Premier Dalton McGuinty is leaving the door open to get offshore wind turbines and minimum wage increases rolling again after the October election following controversial U-turns on those issues last week.
“We’ve got the minimum wage where it needs to be this year. I’m not talking about next year,” McGuinty said after a luncheon speech to the Brampton Board of Trade on Tuesday.
It was his first public comment since the government announced Friday that the minimum wage will be frozen at $10.25 after seven years of increases – and that wind turbine projects, the subject of determined opposition from some nearby residents, will not be built in the Great Lakes for now.
The premier repeated assertions from Energy Minister Brad Duguid that there isn’t enough data as yet to determine whether the electricity-generating turbines – part of the government’s “green energy plan”— are safe for the environment in fresh water locations.
“People are free to do as they wish in terms of drawing whatever inferences that they desire,” McGuinty said, in an apparent reference to critics who insist the decisions were made to appease businesses concerned about wage costs and waterfront residents who might turf Liberal MPPs out of office over offshore wind farms.
Opposition parties said McGuinty is trying to have it both ways, noting that both the minimum wage and offshore wind turbine announcements came when the world was preoccupied with the overthrow of the Mubarek regime in Egypt.
“This is blind panic,” said Progressive Conservative MPP Peter Shurman (Thornhill).
“Maybe he means the flip-flop, maybe he doesn’t. He’s like a fish flopping all over the shore,” NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said of McGuinty.
“But what people are looking for in the next election is someone who knows where they’re going.”
She maintained the Liberals are handing rivals plenty of ammunition with less than eight months to the Oct. 6 vote. McGuinty had previously supported increasing the minimum wage through the recession and warned against residents opposing wind turbines with a “NIMBY” attitude – short for not in my backyard – because green energy must go forward to replace heavily polluting coal-fired power plants.
“The premier’s getting himself into trouble. He should pay more attention to what people are saying about making ends meet,” Horwath added.
Shurman said “the only science that’s involved in backtracking on these wind turbines is political science.”
If McGuinty is truly concerned about Great Lakes water quality, he would toughen standards for releases of the carcinogen tritium from nuclear power plants, said the Canadian Environmental Law Association.
The group said it is “not aware of any serious or credible evidence of risks to drinking water from offshore wind turbines.”
Residents of the Guildwood area in Scarborough, where a wind turbine farm was proposed several kilometers offshore, are concerned about the impact of turbines on their homes, water quality, and bird and aquatic life.
McGuinty cautioned that opponents of land-based wind turbine farms should not be emboldened by the moratorium on offshore projects.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve been very aggressive with respect to land-based turbines. We will continue to be very aggressive in terms of locating land-based wind turbines here in Ontario.”
The province now has over 700 of them, up from 10 five years ago.
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