Welland MPP Cindy Forster understands the disappointment members of Wainfleet council felt when told wind turbines are coming whether they want them or not, and she urges the town to keep up the battle.
“I think that municipalities thought when (Premier Kathleen) Wynne announced changes were coming – I think they were hoping for more, like municipal control with some kind of appeal process,” Forster said Friday.
But that didn’t happen. On Thursday, Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli announced the province will replace its existing feed-in tariff procurement process for wind turbine projects with a new system that will give municipalities a voice in the decision making process on where turbines go, and whether they want them at all.
The changes came too late for Wainfleet, which has battled wind turbines for more than a year. The process will only apply to new projects.
At the CanSIA Solar Ontario Conference in Niagara Falls, Chiarelli said contracts already awarded for wind projects can’t be changed without risking potentially expensive legal battles.
That comes as no shock to Forster, who said the Liberal government “looks like they learned their lesson from the gas plant contracts.” The provincial government paid hundreds of millions of dollars in fees when they scrapped gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville after contacts were awarded.
She said the NDP’s position during the debate to cancel the contacts was to find out how much it would cost to cancel them before they did it.
“That kind of payout is too much to put on the taxpayers shoulders,” she said.
She said her party’s policy likely wouldn’t have changed in this instance.
Forster still believes the door has been opened for changes and said Wainfleet should continue its fight against wind turbines.
She doesn’t know what the next step is for the rural municipaliy, but she will fight by their side.
“I need to meet with Mayor (April) Jeffs and see where she wants to go next,” Forster said. “The door is open and maybe there is some wiggle room (for Wainfleet).”
Chiarelli said the new process will be similar to a request for proposals and require developers to work with local governments to determine the location of turbines. Right now that happens after project approval. Municipalities still won’t have veto power. Chiarelli said the province couldn’t fulfill its energy needs if every municipality said no.
Forster said the silver lining for Wainfleet might be the increased tax revenue they’ll get as part of the new process for playing host to the turbines.
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