Sudbury

Natural gas expansion in North Bay uncertain after funding cancelled by province

A North Bay city councillor says the future of natural gas expansion in the city is in limbo, now that the Progressive Conservative government has cancelled a commitment from the previous government.

Previous Liberal government had approved $8.6M toward project

A North Bay city councillor says next steps are not clear, now that the Progressive Conservative government has cancelled funding for natural gas expansion to 300 homes. (Shutterstock)

A North Bay city councillor says the future of natural gas expansion in the city is in limbo, now that the Progressive Conservative government has cancelled a commitment from the previous government.

The former Liberal government had approved $8.6 million to extend natural gas to about 300 homes, according to councillor Tanya Vrebosch.

Now she's shocked that the promised money — and a year's worth of work with Union Gas — could be for nothing.

"We went forward with Union Gas to the point where residents were surveyed, asking if they would be interested in joining the program," Vrebosch, who is also the chair of engineering, public works and environmental services for North Bay, said.

"They have to be okay with having a surcharge put on their bill for the 40 years, so they had to buy in to the program."

She added that the city had moved forward with the expansion because they thought their application had been approved.

"I get that it had a Liberal stamp of approval but there was still a commitment that we were approved for and that should be honoured," Vrebosch said.

Union Gas could self-finance

Prior to the cancellation, Vrebosch said Premier Doug Ford was talking about the need to expand natural gas into rural areas.

But she said natural gas companies won't expand into those areas without government funding because of the expense.

It now remains to be seen if Union Gas will self-finance the expansion.

If successful, Vrebosch said that means the company would pass all of the cost of infrastructure onto customers through a levy or surcharge.

"We have a right to be be disappointed that we lost that funding," Vrebosch said.

"We have the right to be upset that this project will probably not be in the ground next spring, like we were hoping for it."

With files from Kate Rutherford.

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