City of Kawartha Lakes Councillor Heather Stauble says the Province’s refusal to allow municipalities more say over wind and solar energy projects in their own backyards strikes at the heart of the health and safety of residents.
“Under the Municipal Act, municipalities can pass bylaws that [ensure] the health and safety of residents, such as not being allowed to smoke within 30 feet of a door, or [governing] pesticide use,” said Ms Stauble, who represents Ward 16. “Under the Green Energy Act, we can’t pass those bylaws.”
She noted a municipality can “pass a bylaw that is even stronger” than provincial law.
On Dec. 1, the Local Municipality Act was introduced by the provincial Conservatives, a bill that would allow municipalities to exercise the same controls over industrial wind turbine developments that they can have over other commercial projects.
Ms Stauble said the NDPs had indicated their support, but later voted with the Liberals to defeat the bill, which was disappointing, she said, adding she didn’t know why the NDPs voted they way they did.
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott said more than 80 municipalities across Ontario have “passed resolutions [saying] they want that authority back.
“The public should have a part in the process,” Ms Scott said. “That process has been removed.”
She said the wind turbine issue, which has caused huge controversy in Manvers Township for more than a year, has “set neighbour against neighbour.”
Both Ms Scott and Coun. Stauble agreed that the sticking point is that the public has no say in whether or not wind turbines can be installed in the city. Worse, both women said, municipalities have no say and no control over them but are forced, under the Green Energy Act, to do as the Province dictates.
“Even if we could have bylaws [governing] setbacks and noise, the Province could control other aspects,” said Coun. Stauble. “But, under the Green Energy Act we can’t.”
She said in her view, wind turbine setbacks and noise controls fall under health and safety of residents, which the City has a duty to preserve under the Municipal Act.
Coun. Stauble said taking the “critical” right of the public to speak up and taking away a municipality’s right to exercise at least some control has been “a huge mistake” that has eroded public confidence and trust in the government. She believes the Green Energy Act stands as it does “to eliminate uncertainty for investors…it gives wind companies clear passage.”
Ms Scott said the government should be taking the same approach to wind turbine sites as it has for the Oak Ridges Moraine; which is strictly regulated when it comes to development of any kind.
“Look at the Oak Ridges Moraine; you can’t even put up a tool shed,” she said.
Coun. Stauble said she hoped “that discussions are happening behind closed doors”, adding she is confident the issue will be brought forward again.
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