Municipal council members throughout rural Ontario are deciding whether or not to turn their backs on Premier Dalton McGuinty later this month.
This drama, if it develops as expected, will play out in Ontario’s biggest municipality, Toronto. But it will have been prompted by one of the province’s smallest, the Township of Arran Elderslie.
The event will be McGuinty’s scheduled speech at the so-called Good Roads convention, perhaps the largest gathering of municipal officials in the province each year.
The conference is sponsored jointly by the Ontario Good Roads Association and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association.
The issue at stake this year will be wind turbines. If a walkout develops, it will come about because of a resolution circulated earlier this year by Arran Elderslie to other municipalities in the province.
In part it reads, “Further be it resolved that if the (one-year) moratorium (on wind turbine developments) is not announced prior to the start date of the conference, that all municipal officials in attendance at the conference representing municipalities in opposition to the autocratic and dictatorial processes utilized by the government in establishing the Green Energy Act, shall leave the room immediately when the agenda reaches the point that the premier or his designate addresses the conference, in a show of solidarity to once again demonstrate to our provincial government our frustration, anger and disappointment over their complete and total mishandling of the Green Energy Act. and Industrial Wind Turbines in particular.”
Arran Elderslie is a township of fewer than 7,000. It is home to light manufacturing, but its main economic driver is agriculture and industries that service the agricultural sector.
In fact some of the richest farmland in Ontario is found in the municipality.
Arran Elderslie has been standing up to the province for months on the issues of wind turbine developments and the Green Energy Act.
These protests have been under the leadership of Deputy Mayor Mark Davis, a realtor and farmer who lives in the heart of the township.
Arran Elderslie is bordered by municipalities such as Saugeen Shores and South Bruce, each of which has a large tourism segment. Bruce Power, the major nuclear power producer, sits just off the township’s western border
A proposed wind turbine development would see 148-metre (492-foot) turbines built in Arran Elderslie, each of which would create $300,000 worth of power annually at “normal prices,” Davis said in an interview. However, with McGuinty’s green energy fixation, the price paid for this power could be as high as $900,000 per turbine.
Davis said that fact alone brings the anti-turbine debate into line with the recent Drummond report on reducing Ontario’s spending and eventually bringing the provincial debt under control. The deputy mayor said many municipal leaders have expressed interest in walking out on McGuinty.
About 15 of the councils known to oppose wind developments without local planning have formally supported the resolution. “But I’m getting lots of calls,” Davis said.
According to other sources, some municipal leaders believe the message has been received by Queen’s Park and are reluctant to take part in a walkout. Others have expressed reservations about the walkout because it would be a show of disrespect for the premier.
The folks in that camp should remember that this is the same premier who has been showing rural Ontario nothing but disrespect since he was elected eight years ago.
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