Power plant fuels protest at Queen’s Park

Hundreds of protesters cheered and jeered under sunny skies and on the muddy grounds of Queen’s Park Tuesday afternoon to protest plans for a 900-megawatt gas-fired power plant for Oakville.

Citizens For Clean Air organized the rally, bussing participants in from Oakville and Mississauga. C4CA is committed to increasing awareness of clean air issues in the southwest GTA as well as safety concerns over plant location. They oppose the plant, proposed for the Ford-owned lands at 1500 Royal Windsor Dr.

The speeches began with Mike “Pinball” Clemons, former player and coach of the Toronto Argonauts and current Oakville resident. Clemons expressed concern over the plant’s proposed location near a school.

“I want my government to make good decisions,” Clemons said. “Three-hundred metres from a school doesn’t seem like a good decision.”

After commending organizers Oakville MP Terence Young spoke, reminding the crowd of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s campaign promises from 2003, when he committed to close the four remaining coal-powered plants in the province.

“Eight years later they’re still burning away,” Young said. “So we have a premier who’s desperate to keep a seven-year-old promise trying to replace one kind of carbon fuel plant with another kind of carbon fuel plant, right next to our homes and schools.”

Young’s comments refer to the coal-fired Lakeview Generating Station in Port Credit, which was shut down in 2005. The province proposed the gas-fired facility as a healthier alternative to meet energy demands.

Along with residents and political representatives, schools joined the protest. Jennifer Brooker accompanied grade seven and eight students from John Knox Christian School, the school closest to the proposed plant. She felt the experience was good for the kids, currently studying about the atmosphere as well as the political process.

“This is a great opportunity for them to see for themselves what position they want to take. We don’t want it to be about us telling them what to think; we want them to figure out what it is they believe,” Brooker said. “They could come down and understand what the political process is about.”

In addition to air quality, new safety concerns arose after an explosion at a natural-gas power plant killed five people in Middletown Connecticut on Feb. 7. C4CA took out a full-page ad in the Toronto press to call attention to the tragedy. At a media scrum earlier today Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, Brad Duguid addressed concerns that might arise from that ad.

“What happened down there is something that should not take place here so I can provide a level of reassurance that methods being used down there are something that we do not prescribe to up here,” Duguid said.

“We have very strict procedures as to how these kinds of construction projects are conducted.”