Doug Ford confident Windsor-Essex has enough power for new industry
Windsor mayor says energy supply won't be 'limiting factor' in LG Chem decision
Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Doug Ford made a campaign stop in Windsor, Ont., on Friday to give assurances the region will have enough electricity to support companies looking to set up shop in the automotive hub.
Ford reiterated a previously announced commitment to accelerate five hydro transmission projects in southwestern Ontario (including three that have been designated priorities for approval) at a cost of more than $1 billion.
"We have the three transmission lines moving forward in rapid fashion, and that's going to be able to handle all the electricity needs that are needed in southwestern Ontario, but we have two more ready to go — as soon as we see the peak, we'll get it done," Ford said.
His comments come days after the head of the economic development group Invest WindsorEssex said LG Chem is no longer considering Windsor as a home for an upcoming $2.5-billion plant due to concerns over electrical capacity.
LG Chem has not responded to requests for comment.
Speaking at Valiant TMS on Friday morning with Ford, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said the provincial government has confirmed the LG Chem facility would have sufficient power if the company were to choose Windsor.
"Energy will not be the limiting factor for that facility and I'm thrilled to announce that," Dilkens said.
In a subsequent statement to CBC News, Dilkens said he looked forward to making the city's case to LG Chem in the near future, suggesting Windsor may not be out of contention for the plant after all.
According to the agency that oversees Ontario's electricity, the Independent Electricity System Operator, demand in southwestern Ontario is expected to double over five years to about 2,000 megawatts — something a spokesperson compared to adding a city the size of Hamilton to the grid.
The timeline for the completion of the transmission line projects is 2030, though some will be ready sooner. A new line from Chatham to Lakeshore that will also come with a new switching station is expected to boost capacity by 550 megawatts by the end of 2025.
Ontarians head to the polls on June 2. Ford made his pitch to Windsor-Essex voters, highlighting recent investments in the Stellantis-LG Energy Solution electric vehicle battery plant, as well as the upcoming mega hospital project.
"I believe the people will vote in a PC government down here because we need a voice down there," he said, referring to the region's lack of representation in the current government.
The LG Chem plant controversy had the Liberals and NDP taking aim at Ford's party.
"We're going to lose out on over 1,000 jobs because Windsor lacks the basic electricity infrastructure to accommodate this LG plant," Windsor West NDP candidate Lisa Gretzky said in a statement earlier this week. "We can't let the future of our auto sector be jeopardized because the Ford government doesn't look ahead to see what the industry needs."
The Liberals seized on the government's cancellation of hundreds of green energy contracts in 2018.
"Ontario's industrial future is now facing the consequences of the [Progressive] Conservative failures, creating a domino effect, jeopardizing billions in manufacturing investment in Windsor and throughout the region," Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said in a statement.
"If Windsor loses a $2.5-billion LG Chem plant, the resulting impacts could also create unexpected risk for the much-celebrated $5 billion LG and Stellantis battery facility to be built in Windsor, as the LG Chem plant is designed to be the major supplier of cathodes and other key materials."
On Friday, Ford accused the companies involved in those green energy contracts of "gouging" the government, and said nearly all of Ontario's electricity supply, which is dominated by nuclear power, is already clean.