By Maria Babbage, The Canadian Press, Tuesday, January 17, 2012
TORONTO – Ontario needs to restart a long-stalled expansion of hydro transmission lines in the southwestern Ontario town of Caledonia despite objections from aboriginal groups, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said Tuesday.
The 76-kilometre hydro line has been in limbo for years because Six Nations warriors won’t let workers put up the wires.
The $116-million project was stopped in 2006 to ease tensions after aboriginal protesters occupied a residential development in the picturesque town near Hamilton, saying the land belonged to them.
The protest triggered a bitter standoff that is still ongoing nearly six years later.
Asked if hydro workers should complete the job even if it means that they have to do it under police protection, Hudak agreed.
“Clearly, something has to be done,” he said. “Some leadership should be shown on this file after six years of paralysis and a total abdication of rule of law. Those towers, those lines should be carrying electricity, not flying Mohawk warrior flags.”
The Tories had previously complained that the empty hydro towers were being “held hostage” and are needed to transmit power that will be generated by a new tunnel being built under Niagara Falls. But the government insists the new line is needed to improve Ontario’s connections to New York state at Niagara Falls, not for the power from the 10.2-kilometre tunnel project under the city.
New energy from the tunnel project will be incorporated through existing transmission lines, according to officials. However, in a release issued when the lines were approved, Hydro One touted the new transmission line as necessary to connect power from Niagara Falls.
“The project will increase electrical power transfer capability between the Niagara Falls area and the rest of the province by approximately 800 MW,” said Hydro One.
Tensions over the aboriginal occupation in Caledonia have, at times, flared into violent clashes. Some homeowners and businesses near the site complained that provincial police weren’t enforcing the law with Six Nations demonstrators, but were heavy handed with the town’s residents and their supporters. The province ended up paying the developer almost $16 million for the land, which was put in trust.
It will also pay $20 million in compensation to residents and businesses affected by the occupation as a result of a class-action lawsuit. The deal was finalized last July.
In December 2009, a Caledonia family also settled a suit against Ontario Provincial Police and the government over the handling of the aboriginal occupation.
The family had filed a $7-million lawsuit, claiming they lived under siege and were abandoned to a state of lawlessness after the occupation of the development.