Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey is still searching for answers over a recent move by the Ontario Provincial Police to start charging Ontario municipalities for policing wind turbines.
Bailey raised his concerns over the move’s financial impact to rural municipalities during question period in Queen’s Park last week.
Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa responded to Bailey’s inquiry, pointing out the province has increased funding for rural municipalities. However, he didn’t address the new OPP billing formula in detail.
“I couldn’t get a straight answer,” Bailey said Friday.
Bailey said he has since spoken with Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi, who is prepared to answer his questions.
Politicians in Frontenac Islands, near Kingston, first raised the red flag over the little-known change after they saw close to a $26,000 increase in the township’s recent OPP bill. They later discovered they had been charged policing costs for wind turbines on Wolfe Island.
Several rural Lambton municipal leaders have now been investigating what impact the change is having – if any – on their own communities’ policing budgets.
Under the new OPP billing model, Ontario municipalities are being charged a base service cost per wind turbine property if that property is already taxed as commercial or industrial, The Observer confirmed last month.
Service call charges – the second component of the new OPP billing model – are only being applied if the police have to respond to wind turbine properties for service, according to the OPP’s corporate communications bureau.
Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has been reviewing the inclusion of wind turbines in the property count being used in the new OPP billing model.
Last week, OPP Sgt. Peter Leon confirmed that review is still ongoing.
Bailey continues to encourage OPP-patrolled municipalities to ensure any of their new wind farm contracts generates enough revenue to cover policing costs.
“My warning for any municipality who was thinking about getting into (wind farm contracts) – willing or not – is to make sure you have an escalator clause that you can recover these costs from these wind turbine companies,” he said.
On Thursday, Sarnia-Lambton was handed a reprieve from new wind turbine projects by Ontario’s Independent Electricity System Operator.
The provincial agency announced contracts for five new wind projects, but none of those projects are planned for Sarnia-Lambton.
“I breathed a sigh of relief for that,” Bailey said.
Dutton-Dunwich, south of London, and Chatham-Kent, however, picked up three of the five wind farm contracts.
While the Municipality of Chatham-Kent has long been a willing host to wind energy projects, Dutton-Dunwich residents overwhelmingly voted against turbines in a referendum.
Municipal politicians there were shocked by the news Thursday after the Ontario government brought in a new public consultation process for wind farm proposals to address concerns over lack of municipal input.
“When they say they have this new process, the proof is in the pudding,” Bailey said. “They’re still foisting these on people.”
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