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For those of you eager for updates on the Ontario government’s efforts to balance its budget without resorting to public prayer, there have been plenty of leaks, allowing for a sense of the planning going on at Queen’s Park. The latest revelations suggest that windmills are in (still) and hospitals are out.
Word emerged last week that a three-year $35 billion infrastructure construction fund announced in last year’s budget would get the heave-ho in this year’s budget. A few projects will survive: for instance, Premier Dalton McGuinty wants to keep dangling $8.4 billion in transit funding in front of Toronto city council, because he enjoys watching them fight like children over how to spend it. (They don’t get a lot of levity up at Queen’s Park, and the spectacle of the mayor holding his breath until he turns blue, or someone builds him a subway, is evidently too good to pass up.) But a bunch of hospital projects won’t happen, perhaps including the one in Vaughan, north of Toronto, that Conservative MP Julian Fantino kind of, sort of, promised to turn into reality, even though it isn’t up to Ottawa. This will not go over good in Vaughan, folks – they’ve been lobbying every living politician in the northern hemisphere for years for this hospital, and now McGuinty is reportedly snatching it away. (If true, it won’t go over well with local MPP Greg Sorbara, who used to be in charge of Mr. McGuinty’s budgets, and who is still bragging about the hospital on his web site)
Noticeably absent from the belt-tightening so far is anything to do with the premier’s beloved alternative energy campaign, with its high-priced windmills, subsidized solar panels and ever-expanding domestic power bills. There is a hint that the premier will slightly reduce the extravagantly overpriced feed-in tariffs paid to the windmill industry, but otherwise the Liberal government will continue to pour in the money. In fact, according to a letter in the local Goderich Signal-Star, the government plans to turn much of the eastern shoreline of Lake Huron into one big wind farm:
Approximately 800 wind turbines will follow the Lake Huron shoreline, extending from Amberley (north of Goderich) through Grand Bend to Sarnia, and east to include Lucknow, Hensall, Credition, Parkhill, Strathroy and Alvinston. This number does not include the turbines proposed further inland and along Lake Erie & Ontario. In addition there are already over 175 operating turbines in the Kincardine and Ripley area and on the Bruce Peninsula. This means that there will be approximately 1,000 turbines from Kincardine to Sarnia. Project details can be found online in individual project reports or at http://windaction.wordpress.com/ http://www.powerauthority.on.ca/wind-power/kingsbridge-i-wind-power-project-396-mw-goderich and http://www.canwea.ca/farms/wind-farms_e.php
But look, maybe there’s a bigger plan at work. Soon – maybe even within a generation – Ontario’s international status as a leader of alternative energy will start producing a profit, or maybe just stop costing a fortune in borrowed money. The government can then devote that extra cash to keeping its promise to build hospitals. I’m sure the people of Ontario are willing to wait.
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