Ontario’s environmental hypocrisy

Nature is a curiosity best seen at the zoo in the Liberals' Ontario
Nature is a curiosity best seen at the zoo in the Liberals’ Ontario

Wind “farms” will kill wildlife and scar the natural environment, but the government teaches children to protect it

Wellington Times, July 10, 2015

With school children arrayed at his feet, Ontario’s environment minister, Glenn Murray, announced last week his government was giving $1 million to an organization dedicated to educating children aged five to 11, about how to help protect animals and their habitats.

His advice to the children assembled at the ROM for the press event was predictable, if somewhat ham-handed: Go home and tell your parents and grandparents to use less carbon.

Murray isn’t the first to employ children to market his wares. Cereal makers, burger sellers and dictators have all used children to influence decision-makers. The Ontario government isn’t above using an effective marketing technique to sell its message, even when the moral and ethical turf is a bit squishy.

Earth Rangers formed in 2001. The funding from the province will help the organization expand its school assembly program and develop a new Grade 6 class visit program.

For Murray, this is an investment in the minds of young and impressionable children— a recruiting drive for foot soldiers in his campaign to restore his government’s credibility on environmental matters.

“The most thoughtful discussions that move people to change are discussions between children and their parents, and children and each other,” noted Murray to the children before him.

Eventually, however, Murray will be challenged to square his government’s words with its actions. Rather than educate children about nature, he risks teaching them about the nature of government.

Earth Rangers is indeed a well-respected education and conservancy organization— very much in tune with the sensitivity of the animals and plants around us, particularly those species that are struggling to survive.

Among these is the Blanding’s turtle. Last year, Earth Rangers launched a project and mission to enhance awareness of the plight of this endangered turtle species. Its Protect the Blanding’s Turtle program brought schoolchildren from across the province to the Toronto Zoo to incubate dozens of Blanding’s turtle eggs.

“Together we will watch as our turtles grow in our nursery and, as Earth Rangers, we are working together to respect wetlands and honour the ancient creatures that live there,” writes researcher Bob Johnson on the Blanding’s turtle page of the Earth Rangers website.

Later the project released 21 turtles into the creeks and marsh in the Rouge Valley.

For those who have invested time, money and heartache in protecting the Blanding’s turtle in Prince Edward County, the irony is particularly cruel.

From one desk the Ministry of Environment is paving the way for the destruction of the Blanding’s turtle. From another it is funding education programs urging our children to protect it.

Since the advent of the Green Energy Act, the province has methodically removed protections and regulatory hurdles that safeguard the environment and species at risk like the Blanding’s turtle. They have lowered, and in some cases eliminated, regulatory protections in order to streamline the path enabling wind and solar developers to transform pastoral lands into vast industrial tracts of electricity production. Almost all of which is sold at discount prices to Michigan and New York.

In Prince Edward County, the province granted a developer a permit to “harm, harass and kill” the Blanding’s turtle. Let us ponder this a moment: A provincial permit granting a developer the right to kill an endangered species. Let that sink in.

Of course, the developer has promised it will take steps to minimize the destruction of turtles and its habitat ,and that its actions will result in a benefit to the species. But a provincially appointed review panel didn’t believe it. The found the developer’s plans to protect the species simply weren’t credible. After 40 days of hearings, the review panel concluded the project would cause “serious and irreversible harm” to the endangered species.

How did the Ministry of Environment respond? It fought back with all its legal might, striving to reverse the decision and repudiate its environmental guardians.

So twisted has this ministry become, it is seeking to simultaneously save and destroy the Blanding’s turtle.

Meanwhile, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have waged an expensive, multi-year battle to prevent the destruction of the turtle’s vulnerable habitat at Ostrander Point. Their efforts and successes have been funded by donations and from their own pockets. No big Ontario cheques have come their way.

