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Wind policy turns its back on rural Ontario

The wind turbine debate continues to rage at Queen’s Park.

Haldimand and Norfolk residents joined the fray recently, staging a silent and chilling protest, standing in the visitor’s gallery to turn their backs on Liberal/NDP legislators,‬ ‪who had just voted against a wind power moratorium‬. A busload of about 30 locals joined more than100 who took part in the protest as the Liberals and NDP formed a voting bloc to defeat the PC motion.‬

‪The die was cast for the motion’s rejection when government Energy Minister Chris Bentley attempted the tried-and-true Dalton McGuinty strategy of diversion by ‘coal-baiting’ Opposition members.‬ While misleadingly hitting the coal button, the Minister’s attempts to ‘change the channel’ from the focus on wind turbines were not successful.

‪‬‪In the run-up to the debate, I had the opportunity to publicly “welcome Haldimand and Norfolk constituents, here by bus – they’re coming into the visitors’ gallery now —including Ernie King, Stephana Johnston and others too numerous to mention, here to support legislating a moratorium on further industrial wind power.”‬ ‪‬

‪Further to the theme of the day, I stood on a member’s statement questioning why the McGuinty-commissioned Drummond Report was not allowed to consider the impacts of wind:‬ ‪ “…It appears Mr. Drummond has failed to mention the low-hanging fruit that’s costing Ontario billions: the Green Energy Act. He also failed to address the Samsung fiasco….my constituents – many are here today – want to know who directed this extreme oversight: 700 pages, not a word about industrial wind turbines.”‬

‪‬I then joined others in reading constituent petitions for government to “support Huron–Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson’s private member’s motion which calls for a moratorium on all industrial wind turbine development until a third party health and environmental study has been completed.”‬ ‪

During the afternoon, Opposition supporters of the motion made impassioned arguments about the physical, environmental and economic impacts government has wrought with a green energy policy of which residents and municipalities no say. Haldimand and Norfolk counties are two of at least 80 municipalities that have passed resolutions objecting to industrial wind turbines and/or Dalton McGuinty’s Green Energy Act.‬ ‪

‪‬‬‪With the Green Energy Act applying what amounts to a municipal gag order, neutering local decision-making on wind and solar, it’s up to us in Opposition to voice the frustration we hear from those who have been silenced. We also have an obligation to attack the unaffordable costs on our electricity bills – something we will again address with a Private Members Bill from Opposition Leader Tim Hudak later this week.

‪Hudak’s bill, the Affordable Energy and Restoration of Local Decision Making Act, 2012 treats energy policy as market-driven economic policy, ensuring providers of a balanced supply mix including renewables, which would compete for the best price using the most efficient technologies.‬

‪Hudak’s proposed legislation would end the Liberals’ Feed-in Tariff (FIT) and microFIT schemes – schemes that provide unsustainable subsidies to developers through 20-year contracts. The bill also proposes industrial wind and solar farms, not yet connected to the power grid, would require ministerial consultation with the affected communities, prior to a final decision by the minister on whether a project should proceed, be renegotiated, or in some cases ended.‬

‪‬I look forward to this next debate to see if government MPPs will continue to turn their backs on rural Ontario.

Toby Barrett is MPP for the riding of Haldimand-Norfolk