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‘Cut our losses’ on wind

Ontario wind turbines would stop spinning for good – saving money in the long run, despite up-front cancellation costs – if he became premier, says the Tory leadership candidate from Southwestern Ontario.

“It’s time to end this ripoff,” said MPP Monte McNaughton, one of five candidates for the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership and the only one from the southwest, where many of wind farms are located.

“Wind power is going to cost between $20 billion and $60 billion over the next 20 years,” said McNaughton, a second-term MPP from Lambton-Kent-Middlesex.

Tearing up existing contracts would cost less than what turbines are costing Ontarians now, he said, but he had no estimates of the cost to cancel contracts and raze turbines.

“We’ve got to cut our losses now,” he told The Free Press on Sunday, ahead of rolling out his plan Monday.

McNaughton said he’d repeal legislation that allows turbines to be built and would decommission ones already on the grid.

Lightning rods for opposition in many areas, giant wind turbines were pushed by the Liberal government with hefty subsidies paid for the electricity they generate as the province phased out its dirty, coal-fired power plants.

But as Ontarians saw when the Liberals cancelled two natural gas-fired power plants in the Toronto area, moving them to the east and west at a cost of more than $1 billion, scrapping energy contracts doesn’t come cheap.

McNaughton is the first PC leadership candidate to come out against one of the most contentious rural issues. But while turbines are a hot issue in the countryside, with many residents saying they pose health concerns for humans and animals, they haven’t been so for urbanites.

McNaughton hopes to draw support by pointing out electricity prices have soared for all Ontarians, which he says affects home affordability and business viability.

Making electricity more affordable “is the single biggest thing” that can restore Ontario’s prosperity, McNaughton said.

Wind companies have built or plan to build more than 6,700 wind turbines in Ontario. They’re paid a premium for the energy they produce.

McNaughton said most of that energy is surplus to Ontario’s needs, and is sold at a discount to other jurisdictions so that, he said, wind represents 4% of Ontario’s production and 20% of its energy costs. “It’s a complete failure and it will never be economical,” he said.

Former Tory leader Tim Hudak, who resigned after the Liberals won a majority government in June, had vowed to repeal the Liberals’ Green Energy Act, but stopped short of saying he’d tear up existing wind turbine contracts.

Other candidates chasing Hudak’s old job are MPPs Christine Elliott, Vic Fedeli and Lisa MacLeod and MP Patrick Brown. Conservatives will choose their leader in voting set for May 3 and 7. The next leadership debate is scheduled Jan 26 in London.