Ontario, in its green-energy fervour of the 2000s, did encourage companies to get to work on Great Lakes wind farms, offering up rights to the lakebeds and starting to plan for how hundreds of megawatts of wind power out on the water would get into the provincial power grid. Then the government changed its mind. Twice, in fact: first before the 2007 election, when it imposed one moratorium it eventually lifted, and then again before the 2011 election.
Ontario government lawyers are making another run at dismissing a $500-million lawsuit over the cancellation of a massive wind-power station that might have been built in Lake Ontario off Kingston. The government’s lawyers say the case is “plainly devoid of merit” and should be tossed, in their formal notice of their intentions filed in September.
Trillium Power Wind Corp.’s lawyer says the government just doesn’t want the evidence the company has to come out in court. The government’s move to dismiss the case is to be heard Oct. 24.
The lawsuit is twisted up with the criminal trial going on in Toronto now involving former premier Dalton McGuinty’s last chief of staff, David Livingston, and his deputy Laura Miller. They’re facing charges they broke the law as the McGuinty team was headed out the door in early 2013, by getting Miller’s computer-expert partner into government computers illicitly. The idea being examined in the trial was that they wanted to erase emails related to the costs of cancelling a pair of controversial gas-fired electricity stations near Toronto before the 2011 election. The two have pleaded not guilty.
Trillium alleges in its lawsuit that the government targeted Trillium’s plans for that huge offshore wind farm with a freeze on all windmills in the Great Lakes, also in 2011. Trillium says that masses of evidence proving the point got swept up in a widespread deletion, You can’t get out of paying for doing wrong by getting rid of the evidence, the company says.
This is the thread by which Trillium’s lawsuit hangs, after an earlier round of legal fighting ended with the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissing claims related to the wind-farm moratorium itself.
Ontario, in its green-energy fervour of the 2000s, did encourage companies to get to work on Great Lakes wind farms, offering up rights to the lakebeds and starting to plan for how hundreds of megawatts of wind power out on the water would get into the provincial power grid.
Then the government changed its mind. Twice, in fact: first before the 2007 election, when it imposed one moratorium it eventually lifted, and then again before the 2011 election.
The official reason for the 2011 moratorium on Great Lakes wind farms is that the government became worried that plunking hundreds of windmills into the lakebeds would stir up decades of industrial toxins.
Anyway, the government can do what it did, the court of appeal ruled in throwing out most of Trillium’s case.
Trillium alleges that the government timed its decision stopping offshore wind farms so it came out the day Trillium was to seal a financing deal.
Tosh, says the government. The timing was a coincidence.
“Ontario did not know that the plaintiff was intending on securing its financing on the day it announced its policy decision,” the province’s filing says. “As such, there cannot be any evidence of Ontario’s intention to harm the plaintiff because Ontario could not have formed such an intention.”
There would be proof, responds Trillium, if you hadn’t erased it.
The government’s filing against Trillium says if the case does go ahead, Trillium should have to put up money that would cover the government’s costs if Trillium loses, “which could be considerable” and which Trillium probably couldn’t pay. The Catch-22s abound when you’re going up against an opponent with a big legal team and bottomless pockets.
If the case does go ahead, it’s due to go to trial next June 11, three days after the spring election.
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