Critics say outdated system puts green energy jobs at risk
TORONTO - Ontario companies are losing out on opportunities to create jobs despite the government's push for green energy because there isn't a proper system in place to deliver on their ambitious plans, opposition critics said Friday.
The Tories and the NDP were quick to point to layoffs at a Windsor solar panel plant Friday, announced as the government touted an increase in jobs from Statistics Canada.
Siliken Canada in Windsor said this week it was laying off 60 workers, just months after opening the 121-person plant amid much fanfare about green energy jobs in the province.
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.
"We believe that 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," said Shurman.
"That's why they're laying people off."
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. The feed-in tariff (FIT) program pays producers lucrative rates for their green energy.
"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 the 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.
"I have called on that leader to be more professional for sure and to at least understand the business cycle."
Shurman, whose party promised to end the FIT program in its election platform, called the 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 come on the same day as job numbers from Statistics Canada show Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia all posted employment gains in June, with Ontario adding 40,000 new jobs after a slight drop in May.
The increase in jobs across Canada 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, Shurman noted, were in the public sector.