Provincial funding earmarked for rural natural gas projects


By Barb McKay


The race is on to complete a natural gas business case now that the province has announced significant funding for infrastructure.


Councillor Guy Anderson told Kincardine council during its meeting last Wednesday that he had learned that Premier Kathleen Wynne had announced that the Ontario government has earmarked $135 billion for infrastructure over the next decade. Anderson said Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Jeff Leal had further revealed that a large portion of the money would go to extending natural gas service to rural areas.


Anderson said the person who passed along the information to him suggested that if the natural gas study is close to completion the municipality should set up a meeting with the Minister to make sure he is aware. If the feasibility study and business case are positive, it could move Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss Township and Arran-Elderslie near the front of the line for funding, if the municipalities decide to move ahead with the project.


“Our business case isn’t complete, but it’s probably more complete than anywhere else in Ontario,” he said.


Mayor Larry Kraemer said the natural gas committee had expected the business case to be complete by the end of June, but is still waiting on reports for a couple of experts.


“We’re about five or six weeks away from having a really good package with most questions answered,” he said.


A special council meeting has been tentative scheduled for Aug. 25 at 5 p.m. to unveil the business case and discuss the details.


Earlier in the meeting, Ron Larsen of the Tiverton and District Ratepayers Association (TDRA) presented council with a petition signed by 193 residents calling for a referendum on the natural gas project.


The petition reads, “Based on information received from concerned citizens, the Tiverton and District Ratepayers Association Inc. is hereby requesting that the council for the Municipality of Kincardine hold a binding referendum vote so the people of the Municipality of Kincardine can clearly express their opinions and that they are allowed to be part of the decision process on the proposed gas pipeline/distribution system and its associated costs, as currently being initiated by the Municipality of Kincardine.”


Larsen said the petition is just a sampling of residents and not indicative of the scale of public concern.


“Certainly more names could have been collected,” he said.


During the discussion about trying to set up a meeting with Leal, councillor Randy Roppel reminded council of the petition and said the municipality owed it to its constituents to hold a referendum.


"Don’t you think we should see if there is a project first?” asked Kraemer.


Deputy mayor Anne Eadie asked if it would be beneficial to send information to the province regarding the study sooner rather than later to indicate just how close the municipalities are to completing the business case. CAO Murray Clarke said he had had discussions with Penetangore Regional Economic Development Corporation (PREDC) executive director Ron Coristine about it and municipal staff has been in contact with the provincial government.


Kraemer said the municipalities should send a delegation to Leal’s office for a meeting rather than trying to get face time at the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) annual conference in August.