With fresh new funding, Earth Rangers will fan out to schools across Ontario this fall urging children to protect the Blanding’s turtle, the bobolink and other endangered species. Meanwhile, PECFN will be back in a courtroom trying to stop the same government and its agents from bulldozing the turtle’s dwindling habitat.

Listen up children, there is a lesson in this.


The best way to protect Blanding’s turtle is to give generously to the Save Ostrander Point project at saveostranderpoint.org.

Development done badly: conservationist on Alberta bird deaths

Global News July 3, 2015

CALGARY – John Campbell has worked with falcons, eagles and hawks in the wild for decades, all over Western Canada.

He has monitored nests near Pincher Creek since the 1970s, and banded thousands of baby raptors, long before the area became the birthplace of wind power in Canada.

Campbell has been finding more and more empty nests in the area.

“Currently there are 10 sites that could be occupied; only five are producing young right now,” Campbell said.

In Alberta, several species of raptors are considered sensitive, or at risk.

The birds aren’t dying from turbine strikes, Campbell said.

They are abandoning high-quality nests because of the pressure of turbine development.

Wind turbines mess up the birds’ lives, much in the same way drivers would be stressed if a busy freeway suddenly closed.

The raptors move to lower quality sites, where fewer chicks survive.

Watch [here]: John Campbell has single-handedly banded thousands of falcons, hawks and eagles across Alberta. Global’s Mia Sosiak and photographer Bruce Aalhus recently tagged along for a peek at his work on July 2.

The wind energy industry said it’s working hard to prevent that.

“There’s extensive upfront work — two years of monitoring where raptor nests are,” said Tim Weis, director of policy for the Canadian Wind Energy Association. “The wind farms are planned around those areas.”

Companies must allow for large setbacks from nests in order to receive regulatory approval for wind farms.

If there is an impact on a nest site that no one expected, Alberta Environment has the power to force companies to make changes after the fact.

But Campbell says the problem is compounded by other nearby developments.

A communications tower built during breeding season and new housing above a nest site have also driven birds away from the area.

“It’s just development done badly,” he said.

Campbell insists he is not anti-development, and some nest sites in the area remain successful, where neighbouring wind farms were properly planned.

“What also horrifies me is they’re going to double the number of developments,” he said.

There are 292 turbines now in the M.D. of Pincher Creek, with 180 more approved and on the way.

The raptor expert, who received the province’s highest conservation award this year, is now asking hard questions of Alberta Environment.

He wants to know who is looking at the cumulative effect of wind power generation on raptors in the Pincher Creek area, and who should be. Perhaps the most difficult question is, “How much is too much?”

It’s something Alberta Environment and Parks can’t answer at this time.

“It’s something we’re working with industry to look at,” said Brandy Downey, senior species-at-risk biologist with the provincial government.

“Right now there is no research to say what is too much and what is too little; that decision hasn’t been made,” Downey added.

There are also no studies underway to understand the cumulative effect of turbines on birds of prey, just monitoring of individual projects on a one-off basis.

“I think it’s short-sighted and I’m hoping that the (new NDP) government will have a look at that,” Campbell said.

He hopes it’s possible to strike the right balance between wind energy development and the birds that also call the area home.

© Shaw Media, 2015

Naturalists call for action to stop dangerous Amherst Island wind power project

From the Association to Protect Amherst Island is this call for help.

Call to Action – Nature Canada and Kingston Field Naturalists seek support to stop turbine project on Amherst Island

June 28, 2015

Category: Uncategorized

Kingston Field Naturalists
Nature Canada

Dear Friend,

A 27-turbine wind power project proposed for internationally recognized Amherst Island, an Important Bird Area near Kingston Ontario, may be approved soon by the Ontario government.

The many Species at Risk on Amherst Island include birds (Short-eared Owl, Bobolink, Eastern Meadowlark, Eastern Whip-poo-rwill, Barn Swallow, Golden Eagle, Least Bittern, and Red Knot), Blanding’s Turtles, and Milk and Ribbon Snakes.

