In 2009, the Ontario government, seeking to appear green, expropriated our property rights and democratic freedoms with its Green Energy Act (GEA).
The GEA removed the power of municipal politicians to represent their constituents in green energy matters and imposed 550 meters as a regulated setback in an attempt to protect rural citizens from industrial wind developments.
Many governments also fell in line with the worldwide movement to appear green, led by wind energy developers.
But not all governments had the good fortune of hearing firsthand from people already adversely impacted elsewhere by wind turbines near their homes, as was the case for Ontario.
And yet the Ontario government proceeded.
Unlike the costly Ontario process of appealing a wind project, Alberta has a different approach.
There, appeals to Environmental Review Tribunals are substantially subsidized by the developer.
By order of the Alberta Utilities Commission, developers pay a portion of appellant costs in advance, according to need.
In stark contrast, in Ontario, where turbines are much closer to rural neighbourhoods, each local or regional group must raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover all legal costs for each appeal and to challenge not only the wind company but also the Ontario environment ministry.
To defend their rights, Albertans and Ontarians are up against exceedingly well-funded, corporate lawyers and government-paid lawyers.
Toronto human rights lawyer Julian Falconer argues that the GEA and the government’s approval of wind projects “implicates their right to security of the person” as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights, in view of potential health impacts.
These health impacts were noted on Oct. 17, 2013 when the Ontario government’s Research Chair for Renewable Energy Technologies and Health at the University of Waterloo reported a statistically significant correlation between proximity to industrial wind turbines and sleep deprivation, tinnitus and vertigo.
The government of Ontario has been widely criticized, even by its own agencies, for its roll out of the GEA four years ago. Ontario’s Auditor-General reported in 2011 that a cost-benefit analysis was never done and there was no impact study of the effects on property values, tourism and health.
Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner and Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal opposed the effect of industrial wind turbines on wildlife at Ostrander Point.
Economists, health care providers, mayors, and those affected have consistently made their views known, but concerns have fallen on deaf ears.
Around the world, politicians have succumbed to corporate promises of “quick and easy” methods to save the planet from greenhouse gases.
Ratepayers pay the costs on their monthly hydro bills at ever-increasing government-set rates that include massive subsidies to multinational energy companies on the wind bandwagon.
This is heading toward a global scandal.
Governments don’t bother with cost-benefit analyses because most of the costs don’t show on their own books.
The result is much costlier electricity and no net reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
But human costs are massive, including the loss of fundamental rights and freedoms, loss of our right to a good night’s sleep and good health, lost market value of homes, and loss of the right to enjoy non-industrialized rural landscapes.
So citizens are taking this high-priced battle to the courts where they hope our beloved Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms can protect us and our democracy.
— Manning is the Chairman of the County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy (CCSAGE), Prince Edward County, Ontario
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