By Linda White
Special to The Toronto Sun
As the decision on whether Canada will be selected to host a $12-billion research project at its proposed site in Ontario draws near, the province's labour community prepares to play an important role in the prestigious project.
"If they make the announcement that Canada is the preferred site, the trades training people will start beefing up their forces," says Patrick Dillon, business manager of the Provincial Building & Construction Trades Council of Ontario.
"From a construction standpoint, the project would have immediate benefits for construction workers across Ontario and across Canada. Its influence would be felt across the country," Dillon says.
He is representing federal labour organizations in Canada's bid to host ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), an international research and development project to develop fusion energy as a clean and sustainable energy source.
Canada's proposed site is located in the municipality of Clarington, just east of Toronto. An 18-building facility would be constructed adjacent to the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station on the northern shore of Lake Ontario in Durham Region.
Construction unions have raised $1.25 million to support Canada's bid, Dillon reports. France, Japan and Spain also want to host ITER. The preferred site is to be announced this fall.
Dillon estimates the project would create work for up to 3,000 skilled trade workers each year over a 10-year period.
"That number would fluctuate, depending on things like availability of materials and engineering, because some components would come from different countries," he says.
He expects all construction trades would play a role in construction of the facility, from cement finishers and pipe fitters to carpenters and electricians -- most from Ontario.
Fusion is the process that powers the sun and the stars. As its name suggests, it occurs when tiny amounts of matter are brought together to release huge amounts of
Fusion research has been under way since the 1920s. Since the 1950s, its focus has been on international collaboration aimed at developing fusion as a new energy source.
-- ITER Canada
"If construction got underway in 2004, we could supply most, if not all, the skilled trades needed," Dillon says. "If the economy stays busy, if Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton get busy, we might need to bring in people from outside Ontario."
Dillon compares the magnitude of the ITER project to construction of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. That project broke ground in 1978 and was complete in 1993. On average, it created work for 3,500 skilled trades workers, a number that peaked at 7,000.
"It was predicted we would have a skills shortage during construction of Darlington, but there was no time you couldn't get enough people to work," Dillon says.
The calibre of Ontario's skilled tradespeople has been important to Canada's bid.
"We have a team of talented skilled trades and that is recognized by the international community," says Laura Ferguson, director of communications for ITER Canada. "They know we have a wonderful infrastructure and they know the job would be done right," says Ferguson.
The ITER research facility is expected to have a 20-year operating period, followed by a 30-year decommissioning phase. It would have huge economic spin-offs, from residential construction to possible extension of Hwy. 407 and GO Train services. It would also impact companies that supply construction materials.
Recognized as the world's largest collaborative research and development project after the International Space Station, ITER would bring 250 scientists to Canada.
"We're always hearing about brain drain. This would reverse that trend," Ferguson says.
Dillon agrees. "Canada would be put on the map as a high-tech country. The spin-off of high technology companies that would locate here would be hard to measure."
(Linda White (email@example.com)
is a freelance writer based in Brooklin, Ont.)
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