An Ontario offshore wind company is seeking $2.25 billion in damages from the provincial Liberal government after the province declared a moratorium on off-shore wind farms.
“Ontario assassinated the company and the offshore industry by stealth through a press release,” John Kourtoff, the head of Trillium Wind Power Corp., told CBC News.
The financial damages the company is seeking are to cover the $5.3 million already spent and the lost potential revenue, Kourtoff said.
He said he decided to sue after someone in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office informed him on Sept. 1 that there was “no political appetite to deal with this either before or after the election.”
“This was not supposed to be about politics. According to them, there were some studies that were necessary. That’s all rubbish,” Kourtoff said.
The Ontario government maintains that the suit has no merit and environmental concerns trumped other worries. None of the company’s claims have been proven in court.
“In my 17 years in elected office I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a frivolous lawsuit,” said Energy Minister Brad Duguid. “This company has no contract with the province at all and it’s suggesting that somehow or another the province doesn’t have a responsibility to ensure we take every environmental protection.”
In February, the Ontario government put a moratorium on all offshore wind development, saying more research was needed to determine health and environmental impacts, particularly with respect to projects in the Great Lakes.
Trillium says the announcement came hours before the company was set to sign a financing deal with a major investor.
The lawsuit claims that the government acted in bad faith and its action amounted to “a confiscation of property rights, without warning or substantive justification” that destroyed the company.
Trillium was planning a wind power project to be the first in Lake Ontario, between 17 and 28 kilometres from shore. It would have delivered enough electricity to power a minimum of 177,000 typical Ontario homes.
Some American states like Ohio are pushing ahead with plans to build wind farms in the Great Lakes, having deemed them both environmentally and economically viable.
Supporters of the project claim that a huge opportunity to create jobs in Ontario has been lost.
The Conference Board of Canada has indicated that the development and operation of offshore wind energy “would add between $4.8 billion and $5.5 billion to Ontario’s economy” by 2026 and would add up to 4,400 jobs per year during the construction phase.
“The real losers in this are people who want to have a job, especially younger people,” Kourtoff said. “Are we going to have a province of people scratching lottery tickets, or are we going to have a province of people actually manufacturing things?”