Toronto anti-nuclear meeting planned by NDP MPPs pulled after blowback from party’s labour support base


Published February 20, 2024 at 6:50 pm

Pickering Nuclear Generating Station

An invitation to an anti-nuclear ‘Climate Crisis’ townhall meeting organized by a pair of Toronto NDP MPPs has seemed to have exposed a split among the party’s base of support, with the meeting invite abruptly disappearing from social media, eliciting ‘this page cannot be found’ when attempts are made to discover more information.

University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell (the party’s housing critic) and Toronto-Danforth MPP and NDP energy critic Peter Tabun were organizing the virtual meeting and claimed in the invitation that Ontario is investing billions of dollars in natural gas and nuclear power and that nuclear energy is “harmful to the environment and to human health.”

“What do these plans mean for our health, the environment and to the cost of our electricity?”

Backlash from organized labour appears to be at the heart of the apparent cancellation, noted Canadians for Nuclear Energy President Chris Keefer, who said the removal of the meeting invitation from X (formerly Twitter) highlights a schism among the party’s traditional base between labour unions and “out of touch anti-nuclear environmentalist elites.”

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.”

Keefer said 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, though pressure from his boss may be a factor there.

“That’s what we may be seeing here because nuclear is no longer being seen as a ‘sin’ stock,” Keefer said. “Do we go to labour, or do we go to elitist environmentalists? These two sides (of the NDP’s base) do not match.”

“It really exposes the split.”

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.

Dr. Chris Keefer

Keefer noted it was nuclear workers which delivered 90 per cent of the energy required to phase out coal in Ontario, a move that led to air quality improvements that contributed to saving 1,900 lives in the province per year.

Keefer also made note of the support listed on the invitation from the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE).

“As a physician it is curious to see (CAPE) hitching their wagons to the anti-nuclear train claiming, ‘nuclear is harmful to the environment and to human health,’” he said. “Do they not appreciate the medical isotopes produced at Ontario’s nuclear plants which keep their single-use medical devices like IV cannulas, blood tubes, dialysis lines and endotracheal tubes sterile?”

Keefer also cited a unanimous show of support for nuclear energy from the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), a first from the organization.

The OFL called for a “significant” increase in the use of ‘green’ energy use such as nuclear at their November convention and decclared nuclear energy “safe, reliable and 96 per cent domestic.”

“It might be upsetting to the clean air and climate heroes working in our nuclear plants and supply chain,” Keefer noted, “to see the Ontario NDP associating themselves with organizations that claim their labour is harming their fellow Ontarian’s health and environment.”

Keefer also noted recent election ground lost to the Conservatives because of “bad choices” such as the March 6 ‘Climate Crisis’ meeting.

“The NDP must choose where their loyalties lie: the urban chattering class or skilled workers in the province,” he said, adding that the NDP’s own labour critic, Sudbury MPP Jamie West, is also on record supporting the Pickering refurbishment. “Much to the shame of the historic NDP, they can no longer take for granted the votes of working people. As a lifelong NDP voter, I myself am disappointed. “

In the 2022 election the NDP got a “wake-up call” when it narrowly held onto Oshawa, the biggest city in Durham Region and the home of much of the nuclear workforce, winning the seat by just 757 votes.

“The NDP must clarify their position. Does it respect the labour of our nuclear workers who minimize natural gas burning on our grid, fight climate change and make life saving medical isotopes or not? Does it support the refurbishment of Pickering which will employ these workers to carry on this important work for another generation or not?

“Jessica Bell, Peter Tabuns and the entire Ontario NDP. Whose side are you on?”

The International Energy Agency says nuclear power generation is poised to reach an all-time high next year, due to increased investments in reactors to facilitate the transition to a low-carbon global economy.

This surge in nuclear power – primarily centred in China and India – aligns with the shift towards a low-carbon economy and is fuelled by the adoption of electric vehicles, heat pumps, and various low-carbon industrial processes that rely on electricity rather than traditional oil and gas sources.

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