A committee of employer and union representatives has been formed to put together a brief on the number of jobs and benefits that wind, solar and biomass projects bring to Ontario.

The committee will hire a consultant to prepare the brief. It will be presented to the provincial government during upcoming consultations on Ontario’s new Long-Term Energy Plan.

Mike Gallagher, business manager of Local 793, is on the industry committee. Others on the committee include: IUOE business rep Andre Chenier; Tom Rankin, CEO of Rankin Construction; Ken Williams Jr., president of Pumpcrete and also the Crane Rental Association of Ontario; Jason Dashney of Surespan Wind Energy Service; Bill Barbosa of LIUNA Local 183; and Brandy Giannetta of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

The decision to form the committee was made at a meeting held Oct. 13 at Local 793’s head office in Oakville.

The meeting was arranged by business manager Gallagher to discuss the industry’s response to government plans to scrap $3.8 billion in future wind, solar and biomass projects across the province. The projects are under the Large Renewable Procurement 2, or LRP2 program.

More than two dozen representatives of employers and unions attended the meeting, along with Sara Monture, a representative of the Aboriginal Apprenticeship Board of Ontario.

Business Manager Gallagher said the industry was caught off guard by the government’s announcement and cancellation of the green energy projects is a concern to both employers and unions because of the investment in equipment and training for the work.

He provided a synopsis of a 45-minute meeting he and other Local 793 representatives had with Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault at the union’s district office in Sudbury on Oct. 11.

At the meeting, Gallagher noted that Local 793 and signatory contractors who may have purchased equipment in anticipation of the work are concerned about the decision to cut the green energy projects and the fact they were not consulted in advance of the announcement.

Minister Thibeault apologized for missing the union in the consultation. He said that LRP2 has been suspended but projects under an earlier program, known as LRP1, will still go forward, and that Feed-in Tariff and microFeed-in Tariff projects won’t be affected.

The minister indicated there are still four years of building left for contracts that have been signed and he noted that all projects that have a signed contract will continue as planned.

Thibeault said the Long-Term Energy Plan which will be completed in 2017 will outline future needs.

Interestingly, the minister said that, contrary to what’s been widely reported in the media, Ontario is not losing money when it sells its electricity to the U.S., Manitoba and Quebec. In fact, Thibeault said the government is $230 million in the black each year on those sales.

In the meeting, the minister explained that Ontario must produce more electricity than it uses because standards set by the North American Electricity Reliability Council require that Ontario has to maintain between eight and 15 per cent in excess power. This was set to avoid another blackout such as occurred in August 2003 in Ontario and the eastern U.S.

While wind, solar and biomass projects are presently, and by far, the cheapest way of producing energy today, the minister noted that Ontario is at a “tipping point” in finding power storage solutions for renewable energy generation.

At the meeting at Local 793’s head office, Gallagher said it’s good that the government is still going ahead with LRP1 projects but the decision to postpone LRP2 projects is bad news and the message about the importance of renewable energy is not getting through.

Tom Rankin of Rankin Construction had the same message and noted, for example, that 18 studies have been done worldwide that show there are no ill health effects from wind turbines.

Rankin noted the government is not sending a good message by cancelling the green energy projects.

Shane McCarthy of Surespan Wind Energy Service said the public is forming opinions on wrong information and does not understand the importance of projects like wind turbines.

He said there are no figures on items such as how much taxes from wind turbines go to municipalities to show taxpayers how the green energy industry is contributing to growth.

Gallagher suggested that a committee be formed to put together a brief for the upcoming Long-Term Energy Plan consultations. The suggestion was accepted by those at the meeting.

“We’ve got some work to do on the attitude of the general public and, quite frankly, the government,” he said.

Other representatives at the meeting included:

  • Frank Newman of Pumpcrete
  • Ian Smythe of Northern Mat and Bridge
  • Peter Lulecmis of Northern Mat and Bridge
  • Lee Spalding of Liebherr Canada
  • Bill Finkle of Cropac Equipment
  • Jeremy Asher of Mammoet
  • Jenifer Fitzpatrick of Mammoet
  • John Maclellan of Rankin Construction
  • Shawn Tyler of Rankin Construction
  • Jason Hanna of All Canada Crane
  • Aaron Hanna of All Canada Crane
  • Jeffrey Atkins of BIK Hydraulics
  • Brad Thomson of Thomkess Crane
  • Alex Law, assistant business manager at IUOE Local 793
  • Joe Redshaw, president at IUOE Local 793
  • Bob Turpin, northeastern Ontario area supervisor at IUOE Local 793
  • Ken Lew, labour relations manager at IUOE Local 793
  • Grant Cameron, director of communications at IUOE Local 793
  • Larry Richard, EPSCA business rep at IUOE Local 793