This week brought long-awaited positive news for the economy in Durham and for Green House Gas (GHG) emission-free electricity in Ontario. The province has confirmed that the refurbishment of Darlington Nuclear will proceed. Darlington produces about 20 per cent of Ontario’s electricity, has won international awards for safety and reliability and is one of the top performing nuclear stations in the world. This major project will begin next year and conclude in 2023, and will be a huge investment in our economy fueling employment through the creation of 8800 jobs in Durham and boosting Ontario’s GDP by an estimated $15 billion.
This announcement is also good news for the environment and will produce electricity for Ontario that is GHG emission free thereby helping Canada meet its international commitments with respect to global warming. In fact, Darlington represents the best of Canada as it leverages Canadian technology and innovation that provides for affordable and reliable power that is GHG emission free. Like many Canadians, I support meaningful initiatives that are good for our environment and take a strong position on a range of environmental issues. Prior to becoming MP, I worked on several environmental-focused initiatives as a lawyer practicing in and around electricity regulation and renewable energy, including a business luncheon series and a green business summit held around Earth Day.
Read: Everything’s Gone Green.
Refurbishment of Darlington and Bruce Power (announced in December), as well as the potential operation of Pickering Nuclear beyond 2020, represents good news for GHG emission-free electricity production. For more than 40 years these stations have produced more than half of the electricity generated in Ontario providing the base load required for a competitive manufacturing sector and affordable power for families. It is only in recent years that the Ontario government has allowed electricity costs to spiral upward at a concerning rate. Wind and solar projects are positive, but it is not realistic to think that intermittent sources of power generation can replace a steady and predictable source of power like nuclear. Further, many wind and solar projects have caused considerable disruption in communities for almost a token amount of electricity generation when the needs of the entire province are considered. The goal must be to have a mix of generation sources which include hydro, nuclear and renewables with all of these sources being GHG emission free.
One of the first major global summits that faced Canada’s new government was the Paris COP21 conference on climate change. Our new Minister of the Environment & Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, handled herself well on the international stage despite being new to the portfolio. That said, her strong presence at the conference helped obscure the fact that the new government promoted a different style in Paris with virtually little change in policy. The absence of any serious dialogue on climate and environmental policy other than the standard political lines of “you must fight climate change and build a strong economy” and similar lines, shows that the Liberal government prefers style over substance. The irony was not lost on a few observers that Canada had the largest carbon footprint of any G-20 nation attending the climate summit other than the host country itself. In fact, at 382 delegates, Canada sent more attendees to the Paris conference than the US, the UK and Germany combined. Canada had a new Prime Minister speak in Paris, a new Minister and a new delegation, but it achieved the old outcomes. Sweep aside the window dressing and political spin leading up to, during and after COP21 and you are still left with the fact that Canada went into the conference with the same GHG emission targets as the previous government and the final outcomes in Paris were the same negotiated outcomes that had been predicted by the previous government.
I am also amazed that so many serious voices, whether policy leaders or politicians, seem to ignore the role nuclear power must play in a low carbon future. To illustrate that, you need only do a quick google search of the new Environment Minister’s name, which reveals over 12,000 news hits, and then add the term “nuclear power” to that search. You will see there is virtually no mention of nuclear power despite all of the attention on climate change. That was the huge omission from all the dialogue surrounding Paris. There was not enough serious discussion surrounding how mature economies like Canada can meet its commitments and maintain a manufacturing economy. Any serious discussion on global warming needs to include a commitment to generating electricity in a way that does not contribute to global warming. Nuclear power makes up about 11% of the world’s electricity production, but avoids an impressive 2 billion metric tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.
As MP, I have been amazed at how little some parliamentarians and leading policy figures in and out of government know about Canada’s innovative nuclear industry and the role it plays in reducing GHG emissions. There are over 70,000 well paying, highly skilled jobs in Canada attributed to the nuclear industry. Canada was the second country to develop controlled nuclear fission and our technologies have been among the most productive and safe in the world. This is Canadian innovation at its best, but few Canadians know much about the industry and its potential. This is why I helped form a nuclear caucus in Ottawa, and together with industry partners, including Darlington here in Durham, we helped to raise the level of knowledge and support for the industry amongst politicians of all political stripes. We have worked with industry partners to help showcase their important role in our economy and potential for the future. I try and advocate and support the sector and its role in our local economy as much as possible.
The Darlington refurbishment is good news for Durham, and I hope that the investment made by the provincial government will help more Canadians learn more about the positive role that nuclear power generation plays in our local economy and how it helps our country meet our commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Nuclear has been and must be an important part of a future that produces safe, reliable and affordable power that does not contribute to global warming.