Enniskillen Mayor: don’t talk to wind power developers

ENERGY

Mayor urging township residents to not speak to wind developers

By Paul Morden, Sarnia Observer

Thursday, May 15, 2014 12:48:34 EDT

Enniskillen Township residents should feel free to exercise their right to remain silent when wind energy companies come calling, says Mayor Kevin Marriott.

EDF EN Canada has reportedly been approaching residents and groups about its Churchill Wind Project proposal, a 100 to 150-MW wind farm it wants to build in Enniskillen and neighbouring Plympton-Wyoming.

Marriott said he turned down a request from the company to meet with township council, and urged others in the community to do the same.

“We’re unwilling hosts,” Marriott said. “We’re not interested, end of discussion.”

Enniskillen was among approximately 80 Ontario municipalities declaring themselves unwilling hosts for wind turbines after the provincial government said it was changing how it awards renewable energy contracts.

The 2009 Green Energy Act took away municipalities’ planning powers for wind projects, leading to an outcry from many rural communities and municipal councils. Last year, the province said a new system of awarding renewable energy projects will require companies to work with municipalities.

“It will be very, very difficult for a developer to be approved without municipal engagement, in some significant way,” Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said last June.

But, Marriott said that until the province clarifies what it means by municipal engagement, “We’re being vigilant.”

He advised the anti-wind turbine group, Conservation of Rural Enniskillen (CORE), against meeting with the company.

“I said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t consult with them because they may be able to use that as a check mark,'” Marriott said.

“Who knows what could be construed as public consultation.”

Read the full story here.

Can government end “green” contracts? YES, says Queens law prof

Killing green energy contracts

Hudak’s Ontario Conservatives can easily and legally negate the giveaways the Liberals had lavished on renewables developers

Tim Hudak says the Ontario Conservatives, if elected, will cancel lucrative wind and solar contracts put in place under the Liberals’ green energy program. Can he do so without racking up huge compensation costs?

The answer is yes – if he does it the right way.

The wrong way is to direct the Ontario Power Authority to simply terminate existing contracts, which have robust compensation clauses. The liabilities would dwarf the $1.1-billion paid out by the Liberals for cancelled gas plants.

The right way is to legislate: to enact a statute that declares green contracts to be null and void, and the province to be free from liability. The compensation clauses in the contract will be rendered inoperative if the statute says so.

Statutes can override iron-clad provisions in a contract because that is the nature of legislative supremacy: Legislatures can pass laws of any kind, as long as they are within their jurisdiction and do not offend the constitution. Legislating on electricity production is clearly a provincial power, as are “property and civil rights.”

Since the Canadian constitution does not guarantee property or contract rights, there are no obvious constitutional limitations on a provincial legislature’s ability to change any contract as it likes. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, in Canada there is no constitutional right to compensation for property expropriated by government.
Courts interpret ambiguous statutes as implicitly requiring compensation be paid to the owner of expropriated property. But if the statute is clear that no compensation shall be paid, the words of the statute govern. Where a statute and a contract are in conflict, the statute prevails. Although unilateral and retroactive changes to established contracts might seem to offend the rule of law, the Supreme Court of Canada has said that prospectivity is not a constitutional requirement for legislation.

What about NAFTA? Could a U.S. or Mexican firm with a cancelled green energy contract in Ontario seek compensation for discriminatory expropriation under Chapter 11? If government action singled out a specific party’s contract for termination, it could well be characterized as discriminatory. But if Hudak’s statute cancelled large numbers of contracts for a public policy objective and treated domestic and foreign firms similarly, then NAFTA protections are unlikely to apply.

So, done the right way, a new PC government could indeed rip up green energy contracts with no liability. …

Read the full story and comments here.

Bruce Pardy is Professor of Law at Queen’s University.

Editor’s note: This is one approach to the idea of whether the contracts can be cancelled; another is that they are simply not fulfilled. Under the Environmental Protection Act (section 47), it is clearly stated that the Director of the Ministry of the Environment has the power to choose NOT to approve a Renewable Energy project, and even to rescind an approval, if it is in the “public interest.”

Wind Concerns Ontario wrote to the Minister of Energy Mr Bob Chiarelli some months ago on this topic, citing legal precedents; we received an acknowledgement but have received no response to our questions on this issue

Public sector investment doesn’t=jobs in Ontario

Here, from today’s Financial Post, an opinion piece by Philip Cross, former Chief Economic Analyst at Statistics Canada.

Philip Cross: Public sector investment never ‘kick-starts’ more business investment

Philip Cross, Special to Financial Post | May 13, 2014 | Last Updated: May 13 10:12 AM ET

Ontario public sector investment has tripled, while business investment stagnates

Business investment is the most important dynamic in a growing economy. It commits a firm to a plan for its growth and creates jobs. Investments made today determine what our industrial structure will look like years from now, and how productive those industries will be. For Canada, watching business investment pour into our energy sector 10 times faster than the rest of the economy so far this century locks in that our future lies in producing oil and gas and transporting this to new markets inside and outside of Canada.

