When the McGuinty government announced its signature Green Energy Act in 2009, John Kourtoff was one of many business leaders who had been lined up to offer unqualified support.
“The Green Energy Act will serve as a turning point in Ontario’s economic history,” said Mr. Kourtoff, who as president and chief executive of Trillium Wind Power Corp. was not exactly an impartial observer.
In a release sent out by the Ministry of Energy, he said, generations from now, the new legislation would be recognized for “pro-actively moving Ontario to a new paradigm that was good for the pocketbook and good for the planet.”
He is less enthused about the governing Liberals today.
“Basically, they are saying that anyone who trusts them is foolish,” he said after a court heard arguments in his company’s lawsuit against the government after it cancelled all potential offshore wind turbine developments, citing the need for further study of their effects.
Mr. Kourtoff contends Trillium Wind invested thousands of dollars to secure development rights for several offshore projects. The government courted his business to the extent of paying for him to travel to Britain twice to tout the merits of the new legislation, which guaranteed heavily subsidized rates for renewable energy.
Now, he maintains, Ontario has essentially said it always reserves the right to change its mind on policy matters. Those are the risks of doing business with it. Caveat investor.
“I don’t think that’s peace, order and good government,” Mr. Kourtoff said.
His legal action is just one of the instances in which long-time allies of the McGuinty government have turned on it over the handling of the Green Energy Act. This invited a stampede of business in the early days, but has since been plagued by uncertainty and delays as the government adjusted some conditions, reviewed others and, in the case of offshore wind, scotched projects altogether.
Opposition critics have long said the McGuinty Liberals are prone to reversing policy decisions only when it suits their political needs, as in the cancellation of a Mississauga power plant during the fall general election.
But now it’s one-time allies who level accusations of political meddling in policy.
Court documents filed by Trillium Wind Power say the decision to halt offshore wind projects, called a “core policy” decision by the government, was “a purely political decision to better the position of the Liberal Party of Ontario in certain ridings near Lake Erie, where offshore wind power had become an election issue.”
“What’s not acceptable is that the government does this for political reasons,” Mr. Kourtoff said.
While the government announced in a press release last year it was putting a “moratorium” on offshore wind, pending further study of possible environmental effects, he says it has “never communicated to us, directly or indirectly,” what those environmental concerns are.
He also notes that, far from a moratorium, the government cancelled pending offshore projects in what he calls “the neutron bomb approach.”
His concerns echo those of SkyPower Ltd., the country’s largest solar-power firm, which is also suing the Ontario government. Its suit says the province has a responsibility to process applications made to the Act under eligibility rules in place at the time, rather than under new rules in effect since April.
SkyPower says assessing its 118 applications, which have been in the works for many months, under the new rules, would wipe out “virtually all” of them.
Andrew Hill, a manager with Highland Solar, speaking for a coalition of several dozen people who work with small renewable energy firms, says they plan to ask the provincial Ombudsman to investigate the handling of the green energy file.
He says the industry was at a standstill for 10 months while the government reviewed its programs, and even now new applicants have no idea when or if they will get approval.
“Try and get a date out of anyone at the ministry, and you can’t,” Mr. Hill said.
Mr. Kourtoff, too, scratches his head at the government’s decision-making process.
“We did everything by the book,” he said.
Then, using an analogy familiar to anyone who followed the Canadian women’s soccer team at the Olympics, he added: “And then somebody in the government decided to become the Norwegian referee.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding