Enough. Dozens of Ontario municipalities say they don’t want wind turbines.
Heavily pushed by the provincial Liberal government, the electricity they produce deeply subsidized by taxpayers, giant wind energy projects have sprouted across rural Ontario – often pitting neighbour against neighbour and community against community.
With local control over where the highrise-sized towers can be built taken away by the province, many communities – especially in southwestern Ontario – were already fuming about wind turbines long before Premier Kathleen Wynne took office in February, vowing not to impose such projects any more on places unwilling to take them.
Now, a list of unwilling hosts is circulating – with 61 of the province’s 444 municipalities already on it.
That number will only rise, observers warn, as the “Not a Willing Host” movement grows and pressures the government to bar the industrial turbines from rural Ontario, where 1,200 have already cropped up.
Wind Concerns Ontario, an organization upset at the province’s aggressive promotion of wind power at the expense of local control, compiles and maintains the list of unwilling hosts.
“It was important for someone to keep this list and say, ‘You are not alone,'” said Wind Concerns president Jane Wilson.
“Wind power can work,” she conceded, “but plunking them (turbines) down, right next to communities and next to homes and schools, is not the right idea.”
Ninety municipalities – in favourable zones, located mainly in southwestern and eastern Ontario – “are vulnerable to wind power,” she said.
“That’s where the wind companies have been prospecting.” As the list stands now, two-thirds of those “vulnerable” municipalities are effectively saying no more.
Wind Concerns has dubbed the seven years of wind power development under the Liberals “a disaster for rural Ontario.”
Whether the list will cool off Ontario’s headlong plunge into wind power remains to be seen.
Ontario’s Energy Ministry maintains no list of communities unwilling to take wind turbines, instead focusing on trying to help them accept wind energy projects.
Project proponents must show some connection to municipalities to get “peace” on the local front, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli has said.
Wind Concerns-listed communities are mobilizing and plan a meeting to discuss joint action at next week’s gathering of Ontario’s largest municipal lobby group, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, in Ottawa.
Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott, whose Lambton County community passed a “not a willing host” resolution in March, only to see a wind power firm target next door Dawn-Euphemia, is a driving force to organize the unwilling hosts.
“I figured with that many municipalities it makes sense we might be heard better if we organized,” he said.
Dawn-Euphemia passed a similar resolution to Enniskillen last month, after which energy company rpGlobal said it wouldn’t go ahead with its 32-turbine project.
Kincardine, along the shores of Lake Huron, where a 110-turbine project has been built and a similar one is planned, has also joined the list.
The province’s “draconian” Green Energy Act – the law that’s pushed turbines – has left Kincardine politician Jacqueline Faubert standing firm behind her council’s resolution against wind farms.
“The turbines in our municipality are impacting the health and safety of our community members,” she said. “Wind energy as it is being implemented in Ontario is inefficient, very expensive, dividing our neighbours, harming our friends and family. When will it stop?”
Among those divided neighbours is Jutta Splettstoesser, a nearby farmer and past-president of Friends of Wind Ontario, a pro-wind power lobby.
Splettstoesser said most Ontarians support wind energy, but concedes “people are well aware it has to be with community participation. That’s the key issue.”
She said a meeting of civic leaders opposed to turbines in Wainfleet, in Niagara, earlier this year failed to achieve much – and she expects the same from the “unwilling host” movement and its Ottawa meeting next week.
“I think the majority of mayors still understand the democratic process and the more responsible mayors are more level-headed and don’t get sucked in (by opponents),” she said.
Among the politicians backing turbines is Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope, who’s featured in a pro-wind brochure pushed by Friends of Wind Ontario.
In it, a beaming Hope proclaims: “We’re using a small portion of land to provide the clean energy our modern society demands. New jobs and investment from wind energy mean a brighter future for the local economy.”
Anyone driving through Chatham-Kent, hard hit by the last recession, can see the result of civic support for wind power: Turbines are everywhere.
Warren Howard, of Listowel, a member of North Perth council, has compiled and maintains the list of unwilling hosts.
Howard says while the municipal stance against turbines has deep-sixed some smaller projects, he doubts it will stop major firms or persuade the province to live up to Wynne’s vow not to impose wind energy on places that don’t want it.
“Wind companies don’t have to listen to municipalities,” Howard said. And that, he said, has to change.
A surge of approvals for new projects is expected in the next several months, he said, so organizing now is important. A list is nice, he admits, but organization is even better.
Gary Zavitz of Coldstream, in Middlesex County, an organizer of Friends of Wind Ontario, said opposition to wind power ebbs and flows. Some politicians are exploiting opposition now for political gain in next year’s municipal elections, he said.
He points to a study by Western University researcher Jamie Baxter that shows opposition is strongest to turbines in municipalities that don’t have them and that people come to accept them in time.
“There will always be opposition,” Zavitz said. “A lot is to be said about political fear.”
WHAT THEY SAID:
“This is a really monstrous thing to do to a small community … and there still has not been a whisper of a cost-benefit analysis (of wind power).
– Jane Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario
“I think there is definitely interest in wind. People are well aware it has to be with community participation. That’s the key issue.”
– Jutta Splettstoesser, Friends of Wind Ontario
“It makes sense for us to organize for the government to hear us better.”
– Kevin Marriott, mayor of Enniskillen and organizer of a group of municipalities opposed to wind power
“There will always be opposition … a lot is to be said about political fear.”
– Gary Zavitz, of Friends of Wind Ontario
ABOUT THE ‘NOT A WILLING HOST’ LIST
- Lists 61 municipalities, 13 of which already have wind projects approved under provincial rules that over-rode local concerns.
- Only six of the communities have no wind projects and none in the works.
- In 20 municipalities, proponents have agreements with the province to proceed and five are approved.
- 15 have land leased for potential projects.
- Two have been cancelled.
ON THE LIST:
Northern Bruce Peninsula
South Bruce Peninsula
The Blue Mountains
City of Kawartha Lakes
Parry Sound District
Prince Edward County
Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry
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