Intergovernmental liaison committee head Joe Virdiramo (left) said he thinks he got good news this week about the future of the Thunder Bay Power Generating Station.
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The future of Thunder Bay’s coal-fired power generating station might not be a dead-end, says the head of the city’s intergovernmental liaison committee.
Coun. Joe Virdiramo, who met with Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli earlier this week at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in Ottawa, said he got the impression a plan to save the plant could be in the works.
“Minister Chiarelli said that coal-fired plants are going to close,” Virdiramo said on Thursday at a de-briefing news conference with local reporters.
“I asked, ‘Does that mean you’re closing the Thunder Bay Generating Station?’ He said, ‘I said coal-fired plants will close. He said it doesn’t negate the fact that some other source of fuel could be used. So we were encouraged by that.”
Virdiramo said Chiarelli also said he has the power to issue a directive to the Ontario Power Authority, compelling them to keep the plant open.
Chris Bentley, the previous energy minister, last year announced the province was halting the conversion of the plant from coal to natural gas, citing a potential $400-million saving.
Members of the region’s energy task force immediately complained, stating Northwestern Ontario’s future electricity needs can’t be met without the Thunder Bay plant.
A number of mines are expected to come online between now and the end of the decade, energy consumers the OPA had not factored into its initial calculations. They’ve since revamped their projections, with the help of local input.
“We’re hoping that there would be (a future for the plant). We need it and we’ve proven it through the energy task force that we need that plant to operate. We’ll see. We have another year to keep working on that,” Virdiramo said.
The province has set Dec. 31, 2014 as their goal to end of Ontario’s coal-fired plants.
Members of the delegation, which included Couns. Brian McKinnon and Ken Boshcoff, as well as city manager Tim Commisso, said there was plenty of other encouraging news to emerge from the conference.
Among the items mentioned were potential money to cover the cost of the Golf Links Road/Junot Avenue corridor widening and a willingness to listen to complaints about the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation’s lowering of corporate tax bills in several communities for large mills, including Resolute’s Thunder Bay plant.
“It’s critical that this be addressed,” McKinnon said.
Overall, Virdiramo said there was a clear sign the value of the North was finally being recognized in southern Ontario.
“We felt the government gets it. They finally saw that Northern Ontario is going to be the economic driver for Ontario.”
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