Amherst Island has an international reputation as one of the most outstanding places in North America to see concentrations of northern owls and is an important stopover for bats on their migratory path across Lake Ontario. Bats are becoming endangered in many places and in April 2015, Canada, the United States and Mexico signed an agreement to protect the pathways of migratory bats.

A wind turbine installation on this small island, as learned from the nearby Wolfe Island installation, would result in loss of habitat for Short-eared Owl and serious and irreversible harm to local populations of Bobolinks, Barn Swallows and Eastern Meadowlarks, and to breeding population of Red-tailed Hawk, breeding and roosting Purple Martins, and Osprey. Additionally significant breeding population of Blanding’s Turtle, Wilson’s Phalarope and Whip-poor-wills are also at risk. No one is considering the cumulative impact of this project and the many others that are operational or proposed for this important migration route on the vulnerable populations of birds and other wildlife.

More information about the Project and the Island can be found at: www.protectamherstisland.ca

This might the last opportunity to convince the Province to make the right decision and put an end to this project before it enters the expensive and draining cycle of legal challenges. It is time that Ontario’s green energy policy is balanced with its international obligations to protect biodiversity and that decision makers demonstrate genuine respect for the wishes of the overwhelming majority of community members. Please send letters to those listed below, asking that the wind-turbine project for Amherst Island be stopped completely – and permanently:

Ontario Premier, Kathleen Wynne, premier@ontario.ca

Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Glen Murray, minister.moe@ontario.ca

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, Bill Mauro, minister.mnr@ontario.ca

Director, MOECC, Sarah Paul sarah.paul@ontario.ca

Senior Project Evaluator, MOECC, Susanne Edwards, susanne.edwards@ontario.ca

CC Association to Protect Amherst Island protectai@kos.net

Thank you,

Kingston Field Naturalists and Nature Canada


WCO note: we suggest also sending a note to your local field naturalists’ organization to alert them to this situation, if they are not already aware, and to any nature/wildlife/birding columnists in your local newspaper

Site plan map of Amherst Island:

Bon Echo area residents organize against wind ‘farm’

..and maybe soon, 150 turbines…

Residents of North Frontenac and Addington Highlands (also known as Land O’ Lakes area) have organized to fight the threatened 150-turbine wind power development by NextEra.

NextEra is the renewable energy arm of the U.S. power company, Florida Light and Power. As Parker Gallant has revealed in a post on this site, FPL is doing so well scooping up subsidy money here in Ontario, they have actually provided rate reductions to their customers in the United States.

See the website for the Bon Echo Area Residents Against Turbines here. The website is under construction and promises more detail later, but features a petition for signing now.

Citizens recently held a community meeting in Denbigh that included presentations by Parker Gallant and Carmen Krogh.

The group also has a Twitter account bearatorg and Facebook page.

Testimony at Port Ryerse appeal: turbine noise effects ‘devastating’

Port Ryerse residents protested as members of an environmental tribunal hearing into the case of wind turbines proposed for a field next to their village visited the site on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. From left to right are: Mary Goodlet, Bill Irvin, Stew Smith, and Shana Greatrix.  (DANIEL R. PEARCE Simcoe Reformer)

L-R Mary Goodlet, Bill Irvin, Stew Smith and Shana Greatrix, residents of Port Ryerse: Can’t build a chicken coop but a developer can invade with huge wind turbines

Simcoe Reformer, June 3, 2015

PORT RYERSE – Port Ryerse residents fighting against wind turbines slated to go up beside their village are protesting because of the certainty the project will harm them, an environmental tribunal hearing heard.

Sleeplessness, sickness, loss of birds, and falling real estate values have hit every community that has ever hosted turbines, Port Ryerse resident Heather Walters testified.

“These are not guesses,” she said. “It is 100% predictable.”

Walters said she is not normally an outspoken advocate for causes and only took up the case against wind power once she heard about the project and started researching it.

