Northern Ontario needs a long-term energy strategy – by Keitha Robson (Timmins Daily Press – 2009)

 The Daily Press is the city of Timmins newspaper.

Although this column is two years old, the opinion is very relevant especially during the current Ontario election.-Stan Sudol

Keitha Robson is the manager and CEO of the Timmins Chamber of Commerce.

Now, throw into the mix that our neighbours, Friendly
Manitoba and La Belle Province de Quebec have electricity
prices roughly 60% and 40% lower, respectively, than ours,
and it’s easy to see that Ontario may very well be losing
favour as the great place (which it undoubtedly is) in
which to set up shop. (Keitha Robson, 2009)

We’ve all heard about the trouble with energy: Some sources are running out; some sources are unclean and have negative impacts on the environment; some sources are great for the environment but just can’t produce what we need, affordably.

For Ontario, the plot is a little thicker. And in Northern Ontario, thicker still.

Ontario is the largest consumer of energy in Canada, accounting for 32.3% of total energy use and has one of the highest costs of energy, second only to Alberta. In a province whose bread and butter, the energy-intensive manufacturing industry, continues to be hard pressed by economic pressures, it doesn’t help that energy pricing adds more pressure to the mix.

Not to mention the amount of energy, particularly electricity, that is consumed by mining and forestry companies in Ontario, particularly in Northern Ontario.

In fact, forestry and metallurgical operations are often cited as some of the biggest electricity consumers.

Now, throw into the mix that our neighbours, Friendly Manitoba and La Belle Province de Quebec have electricity prices roughly 60% and 40% lower, respectively, than ours, and it’s easy to see that Ontario may very well be losing favour as the great place (which it undoubtedly is) in which to set up shop. So why should you, me and the rest of Ontario care about energy prices?

Just as we, as individuals, need to respond to increasing energy costs, like higher gasoline prices and increasing electricity costs for our homes, so, too, do businesses.

Mining and forestry are longstanding, vital, Northern Ontario industries with the greatest reliance on energy, the high cost of which has caused many operations across the North to enter into financial protection, drastically reduce their workforces, cancel new projects, and/or transform their business operations.

It’s easy to assume that new businesses will choose Ontario above other jurisdictions and the businesses that are already here will be here forever. However, we need to ask ourselves whether that sort of mentality helps Northern Ontario grow to realize its full potential.

Take one step back: Consider the pressures faced by businesses today. The competition is truly global, not to mention fierce. That’s why Ontario needs to do everything in its power to make our province the best place for a business to invest.

And as for Northern Ontario? The reliance our resource-based industries place on dependable, affordable forms of energy and electricity is paramount to their success.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Timmins Daily Press website: http://www.thedailypress.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?archive=true&e=1698344

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