WINDSOR, Ont. — Ontario's Progressive Conservatives touted a plan Friday to accelerate new electricity transmission lines to the province's southwest, saying the infrastructure would supply clean energy and further support economic growth in the region.
PC Leader Doug Ford said his government had secured several large auto investments over the past four years, including a Stellantis-LG electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ont. With that project and others set to grow both the local economy and demand for reliable energy, Ford said his party was committed to ensuring support for the region.
The Tories would fast-track the development of five new electricity transmission projects in the area - three of them are already in development - if re-elected June 2, Ford said.
"We will stop at nothing to build the necessary infrastructure just to support these investments," he said during an appearance at a automotive supplier in Windsor, noting that electricity demand in southwestern Ontario is projected to more than double in the next five years.
The transmission projects between London, Windsor and Sarnia are expected to cost more than $1 billion and are proposed to be developed in phases through 2030.
Recent media reports said LG Chem had been in talks with Invest WindsorEssex, a non-profit responsible for advancing economic development in the region, to set up a proposed $2.5-billion plant in Windsor but the region couldn't support the amount of electricity needed for the facility.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, who endorsed Ford, said Friday that the Tory leader and party officials have confirmed that the province will have the electricity required to support a proposed facility in Windsor after all.
"Energy will not be the limiting factor for that facility," Dilkens said. "And I'm thrilled to announce that as a result of the work that the province has done over the past few weeks."
A city official said there have been "some misunderstandings" about the recent meetings and appointments with LG Chem.
"The Ontario Ministry of Economic Development is scheduling their visits to bid sites/cities across Ontario," the official said in a written statement.
"We anticipate and expect that our region will get a chance to present to LG Chem in the near term, now that this confusion regarding electricity capacity has been resolved."
Invest WindsorEssex declined a request for comment, while LG Canada did not immediately respond for a request for comment.
In 2019, Ford's government tore up hundreds of renewable energy deals previously signed by the Liberal government, saying the province didn't need the power, it was driving up electricity rates, and the decision would save millions over the life of the contracts.
When asked whether the province would have more power generation now had his government not cancelled those contracts, Ford replied that the contracts were part of what he called a "green energy scam" that was driving away investment.
"They went to all their buddies, the previous government, and they put (in) all their solar panels and wind turbines," he said. "They were gouging us."
Ford added that his party believes in a "strong, clean environment," which is why it's looking to invest billions of dollars in electric vehicles and hundreds of millions in getting large companies in the province, like ArcelorMittal Dofasco, to help make their processes cleaner instead of running on coal.
"We're going to continue focusing on the environment and you can do that and create good jobs and have a clean environment, too," he said.
Shortly after he was elected in the 2018 election, Ford scrapped electric vehicle rebates, stopped building provincially funded charging stations, and dropped a requirement for new homes to include wiring for potential EV chargers.
In March, his Tory government announced that it would put provincial money toward a network of public EV charging stations, to the tune of $91 million.
His auto strategy released last year aimed to build at least 400,000 electric vehicles and hybrids in the province by 2030 and establish a battery production facility.
- with files from Allison Jones
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 13, 2022.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press