“We are not activists,” she said. “I’ve never been involved in anything like this.”

Wednesday’s hearing was held in the council chambers at town hall in Simcoe in front of lawyers representing residents and the project.

The two-person panel hearing the case has the right to put a halt to the project. Last fall, construction was pushed back after a barn owl, an endangered species, was spotted next to the site.

The hearing also heard from Cayuga resident Grant Church, who cited a number of international studies that suggested wind turbines cause illnesses in people, even well beyond the 550 metre setback the Ontario government has set.

A tool and die maker by trade, Church said there are numerous examples of people being made sick by infrasound created by turbines, sometimes from as far away as 2.2 kilometres.

In one case, he said, a group of French scientists found they were being made sick by an improperly installed fan motor in their workplace. They then started to develop weapons based on their findings.

People made ill by “sick building syndrome” often experience the same thing as living next to turbines and the infrasound they emit, he said.

“You can’t hear it, see it, taste it, or smell it, although you might feel it, but its effects can be devastating,” Church testified.

“Not everyone is affected (by infrasound), but is that a reason for this tribunal to not halt the project?”

Sharon Wong, lawyer for the Port Ryerse Wind Farm Limited Partnership, asked Church why he didn’t include in his witness statement a Health Canada study that determined there was no connection between noise from winds turbines and ill health.

“It conflicted with the reality of what I was seeing on the ground,” Church replied.

He also said he read the report and noted it reported 16.5% of people living near turbines were “affected” by them.

Walters said residents of her village were “shocked” when the project was announced a few years ago and they learned that town hall had no control over it.

She said she was unable to get approval to build an eight-by-ten chicken coop on her property yet the Norfolk County planning department didn’t even know about the wind turbines: approvals for green energy projects rest entirely with the province.

Earlier in the day, the hearing moved to the proposed site of the turbines east of the village where a number of protesters with signs were waiting.

The hearing continues at town hall on Monday.

Daniel R. Pearce

Ontario OK with killing endangered species: Big Wind gets a pass

Turbines or turtles: Hudak to natural resources minister

Photo: Glen Lowson, Niagara This Week.

Two recent news items have pointed out the Ontario government’s stance toward endangered and at-risk species. If they’re in the way of “progress,” it’s OK to kill them. Ontario Ministry of the Environment lawyer Sylvia Davis told a court last year during an appeal related to Ostrander Point, habitat to endangered Blandings turtles (but also a site for migratory birds, and a rare, fragile alvar environment) : “So what if a few turtles die?” she said. “Wind power is important public infrastructure…”

A recent court decision has upheld the government’s ability to grant industry a pass when it comes to protecting endangered and at-risk species. Ontario Nature put out a news release last week to express its disappointment: “This is a disappointing decision for Ontario’s endangered and threatened wildlife,” said Ecojustice lawyer Lara Tessaro. “The Endangered Species Act is intended to put species first — not to let their survival be balanced against competing industrial interests. That would tip the scale towards extinction.”

The Environmental Review Tribunal also recently dismissed an appeal of the approval of the Niagara Region Wind power project, where as many as 20 turbines would be in established Blandings turtle habitat. The Tribunal would not even hear the evidence about the endangered turtles. MPP Tim Hudak protested in the Legislature last week, saying the government needs to “do the right thing” and protect the turtles.

Both these events underscore the simple reality of utility-scale wind power and all its promises to be a tool to save the environment, while producing “clean” power for Ontario. It is, as consultants to the Suzuki Foundation noted in a report on 2002, a high-impact form of power generation for low benefit.

We prefer turtles, thank you. And birds, and little red-sided fishes, and ancient maples, and yes, bats.

Once again, no cost-benefit analysis of ALL the impacts of Ontario’s rush to wind power has ever been done, despite recommendations from two Auditor General.

Ontario, and its unique environment deserves better.

