Friday, August 21, 2009

Fly-ins don't cut it Steve

Today, PMS announced the feds are chipping in $71 million of the $160 million cost of building an upgrade to the Mayo dam in the Yukon. The project will add 6 megawatts of power to the territory's grid, enable the shutdown of several diesel plants, and theoretically make distribution of electricity more stable in the Klondike.

All well and good, it is clean energy and it is perhaps facilitated by the fact that nearly all of the First Nations in the territory have signed land claims agreements -- a perennial stumbling block for similar projects in Québec (made up for with huge sums of cash and self-government agreements) as well as here in Ontario where few if any facilities have been built.
But three things bother me. First, for a Prime Minister who comes from an ethical strain that denies that humans are the cause of global warming, it is a pretty blatant political stunt especially since we're almost certainly going back to the polls, maybe in November.
Second, there is no guarantee of long term jobs. As is the case with many work camps, it'll probably be migrants from the South who spend some time up north to take advantage of the huge tax breaks provided to isolated communities (all three territories plus Labrador meet this classification), do their job and then go back South when the job is done. No putting down roots. No looking for skilled labourers up North who might actually want the jobs first.
Dams do need to be maintained, but it's not like you need a thousand people on duty to run one -- maybe a dozen or so at most. And they're opened and closed by remote control in a command centre often from vast distances away.
Third, the territories elect only one member each at large. Every district matters, of course, but why is it the North only gets attention every once in a while? And shouldn't they be getting help in stabilizing prices for essential items which can be several times what we pay in supermarkets and department stores in the South. The northern tax credit doesn't even begin to cover the difference.
I don't know what I'd do differently. But flying around in a helicopter once a year isn't my idea of protecting our sovereignty in the true Great White North, which isn't so white anymore now the permafrost is melting and the treeline is moving further north by the week.

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Anonymous said...

6 Megawatts can't be right. It's got to be 60. 6 Megawatts is nothing. For example, we have a coal fired plant in Ontario that puts out 5,000 MWs. Ontario's power grid uses about 40,000 MWs. On the same ratio, Yukon's power grid should be about 100 MWs.

Maybe I'm wrong, but $160 million for 6 MWs seems like an awful lot of money for not that much power.

BlastFurnace said...

You're right, Anon ... it does seem like a rather paltry amount. I got the number from the story. There are some windmill farms on the Bruce Pennisula downwind from the nuke plants that can generate that much power if not more.

I think the bulk of the money is to make upgrades to the power grid s well to improve the reliability of the system but even then the Yukon has, what, only 30,000 people? How much does it cost to build a transmission line?

When Ontario proposed an IPO for the tranmission system here which is way more extensive it was monetized at only $2 billion.

Something doesn't add up here. I'll see if I can follow up and if I find something I'll put up another post on the subject.