Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory said Saturday that environmental approval for energy projects is operating at a snail's pace, and if his party comes to power, he will revitalize the province's nuclear sector.

Speaking outside the Bruce A nuclear power plant in Tiverton, Ont., Tory said environmental approval for new energy projects is lagging, but there is a way to green light projects faster without compromising the process.

The PC leader said the province needs to re-examine its mix of energy resources if it's to the meet the power demands of an increasing population.

"We have to get moving on building new generating capacity in this province,'' Tory said.

"This means more renewable and alternative sources, but it also means a renewed commitment to nuclear energy.''

He promised to refurbish and replace Ontario's aging nuclear stations in order to ensure the province can maintain its power supply.

Tory said he would need to consult energy experts first on the province's power demands and how to safely dispose of nuclear waste before revealing details of his energy plan.

Tory also reiterated his promise to close the province's coal-fired plants, effectively eliminating Ontario's largest polluter if a reliable power alternative is found.

Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty had a light day of campaigning on Saturday, but took some time to rebut Tory's energy plan and defended his record on power in the province.

"We're the only government that has ever closed a coal-fired generating station, we're the only party that is committed to phasing out coal-fired generation," McGuinty said Saturday.

The Liberal leader said while a reliance on nuclear power is a reality for Ontario, he would rather see investment and growth in renewable energy projects.

"If we're going to be reasonable and thoughtful, we still need some nuclear generation," McGuinty said on Saturday.

The incumbent premier also focused on the athletics Saturday, pledging $10 million for a new program entitled the Quest for Gold athletic assistance program.

The new initiative is designed to alleviate the financial burden upon athletes and coaches who compete on behalf of the province.

While on the campaign trail in Thunder Bay Ont., NDP leader Howard Hampton announced details of his "Due North" plan geared toward investing in an ailing forestry industry through co-op power generation.

The plan includes:

  • Creating a $45 a megawatt hour industrial hydro rate for eligible forest mills starting in January, 2008.
  • Creating a non profit northern hydro corporation owned and run by northerners at cost.
  • Investing government mining and timber revenue into northern communities.

"Let the north start taking some control over its own destiny,'' Hampton said on Saturday.

The New Democrat says the forestry industry has lost 9,000 forest jobs and 45,000 related jobs due to a rise in hydro prices allowed by the Liberal government while the hydro executive's reaped windfall profits.

"The sad part is the McGuinty government didn't even give those people the time of day,'' Hampton said referring to the residents of northern Ontario.

With a report from CTV's Chris Eby and files from the Canadian Press