Ambrose Raftis studied industrial technology controls at Ryerson University in Toronto and moved to Charlton, a small community 55 kilometres northwest of Temiskaming Shores, in 1974. From 1974 to 1988, Ambrose was deeply involved in fighting a series of proposals for projects that were a threat to the environment of the region. They included a proposal to use the mined out Adams Mine pit near Kirkland Lake as a dump site for Toronto’s garbage, a proposal for the storage of nuclear waste and, most threatening of all, a scheme to locate a PCB incinerator in the region.
Ambrose advises Northerners to have their own vision for the future of their communities and not to depend on outsiders looking to foist dirty industries on communities desperate for jobs. He also stresses the importance of independent research to counter the biased claims of project proponents eager to downplay environmental risks and exaggerate the economic spinoffs.
Most of this interview, however, focuses on his pursuit of a much more positive and sustainable vision for the future and his promotion of alternative energy projects for the region. He makes a strong case for local municipal ownership of solar farms and offers the example of Temiskaming Shores, which settled for a $250,000 annual cheque from a solar energy developer when it could have earned many times that by developing and owning the site itself.
Ambrose was more successful developing nine much smaller 500 KW solar installations in the Temiskaming region through SolarShare, a Toronto-based co-op, when efforts to raise the required $24 million locally didn’t pan out.
This interview will be of special interest to Northern Ontario municipal officials and economic development officers interested in taking advantage of opportunities to produce their own energy, grow food locally and keep money circulating within their communities. Among the opportunities Ambrose urges Northerners to investigate are net metering and the purchase of corporate-owned solar projects when the current Feed-in Tariff contracts expire.