Ford government to expand natural gas access

Ontario Premier Doug Ford speaks at the International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in Pain Court, September 18, 2018. (Photo by Angelica Haggert)

Premier Doug Ford and his Progressive Conservative government have announced plans to introduce legislation on Wednesday in an effort to expand access to natural gas in rural communities.

The announcement was made during the opening ceremony at the 2018 International Plowing Match and Rural Expo in Chatham-Kent Tuesday afternoon. Ford said if legislation is passed, natural gas will become more accessible to families and businesses.

“This new [proposed] program led by the private sector will provide natural gas to as many as 78 communities, 33,000 new households across all of rural and northern Ontario,” he said.

Ford said the combination of the proposed natural gas program and the cancellation of the cap and trade carbon tax will mean savings of $80 per year for families and $285 per year for small businesses.

“Giving more communities access to lower cost energy will mean more money in the pockets of farmers, families and small businesses, and more jobs throughout rural Ontario,” said Ford. “We introduce legislation tomorrow but today I’m happy to say promises made, promises kept.”

Ford’s announcement was well received among members of the New Democratic Party.

“Let’s make sure we have, finally the expansion of natural gas,” said NDP leader Andrea Horwath. “The opposition will help make sure that promise is actually kept.”

While some embraced Ford’s announcement with applause, others stood outside the tent in protest, holding a sign that read “Don’t Plow Our Charter.”

Protestors at the IPM in Pain Court. (Photo by Angelica Haggert)

Protestors from Toronto attended the IPM to protest Bill 31, which seeks to reduce the size of Toronto’s city council.

“I understand that farm issues and rural issues are really important but I take issue with the framing of the City of Toronto being in opposition to rural areas because the Charter is supposed to protect all of us,” said Aliya Pabani, one of the protestors. “We’re here to remind him that he can’t just ignore what’s happening and show up for a photo-op.”

Ford is expected to travel to Washington on Wednesday regarding NAFTA negotiations. Ford said he will be “making the case” to protect Ontario agricultural jobs.

-With files from Angelica Haggert.