WINDSOR–Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak has vowed to restore veto power to communities over provincial energy projects if his party forms the next government.
The Green Energy Act allows the Ontario Power Authority to “arbitrarily override” democratically elected councillors and mayors to impose energy projects, Hudak said at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario meeting.
Hudak said this “abuse of democracy” is most clearly seen in the proliferation of wind farms throughout the province. Some rural communities have strongly contested the presence of wind farms.
“The government’s Green Energy Act actually strips away planning authority from elected municipal governments and bestows it on faceless bureaucrats at the Ontario Power Authority,” Hudak said.
Hudak said he does not oppose renewable power, but it should only be located “where it is welcomed and wanted” and at prices people can afford. Some rural protesters claim the wind turbines cause nose bleeds and migraines but experts counter there is no scientific data to back those claims up.
In a direct appeal to municipal leaders, Hudak said under that under Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals, the provincial government has become too big and expensive. Ontario’s deficit is currently $19.7 billion. “At his current pace, Premier McGuinty will single-handedly double our provincial debt by 2012,” Hudak said.
The province could easily save $200 million by abolishing the local health integration networks, Hudak added to cheers from the AMO crowd.
“These LHINs are nothing but a bloated bureaucracy for Dalton McGuinty to hide behind whenever he wants to lay off nurses or close down an ER,” he said. “They don’t spend a single minute with a patient. A PC government would shut down the LHINs and put every penny in patient care.”
In 2007, Ontario was carved up into 14 LHINs by then-health minister George Smitherman to hand out $21.5 billion of scant health care dollars. The networks are meant to localize decision making as to where that precious funding should go.
However, last week the provincial ombudsman criticized the networks for adopting a bylaw that allowed them to hold secret, closed-door meetings and skirt public consultation. Health Minister Deb Matthews asked all LHINs last week to repeal the “illegal” bylaw.
Also Tuesday, Norman Sandberg, a Collingwood councillor, was elected the new president of AMO. Sandberg said he wants to continue the “excellent” relationship the association has with Queen’s Park. He added he would have no problem working with Hudak if a PC government were to succeed the Liberals.
Toronto is not part of the association but nearly 420 other municipalities are.
Sandberg said he’d love for Toronto to come back into the fold, wondering aloud if the new mayor will revisit the situation.
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