Mayor Randy Hope should be doing more to create real jobs in Chatham-Kent rather than simply allowing the wind turbine industry to flourish, says local MPP Rick Nicholls.
The MPP for Chatham-Kent Essex said Hope would be doing the municipality a big favour by attracting large and small firms that will create real jobs rather than allowing the rich, agricultural landscape to be overrun by hundreds of commercial wind turbines.
“Wind turbines don’t create jobs,” Nicholls told the Daily News. “Instead they are driving up the cost of electricity for all Ontarians while ruining the rural landscape.”
Nicholls called for an immediate moratorium on all wind turbine construction across the province.
“The McGuinty Liberal government doesn’t care about rural Ontario,” he said. “The government is allowing wind turbine companies to gobble up some of the most valuable farmland in the province.”
Nicholls said he also has serious concerns about the location of some wind turbines near the Chatham-Kent Municipal Airport and is convinced turbines are causing flight problems for migrating waterfowl.
Hope told the Daily News Nicholls will “have to eat crow” when an independent report is tabled in the coming weeks indicating there are no safety concerns for the municipal airport as a result of wind turbines.
“Nicholls will have to eat his words,” he said. “He will have to eat crow.”
The mayor also slammed the MPP and his PC Party for delaying the implementation of the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund.
Hope said the recently-approved fund will have far-reaching benefits for Chatham-Kent.
He said a number of “good news” announcements involving new jobs are in the works.
The mayor said the delay in getting the development fund off the ground caused by Nicholls and his party has put Chatham-Kent behind when it comes to job creation.
“My focus and that of council is to promote job creation,” he said. “And we are working hard to do just that.”
As for the large number of wind turbines in Chatham -Kent, Hope said they are only a reality because landowners were willing to make their land available to the wind turbine companies for a fee.
Hope argued that wind turbines do create jobs and will continue to require skilled workers over the next 20 years to maintain the units.
Nicholls said he’s alarmed by the huge number of turbines being erected this month across Chatham-Kent.
“The turbine companies know there is a great deal of money to be made at the expense of Ontario taxpayers,” he said. “That’s why they are rushing ahead full speed with turbine construction.”
Nicholls claims turbine company officials are “laughing” knowing they have the green light from the province to go full speed ahead with their various projects.
The MPP said his investigation has revealed that some turbine companies in Chatham-Kent are paying as much as $20,000 to $30,000 a year for 20 years to landowners for a single turbine on their property.
He said he has also learned that some companies are offering to pay as much as $50,000 per turbine in the Niagara region.
“I appreciate it’s big business but we must stop and catch our breath,” he said. “We can’t allow such a small area as Chatham-Kent to be saturated with any more turbines. There are already too many.”
Nicholls said he’s heard that a turbine company in the Huron-Grey area is offering to pay landowners living within a kilometre of a turbine $1,500 a year for 20 years.
“It’s nothing more than hush money,” he said.
Nicholls said he called the mayor of West Lincoln in the Niagara area to voice his concerns. He said West Lincoln is in the process of deciding whether or not it will allow turbines to be built in that region of the province.
The MPP said he’s also concerned about the impact of turbines on land values. He said the issue is already pitting neighbours against neighbours and is becoming a bonanza for lawyers.
Nicholls plans to discuss his concerns with Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley when he travels to Chatham Monday to address a meeting sponsored by the Chatham-Kent Chamber of Commerce.