WAINFLEET – Welland MPP Cindy Forster didn’t make a lot of friends in Wainfleet township with her vote against the Local Municipality Democracy Act on Thursday, Dec. 1.
The word “disappointed” came out a lot when Wainfleet alderman and the mayor were asked about the New Democrat’s vote on the private members bill, introduced by Todd Smith, the Conservative MPP for Prince Edward-Hastings in the Belleville area.
The bill would have given municipalities back some control over the location of industrial wind turbines proposed in their areas. That control is now held by the province under the Green Energy Act.
“I’m more than disappointed, I’m pissed,” Ald. Betty Konc said. “Wainfleet is typically Conservative … she hasn’t made any friends with that vote, there are a lot of unhappy people here. She’s made a humongous mistake.”
Konc said if Forster wasn’t going to stick to a campaign promise to put power back in the hands of local municipalities, then the MPP should have abstained from the vote, like a number of her colleagues in the New Democratic Party did last Thursday.
“Would Peter (Kormos, the riding’s former MPP, also a New Democrat) have gone against his party? Of course he would have.”
Konc, like the rest of her colleagues on township council, said Wainfleet isn’t against green energy, it just wants to have control over where they are placed and to see more studies into health and property value issues. Other countries, she added, have far more experience with turbines and the government should have looked to them. She used Spain as an example of a country that is suffering partially because of problems with green energy through wind turbines.
As for the excuse by the provincial government that municipalities could say no to turbines and then cause decisions to go the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), Konc said “so be it.”
“We are the people speaking and we represent the people. The people in Wainfleet have said they don’t want wind turbines.”
Ald. Richard Dykstra was disappointed with the vote at Queen’s Park and the way it went.
“I’m not happy at all. I’m very disappointed in the NDP and particularly Cindy Forster for voting along party lines. She did not listen to her constituents,” he said, adding when Forster was running for in the provincial election, she stumbled around the wind turbine issue.
He said Forster promised to do what was right for the people, but showed with her vote she’s not willing to stand up for them.
“She got in under Peter’s name and coattails. Peter would stand up for what was right.”
Dykstra, who has no problem declaring himself a Conservative, said in a democracy representatives have to listen to the people.
“Personally, I don’t like wind turbines. In all of the phone calls I received, it was 100 to one against them rather than in favour. My job is to support what the people say … I have to do what’s right for the people.”
The alderman said despite his personal position on the turbines, if people in Wainfleet wanted them, then he would vote in favour of them as their representative.
“It’s not the party that helps you win an election, it’s the people,” he said, adding he’s not against green energy, just against being handcuffed by the government.
Ald. David Wyatt said federal and provincial politics are prone to people voting along party lines and there are no free votes. Wyatt said it appears Forster has abandoned her constituents and been held hostage by her party. He said it was a shame she couldn’t support the people that voted her in.
“It almost made we want to have Peter back, not that I necessarily agreed with him, but at least he stood up to his party. Do we have a voice at Queen’s Park now with Cindy? No, we don’t.”
Wyatt said all Wainfleet as well as many of the municipalities which have passed moratoriums on wind turbines want to have the decision-making on wind turbines placed back in their hands.
“I hope this bill comes back,” he said, adding if it does, MPPs should be allowed to vote the way the constituents in their ridings want them to.
Ald. Ted Hessels, who made the trip to Queen’s Park with Ald. Konc and Mayor April Jeffs on the day of the vote, said they saw Forster before the vote, but she never sought out their thoughts on the issue.
“She’s supposed to fight for us,” said Hessels, adding Forster didn’t even, “look their way once the vote was over.
Like his fellow politicians, the second-term alderman, was disappointed the local MPP didn’t listen to the constituents of Wainfleet.
“She didn’t get our take on it at all. Not many people in Wainfleet are for turbines.”
He isn’t opposed to green energy or even the thought of wind turbines so much as he is to the loss of municipal control in the decision-making process.
For Hessels, one of his biggest problems with the local turbines is the fact that placement of one could potentially cause Skydive Burnaby, a long-standing business, to shut down.
If that were changed, he could see turbines in Wainfleet, but placed in something like an industrial park.
He also doesn’t like the fact that it’s only a few people potentially making money off of wind turbines, while provincial taxpayers will be faced with paying more for electricity.
Jeffs, like her council, expressed disappointment with Forster. She and West Lincoln Mayor Doug Joyner met up with Conservative leader Tim Hudak at Queen’s Park during a rally in before the final vote. Jeffs said Hudak acknowledged the two mayors when he was speaking to the bill. She said it was an interesting back and forth and the debate ended when one member of the NDP caucus spoke against it.
Once the vote was taken, Forster stood against the bill. She thought maybe Forster would have abstained from the vote.
“We were all disappointed. I understand the party line thing … and we were told the NDP had been whipped,” she said, using a term that means party members are brought in line to all vote one way.
Though the vote didn’t go the way the mayor wanted, she was still excited that the bill made it as far as it did.
“It’s a good first step,” Jeffs said, adding she hopes the bill is brought back in some form or another.
All she wants, she said, is for the decision-making to be returned to the local level.
As for the proposed projects in her township, one by IPC Energy and the other by Niagara Region Wind Corp., Jeffs said there hasn’t been much movement on either. IPC, she said, came in to speak to the planner about using a road to access the proposed towers. She hasn’t heard from Niagara Region Wind Corp. since it held a public meeting in September.