No autonomy for Ontario communities with Wynne government wind power push: Dutton Dunwich mayor
Cameron McWilliam sets the record straight on why Dutton Dunwich residents didn’t deserve a wind power contract … and why another community should not be responsible for that happening.
London Free Press, May 13, 2016
I want to be certain the nature of my concern with regard to the awarding of the industrial wind turbine project in my community, the Municipality of Dutton Dunwich, is understood.
As the mayor of Dutton Dunwich, it is my responsibility to represent the citizens in my community. We spent the time and resources to survey the entire community about IWTs and asked for responses from every adult. Eighty-four per cent of the 1,503 who responded stated they were not in favour of having wind turbines. Our total adult population is 3,020. Based on this response, council stated it was not in favour of an IWT project coming to Dutton Dunwich.
Council and staff took action and had community meetings and requested delegations with the Minister of Energy. We were granted several delegations, both with the minister of energy as well as the parliamentary assistant to the minister. We prepared briefs and presented them. Each of these stated we did not want this project.
Nevertheless, on March 10, we learned that IESO had decided to award an American wind development company, Invenergy, a contract for an IWT project in Dutton Dunwich.
This is very disappointing news. It can never be good news to see the people you represent have no say and no power as it relates to the land they live on and decisions about what happens in their community.
I realize a small number of landowners did sign options to lease with the wind company, but this pales in comparison to the number of citizens who voiced opposition to this project.
I appreciate the work Geordi Kakepetum, chief executive of NCC Development, identified in his April 30 column, Northern natives have wind energy expertise, with regard to seeking solutions to challenges faced by his communities, such as replacing diesel fuel use with more sustainable sources of electricity like solar. In fact, I applaud his ingenuity, intelligence and business acumen, as well as that of NCC Development and the First Nations communities involved.
I also celebrate the fact he and the other decision-makers in these communities will be able to choose where to spend revenue and savings from these investments on important community priorities. This is a good example of communities having voice and autonomy. Any community looking after its vital needs is to be commended. It is no wonder he is proud.
On the other hand, I do not accept the gain in power Kakepetum speaks of should be at the expense of the citizens of Dutton Dunwich.
There are a number of communities that stated they were willing to host IWT projects, yet their applications were not successful. Given the provincial government’s statements with regard to taking communities’ preferences into account regarding the location of IWT projects, I am left deeply disappointed for my community.
None of the benefits highlighted by Kakepetum make up for the fact the citizens did not want the project.
My community is now divided. The calculations of revenue to be received by this project seem to vary widely, depending on who reports them.
We calculate a tax revenue vastly different. The construction and rezoning of farmland results in an assessed value of approximately $100,000 per IWT. Based on the 2016 industrial tax rate, and assuming annual increases of three per cent over 20 years, the proposed 20 industrial wind turbines would provide about $1 million in property tax from the province through Chicago-based Invenergy to the Municipality of Dutton Dunwich. Annually this would be $50,000 on average to Dutton Dunwich. Over this same period, the County of Elgin would receive about $740,000 in property taxes and the province would collect about $830,000 for education purposes. The aggregate property tax collected by all three levels would be about $2.5 million. This is significantly less than the $4 million estimated for Dutton Dunwich tax revenue alone.
Regardless, no financial incentive will make those opposed to the turbines feel better about their loss of autonomy and concern for their community.
In conclusion, I regret that the voices of the people of Dutton Dunwich were disregarded by the province for this important decision, which has significant implications for the life of our community.