Last week our provincial government got back to business for the fall session. After a summer spent by our elected members of provincial parliament in their own ridings, the time has come for them to be back in Toronto, and keep this province running.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson was one of the first voices heard last Monday at Queen’s Park. She used the “first opportunity,” in the words of a press release sent out from her camp last Tuesday morning, to stand up in the Ontario Legislature and praise the residents of Port Elgin and the Saugeen Shores town council.
Thompson applauded their advocacy for those who have been impacted by the Unifor (formerly CAW) wind turbine.
Let’s stop right there and applaud Thompson for taking the opportunity to bring attention to the struggles of those in Gobles Grove and other parts of town. Kudos should be given as well to the Conservative Party for allowing Thompson to be one of the first in opposition during this session to tee off on the ruling Liberals.
This is a big deal, in my eyes. This shows how Port Elgin and all of Bruce County is likely going to be ground zero in the battle over the future of green energy, and the Green Energy Act, in Ontario. The Hudak Conservatives have lots to throw at the Liberals, but they chose to lead with this, highlighting the struggles of many of this town’s residents.
For me, the mark of a good Canadian politician is if (s)he can get the causes of his/her riding known in government. Thompson, in her rookie term, has shown time and time again that she will fight tirelessly for the causes in Huron-Bruce that its constituents really care about. While it remains to be seen how she’ll react when those causes clash with her own party’s view, but that’s nothing to worry about just quite yet.
Now back to the press release.
“There are 117 homes within the 550 metre setback regulated by the government, but the CAW doesn’t have to abide by the rule,” the release states, referring to the 550 metre setback laid out in the Green Energy Act.
Allow me to correct our MPP, and many other people who continue to make the claim that the wind turbine at the Family Education Centre either circumvents the Green Energy Act or does not have to follow the government’s regulations because the approval process predates it.
I posed the question to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment in 2012 about the setback surrounding the wind turbine. They replied as follows: “Under Ontario’s Renewable Energy Approval requirements, large wind turbines with significant power output have to comply with a minimum setback of 550 metres. Smaller turbines, such as (the Unifor turbine), are not subject to the same minimum setbacks, but they still must meet our stringent noise standards.”
My issue here is not about people wanting the turbine shut down, the government tossed out or any other number of scenarios. It’s about not being factually accurate in the execution of the argument.
At Saugeen Shores town council Aug. 26, a laundry list of reasons to shut down the turbine were heard. People in this town have made absolutely horrific claims about how their health and wellbeing have changed since the turbine began operation. If those claims are proven in either a court of law (through a law suit that just has to happen) or court of medical science (if, eventually, the symptoms presented can be proven to be caused by the turbine, in the way smoking causes cancer), then there would have to be no choice than to scrap the whole thing. Honestly, it’s hard to fault STOP, or Thompson or any opponent of that turbine for trying everything they can to do so.
So, lead with the evidence, not with misconceptions, when you’re fighting this or any fight. For a lot of people, the Green Energy Act is an awful piece of legislation, but it’s not being skirted by this turbine, nor is it the reason town council was essentially helpless to stop its construction and operation.
In the news release, Thompson said “The Green Energy Act as it is written has handcuffed the Saugeen Shores council, not allowing them to stand up for their constituents.” In many cases, I’d agree completely, but not here. For the better part of seven years council has been trying to stand up for its constituents regarding this turbine and it was other government agencies that decided the elected officials of the town didn’t know what was best for the municipality.
When the turbine was first proposed, council shot it down. The consensus at the time, in the years where just about everyone loved wind power, was that the location selected for the turbine was not a great spot. The CAW appealed council’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board and won. Five years later, shovels were in the ground and picket signs were in the air.
So what happens next? It likely isn’t an issue that goes away if the Liberals are defeated in the next election. Nor is it one that will seemingly be brought through meaningful dialogue between representatives from Unifor, the town, STOP or any other number of stakeholders (because, potentially, most people will tell you that the meaningful dialogue just isn’t happening).
Honestly, this issue goes away when the turbine does. And that fight is still just beginning.
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