Anti-nuclear ‘Townhall’ and call to stop the refurbishment of Pickering nuclear officially cancelled

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Published February 27, 2024 at 9:28 am

Pickering nuclear plant

The cancellation of an anti-nuclear ‘Climate Crisis’ townhall meeting planned by a pair of Toronto NDP MPPs is a “victory” for thousands of nuclear power workers – and for the future of the Pickering nuclear plant – says the president of a pro-nuclear advocacy group.

University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell (the party’s housing critic) and Toronto-Danforth MPP and energy critic Peter Tabun were organizing the virtual meeting scheduled for March 6 and claimed in the invitation that nuclear energy is “harmful to the environment and to human health.”

The tweet was put out at dinner time on a holiday Monday and was removed before the next morning, with the event details also gone from Bell’s website.

Days later, after requests from Canadians for Nuclear Energy President Chris Keefer and others, Bell officially cancelled the event.

“The meeting – Electric Future Townhall – has been cancelled.,” was the terse response.

“Nuclear workers ‘won,’ anti-nuclear ‘environmentalist’ zero,” Keefer said on X (formerly Twitter), adding that the meeting, which was to include speakers from Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Ontario Clean Air Alliance and Environmental Alliance, was a call to “work together to stop the Pickering Nuclear Station expansion.”

“The Ontario NDP made the right call here. Labour unions represent hundreds of thousands of workers. ENGOs (environmental non-governmental organizations) represent a tiny elitist anti-worker fringe.”

The meeting exposed a split among the party’s base of support between labour unions and “out of touch anti-nuclear environmentalist elites,” Keefer noted, adding that backlash from organized labour appears at the heart of the cancellation.

Keefer, an emergency room physician when not espousing the environmental virtues of nuclear energy, said that while 76,000 “almost exclusively unionized” Ontario nuclear workers labour to keep the lights on, “high profile” NDP MPPs seem to be endorsing statements which “lump emissions from nuclear energy in with polluting natural gas.”

The NDP’s traditional labour base has gone to the pro-nuclear side of the debate in recent years and even long-time nuclear opponents like federal environment minister Steven Guilbeault has switched allegiances, he added.

“Nuclear is no longer being seen as a ‘sin’ stock,” he said. “Do we go to labour, or do we go to elitist environmentalists? These two sides (of the NDP’s base) do not match.”

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