MPP Laurie Scott brought the concerns of the Cham Shan Temple in Bethany to Queen’s Park on Wednesday, asking Premier Kathleen Wynne whether her government would let its energy policy chase out a planned $40-million Buddhist retreat.
“Premier, will the Buddhist dream be gone with the wind?” asked Scott, the Progressive Conservative representing Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, referencing The Examiner’s front-page headline Tuesday.
“The government wants to allow its own interests to prevent millions of dollars being spent in a region that has high unemployment and is in desperate need of jobs.”
The Examiner broke the news Tuesday that temple leaders are considering shelving their ambitious plans in the face of several wind farm proposals that would encroach on their picturesque retreats in Bethany and Pontypool.
Wynne deflected Scott’s question, allowing Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli to respond. He said he hadn’t personally heard from the group and invited temple leaders to his office to talk about the issue.
Scott’s Progressive Conservatives have been highly critical of the Ontario Green Energy Act, which takes away the say of municipalities in the location of wind and solar projects.
While Chiarelli’s Liberals introduced new measures in May to give municipalities more power on future projects, Scott said municipalities remain virtually powerless to oppose them.
“The tranquility and peacefulness is what Buddhism is about. If you’re putting up a Buddhist temple and there are wind turbines right beside you, it kind of takes that effect away,” Scott said Wednesday afternoon. “We have a higher than average unemployment rate. We need jobs. We don’t need wind turbines to produce wind energy that we don’t need.”
The PC party has promised to give municipalities control over green energy projects and has promised a moratorium on new wind turbines.
“I ask the premier again if she will put an end to this issue and stop forcing wind turbines on unwilling communities?” Scott said.
But Peterborough MPP Jeff Leal said the opposition parties haven’t been clear on their long-term plans for renewable energy.
“For once and all I think we need a clear answer from the Ontario PCs and the NDP on what they would do with existing wind turbines,” Leal said. “There are contracts in place and we really want to know whether they are going to rip them out of the ground, yes or no?”
Leal noted he and Tourism Minister Michael Chan have been integral in securing special permits for the Cham Shan Temple including permits to allow uniquely skilled Chinese workers into Ontario to build the temples on site.
The group will get a chance to have the energy minister’s ear, Leal said.
“That is going to be a very important step in this process,” he said.
“We are taking the whole consultation process very seriously. We will continue to work closely with the Cham Shan Temple.”
Cham Shan Temple began purchasing a number of properties in the Bethany and Pontypool areas 20 years ago for the purpose of constructing four Buddhist gardens. Each garden would feature a main temple, each with its own set of smaller temples, modelled after the four great Buddhist mountain sites of China – Wutai Shan, Putou Shan, Omei Shan and Jihua Shan.
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