By: Suzanne Elston
Earlier this week, after months of speculation, the worst kept secret in Ontario was finally made public. On Tuesday, June 13th, Ontario’s newly re-appointed Energy Minister, Dwight Duncan, directed the Ontario Power Authority (OPA) to proceed with the 20-year plan that it submitted to the government last December. According to the sanctioned government news release, the plan promises (in what can only be considered an outrageous oxymoron) to deliver a “healthy balance” of nuclear power and renewable energy.
The timing of the announcement would have made old P.T. Barnum proud. Only one day earlier, the highly theatrical demolition of “The Four Sisters”, the mighty smokestacks of the Lakeview Generating Station, took place, metaphorically clearly the way for what the government hopes we will all embrace as our new energy future. The McGuinty Liberals had promised to shut down the province’s coal-fired generating stations prior to the last election. As the Greater Toronto Area’s largest polluter, Lakeview was the most logical choice as the first offering on the government’s chopping block. As its landmark towers that had scarred the horizon for decades turned to dust, thousands stood nearby to watch its early morning demise. Hundreds of thousands more watched the event from the comfort of their living rooms.
Less than a day later, like a phoenix rising from the rising coal ashes, the government revealed its fresh new plan. But if McGuinty and his cohorts thought that Tuesday’s announcement would be the final act of their little energy drama, they were sorely mistaken.
Minutes after the government’s plan was announced, seven Greenpeace activists, lead by veteran anti-nuclear activist Dave Martin, occupied the Energy Minister’s office in protest. After nearly eight hours of occupation, the police moved in to remove the protesters, but not before the pictures of their occupation were distributed over the Internet, providing both inspiration and hope. Unlike the government’s corny staged antics, the courage and conviction of the Greenpeace activists provided some very real life drama and sent a clear message to the McGuinty government.
“Nuclear power is unsafe, unclean, uneconomic and unreliable,” said Martin, Greenpeace’s Energy Coordinator. “The McGuinty government has the power to change our electricity system for the better. Instead it has blocked any meaningful public debate on nuclear power, and nuclear power will block any meaningful development of conservation and renewable energy.”
In one short year, the McGuinty government has gone from promising an “open and public debate” on nuclear power, to ramming through a 20-year, $40 billion commitment to a radioactive future. In response to demands for meaningful consultation, the government held three rushed and inadequate days of public meetings in mid-February. Despite only 11 days of notice, the public response was overwhelmingly anti-nuclear and supportive of green energy.
At the Oshawa meeting, one of the many whistle stops along the consultation process, an estimated 200 people showed up to express their opinion. The turnout at the Oshawa meeting was particularly telling. The city has the dubious honor of being flanked by two of Canada’s largest nuclear power plants, Darlington and Pickering. The majority of those who attended the meeting spoke loudly and clearly about the need to embrace renewable technologies and eschew our dependence on nuclear power. Their testimonies were compassionate, inspired and knowledgeable, and, as witnessed by Tuesday’s announcement, virtually ignored by the McGuinty Liberals.
But as they say in show business, it ain’t over until the fat lady sings. So maybe it’s time that we listened to the music. Greenpeace and other environmental organizations, including WWF, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Sierra Club of Canada and Pembina Institute, have released a report showing that energy efficiency and low-impact renewable energy sources have the realistic potential to provide more than double the amount of electricity needed in worst-case projections of Ontario's future electricity in 2020.
The bottom line: we have the power to change our future. All we lack is politicians with the courage and commitment to follow that path. If we can possibly learn by example, then maybe, just maybe, the Greenpeace protest will not only send a clear message to the McGuinty government, it will also be a wake-up call to everyone in this province to remind them that it’s show time, folks!
The show must go on. For a clear, sustainable, environmentally responsible alternative to what McGuinty has to offer, check out a plan for green energy in Ontario, entitled, “Put Some Energy Into a Smart, Green Strategy” at Greenpeace Canada.
Send a letter to Premier McGuinty, Energy Minister Dwight Duncan, as well as your local MPP and let them all know that the OPA plan is wrong for Ontario. For a complete list of MPPs in Ontario, go to The Government of Ontario