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Editorial: Vale’s deal with Tesla and city getting funding for a new pool make spring feel like a new beginning for Thompson

On May 9, Thompsonites learned that much-needed money for a new pool was coming in the form of $11 million from the provincial and federal governments. A few days earlier, Vale signed a deal to provide Tesla nickel for electric vehicle batteries.
reg helwer pool funding announcement may 9 2022
Reg Helwer, Manitoba’s labour, consumer protection and government services minister, speaking at a May 9 announcement of $11 million in federal and provincial funding for a new pool in Thompson

With the COVID-19 pandemic not gone but largely forgotten, Thompson got something it hasn’t had a lot of in recent years in the early days of May: good news.

First to come to light was a deal Vale has signed with electric car manufacturer Tesla to sell it nickel from its Canadian mines for use in the production of batteries to power its vehicles, which are produced in the United States. Some people might not believe it, but the demand for electric vehicles is expected to rise in coming years as gas gets more expensive, companies and organizations try to produce fewer carbon dioxide emissions and higher production rates make the vehicles, which are currently usually more expensive than gas-powered counterparts, affordable enough for more people to buy them. Though much of the deal is shrouded in secrecy, it is said to be long-term and means that Vale has a big customer for the class 1 nickel that is produced by its Canadian mines. Coupled with recent news in Thompson about drilling programs to try to determine the extent of the ore body under the T-1 and T-3 mines, it looks like mining could be set to become the economic driver that it once was for Thompson before falling on hard times due to lower prices and environmental regulations forcing the shutdown of the smelter and refinery, which the company decided it would be too expensive to upgrade to current standards. We aren’t quite back at the heady days of 2007 or 2008, when nickel prices were about twice as high as they are now, but the horizon looks a lot brighter than it did over the past decade or so, when the only thing Vale’s operations were doing in Thompson was shrinking. People may love their rumbling, smoke-belching diesel trucks, but if quiet, emissions-free electric vehicles help provide hundreds of people in Thompson with good livings as nickel demand increases, they’re probably going to win over some converts, in principle if not in practice.

Then on Monday, Thompsonites learned that much-needed money for a new pool to replace the Norplex, permanently closed down since 2019, was coming in the form of $11 million from the provincial and federal governments. It will probably still be two years before a facility is ready for people to splish and splash inside it, making Thompson’s pool-less period five years or more, but at least there seems to be more of an end date at last. Although there is much to criticize about the current mayor and council, with some citizens having more criticisms than others, they have managed to bring a lot of grant funding into the city over the past couple of years to fix up roads and sewers and now to build a new pool, which will be located adjacent to the Thompson Regional Community Centre. Getting new infrastructure without city taxpayers being forced to pay for it all through property taxes now, or debentures being used to spread the cost over as long as 25 years, is a bonus, and, relatively soon, Thompson could once again be a place where children indulge in that growing-up rite of passage: taking swimming lessons and propelling themselves across the deep end.

Thompson probably shouldn’t get too far ahead of itself. It is early days for both the nickel deal and the promised new pool, but it’s nice to imagine that brighter days are ahead. The city and its residents have been forced to do without a lot of things in recent times, particularly over the past few years of the pandemic, so it’s nice to have it finally seem like patience is paying off a little.