Siliken layoffs heat up green energy debate in Ontario
TORONTO—In a lead-up to a provincial fall election, Ontario’s opposition parties are blasting the province for what they say are big problems with its green energy plan.
The Tories and the NDP pointed to last week’s announcement of 60 layoffs at Siliken Canada’s Windsor solar panel plant. The job cuts come just months after the 121-employee facility opened.
Progressive Conservative Peter Shurman noted the company placed part of the blame on slow approval times for projects from the Ontario Power Authority and Hydro One.
“What’s happened with this company is that the government cannot process the contracts it wants to let fast enough and there’s too much product on their part,” Shurman said.
NDP critic Gilles Bisson said he had seven applications for the green energy program ready to go in his riding alone, all of which were stalled because of a lack of capacity.
“I put the blame of that on the feet of the Liberals because they’re the ones that set up this mess,” said Bisson, whose party is proposing to merge all of Ontario’s electricity bureaucracies.
“They were being very optimistic about the possibilities of what this means for the Ontario economy because you can’t get a lot of these projects online since there’s no capacity on the transmission grid.”
Economic Development Minister Sandra Pupatello said electricity agencies were working to improve their approval times and were simply going through some growing pains as they adjusted to the new energy policy.
She was quick to point out that the company also attributed the loss in part to PC Leader Tim Hudak’s stance on the province’s Green Energy Act.
“They’ve been clear that the minute the leader of the Opposition opened his mouth about killing the feed-in tariff, about essentially gutting the Green Energy Act, we felt the chill in the green energy investment business,” she said.
Shurman, whose party promised to end the FIT program in its election platform, called those accusations “nonsense”.
The Tories, he said, aren’t against renewable energy.
“We just don’t believe in supplying it with a FIT program that delivers electricity at 80 cents per kilowatt hour when it should cost five,” Shurman said.
The layoffs came the same day as Statistics Canada’s June employment numbers showing Ontario added 40,000 new jobs.
The increase in Canada-wide jobs was mainly in the part-time sector, which added 21,000 jobs, compared with 7,000 new full-time jobs.
Even the majority of those that aren’t part-time were in the public sector, Shurman noted.