Where were you in protecting endangered species? MPP Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources

Where were YOU MPP Tim Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources
Where were YOU? MPP Tim Hudak asks Minister of Natural Resources

Yesterday, MPP Tim Hudak rose to ask a question about the Blandings turtle, which is an officially endangered species in Ontario, and whose habitat is now threatened by the approved Niagara Region wind power project.

Here is the record of the exchange:

Mr. Tim Hudak: My question is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Minister, Blanding’s turtle is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Where it exists in Ontario, it lives in shallow waterways and wetlands, including the Niagara peninsula. They are uniquely vulnerable to extinction because it takes 20 years before females start to reproduce.

The Ontario courts made the decision recently that set a precedent: When choosing between industrial wind turbines and a threatened species, Blanding’s turtle, they sided with the turtle, tossing out a wind farm application. It was the right decision. It was the right thing to do.

My question simply is, if it’s right in Prince Edward county, shouldn’t we protect the Blanding’s turtle environment everywhere in the province of Ontario?


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.

Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry.

Hon. Bill Mauro: I want to thank the member for the question. Before he concluded, I was gathering my thoughts—and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, who I know would love to weigh in on this as well was having a similar thought and lobbed it over to me. He found it, I think, as I did, very interesting that the official opposition is asking a question in this regard.

The member posed a question. He seems to be supportive of what has happened in this case. I would assume that in the supplementary, he’s going to come forward with some information that suggests that in another instance the Blanding’s turtle did not carry the day. I would assume that’s the point of the question that’s coming forward. I look forward to hearing exactly what he has to say.

I’m happy to hear that in the first question he was happy that the Endangered Species Act, which we brought into place, actually did have an effect to protect endangered species. I’m happy to hear that you’re pleased with the legislation, although I don’t think it’s legislation that you supported when it was originally introduced into the House.

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Supplementary.

Mr. Tim Hudak: I thank the minister for anticipating my question. I just would hope to get a single answer from the minister about how he’s going to protect the threatened species in the province.

You got it exactly right: The courts have determined in the decision that steel turbines 500 metres tall cemented in 40 truckloads of concrete in a wetland should lose out to a threatened species, the Blanding’s turtle. I agree with that decision; I’m sure you agree with that decision as well.

My point is, Minister, why was it that it was the courts that had to force your hand? Where were you? You’re the minister. You need to know your role and play it. You have the lead on the Endangered Species Act in the province of Ontario. Instead of waiting for the courts to intervene in the Niagara peninsula, will you do the right thing? Your choice is between the turtle or more steel. What should be in the wetlands, the endangered species or—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Be seated, please. Thank you.


Hon. Bill Mauro: Speaker, with the legislation in place, there is a committee called COSSARO, the Committee on—


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): It’s never too late.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Under the legislation—that I don’t think the opposition supported and they seem to be loving now—COSSARO stands for the Committee on the Status of Species at Risk in Ontario. They make a decision on when a species is listed. Once it’s listed, it receives protection, and the habitat for the species also receives protection. Through that—


The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): The member from Niagara West, I’m standing. You should know that.

Finish, please.

Hon. Bill Mauro: Through that process, once the species is listed and the habitat is protected and a project is overlaid on that particular species and its habitat, there is a process in place called overall benefit, where if the contractor or the proponent can come forward and provide a way to accommodate the species—

The Speaker (Hon. Dave Levac): Thank you.

Wind farm opponent legal team to update community Tuesday

Sarnia Observer, May 23, 2015

By Paul Morden

Lawyers battling wind energy projects in Ontario are set to speak at a town hall event Tuesday evening at the Camlachie Community Centre.

The citizens’ group We’re Against Industrial Turbines, Plympton-Wyoming (WAIT-PW) has arranged for Julian Falconer and Asha James to speak at the public information meeting arranged as construction of Suncor and NextEra’s 46-turbine Cedar Point wind energy project has begun in Lambton.

The meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m.

