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Wind-farm fiasco part of ugly energy file

The Ontario government jerked around a wind-power company for a couple of years, and it’s going to cost the taxpayers – $28 million, to be exact.

It’s one dismaying chapter in a much larger story about the profound ineptitude with which Ontario’s energy file – from gas plants to hydro prices to the sale of Hydro One – has been handled.

To make this particular story short, in 2011, the government put a moratorium on offshore wind farms. This project had previously been a cornerstone of the McGuinty government’s green energy plan.

Politicians said the wind farm moratorium had nothing to do with politics. An election was coming and lakefront homeowners were ticked off about the prospect of wind farms out on the water. (On land or water, locals are rarely enthusiastic about giant windmills going up. Shocker.)

Windstream Energy is the U.S. company with which the government made a deal for building windmills out on the Great Lakes. After being stung by the province, the company sued under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The official reason for scrapping the plan in 2011 was that the government was concerned about whipping up toxic goo on the bottom of the lake. More research was needed, it said.

The tribunal found that those worries were legitimate.

“At the same time, however, the evidence before the tribunal suggests that the decision to impose the moratorium was not only driven by the lack of science,” the ruling also noted. “The impact of offshore wind on electricity costs in Ontario, as well as the upcoming provincial elections in November 2011, also appear to have influenced the decision, and the latter in particular in light of the public opposition to offshore wind that had emerged during the relevant period in many parts of rural Ontario.”

The catch was there were never, and never has been, any studies done on this.

Instead, the government, in a stunning show of arrogance strung Windsteam along like a bad high-school relationship.

“The regulatory and contractual limbo in which (Windstream) found itself in the years following the imposition of the moratorium was a result of acts and omissions of the Government of Ontario,” the tribunal found.

How can the Liberals defend the $28 million taxpayers are now going to have to fork over?

They can’t. But it just goes to show that the ongoing disgrace over Ontario’s energy probably hasn’t hit rock bottom yet.