‘Tis the season for ideas, information and debate

By MPP Toby Barrett

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…
– John Keats

Autumn is a time of mists and mellow fruitfulness, of fall fairs, and this year also a time of all-candidates nights.

I have attended most of the fairs and municipal debates this fall and have heard a wide range of issues and concerns.
Across our area, whether it be St. Williams or Lowbanks or Canborough, top issues include the price of electricity and the lack of jobs.
In Norfolk, citizens continue to discuss how to replace tobacco. Now, after the Smucker’s announcement farmers wonder what will happen to cucumber contracts. And in Haldimand, the closing of the Smucker’s plant – the largest employer in Dunnville – will leave a gaping employment void that most acknowledge will be difficult to fill.

Many report shock when they open their electricity bill to see rapidly-climbing fees as the true cost of government energy experiments becomes apparent. The addition of HST, government approved rate hikes, time of use “smart metering” to the unaffordable prices to be paid for wind, solar and further Green Energy Act subsidies has families wondering how they can pay the bills.

It is important to understand the priorities of families and their inability to pay for expensive energy experiments. We cannot continue to pursue green energy policies that unnecessarily drive up the costs for consumers and have punitive impacts on our broader economy.

Residents and candidates alike are demanding government restore municipal decision-making powers over siting of wind and solar projects. I continue to seek answers to questions I hear about compensation due to property devaluation from an adjacent wind development and how we replace the farmland taken over by solar projects. November 10th I will be hosting another Energy and our Environment Symposium in Jarvis.

And it’s not just the cost of electricity. When you combine the HST tax grab with higher education fees and auto insurance bills it’s clear that Ontario families are working harder than ever, and getting less in return. And many question the shell game government played with its on again, off again attempt to sneak through eco fees on consumers’ bottom lines. It’s worth noting a government report titled From Waste to Worth also advocates new eco fees on cars, trucks, and children’s toys.

Other issues raised include – access to Lake Erie and the pros and cons of development at Long Point, The Edwards Landfill and Cayuga’s abandoned resin plant; the need for a Hagersville bypass, OPG Nanticoke and why WalMart was prevented from building in Dunnville.

The Misners Dam/Silver Lake debate continues in Norfolk County. People want to know who is in charge, who is paying the bill and why it is taking so long to make a decision.

In addition to economic and pocketbook issues, as expected, much of the conversation at the Caledonia fair and Haldimand debates focus on the four-and-a-half year old land dispute – as well as a third bridge across the Grand and re-enhancement of La Fortune Park.

As I hear from people locally, I note that Opposition leader Tim Hudak is looking for input from across the province. Have Your Say, Ontario is a province-wide survey, to encourage residents to make their voice heard on everything from jobs, social programs, taxes, debt, environment, education, to personal safety, health care and governance.