In February 2011, when Dalton McGuinty put in place a moratorium on all off shore wind development in Ontario to try to save Liberal ridings in Scarborough, he signaled that rural voters don’t count as much as urban voters with his government.
The following week McGuinty approved a number of multi-million dollar feed-in-tariff contracts for projects in four rural communities that voted Progressive Conservative in the last election. With less than a hundred days until the next election, Dalton McGuinty’s biggest problem is rural Ontarians who are standing up and preparing to fight back.
Rural residents have been pushing back against this government’s anti-democratic, anti-rural Ontario edicts for years. On Oct. 6 they’ve got a chance to use their votes on to undo the damage Dalton McGuinty’s misguided policies have done to rural communities across Ontario.
Ontario’s Green Energy Act showed how out of touch the Ontario Liberal Party is with rural communities. The Green Energy Act was designed to strip rural municipalities of local planning control over massive industrial wind developments. When introducing the bill McGuinty also said citizens should no longer have the right to have a say over industrial wind development in their communities.
Instead of working with communities to address their concerns, Dalton McGuinty chose to bench democratically elected decision makers at the local level, and decree that industrial wind projects would be approved instead by unelected bureaucrats in downtown Toronto -people who aren’t accountable to anyone.
Ontario Liberals have chosen to ignore the more than 135 people who are already suffering serious health impacts due to living too close to industrial wind developments.
While refusing repeated calls for independent science, the Liberals sent out the Mcguinty-appointed Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health to declare that there were no direct health impacts from living near industrial wind turbines. Dr. Arlene King conducted no medical study and formed this conclusion without examining or interviewing a single Ontarian reporting negative health impacts.
The spike in energy costs under the McGuinty government has especially hurt rural families and businesses and due in part to Ontario’s Green Energy Act that pain is expected to continue to grow over the next five years. According to Jan Carr, the former President of the Ontario Power Authority, electricity bills will cost $310 more per year in five years than they do right now, just due to so-called ‘Green Energy.’
The Green jobs McGuinty is promising will not benefit the rural municipalities that have been driven apart by industrial wind development. The Ontario Liberals’ plan would see those jobs go to urban centres. Each of these ‘green jobs’ will come at a cost of $179,000 tax dollars of subsidy, per job, per year. At a time when the government is failing to provide basic quality services to rural municipalities it is especially unreasonable that rural taxpayers should be expected to go to work every day to subsidize the employment of those who are harming their communities and raising their electricity rates.
Rural Ontario has a vibrant, healthy quality of life that is not compatible with living in industrial zones. People choose to live in rural Ontario for the peace and quiet, natural features, or the ability to live off the land. Industrial wind development ends that peace and quiet with noise and vibration levels far above what is normal for rural settings. Flashing red lights serve as a constant reminder of the forever-changed setting. Disruptive low frequency vibration and noise end peoples’ ability to sleep in their own homes.
The government has known since June 2009 that wind turbines were making rural Ontarians sick, and driving people from their homes. They admitted then that they have no way of measuring sound from wind turbines to ensure they aren’t doing harm. Yet, the government partnered with the wind industry in choosing to keep this information hidden from the public and approve projects against strong objections from rural municipalities.
Since the Green Energy Act was introduced in 2009, more than eighty rural municipalities who are home to a combined two million people have passed motions calling on the government to stop approving projects until proper health and environmental studies have been done and local control is restored.
While rural Ontarians continue to fight hard to protect their communities from further approval of industrial wind developments, Ontario’s Official Opposition, the Progressive Conservatives, have been working hard to represent rural interests in the Legislature. They have spoken out against Ontario’s Green Energy Act and called on the Government to put in place a moratorium on wind development until independent health and environmental studies are completed and local democracy is restored to communities.
Ontario’s PCs have made a commitment. Rural Ontarians have hope that after the McGuinty Liberals are defeated, human health, environmental protection and the primacy of local democracy will be restored by Tim Hudak as Premier.
John Laforet is president of Wind Concerns Ontario.
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