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Green energy crown won’t fit: Larocque

Niagara’s decision to crown itself the Green Energy Capital of Canada is an example of this region’s own little Napoleon Complex.

One day in 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte decided to break with tradition and proclaim himself Emperor of France.

On Thursday, Niagara’s regional council voted 20-7 to crown itself the “Green Energy Capital of Canada,” a title that’s a bit of a stretch. It was a pitiful act of putting the cart before the horse.

The idea originated with Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and was backed by his St. Catharines, Fort Erie and Port Colborne counterparts Brian McMullan, Doug Martin and Vance Badawey. It was panned by Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs, Welland Mayor Barry Sharpe and Welland Coun. Peter Kormos.

The Region will spend public money on highway signs announcing your arrival in the Green Energy Capital of Canada, then spend the next 10 years trying to convince people the label makes sense.

Certainly, Niagarans are proud of their century-old link with hydroelectricity. Ontario Power Generation’s Niagara Plant Group is the province’s biggest producer of hydroelectricity. But Quebec’s Robert-Bourassa and Newfoundland’s Churchill Falls plants each produce about twice as much as Niagara.

There’s an up-and-coming solar panel manufacturer in Welland and a wind farm near Wainfleet. A new Thorold company plans to make wind turbines, but a Fort Erie turbine company just closed its doors.

There’s good stuff going on in Niagara’s green energy sector, but simply not enough for Niagara to hang its hat on and declare itself the “capital.”

The move smacks of arrogance and desperation. Arrogance to presume Niagara deserves the title over some other community. Desperation because it presumes slapping a nickname on the region will magically bring green-energy jobs to Niagara.

A community earns a reputation for excelling in a particular field. It doesn’t go all Napoleon and crown itself.

Niagara is arguably Canada’s leading wine-making region (with apologies to B.C.’s Okanagan Valley) because it is.

Niagara Falls is the Honeymoon Capital because 150 years ago American newlyweds thought it would be fun to get on a train and visit a world-famous sublime landmark.

Las Vegas revels in its Sin City image because it has gambling, bars and brothels – not because city council passed a resolution proclaiming the nickname.

It’s as true for cities as it is for kids in high school – you can’t give yourself your own nickname. It just doesn’t work.