Canada’s Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs says the federal government has pledged “up to $60 million,” for a long-awaited power project in Ontario’s far north.
Carolyn Bennett announced in Thunder Bay on Thursday that Wataynikaneyap Power — a transmission company owned by 22 First Nations in partnership with Fortis, a Canadian utility — will receive the money to connect Pikangikum to the province’s electricity grid.
The announcement, which sets the stage for work to be done to ensure a reliable flow of electricity to the community, is “thrilling,” Chief Dean Owen said. “The community will just be jubilant about it now, and now we can move forward,” he said. Construction on a 117 kilometre-long power line from Red Lake to Pikangikum is scheduled to begin in October, 2017, according to officials with Watay Power, with an estimated completion date of November, 2018.
The First Nation is located more than 500 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay. Pikangikum, like many other remote First Nations, currently relies on diesel generators for electricity, which are expensive to run and environmentally unfriendly. They also subject communities to rolling blackouts and electrical load restrictions which effectively cap construction of new homes and curtail economic and community development.
Getting the First Nation off diesel is expected to “[create] lasting improvements to the quality of life in Pikangikum First Nation,” Bennett was quoted as saying in a written release accompanying the announcement, adding that it will also improve health and safety.
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