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Region’s energy shortfall kryptonite to potential boom

The region won’t be experiencing an economic boom unless its energy concerns are addressed a recent report says.
Ron Nelson and Stan Beardy speak at city hall Friday afternoon. (Jamie Smith)

The region won’t be experiencing an economic boom unless its energy concerns are addressed a recent report says.

The report by Common Voice Northwest outlines over a dozen deficiencies with power in Northwestern Ontario as a response to the provincial Long Term Energy Plan. In the southern part of the region, the report says the system is so overloaded or deteriorated that power isn’t available for any new or increased use. That means bad news for a potential 240 megawatt ferrochrome processor said Common Voice Northwest chair George Macey.

"Common sense tells me that it just has to be," Macey said. "We have to make the electricity."

In the northern part of the region, the report says "there is simply nothing that even remotely resembles a power system". NAN Grand Chief Stan Beardy said most First Nations communities rely on diesel generators and winter roads to haul the fuel there. Beardy said without reliable and cheaper energy it will be hard to stimulate economic activity in the north.

Beardy said he hopes the Common Voice report will get the province to listen because as it stands right now there are no plans in place to address the energy needs in his communities. 

 "If you’re not part of any plan then it’s really hard to get the policy and financing you need to get out of diesel dependency for your power," Beardy said.

Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association president Ron Nelson said one way to start addressing energy concerns is to have a single source to plan transmission, distribution and pricing needs for Northwestern Ontario. He said reliability and capacity issues would never be concerns in Southern Ontario.

"You would never ever have any of this tolerated in Southern Ontario. Energy is our lifeline it is our livelihood," Nelson said.

He said he thinks the province will listen to the report because they have to or else Northwestern Ontario’s economy won’t grow.

"Get it right we prosper. Get it wrong I don’t like the outcome," said Nelson.

Mines minister Michael Gravelle said getting it right is exactly what the province wants to do. Gravelle said he looks forward to bringing the report to energy minister Brad Duguid.

 "This is what is needed is a response from the Common Voice group," Gravelle said.

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