Liberals' nuclear plans 'irresponsible'

NDP; Hampton calls past 4 years 'a travesty'

The Ottawa Citizen: Andrew Thomson - October 1, 2007

Ontario's future energy supply will figure prominently this week on the NDP campaign trail, Howard Hampton said yesterday as he and the Liberals try to woo green-minded voters.

Mr. Hampton railed in a morning speech against "irresponsible" Liberal plans for more nuclear reactors, drawing an angry response from the energy minister.

"This is a travesty. That is the only way to describe what has gone on with the McGuinty government in terms of energy policy over the past four years," Mr. Hampton told about 80 breakfast-goers at The Green Door, a vegetarian restaurant.

"You couldn't have done things more wrongly."

The New Democrats are firmly against any nuclear expansion, preferring to gradually phase out the plants and increased wind, solar, and hydro-electric production by 3,700 megawatts by 2012.

He also pointed to aggressive conservation and efficiency programs already under way in California and Manitoba. An NDP government would invest in low-interest loans for retrofitting older homes, sharpen appliance and building code standards, and fund solar hot water heaters as part of a $450-million climate change strategy, he said.

Mr. Hampton also wants to move faster on industrial co-generation facilities common to Scandinavia and Germany that produce electricity, for instance, from the heat inside a factory smokestack.

"If they can do it, we can do it here," he said.

The Liberals plan to build two nuclear reactors as part of a multibillion-dollar investment to increase electrical capacity and compensate for the looming closing of Ontario's four coal-fired generating stations.

But the NDP leader's 15-minute speech accused the government of a "backroom deal" in the summer of 2006 to exempt their nuclear plan from a provincial environmental assessment.

"The McGuinty Liberals don't want a public debate or a public discussion," Mr. Hampton thundered. "The fix is in. And that's what it is, it's a backroom fix."

Mr. Hampton later told reporters that Liberal energy announcements since 2003, including a new generating station below Niagara Falls, were "show-and-tell projects" rather than significant contributions to the provincial electricity supply.

The Liberals responded that their 20-year, $59.7-billion energy plan would spend as much on renewable sources and conservation as on nuclear power, nearly doubling generating capacity by 2025 and reducing 6,300 megawatts of total peak demand.

Energy Minister Dwight Duncan called the NDP narrative a "fairy tale" and said Mr. Hampton ignored the public debate, formal and informal, on the Liberal 20-year plan. More hearings are planned before the Ontario Energy Board.

"(Mr. Hampton) is just inventing things as he's going along. I don't know anybody can take him seriously."

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