By MPP Toby Barrett
As I write this column, the clock is winding down on the final window for public input on the McGuinty Government/Samsung deal whereby 67 industrial wind turbines and 800 acres of solar panels will arrive in Haldimand County.
The closing of that window June 30th marks the next chapter for a government-sponsored green energy experiment that has been dogged by unanswered questions from the get-go.
Many may recall the original George Smitherman-brokered, backroom deal presented in January 2010, as a fait accompli – no competitive bidding, no lobbyists registered, no transparency, no opportunity for Ontario companies to come to the table, and no debate.
The plan would see scarce transmission capacity in Haldimand set aside for Samsung. As well the company would be given access to Ontario Realty Corporation land at South Cayuga, in addition to lucrative subsidies for the next 20 years.
As news spread, calls and emails began pouring in to my constituency offices in Dunnville and Simcoe. Forces began mobilizing as municipalities and residents alike got their first taste of the removal of local decision-making. We also saw the creation of Haldimand Wind Concerns – a chapter of Wind Concerns Ontario. Both Haldimand and Norfolk were among 80 Ontario municipalities to pass resolutions objecting to industrial wind turbines and/or Dalton McGuinty’s Green Energy Act.
As this local opposition grew, Samsung continued through a Renewable Energy Approval (REA) process designed by the Ontario government to seemingly guarantee smooth passage.
Meanwhile, ratepayers felt the impact of ongoing increases in electricity rates hitting our doorsteps in the monthly hydro bill. We’ve already seen a doubling of the rate since 2003.
Despite the mounting opposition, packed council chambers and open houses, we saw an agreement between Haldimand County, Samsung, Capital Power, and Niagara Region Wind to create the $40 million Community Vibrancy Fund.
While demonstrations, debate and petitions continued at Queens Park, government continued to roll out the green carpet.
All the while Samsung moved through the REA process and made the rounds to secure support. The other shoe dropped with the announcement of the South Cayuga land-lease agreement with Six Nations – an agreement that continues the trend of unanswered questions – apparently transferring $55 million from crown land at South Cayuga to Six Nations.
When I asked repeatedly in the House for details, government confused the situation. While the minister stated that “the agreement had nothing to do with the government,” Six Nations Chief Bill Montour, noted in the Teka that, “A letter from the Minister of Infrastructure states that the lease from the land surface will be turned over to Six Nations.” Chief Montour went on to characterize this as “unprecedented,” because, “They have always maintained that we have no right to that land.”
Just as it was with the original Samsung deal, so too with the most recent deal; the people in Ontario, and particularly those in our area are kept in the dark.
Soon after, the Ministry announced Samsung’s renewable energy approval, triggering the 15-day appeal window
The approval was granted following a previous 30-day consultation period on the environment registry generating 101 comments. Of the 29 comments posted online, only one favoured the project.
Barring any last minute appeal, the REA approval would mark the final green stamp require before the turbines go up.