An open letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty:
Mr. McGuinty, I am writing in regards to the recently-announced plan to close the coal-fired generating station in Atikokan.
During the last election, I was happy to hear you make a commitment to change how this province generates electrical power as we seek for ways to clean our air. I continue to be in support in the move away from coal-fired generation and applaud your continued commitment to this goal.
However, I find that putting the theory into practice has been disturbing.
I will be the first to name the fact that making environmental change comes at a cost. In fact, I suspect the reason such change is so slow in coming is because we really don’t want (as government or as governed) to pay the cost required.
However, it seems to me that the plan to close AGS by 2007 is pushing the town of Atikokan to pay a disproportionate part of the cost.
Surely by now you have heard some of the numbers around this issue (half the municipal tax base, close to 100 well-paying jobs, plus the indirect jobs fed by those salaries). This does not seem just.
Surely there is a better way to do this. Surely it is better for the Province of Ontario to help the people of Atikokan have a chance to find meaningful, adequately-paying employment than to cause mass social disruption which will cause the decimation of the town and may cause the move of many families to Employment Insurance and social assistance.
There are many voices calling for AGS to stay open indefinitely. I am not one of those (although the proposal to move from coal to peat as a fuel may well be a break-even option, environmentally-speaking, since the peat already is adding greenhouse gas to the air as it decomposes).
What I do ask is for time and effort. It takes time to build an alternative economic base. Please give us that time. It also takes effort, not only from the private sector, but from all levels of government.
It looks great to set up a committee of 14 ministries to help “mitigate” the consequences of this action, but we want more. All too often, such mitigation strategies end up being a lot of noise but little concrete action.
We want to see the action, we want to see it now, and we want long-term thinking—it does no good to set up a bunch of poorly-planned jobs that evaporate in 12-18 months because there is really nothing there.
We are all in favour of a cleaner environment. And we all have to share the price that cleaner environment will demand. But right now, Atikokan is being asked to pay more than our share.
That is not right. That is not just. And that is not acceptable.
Peace and blessings,
Rev. Gord Waldie