“There are a lot of outstanding questions, and we’re going to try and answer some of them at the town hall,” said WAIT-PW member Santo Giorno.

Falconer and James have been involved in legal challenges of wind projects around the province, including an Aberarder family’s ongoing challenge of the Cedar Point wind farm.

Falconer also spoke at an earlier town hall meeting organized by the citizens’ group that formed after Suncor began planning the wind project.

“He’s going to try and answer the question, ‘Just where are we now, and what are the next steps,'” Giorno said.

WAIT-PW continues to raise money to help fund legal battles against the wind project.

Aberarder residents Kimberley and Richard Bryce unsuccessfully appealed the Cedar Point project’s provincial approval to Ontario’s Environmental Review Tribunal, and have since appealed to the Division Court for Ontario.

“Some people will say, ‘Well, it’s too late,’ but we feel that it’s never too late,” Giorno said.

“We can’t just let them walk all over us. We have to continue the struggle.”

Giorno said the start of construction on the wind turbines in Plympton-Wyoming, Lambton Shores and Warwick Township could generate more opposition to the wind project.

He also pointed to an incident April, being investigated by Ontario’s Environment Ministry, where 3,000 square metres of protected trees were cut down during land development for the Cedar Point project.

Suncor has said removal of the trees near Fuller Road and Proof Line in Lambton Shores was a mistake and has apologized.

“I think a number of people are actually a bit more upset now than they were initially, when they see what’s going on,” Giorno said.

“The destruction of trees on protected wetlands has really angered a lot of people.”

Giorno said WAIT-PW members will also be on hand at the town hall meeting to provide information and answer questions from the public.

“We’re going to talk about some of the more current research that has gone on this field,” he added.

Decision to protect endangered turtle upheld-wind farm would cause serious harm

Protection of wildlife in Ontario in the hands of the people, not the government or the wind industry
Protection of wildlife in Ontario in the hands of the people, not the government or the wind industry

Here is a statement from the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists:

The Ontario Court of Appeal reversed a lower court ruling regarding a Renewal Energy Approval of the 9-turbine Ostrander Point industrial wind project. The decision reinstates the key initial finding of the Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) that serious and irreversible harm to threatened Blanding’s Turtles will occur if the project operates as approved.

“We’re very pleased. The court has ruled in favour of protecting the environment, which is what we’ve asked for throughout“ said Myrna Wood of the successful appellant Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.

“The decision is undoubtedly important” said Eric Gillespie, its legal counsel. “This is the first renewable energy case to reach the Court of Appeal. The Court has supported our client’s fundamental concerns and affirmed a number of legal principles that clearly will be relevant to other appeals.”

The question of remedy has been directed back to the ERT.

For further information contact Myrna Wood 613-476-1506 myrna@kos.com or Eric Gillespie 416-436-7473 (voice/text) egillespie@gillespielaw.ca

And, more detail from Cheryl Anderson, spokesperson for PECFN:

The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have finally won their appeal against an industrial wind turbine project at Ostrander Point.  The Decision by the Appeal Court of Ontario found that the project will cause serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s turtle and its habitat.

It also found that Gilead Power and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment did not get a hearing of their proposal for a different remedy and that the Environmental Review Tribunal should hear that proposal.  The ‘remedy’ proposed was to put gates on the access roads to stop public traffic. PECFN is more than willing to show the Tribunal how putting gates on the very access roads, which will cause the irreversible harm, is no remedy at all.

This decision shows that with careful thought the Court of Appeal has recognized the serious consequences that would result in the development of Ostrander Point Crown Land Block.  The court has referred back to the Environmental Review Tribunal the matter of gates on the turbine access roads, which is described as a remedy to the serious and irreversible harm to the Blanding’s Turtle.  The consideration of this matter was not allowed by the Divisional Court.

The decision also shows that even though the structure of the Green Energy Act imposes almost impossible odds against environmental protection, determined people can succeed in making their case heard.