In a vote in the Legislature last Thursday, the Ontario Liberal government, joined by the NDP, demonstrated their contempt for local decision making by voting down the Local Municipality Democracy Act, 2011.
This bill, introduced by my colleague, MPP Todd Smith, would have restored the powers for local municipalities to decide whether or not they want industrial wind or solar farms in their communities. Communities lost these powers to the province when the McGuinty government passed the Green Energy Act in 2009, and exempted green energy projects from local control.
Innisfil faced an application for a potential wind farm in 2008. Though this application was withdrawn and was only for five windmills, it shows an interest in wind power in this community. With the defeat of my colleague’s bill, rural Ontario faces the risk of hundreds more of these projects taking up good agricultural land, ruining landscapes and property values, and potentially harming the health of residents living near the projects.
Smith introduced his bill because his constituents in Prince Edward County are threatened by the construction of large-scale industrial wind farms on its south shore – in an area dependent on tourism. His community is one of many in Ontario threatened by wind farms, and his constituents and their local council have no power to stop them.
People in Smith’s riding have seen the effects of windmills in areas along the shores of Lake Ontario. If you want to see what windmills look like in practice, Google ‘Wolfe Island’ and ‘windmills’, and see how close to homes and the water that the project is. Wolfe Island is near Kingston, and its 86-turbine wind farm opened in 2009. Imagine the scene repeated along the shores of Lake Simcoe, and no local council would be able to stop it. Applications are already in for Georgina Island, and it’s probably only a matter of time before we see applications for some part of the Lake Simcoe shoreline.
In Georgina, the threat is solar farms. Three projects, totalling more than 200 acres, are proposed. I attended public consultations on this project, but again, the local council has no power to stop this project.
I have written before about the high costs associated with the government’s green energy projects – none of which are viable without massive subsidies of taxpayer money. Producers are paid between about two and 15 times the wholesale price of electricity. I do not object to windmills or solar farms, if local people want them, but it has to be up to local communities to decide. This it what the government refuses to recognize. It needs to stop forcing local communities to do its bidding, and start working with them.
We saw this attitude when the McGuinty government forced the natural gas peaker plant on King Township, right beside the Holland Marsh. Then they cancelled a gas plant in Oakville, and another in Mississauga, because Liberal seats in the Legislature were at risk. They also cancelled proposed offshore windmills beside the Scarborough Bluffs, off the shore of Liberal ridings, no less.
All that I ask, on behalf of my constituents, is that people in our communities get to make the decisions that affect their health and quality of life. It is not too much to ask.
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