A comment late last week from the Doug Ford campaign in Ontario is raising the tantalizing possibility that a “populist” party dedicated to phasing out the province’s green energy programs and killing its successful carbon cap-and-trade program might also be on a trajectory to close the Pickering nuclear station when its licence expires this August.
With the election now just 10 days away, the provincial New Democrats and Green Party have already endorsed the Pickering closure. Ford has so far responded with a rally at the Pickering site where he vowed to keep the plant open until 2024 and vastly overstated the number of jobs it creates.
But his campaign team may be moving in a different direction. At least accidentally.
On Thursday, Green Party leader Mike Schreiner issued a challenge to the other three parties, urging them to commit to a target of 100% renewable energy by 2050. “As we listen to the three main establishment parties in this election, climate change is barely mentioned,” he told media. “I’m deeply, deeply concerned that of the two parties currently leading in the polls, one of them (the Progressive Conservatives) has absolutely no climate change plan whatsoever and seems to be denying it’s even a threat to people in Ontario. The other party, the NDP, barely mentions climate change at all, and its inclusion in their platform is almost an afterthought.”
Neither the NDP nor the Liberals responded when National Observer followed up for their reactions, but PC Party spokesperson Simon Jefferies was more forthcoming. “We all have a role when it comes to protecting the environment, and the Ontario PC party will do so while creating jobs and a stronger economy, and respecting the taxpayer,” he told the Observer by email. “We are going to protect the environment and our climate without making people choose between heating and eating.”
At first glance, the reference to a choice between “heating and eating” looked like a perfect fit with facts and arguments that all four parties have been receiving since 2014. That’s when the Ontario Clean Air Alliance published a fact sheet comparing the cost of the province’s proposed nuclear refurbishments against just about any other energy supply or efficiency option. It priced nuclear generation at 16.5¢ per kilowatt-hour based on estimates from Ontario Power Generation (OPG), without factoring in the strong likelihood of cost overruns once construction is under way.
By comparison, OCAA calculated costs of 2.2¢/kWh for energy efficiency 3.0 to 5.0¢/kWh for hydropower imports from Quebec, 5.4¢ for natural gas, 6.3 to 8.59¢ for wind, and 15.7¢ for solar. (And those figures predate the cost reductions that have swept the wind and solar industries over the last 3½ years.)
OCAA Outreach Director confirmed that the Ontario PCs, like the three other provincial parties, have received those numbers.
“It seems that Jefferies is endorsing a least-cost energy strategy for Ontario,” she told The Energy Mix, in response to the Observer article. “Our province’s lowest cost option is imported hydropower from Quebec, while the most expensive is nuclear power. It’s time to close the Pickering nuclear station on schedule this August.”
Green Party spokesperson Jason LaChappelle had a different take on Jefferies’ quote. “We don’t know what the PCs’ energy plan is because they’ve not released a platform, much less how they’ll pay for the billions in tax cuts and discounts they’re promising on the fly,” he wrote in an email. “Our plans for fixing our electricity system are based on evidence and sound policy, achieving our climate goals, and lowering electricity prices for Ontarians by choosing cheaper water power from Quebec and rejecting OPG’s 180% rate increase to pay for refurbishments of expensive and dangerous nuclear. Ford’s plans are back-of-the-napkin ideas dreamt up to buy power with slogans and discounts on beer and gas.”
A PC Party spokesperson pointed The Mix to media releases on Ford’s proposed Hydro rate cut, with a calculation that a series of cost-cutting measures would save the average Ontario household $173 per year, or about $14.50 per month. He declined to comment in any more detail.