Candidates address hydroelectric generation
GRAVENHURST — The first all-candidates forum for the upcoming provincial election was held Sept. 22 at Gravenhurst Opera House. The riding’s five candidates, including an independent Freedom party candidate, presented their platforms for change.
Attendance signified some voter indifference, as more seats were empty than full in the theatre. Approximately 100 people attended.
Areas of interest during the debate included education, health care, jobs and crime, while other prominent themes included WSIB premiums, hydroelectric generation and the selling of beer and wine in convenience stores.
Each candidate was given the opportunity for opening remarks.
While incumbent Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP and Conservative candidate Norm Miller and Liberal candidate Cindy Waters used the time to detail their party’s platforms, NDP candidate Alex Zyganiuk and Green party candidate Matt Richter gave more of a personal introduction. Meanwhile, Freedom party candidate Andris Stivrins used sarcasm to jab at the established political parties.
Though each candidate had different views on most questions posed, all five had a similar approach to hydroelectric projects throughout the riding.
They agreed that public consultation is key to properly developing hydrogenerating projects locally.
Zyganiuk said controversy around hydroelectricity is not spurred by an unwillingness to create viable resources; rather communities should be properly consulted and have a clear understanding of a project’s potential impacts.
“When that is addressed properly and time has been taken to engage a community to participate, you yield favourable results,” said Zyganiuk.
Stivrins agreed that while he supports consultation on hydroelectric developments, he doesn’t think it is necessarily a good idea to create a hydro plant that takes away from a local tourist attraction.
Richter, on the other hand, reinforced the need for harnessing safe and affordable electricity. He stressed that his party would require local decision-making on the issue.
“It’s time to make that change away from one massive plant and go to our community-based (options),” said Richter. “The financial benefits must go back to the community. When the locals own the power project, the locals love it. When a multinational corporation owns it (the locals) don’t.”
Waters, who resides in Bracebridge, said she is proud to live in a community that has embraced hydro history.
“We are reaping rewards as a community and so I think I do believe it has to be locally owned and I think the community needs to be completely informed on what the possibilities are and that they should make the choice.”
Miller said new generating stations must be embraced by a willing host community.
“The Green Energy Act took away the right of municipalities to decide whether wind turbines are located in a municipality or whether a hydro project is located there.”
The provincial election is scheduled for Oct. 6.