Thunder Bay

Hornepayne, Ont., municipal election to become debate on nuclear waste

Voters in the small northwestern Ontario town of Hornepayne will have more to consider at the ballot box than tax rates and economic growth.

Community one of three in northwestern Ontario to consider hosting nuclear waste

Ken Fraser and Alison Morrison are both opposed to nuclear waste being buried near Hornepayne, Ont. The two are running for council, and hope to change the municipality's stance on burying the spent fuel about 20 km south of town. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Voters in the small northwestern Ontario town of Hornepayne will have more to consider at the ballot box than tax rates and economic growth.

The township of 1,000 located between Highways 11 and 17 is in the running to host a nuclear waste repository. It's one of three in northwestern Ontario, the others being Manitouwadge and Ignace.

Alison Morrison organized a walk this summer to demonstrate against hosting the toxic waste and is now running for town council.

The thought of having a burial area near her family camp, about 20 kilometres from town, caused Morrison to become more vocal in her opposition.

"We have had a history of some unfortunate economics here," she said, referring to when the local sawmill was shut down, resulting in a large layoff.

That economic uncertainty has now largely faded, as the mill is up and running, along with its power producing co-gen plant. CN Rail also uses the community as a division point, with a large number of railroaders living in the community.

"Right now, I think that we're doing ok. And, we are a very small town, but we have several industries," Morrison said. "We're not relying on just one. At this stage of the game, we're having difficulties finding places for all of these workers to live."

Nearly all of the communities in northwestern Ontario who have shown an interest in hosting the facility, including those no longer in the process, had fallen on hard economic times. Many had lost their primary industry, be it a sawmill or mine.

Morrison said she fears the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) will use its counts of 'engagements' as a sign the community supports the site - which she believes the silent majority does not.

Ken Fraser, who is also running for Hornepayne town council, believes the major motivator for the site is financial.

He said the community has received about $1.3 million in funding from the NWMO, and continues to get about $300,000 annually which supports community events, including Canada Day celebrations and the local fish derby.

Fraser said the population of the town, just under 1,000 people, should not be 'bought' at any cost.

"And over an eight year period, that's what it comes out to, 49 cents. So, they divided a town, they've actually, you have family fighting, friends fighting friends for 49 cents a day."

"To me, that's pathetic."

Hornepayne Mayor Morley Forster will not seek re-election as mayor, but will seek a councillor's seat in the upcoming election. Forster has been part of the council which made the decision to get involved with the NWMO.

Morris and Fraser both hope a victory at the ballot box will mean they can change the current direction of how council feels about hosting nuclear waste.

The municipal election is October 22.


Jeff Walters


Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Jeff is proud to work in his hometown, as well as throughout northwestern Ontario. Away from work, you can find him skiing (on water or snow), curling, out at the lake or flying.


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