The election results are in, and the people have spoken in South Bruce, with a whopping 59% voter turnout (nearly double the provincial average). What are we to take away from this election? POW, the local activist group opposing the proposed Deep Geological Repository (DGR) ran a complete slate of candidates, in what appeared to be a very well-funded, well-organized, and well-communicated campaign. They clearly communicated their message and the names and faces of their candidates to voters, offering them a clear choice to oppose the DGR project. The results are significant. In each race, POW captured about 1/3 of the vote, with about 2/3 of voters supporting other candidates.
This was not a referendum on the DGR, but had the referendum been held, I suspect the results would have been similar. Somewhere around 2/3 of people would have voted in favour, and 1/3 opposed. It appears there will eventually be a referendum, and we won’t know the results until that point, but the 2022 municipal election results give us a forward indicator. Of course, some people will stick with their current opinion, and some people may change their thinking, one way or the other, but I suspect support for the DGR project will continue to strengthen between now and the referendum. Why? There will be more studies released, more information sessions, and more learning. Experience tells us that the more people learn about the nuclear industry, the more comfort and trust they develop, and the more they tend to support it.
On one hand, I’m encouraged. If the DGR project goes ahead, it will be an important step forward for Canada to create a permanent solution for nuclear waste. In South Bruce, our children and grandchildren will benefit from the many high-paying, high-tech jobs, and the associated economic benefits to our local businesses. More of them will be able to make a good living here in South Bruce, and not need to move to the city for work.
On the other hand, I don’t think any of us should be satisfied with a result where the majority rules, and a large portion of our population is strongly opposed, or a situation where a number of local residents consider themselves the “losers” in a tough battle. I don’t think there need be any losers. There are billions of dollars to be invested, and all of us – the entire community – should see a net positive outcome. If this project goes ahead, we need to get the best possible deal for South Bruce, and we need to do our best to create a true win-win situation, where there is something for everyone, and nobody is left behind.
Our new Council goes to work with a strong mandate to manage and govern our community, and to continue the process to see whether the DGR project is right for South Bruce. I hope they will focus on re-uniting our community, and using the DGR opportunity to safeguard our precious environment, and to bring economic benefits to all our residents.
Tony Zettel, RR5 Mildmay