Premier Ford tours Wheatley blast site

Premier Doug Ford tours Wheatley blast site. Sept 21, 2021. (Photo via Premier's Office)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in Wheatley on Tuesday along with his Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Greg Rickford to tour the area of the August 26, 2021 explosion.

They met with Mayor Darrin Canniff, Fire Chief Chris Case, Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire, Ward 1 Councillor Mark Authier, and Ward 1 Councillor Melissa Harrigan during the visit.

“We are very thankful for the ongoing work that’s being done to get to the bottom of last month’s explosion. We want the families and businesses that have been affected by this incident to know that our government has their backs,” said the premier. “The people of Wheatley deserve answers and we are continuing to provide technical support and funding to the municipality of Chatham-Kent as they investigate the source of the explosion and recover from this devastating event.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has hired an expert consulting firm, Golder Associates, to conduct a technical analysis of the area. The ministry also continues to fund 24-hour gas monitoring in the area.

“We want to thank both Mayor Canniff and Fire Chief Case for their leadership throughout this challenging situation,” Ford said. “We will continue to work with the experts to determine next steps and support the municipality anyway we can.”

The premier’s visit comes one day after the Municipality of Chatham-Kent announced it has signed an agreement with the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to take the lead in investigating the source of the blast.

Chatham-Kent officials are pleased with the premier’s visit.

Municipal officials are optimistic that the province has a greater understanding of the crisis facing the community following a meeting Tuesday morning. Mayor Canniff said the province delivered on the key issues identified by Chatham-Kent.

“We wanted the province to lead the investigation into the cause of the gas leak. Today the province announced that Golder Associates has been contracted to do that as well as provide gas monitoring and recommend options to mitigate risks,” he said.

CAO Don Shropshire said the fact that the premier met with citizens of Wheatley who are spearheading community recovery efforts was important.

“Seeing and hearing first-hand how the explosion has affected the community brings the issue into focus much more clearly than reading a report or getting information second-hand,” said Shropshire. “I’m thankful the premier and minister took the time to meet with those who have been most affected.”

Mayor Canniff said the premier was also able to feel the spirit of the community by speaking with the residents.

“The citizens of Wheatley have shown tremendous resiliency and they are determined to get through this and come out stronger,” the mayor said.

Canniff said it means a lot when the premier publicly states the province wants the families and businesses that have been affected by this incident to know that his government has their backs.