By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
NANTICOKE—With the dropping of the writ election season is officially here, and after 27 years Toby Barrett is no longer the MPP of Haldimand-Norfolk, but he is not leaving quietly, putting the proposed Nanticoke development in his crosshairs on his way out the door.
According to a press release issued by Barrett last week, 82% of all correspondence his office has received regarding the development, which would seek to bring a community of 40,000, as well as the infrastructure necessary to support an expanded industrial area capable of supporting new job creation, has been negative.
In the release, dated May 3, Barrett claims his office has received “several hundred written statements,” with over 80% “opposed to a developer building a city of 40,000 people in the Nanticoke Industrial Park.”
The release continued, “Emails, telephone calls, and Facebook comments are opposed to the Ontario Government issuing a Minister’s Zoning Order (MZO) which would accelerate the development proposal, as requested by the developer and by Haldimand Council.”
Kyra Hayes, Supervisor, Customer Experience & Communications for the County responded to Barrett’s claims, saying, “The county is not able to verify these numbers/claims. As with all development proposals, per the Planning Act, public consultation must occur before an application is approved or rejected.”
In a follow up, Hayes mentioned that she could not provide details at this time as to when public consultations on the proposed development might take place, or what impact an overwhelmingly negative public response would have on the proposed project.
She pointed towards a County report on the proposed development, which went into details on the analysis procedures, public engagement process, and transparency that would be required before and during the development, should it go ahead.
According to that same report, dated March 1, 2022, “The Mayor has advised that the proposal has been discussed with the Chief’s of the Elected Council of the Six Nations of the Grand and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nations as well as the local Member of Provincial Parliament who have expressed support in principle.”
It seems in the time since, Barrett has had a change of heart. Per his release, “The Haldimand Mayor’s request of the Ontario Government to rubber stamp and accelerate the building of a city of 40,000 people in the Nanticoke Industrial Park does not bode well for the future stability of the steel, oil refining, and other industries presently operating there.”
The Press reached out to PC candidate Ken Hewitt to share his thoughts on Barrett’s criticism of the development, but received no reply prior to publication.
County CAO Craig Manley shared his thoughts on the divisive issue, noting that any consideration of Empire’s proposal is contingent upon the Province putting a Minister’s Zoning Order in place, “which should include a ‘holding’ provision that sets out a series of conditions that must be addressed prior to any development taking place. The Minister’s Zoning Order would be conditional upon the completion of a master plan that is informed by public consultation.”
Manley continued, “From a municipal perspective, review of this development should be complemented by a robust, open and transparent local planning process that ensures all stakeholders including Provincial, local, and Indigenous communities have an opportunity to be involved and be heard before any final design is approved.”
Barrett has drafted a preliminary report, compiling the comments he has received so far to support his claim, which is available at his local office. While no longer MPP, Barrett has jumped straight into his role as Campaign Manager for Bobbi Ann Brady, his protégé, who is running independently in the imminent election.
In a separate press release, Brady lauded the hydrogen potential of the Nanticoke lands earmarked for development, following an announcement that Atura Power is reviewing the possibility of hydrogen production in the Nanticoke Industrial Park.
Brady said the announcement “accentuates why there is no room for a housing development in an industrial area.”
Atura, which is a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation, is launching a feasibility study to focus on the commercial and technical aspects of developing a hydrogen facility. The study is being supported by Imperial Oil with the potential to use hydrogen to reduce emissions from the Nanticoke refinery. Atura is looking at the facility as a step to a net-zero emissions future.
“This, combined with the potential for green steel production at Stelco, is positioning the Nanticoke Industrial Park as a key piece in reducing Ontario’s emissions,” said Brady. “We need industries at Nanticoke Industrial Park not only as major employers in the area, but also as a part of Ontario’s green future.”
Brady made clear that she supports housing development within the riding, “but not in an industrial park,” noting that Stelco has implied it may consider closing its Nanticoke operation within 20 years if the development proceeds.
The topic of the Nanticoke development is just one question The Haldimand Press will pose to the candidates at our candidates debate, which takes place May 18 at 7 p.m. Come out to hear their response, or tune in to our live stream. Details on Page 9.