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Smith on the future of Hydro and the province

By Todd Smith
Prince Edward Hastings MPP
Many of you will know that the Ontario Progressive Conservatives had our Annual General Meeting in Niagara Falls this weekend. Over two thousand Tories – including 1,600 voting delegates – gathered over the course of the weekend to discuss and debate the future of our Party and our Province.

I went down to Niagara Falls a day early at the invitation of the Ontario Waterpower Association to tour several different hydroelectric facilities in the Niagara area. I am a huge fan of hydroelectricity. Visitors to my office will note the huge map of proposed and installed hydro projects for the province. The list is huge. The innovations under way in hydroelectricity are unbelievable.

We started at the Decew Falls facility. At more than 110 years old, Decew Falls is one of the oldest hydroelectric facilities still in operation in Ontario. The 144MW facility along Twelve Mile Creek channels a huge amount of the almost 100 foot head from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario. This power generation station was nestled in among some of the highest property values on the Niagara peninsula. In fact, many of the multi-million dollar homes were put up originally by the company for their employees and the properties have not only maintained but increased their value in the years since.

The tour then headed into St. Catharines to take a look at two more hydroelectric projects: one operating and one proposed. First, we stopped at the proposed Shickluna Project further up Twelve Mile Creek where St. Catharines Hydro is working through the process to put in a 4MW facility. To accommodate local environmental concerns in regard to the American Eel that migrates through the creek, the Hydro company is constructing a bypass.

Let me tell you that at Shickluna, I could not have found a starker contrast with Ostrander Point. Here we had a power utility working well with a host municipality; here we had a power company that was working with species concerns in the area. It was a perfect example of how the renewable energy process should be working. While Ostrander Point is bullishly forced on Prince Edward County by Queens Park, Shickluna has been delayed and delayed and delayed.

After Shickluna, we went to the Heywood Generating Station in St. Catharines. This 6.5 MW station has been in operation since 1989. It operates on a standard HCI contract for hydro electricity which means that the cost of producing power at Heywood will be roughly half of what it will cost the government to produce power at Ostrander Point.

With what I had witnessed at Shickluna and Heywood, the power picture in Ontario became clearer. We need more waterpower. There may be as much as 6,000 MW of currently untapped waterpower resources in Ontario alone. With the steady development of what is called “Low Head Technology” even more sites may prove viable that once weren’t. Municipalities want waterpower, many waterpower utilities have municipal participation on their boards. Some of the most beautiful homes on the Niagara peninsula are mere metres from Decew Falls. Yacht clubs and sailing regattas occur only a hundred metres downstream of Heywood Generating station.

More importantly, hydro is less expensive for you, the taxpayer, and more reliable than wind. Those two little projects at Heywood and Shickluna may only come up to 10.5MW but the comparative efficiency levels of wind and water mean that they will produce roughly the same power as the nine turbines proposed for Ostrander Point.
Waterpower is renewable, reliable, more efficient and less costly. With the current Waterpower capability out there, the province cannot honestly push wind power as the weapon against climate change when every objective measure tells you waterpower gives you a better ability to win that fight.

Ontario PC Convention 2012

After our Hydro tour on Friday, we converged on Niagara Falls for the 2012 Ontario PC Party Annual General Meeting. Many in the media expected that this would be a somewhat restrained convention. In fact, the papers I read Friday morning predicted anger and frustration. The media can’t be blamed for that. We went into the election with a lead and we failed to form government.
But there was a new energy for my Party coming out of this convention. That energy was generated entirely by Tim Hudak’s speech on Saturday afternoon. For the last four months, I’ve tried to convince a lot of the people I’ve spoken with that the Tim Hudak they saw last fall is not my friend Tim.

Last fall he spent too much time telling you why you shouldn’t vote for the Liberals. Saturday he spent an afternoon telling a standing room only convention centre why he is proudly and notoriously a Progressive Conservative – and why you should be, too!

Tim said very plainly that the province is in very dire financial circumstances. We have a $16.2 billion dollar budget deficit. Our debt has doubled to almost $300 billion over the last eight years. It’s irresponsible to pass that on to our kids. Every dollar we borrow now is to pay for an election promise that Queens Park knew was unaffordable when it was being made. Those borrowed dollars aren’t coming out of our wallets, they’re coming out of the wallets of our kids. Theirs will be the generation of taxpayers trying to pay this off.

That’s what we heard on Saturday afternoon. Tim said if a household can’t afford to spend more money than it’s taking in, then how can a province justify $45 billion dollars in new spending when it’s only generating $35 billion in new revenue? If it doesn’t make sense for families in Picton or seniors on a fixed income in Wellington, then guess what? It doesn’t make sense at Queens Park either.

You couldn’t see the horseshoe Falls from my hotel room on Saturday morning because of all the blowing snow. You knew it was there but you couldn’t see it. It got me thinking about Ontario in the 1990s. The province that led Canada in job creation, that managed the books competently and had a debt load less than half of what it will be at the end of this year.

We can’t see that Ontario from here but we know it’s there. When I walked out of the Scotiabank Convention Centre on Saturday afternoon, the snow had lifted and there was a rainbow over Niagara Falls.

-Todd Smith

After Shickluna, we went to the Heywood Generating Station in St. Catharines.

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  1. Alex Dunn says:

    I cannot understand how we the taxpayers need to be concerned about what is cheap power and what is not. This Smith person who sits at the taxpayers trough needs to reel in the out of control spending of Hydro first.There is no accountability, spend,spend,spend. The taxpayers will cover the cost then we will charge more for power, mismanage then get more benifits for us and our employees while the poor sap Ontario taxpayer keeps paying and paying. Everone should ask Mr. Smith what the average Hydro worker gets paid, better yet what benifits they get and you will see why power is so expensive in Ontario. If a private business was ran like this it would be broke inless that a year.

  2. Robert Dzikewich says:

    It is truely a pleasure to have an MPP take the concerns of the county to Queens Park instead of taking the concerns of Queens Park to the county. This makes me feel that we are finely being heard.

  3. Doris Lane says:

    Excellent article Todd and you are crrect hydroelectric power is the way to go and you are correct we, the taxpayer can not afford the higher costs that the McGinty government is imposing on us

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