Infrastructure and Transportation portfolio.
“We’ve talked to him about the infrastructure needed to develop the North as far as mineral resources are concerned, and I couldn’t be more excited.”
Hobbs said the city also plans to send a letter to new Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, reminding him of the importance of continuing the conversion of the Thunder Bay Power Generating Station from coal to natural gas.
Outgoing Energy Minister Chris Bentley last year halted the project in an attempt to find $400 million in savings for the province, to the consternation of local officials who said an abundance of mining projects expected between now and 2020 could leave the region facing rolling brownouts with not enough energy to supply the needs.
“And at the Ontario Good Roads Association conference coming up at the end of the month, we’re going to be hammering away at that issue for sure,” Hobbs said.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Harvey Yesno said First Nations have been asking for a stand-alone Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs for years. Now that it’s a reality, there is a potential for a better relationship with First Nations and the province.
“What’s important is what the new instructions the new premier has given the ministry,” he said.
While the portfolio has been given to backbencher David Zimmer, Yesno said he does have experience with the issues. Zimmer was Kathleen Wynne’s parliamentary assistant when she held the position.
“He’s somewhat familiar with the file, at least the history,” Yesno said.
Recommendations from the Ipperwash Inquiry still need to be implemented. Then there are the issues of infrastructure and benefits sharing with the Ring of Fire, a discussion that will also include Gravelle and his return to Northern Development and Mines. Yesno is looking forward to sitting down with Wynne to actually get things moving.
“We’ve been discussing that for many years there’s no offer for equity or benefits sharing…there’s no plan to actual build infrastructure,” he said. “We could be planning this forever and in the next five years not get anything done.”
NDP Leader Andrea Howath, in Thunder Bay the past two days, said it’s not who is sitting around the cabinet table that matters most to her.
“For me, the important thing is going to be are we going to see the same old status quo from the Liberals? Are we going to see a party that continues to be arrogant and out of touch?” she asked.
“Are we going to see a party that continues focus more on its own interests and its own political well-being, or are we going to see party that’s prepared to go on a different track and put the needs of Ontarians first. That to me is the most important thing,” Horwath said.
Wynne’s cabinet, according to the Toronto Star, is expected to include nine newcomers, though Thunder Bay-Atikokan’s Bill Mauro is not among the names leaked to media on Sunday.
Wynne took care of her leadership rivals, naming Charles Sousa her new Finance Minister, who takes over for the retiring Dwight Duncan. Former Education Minister Laurel Broten was demoted to Intergovernmental Affairs, with Guelph backbencher Liz Sandals stepping into Broten’s former role, her main goal to appease teachers angered by an ongoing and controversial labour dispute.
Sault Ste. Marie’s David Orazietti is expected to take on Gravelle’s former post at Natural Resoruces, while David Zimmer, Wynne’s former parliamentary assistant, gets Aboriginal Affairs.
Wynne will officially announce her cabinet at 3 p.m. Monday, when she's sworn in as Ontario's first female premier.
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