In response to the announcement made on June 28th by Ontario’s Infrastructure Minister suspending the RFP process for new nuclear power for Ontario, the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce wrote Premier Dalton McGuinty and Prime Minister Stephen Harper voicing its extreme concern by this decision and strongly urged it not to delay this decision. The loss of this build is devastating to the Ontario and Durham economy, impacting the construction industry, suppliers and manufacturers, transportation and our local university.
Click here to see a copy of the letter
There is much more at issue politically in this decision than is being said publicly. The fact that AECL is currently for sale, the Chamber is certain had a large part to play in the decision to come in with pricing that is billions higher than budgeted. The timing of the announced sale of AECL and Ontario’s decision to suspend the procurement process is also very suspicious. It appears that there is some political gamesmanship going on between Queen’s Park and Ottawa at a time when Ontario is being battered by extensive job losses in the manufacturing sector.
In May the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce recommendation at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce AGM urging the Government of Ontario to make as a priority, in the procurement process for the next generation of nuclear power technology, to have a Nuclear Energy Strategy that will continue to provide jobs, investment and economic strength for the Ontario and Canadian economy in the coming decades was overwhelming supported by delegates from over 160 Chambers of Commerce from across Ontario representing over 60,000 businesses of all sizes.
In its letter the Chamber warned that Canada’s Technology future is at stake. Urging both governments to not make the same mistake with Nuclear as Canada did just 50 short years ago in 1959 when Government cancelled the AVRO Arrow, crippling the domestic aerospace industry and sending our engineers and scientists south. The Chamber further reminded them not to forget ITER now being built in France. Lack of federal funding resulted in Canada withdrawing from its bid for the ITER site in 2003. The Canadian innovative design and manufacture of nuclear reactors has proven to be competitive in world markets. This indecision meanwhile is crippling its ability to sell abroad.
The letter warned that if the Ontario and Canadian Governments choose to play chicken with our Technology future for the sake of politics they must zero in on the consequences to the Canadian nuclear manufacturing sector for domestic and export sales. Ontario has very few industries that offer the potential for ongoing long-term job and wealth creation. Around the world we are seeing a nuclear renaissance as the many strengths of nuclear energy are being recognized. Billions of dollars will be spent on hundreds of new plants around the world over the next 10-20 years. The developing powerhouses of China and India are looking to new nuclear capacity to help secure the energy they will need to fuel their economic growth. In 2006, the United States implemented an Energy Policy Act encouraging construction of new Nuclear plants as part of a diverse energy-production portfolio. Many other countries such as France, the United Kingdom and Japan have also adopted nuclear energy in their public policy positions.
Energy Minister Smitherman stated that AECL had the only compliant bid and the only one of three candidates whose bid met all of the requirements. He further suggested that bid was still too expensive and Ottawa may want to step in to allow AECL to make a more competitive bid and win the contract. The Chamber cannot understand why the Ontario government did not just make a decision stating in its letter that “with all due respect it appears that you want to play some sort of political game through the media with manufacturing jobs and the nuclear industry as some kind of pawn.”
There are more than 30,000 workers in the CANDU nuclear industry, many of whom are located in Ontario; the Chamber is extremely concerned by the decision to delay the construction of new nuclear power plants in Ontario at a time when the Canadian economy is in severe recession. The CANDU industry companies have invested heavily in this process. These bids cost millions of dollars for each vendor and further millions in total from all their subs and suppliers. With other challenges that they presently face it could well be the straw that breaks the camels back and cause some of them considerable financial difficulty, possibly even bankruptcy.
If Canada is going to be able to position it to be a leader in the nuclear renaissance Ontario needs to make a decision and send an important message to the world that Ontario’s nuclear manufacturers are open for business. We need to get on with the marketing of CANDU plants around the world so business can create the manufacturing jobs that Ontario so desperately needs.