FE0513_investment_310_MF

So what does investment say about Ontario’s future? A look at the graph to the right tells an alarming story, with public sector investment tripling since 1998 while private sector investment has stagnated. Over the past 16 years, private sector investment in Ontario rose a total of only 17% from $39.8-billion to $46.4-billion, or 1% a year. Meanwhile, investment by the public sector soared 293% from $9.9-billion to $29.0-billion, or 18% a year (the public sector includes public administration, health, education and utilities, since Ontario’s electricity utilities clearly make decisions at the behest of their political masters, not on the basis of market principles). After a spike related to infrastructure spending during the 2009 recession, public sector investment has settled back into its long-term growth path. As a result, public sector investment has risen from one-quarter the size of private sector investment in 1998 to nearly two-thirds this year. Private and public sector investment are actually converging more than the graph shows, since the billions government is spending on urban transit cannot be separated out from the rest of transportation, which is allocated to the private sector.

One insight jumps out from comparing private versus public sector investment in Ontario. Public sector investment never “kick-starts” more business investment, creating the virtuous circle governments always hope for when launching the latest wave of government capital spending. Instead, more public sector spending creates a vicious circle, where a “failure” of business investment to respond to higher public sector spending justifies the perceived need to further boost public sector investment “to fill the gap.” Repeated enough times over more than a decade of parochial provincial budgets, and the result is a tripling of public service spending while business investment stagnates.

What businesses have been the most reluctant to invest in Ontario’s future, despite the much-vaunted benefits of an engorged public sector, including a highly-educated labour force? Pretty much all of them. Since the peak in 2008, business investment has fallen by $3-billion. The drop is widespread across all industries. Overall, 11 major industry groups have cut back, while only five have invested more. Manufacturing posted the largest drop, with 15 of its 22 member industries paring investment outlays. Before 2008, manufacturing consistently was the largest industry investing in Ontario. Now it has slipped to fourth place. But this is far more than a story of weak manufacturing investment, with important declines also occurring in finance, retail and wholesale trade, recreation, and information and culture among others.

It is not just that public sector investment crowds out business investment, although that clearly is a factor. The aggressive expansion of public sector investment is symptomatic of a wide range of public sector policies that discourage business spending in Ontario— uncompetitive electricity rates, higher minimum wages, more regulation, a new pension plan tax, and high budget deficits that promise future tax hikes….

Read the full story here.

Giving points for honesty about Ontario’s economy (or, just how bad are things, really?)

From today’s National Post, editorial writer Kelly McParland, on Tim Hudak’s gamble with honesty, and Premier Wynne’s response.

Ontario Conservative Party Leader Tim Hudak buys flowers for Mothers Day with his daughter Miller at Growers Flower Market on Avenue Rd. in Toronto.

 

Kelly McParland: Hudak tests Ontario’s fortitude by offering an honest choice

| May 12, 2014 | Last Updated: May 12 1:19 PM ET
More from Kelly McParland | @KellyMcParland

Tim Hudak has done an odd thing, so odd most Ontarians probably haven’t quite grasped what he’s up to. In announcing his plan to take an axe to the public sector payroll – and admitting that teachers would be included along with everyone but police, nurses and doctors – he’s openly declared his intentions and offered voters a clear choice.

In doing so he’s rejected what has become the accepted norm of Canadian politics. Honesty is not usually viewed as a good policy among candidates seeking election. Spin is the rule of the day. Even if a candidate has a clear plan, it’s considered best to obfuscate the fact until after the votes are counted and it’s too late for voters to change their minds. You might hint that some sort of “restraint” will be needed if the economy is to avoid going over the edge, but you wrap it among promises that no jobs will be endangered, no impact will be felt, and spending can continue to grow at the same old unsustainable pace. That’s certainly been the Liberal party’s approach to winning elections in the province.
Kathleen Wynne says Liberal government made ‘mistakes’ (under McGuinty) and she’s the one to fix them

Premier Kathleen Wynne says there’s no doubt the Liberals have made mistakes in the past, but she’s committed to running an open, transparent government if elected next month.

In an interview on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning in Toronto, Wynne said she had a “good working relationship” with her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, but didn’t always agree with him.

Wynne has faced tough questions in recent months about the cancellation of two gas plants when McGuinty was premier, which could cost up to $1.1 billion.

Mr. Hudak has rejected that approach. After 11 years of Liberal rule, and the precipitous decline of the economy that was once Canada’s strongest, Mr. Hudak has chosen to be straightforward about his intentions. His promise on Friday to chop 100,000 public sector jobs left no room for doubt. “I take no joy in this, but it has to be done if we want job creators to put more people on the payroll in our province,” he said.

In doing so, he is being honest, candid and — depending on your point of view — either courageous or foolhardy. He’s trusting voters to assess the situation and make their choice based on a full understanding of the options. He evidently believes voters understand the damage that’s been done to the province under the Liberals, and the danger of continuing down that path, and being mature enough to choose between repairing it, or continuing along the same route…
Read the full story here, including,  ” It would have been simple to blanket the province with images of Dalton McGuinty and the slogan  ‘Had enough?’ “