TIMMINS – Timmins Mayor Steve Black told top government officials Friday that if hydro rates are not discounted for new industrial projects, Northern Ontario would be losing more business to the province of Quebec. Black said it is a real concern involving a real company ready to invest in Timmins and Black said he “would hate to lose this project.”
The mayor was speaking to a group of Ontario cabinet ministers who took part in the traditional “bear-pit session” at the annual conference of the Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities (FONOM) which was held at the McIntyre Community Building in Timmins this week. The bear-pit session is that part of the conference where government leaders are questioned directly on contentious issues raised by the municipal leaders, mayors and councillors.
Those taking part in the session included housing minister Ted McMeekin, natural resources and forestry minister Bill Mauro, government services minister David Orazietti and parliamentary assistant to the minister of the environment Glenn Thibeault.
Black, who was previously employed by Kidd Operations, told the ministers that the Kidd copper smelter was shut down and moved to Quebec in 2010. Black said there were many reasons for the move but energy rates were indeed a factor.
“I also have a mining development right now which could re-energize and rejuvenate the gold mining exploration and development in the Northeastern Ontario region, but they have told me that they will be going to Quebec with their facility unless they can get a discounted energy rate similar to what has been discussed by projects like the Ring Of Fire and things like that,” said Black.
Black, in quoting a statement attributed to Ontario Energy Minister in the legislature on Thursday, that Northern Ontario has some of the lowest discounted hydro rates in North America, said if that was so, then the mining industry wouldn’t need special rates.
“And please, when we do get into discussions on this project, because it could transform Northeastern Ontario in terms of mining exploration and activity in the region, that you do consider energy because I would hate to lose this project to Quebec,” Black told the ministers.
Black said the Ontario government had “great programs” such as the Northern Industrial Electricity Rate (NEIR) program and the Industrial Electricity Incentive (IEI) program, but added that hydro rates continue to be an issue for Northern Ontario industries.
“It is still leading to jobs going to Quebec possibly. We can sit down and discuss the specifics at another time,” said Black, who didn’t reveal the name of the company involved.
MNRF minister Mauro, who is also the MPP for Thunder Bay-Atikokan, responded and said the government programs are effective in the North.
“We’re proud of those programs because they are making a significant difference,” said Mauro.
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