THUNDER BAY – A temporary provincial electricity program aimed at levelling the competitive playing field for Northern industry has been made permanent.
At a Tuesday news conference at the Resolute pulp mill in Thunder Bay, officials with the provincial government announced that the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate Program would become permanent.
The program helps about 26 large industrial businesses slash electricity costs by up to 25 per cent.
The program came after industry complaints that it was increasingly becoming too difficult to compete in Ontario because of high energy prices.
The industrial electricity rate program was originally introduced as a three-year temporary fix in 2010.
The $120 million program was set to expire next year after an extension in 2012.
Speaking in front of paper machine no.5, Resolute CEO Richard Garneau said his company spent $500 million in Ontario on everything from salaries to insurance costs last year.
"None of this would be possible without a business environment that attracts and maintains investment," Garneau said.
"We need that stability and we need certainty."
A big part of that certainty comes from energy pricing he said.
Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle said making the program permanent comes from years of policy-making with regional and industry leaders.
"I don't view it from the point of view of how long it took, the fact is we've been moving and charting making our case that this needs to happen," he said.
While it helps maintain industry in the region, Gravelle said it's also possible that the program will attract new investment as well.
"Talking to industry about investment certainty there are investment decisions that I think can be made as a result of this permanent program," he said.
Natural resources minister Bill Mauro agrees. It's about sustaining the jobs that are here while possibly attracting new ones.
"I belive it will incent some of the companies that are currently operating to invest more in current operations," he said.
Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association vice-president and Thunder Bay councillor Iain Angus said the announcement is great news for existing industry. But the organization would now like to see the program increase in funding in order to help new industry, like mines coming online, to take advantage of it as well.