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Simcoe-Grey MPP puts forward one last bill before legislature dissolves

Simcoe-Grey’s provincial representative will try one more time to get Liberal government to give municipalities more planning power when it comes to dealing with green energy projects.

However, with days to go before the lieutenant-governor dissolves the legislature ahead of the June 7 provincial election, Jim Wilson said introducing a bill now is about making a point on principle.

On April 26, he reintroduced his Private Member’s Bill, the Restoring Planning Powers to Municipalities Act, which would return authority to municipalities to decide what renewable energy projects are built in their community.

Wilson has put forward his bill three times previously, in 2013, 2014, and 2016. Each time, the bill has failed to make it past first reading.

The bill aims to amend the Planning Act, reversing previous amendments made by the Green Energy Act in 2009 that exempt renewable energy undertakings from the municipal planning process. If the bill is enacted, it would restore municipal planning authority and allow local leaders to make decisions that were taken away from them by the Green Energy Act.

That would have affected municipalities such as Clearview Township, which declared itself an unwilling host to wind turbine projects – and then had to challenge a renewable energy approval for the Fairview Wind project at the Environmental Review Tribunal.

Wilson said the cost to challenge that decision was $1.6 million, for individual residents who appealed the decision, as well as Clearview, Collingwood, and the County of Simcoe. The appeal was successful.

“It was money that shouldn’t have been (spent) because the approvals should never have got past the municipal government,” he said. “The genuine sentiment across the province, in most municipalities that I’ve talked to, that they want their powers back.”

Wilson said that regardless of what happens on June 7, should he be re-elected he would reintroduce the bill when the legislature resumes.

He noted Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford’s commitment to address Ontario electricity issues should he be elected premier, “and it would be appropriate to be in a bill to clean up the hydro mess.”