Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA)

Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA)

April 21, 2011 11:44 ET

Harper Bungling Threatens Thousands of High Tech Jobs in Ontario

Future of Industry Threatened Because of Government Lack of Support Says Society of Professional Engineers and Associates

MISSISSAUGA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 21, 2011) - - The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) greeted news that a potential investor has walked away from an investment in Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) angrily. "The Harper government has put thousands of jobs at peril, threatened the future of the nuclear industry in Canada and potentially put existing nuclear facilities at risk," said Dr. Michael Ivanco, Vice President of SPEA.

Reports today indicate that Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) has decided to withdraw from a planned bid to purchase with SNC Lavalin. Sources cited in the reports indicate that the decision was made, in part, as a result of the Harper government's unwillingness to support future research and development as well as provide the necessary financial assurances that other countries provide their nuclear companies.

"Every major nuclear company in the world receives support from their government," said Ivanco. "SPEA is not opposed to private sector investment or management in AECL and welcomes the OMERS potential investment given that they are one of the leading investors in Canadian nuclear management. There is however a difference. What Stephen Harper is doing is killing off AECL which contributes more jobs and investment for a fraction of the amount about to be spent on new fighter jets."

"Harper will be remembered for his decision to kill AECL and create a modern day version of the AVRO Arrow," said Ivanco. "More than 70,000 high tech jobs as well as thousands of young people in Canadian universities depend on a strong AECL. The message that the Harper government is sending is that you might as well update your passport because there won't be many high tech jobs available in Canada."

In testimony before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's review of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, SPEA pointed out that any potential sale of AECL could pose risks if the breakup of the CANDU design authority leads to a loss of expertise needed to ensure plants run safely and effectively decades into the future. "A sale could easily result in AECL being carved up in pieces, which would put at risk the design, engineering and safety team that can be called upon in the event of an emergency," Ivanco pointed out. This is precisely what reports suggest that the remaining bidder, reported to be SNC Lavalin, will do. "Our members believe that we design the safest reactors in the world. Indeed, we believe - based on the limited detail available about the sequence of events at the Fukushima plant - the same problems would likely not have occurred at a CANDU plant. There are still lessons to be learned from the Fukushima situation. If AECL is broken up, who will be there to implement the recommendations?"

SPEA is urging the government to stop the sale of AECL and wait until an investigation into the Fukushima situation is completed. It is also demanding that AECL be allowed to compete on contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars that are currently available. "The Harper government has starved AECL by not allowing it to compete for business. These contracts will allow the company to keep it going while minimizing the need for government funding," said Ivanco. "Despite the recent setback in Japan, the future of nuclear power is still strong and more countries will look at Canadian designed CANDU because of its inherent safety and lower level of risk. Now is not the time to abandon one of Canada's premier technologies."

The Society of Professional Engineers and Associates (SPEA) represents engineers, scientists, technologists and trades people who work for Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in Mississauga, Ontario and abroad (excluding Chalk River Laboratories). SPEA members collectively represent the majority of Canada's nuclear power design expertise.

Contact Information

  • SPEA External Relations
    Michelle Duncan
    (416) 427-3525 (cellular)
    duncanm@spea.ca