A wind of uncertainty blowing through area

By MPP Toby Barrett

The storm of uncertainty swirling about the McGuinty Green Energy policy grows more worrisome and divisive as residents become aware of the extensive list of projects slated to blow into our area.

I hear it at the door, at my office, at the open houses in Jarvis, Fisherville, and Port Dover. I find few who don’t have an opinion on the hundreds of wind towers on their way and what their impact will be.

Local headlines highlight the concerns of area people; “Stop the wind turbines”, “Council needs to take a stand on turbines”, and “Standing firm against wind power.”

I have watched as a draconian and poorly constructed green energy plan has pitted neighbour against neighbour forcing people to take sides on the issue of wind towers. I’ve watched as farmers working within the rules have invested time and money into green energy only to find there is no connection to the grid.

Unfortunately, instead of relying on communication between impacted neighbours and municipal leaders, McGuinty’s Green Energy Act has short-circuited the process – in the end, no-one is happy.

The bizarre reality in Ontario is that while municipalities and local families are allowed their say on where a new Tim Hortons or Walmart is located, Dalton McGuinty has let Toronto bureaucrats decide where industrial wind towers will be located. Many farmers who have signed wind leases often tell me they are caught in the middle and are just as perplexed as to why there is no municipal oversight or protocol.

There are no rulings from county council, nor any yellow roadside zoning signs, because Mr. McGuinty has neutered the municipal process while allowing an environmental assessment process that has been so watered down it has been rendered toothless.

As the over 300 attendees at the inaugural meeting of Haldimand Wind Concerns learned, many municipalities are digging into their toolbox for other ways to make their voice heard. Norfolk County is one of 75 municipalities that passed resolutions objecting to industrial wind turbines and/or Dalton McGuinty’s Green Energy Act.

Meanwhile in Huron-Kinloss, the municipality is refusing to issue building permits for new industrial wind energy projects unless developers adhere to their policies.

Given the standing room only status of the Haldimand meeting, it is clear that people are aware, and ever-more passionate, about concerns raised by Norfolk resident Stephana Johnston, and other presenters. Topics included: municipal powers, reported health concerns, suitability of 550 metre setbacks, tourism and property values.

The fact that the only science Mr. McGuinty seems to use for decisions on wind tower placement is political science, rubs further salt into the wound of those looking to have their voices heard.

Despite municipal moratorium demands, McGuinty recently ploughed ahead with his industrial wind experiment in four ridings – none of which are Liberal-held. Meantime he cancelled all off-shore wind turbine projects bowing to largely urban pressure– less than a week later a Toronto Star headline reported that after October’s election, “Offshore turbines could be resurrected, McGuinty hints”.

I and my caucus colleagues continue to press for a wind moratorium. Opposition Leader Tim Hudak makes clear our intention to restore municipal powers of decision-making. But, government refuses to answer ongoing questions, or provide any sense of real direction to an issue that is spiraling out of control.