QP REPORT: Reliable power supply over Christmas holidays ‘was at risk’

SDSG MPP Jim McDonell. (MPP Office via Newswatch Group, File)

We returned to the Legislature this week in an emergency session to address the collective bargaining deadlock between Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the Power Workers’ Union (PWU). Last Friday, December 14th, the PWU delivered a 21-day notice of their intention to strike. The Power Workers had been working without a contract since March 31st, and turned down the latest offer, despite it being recommended by the union executive. OPG produces over 50 per cent of Ontario’s electricity needs and operates nuclear, hydroelectric, thermal, and wind generating facilities.

Bill 67, Labour Relations Amendment Act (Protecting Ontario’s Power Supply) was introduced by Minister of Labour, Laurie Scott, to prevent large-scale power outages across Ontario at this most joyous and coldest time of year. The Bill was meant to prohibit any strike or lock-out from occurring while providing a mechanism for achieving a new collective agreement.

People and businesses across Ontario need and deserve a reliable power supply, and that was at risk. A work stoppage at OPG would have had significant impacts on Ontario’s electricity supply. The Independent Electricity System Operator concluded that Ontario would not have the electricity needed to meet consumer demand resulting in brownouts and blackouts across the province.

As a result, our Government took action to protect Ontarians. We were not going to allow families and seniors to have to live in the dark or to go without heat, especially during these winter months. Protecting the public interest and the health and safety of the people of Ontario requires the continuation of operations at Ontario Power Generation Inc. and the resolution of the labour dispute through a fair process of dispute resolution.

On Tuesday, I was pleased to rise in the Legislature and speak to the very real consequences residents of Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry endured not that long ago when power was lost for up to a month in some areas.

“Just over 20 years ago, on January 1, 1998, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry were officially reorganized, and one of the first actions by the local municipalities was to declare a state of emergency. Our volunteer fire departments set up emergency shelters, for people to have a place to keep warm, sleep, and eat. Homes flooded when pipes froze and sump pumps stopped working.

Volunteers organized the limited number of generators to heat the shelters, to feed and water animals, and to power gas stations so that they could pump gasoline and diesel for cars, trucks, and generators. The SD&G Highlanders were called out to help. “It turned out to be one of the most expensive disasters in Ontario’s history, taking years to complete the cleanup and repair the billions of dollars in damage.

“As someone who lived through those days and saw the hardship, disruption, and damage, I was appalled that the NDP would hold up procedures and vote against this legislation, which would have pushed the entire province into another January power disaster. Without the passing of Bill 67, safety protocols would have required the shutdown of Ontario’s nuclear reactors, our main source of power, to commence the following day. Once the shutdown procedure started, it would take more than a week to regain the lost power.” Bill 67 was passed at noon on Thursday, with the support of the Liberal and Green Party members.

Once again, on behalf of myself, my family, and my entire staff, I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and the very best in 2019. Do not forget to come out and join us for our FREE Holiday Skating Party on December 27th at the Char-Lan Recreation Center & Arena in Williamstown from 12:30-3:30 p.m.

Jim McDonell
MPP, Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry