A confidential poll of Torontonians' attitudes to the Portlands Energy Centre, which yesterday signed a 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority, found that opposition was confined to a small area of the city adjacent to its waterfront site, according an energy industry source.
The poll, conducted for TransCanada Energy Ltd., one of the partners with Ontario Power Generation in the project, found that the only places in the city where a majority opposed the project were the two downtown council wards, the source said.
PEC is building a 550-megawatt, gas-fired power plant adjacent to the closed Hearn power plant on the eastern waterfront. It is expected to cost $730-million to build and to begin supplying power in the summer of 2008.
Paula Fletcher, councillor for one of the two wards where the project is opposed, said she would continue to fight it, by trying to block any legal approval it may still need. "They are hell-bent on destroying the waterfront," she said in an interview.
But Councillor Case Ootes, who represents a ward adjacent to Ms. Fletcher's, said, "I really didn't get any feedback [on the project]from my constituents. From that, I conclude they are okay with this. I don't see why they shouldn't be."
And Steve Erwin, spokesman for Energy Minister Dwight Duncan, said, "We're pleased there hasn't been more opposition to the project." (Mr. Duncan's ministry ordered the OPA to sign the supply contract with PEC.)
"We're also pleased that the broader Toronto community seems to understand the need for Toronto to have the project go ahead to ensure the city's future supply needs."
The industry source noted the opinion poll -- which also found there was little knowledge of the project even where it was opposed -- was conducted at the height of a spring campaign, backed by Mayor David Miller, to build an alternative power project on the waterfront.
Mr. Miller told reporters he will do what he can to fight the plant, but has little legal power to stop it.
"The province has a law basically that removes this from municipal jurisdiction. It is their choice. I regret that very much," he said.
"The whole effort of the provincial government and the federal government is to revitalize Toronto's waterfront. We know why. It is a huge opportunity for job creation, job growth, green industry and to build a large power plant next door to another one doesn't make any sense."
Ms. Fletcher said terms of the contract with OPA are not public, and the province should publish them.
Tim Taylor, spokesman for the OPA, said the contract with Portlands "is a fairly standard contract for a peak plant," but its details are confidential commercial information.
The OPA guarantees PEC a reasonable rate of return for the project, Mr. Taylor said.
If sales at the going market rate for electricity do not provide the guaranteed rate of return, electricity purchasers make up the difference; if they produce a rate of return above the norm, the electricity consumer gets a rebate, he said.
PEC spokesman Ted Gruetzner said the contractor expects to start to pour the concrete base for the plant next month, and electricity production will begin by June 1, 2008.