Simcoe-Grey’s Member of Provincial Parliament says a wind energy company’s donations to the provincial Liberal Party appeared to influence the approval of the company’s project in Clearview Township.
During Wednesday’s question period, Jim Wilson laid out the timeline between WPD Canada’s court application last July to force the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to make a decision on the company’s Fairview Wind project renewable energy application, and a $6,000 donation made to the Liberal Party during the Simcoe North by-election period in September.
“Every time it looked like the project was in jeopardy, a donation was made to the Liberal Party of Ontario,” Wilson claimed in the Ontario Legislature. “These facts … only reinforce the need for a public inquiry.
“Does the minister seriously expect the people in my riding to believe that these donations had nothing to do with his approval (of the project).”
The project was approved by the ministry in February. Six parties, including the County of Simcoe, the Town of Collingwood, and Clearview Township, have stepped forward to appeal the decision, and a hearing before the Environmental Review Tribunal is scheduled to begin May 16.
Wilson also connected other donations by WPD to points when the company’s application was working through the process.
As detailed in a Simcoe.com story in March, WPD has donated nearly $14,000 to the Liberals between 2011 and 2015.
In an interview with Simcoe.com on Wednesday, Wilson noted the reference to a public inquiry was in regards to the political campaign financing issue in general, especially in light of revelations that Liberal government ministers had been assigned fundraising quotas, the ability for corporations and unions to donate, and the amounts that are allowed to be donated.
However, said Wilson, he was concerned about the apparent pattern of events with regard to the WPD donations.
“There’s a perception (of influence),” Wilson said. “It doesn’t pass the smell test. Each time the government made a move, then WPD made a donation.”
WPD Canada spokesperson Kevin Surette acknowledged company representatives have attended “some fundraising events in the past few years.”
However, he added, support or opposition to renewable energy in the Collingwood area is not based along party lines.
“Consider the opposition to our project by Tim Murphy, a member of the advisory board for the proposed business park, and chair of the Ontario Liberal Fund, the organization responsible for raising funds for the Liberal Party,” Surette pointed out in an email in response for comment to Wilson’s statements in the Legislature
In his response in the Legislature, MOECC minister Glen Murray denied there was a connection, noting those decisions were made at a “director’s-level decision, which I do not and cannot interfere with.”
Murray suggested the inference the company’s donations had anything to do with the approval of the renewable energy application “is just really, really, really low.
“I’ve been in public life municipally and provincially, and I’ve conducted myself to a very high personal standard,” Murray told the Legislature.
To the issue of the current system of political donations in Ontario, Wilson said, “it’s a pattern.
“We’ve been bringing up example after example after example, to the point where it’s ridiculous,” he said. “There’s too much of a blur between the Liberal Party of Ontario, and the government of Ontario.”
Wilson noted in particular the Green Energy Act, and the government taking away the ability of municipalities to approve renewable energy projects.
“The way the Liberals have gone about it is very fishy,” he said. “Why would they continue with bad public policy unless they weren’t benefiting by staying in power and getting the financial resources that are required to stay in power?”
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