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Frustration and a bit of hope over the future of the region's energy needs are flowing through municipal leaders as Friday marked a shocking anniversary.
It was one year ago Friday that leaders meeting for the Thunder Bay District Municipal League learned of the province's plan to suspend the natural gas conversion of the Thunder Bay Generating Station.
While many meetings have come and gone and some headway has been made, Common Voice Northwest Energy Task Force co-chair Larry Hebert said the station's future is still undetermined.
"It's hard to believe and no action has been taken since, we're pretty frustrated," Hebert said as League officials were in Thunder Bay Friday at the Prince Arthur Hotel for its annual meeting.
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay-Atikokan) said the discussion has actually been ongoing for more than a decade since all parties committed to get the province off of coal.
With two of the five Ontario coal power plants in his riding, Mauro said he's been committed to seeing Atikokan and Thunder Bay converted. Atikokan's conversion is on track and he expects an announcement on Thunder Bay in the very near future.
"I'm not in a position to say exactly when that'll be," Mauro said.
Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said he wanted a response on the province's North of Dryden plan, which looks to address industrial and other energy needs in areas like Red Lake, Pickle Lake and Ear Falls.
The task force handed in a 51 page report to the Ministry Friday in tandem with the municipal league meetings. Hebert said the provincial plan is a good one except for power generation. The Thunder Bay plant is key to keeping the North powered instead of exporting power from Southern Ontario.
"As far as we're concerned they're not doing their homework, we're doing it for them," he said.
The province has committed to an East-West transmission line, which will cost between $600 million and $1 billion, capable of moving 300 megawatts of power.
"The energy would be able to flow both ways," Mauro said.
When it comes to the local plant though, Hebert is worried that the Liberal government is waiting to use an announcement as an election issue. With a conversion taking nearly two years to complete, the region can't wait.
"We may be caught in another one and become an election issue," he said.
Mauro said the province takes the region's energy needs seriously.
"The timing will be what the timing is but no we are not using it as a political tool," he said.
O'Connor councillor and task force member Jim Vezina credits Mauro for pushing the issues of Northern power in Queen's Park. But generation needs to be addressed.
"Where is this power going to come from," he said.
Still from load requirements to the North of Dryden plan itself, Vezina thinks the province has been listening to the task force and remains optimistic that they will in the future.
"The way it's going now I'm kind of hopeful," he said.
The Thunder Bay District Municipal League meetings continue Saturday.
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