Lambton County: frustrated by total loss of democracy in Ontario

Unwilling host declaration born from frustration

By Peter Epp

Wind turbines at the Erie Shores Wind Farm near Port Burwell generate power. Similar turbines may be popping up near Ottawa. (CRAIG GLOVER/QMI AGENCY)
Wind turbines at the Erie Shores Wind Farm near Port Burwell generate power. Similar turbines may be popping up near Ottawa. (CRAIG GLOVER/QMI AGENCY)

It’s been almost five years since the Green Energy Act received approval at Queen’s Park, and yet the public debate over the content of that legislation continues to be a sore point, especially in rural Ontario where most of the legislation’s impact has been felt.
Planning and decision-making for the location of wind turbines has been legally centralized in Toronto since 2009, and so local municipalities and their locally-elected councillors have had little to no influence in deciding whether a wind turbine or solar farm ought to be located within their political jurisdiction.
It is rare in Ontario, and in other democratic jurisdictions, when the wishes of the electorate, through their public representatives, are ignored so profoundly. Indeed, approximately 80 municipalities in this province have declared themselves to be “unwilling hosts” for wind turbine developments – a collective protest against legislation that smacks more of the Soviet than the Canadian style in getting things done.
Lambton County council joined that chorus on Wednesday. And in declaring that Lambton County was an unwilling host to wind turbines, it joined with several lower-tier local municipalities that have done the same.
Most protests are born from frustration and from the collective anger of an individual or group who have been placed in a position of futility. Removing all but a token comment on wind turbine developments has left local councils in Lambton County and elsewhere in a municipal no-man’s land. All they have left is the “unwilling host” designation.
None of this will change until there is a change in government at Queen’s Park. The Liberal government in power is loath to tinker with the legislation it crafted and supported five years ago. Even as recently as January 2013, during the heat of the Liberal leadership race, Kathleen Wynne declared that her role as premier would be to better convince the people of Southwestern Ontario that wind turbines are good for us, and that Toronto knows best.
And Wynne has been as good as her word. She’s tried to convince rural Ontario, but we’re not buying what she’s selling.

Read the full story here.

Not a Willing Host communities heard at AMO

Representatives of the now 64 communities in Ontario who have declared themselves Not a Willing Host to giant wind power developments, made their voices heard yesterday at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario convention, in Ottawa. Questions were raised during the afternoon “bearpit” session, during which Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli appeared to contradict himself, by saying that preserving valuable Ontario farmland and the quality of rural communities was a priority and then later saying that wind power was necessary for the province. He also said that there is no chance of giving municipalities a “veto” on wind power projects.
   Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott remarked later that he was appalled by the Minister’s “doublespeak.”
   The municipal representatives held a meeting later in the day, and discussed what the effects of wind power had been on their communities to date, and what options were left open to them as they struggle to protect the health and financial wellbeing of their citizens.
   Here is a report from today’s Ottawa Citizen. Comments are open at the time of writing.
  

Windmill opponents demand province give power to municipalities

 
By Teresa Smith, OTTAWA CITIZENAugust 20, 2013
 

 
Windmill opponents demand province give power to municipalities
 

Sixty-two Ontario communities have declared themselves ‘unwilling hosts’ to provincially approved industrial wind-power projects. They are demanding that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government allow municipal governments to choose whether and where to put them.

Photograph by: Peter J. Thompson , National Post

OTTAWA — A coalition of 62 communities in Ontario have declared themselves “unwilling hosts” to provincially approved windmills and they’re demanding that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government allow municipal governments to choose whether and where to put industrial wind projects.
A group of residents in North Gower, a region of Ottawa that the province pegged for a large-scale wind-power project, is supportive of the coalition’s demands, but Ottawa is not officially a member of the unwilling hosts coalition.
Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak told 1,600 delegates gathered at the annual Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference this week that, if elected, he would “scrap the Green Energy Act” entirely. If communities don’t want windmills, the municipality should not be “forced” to house “industrial wind turbines,” Hudak said.
New Democratic Party leader Andrea Horwath said “short-sighted” decisions on the energy file have created a needless backlash against wind power in communities that feel inadequately consulted.”
The Liberal government’s 2009 Green Energy Act gave the province control over the location of wind energy projects but, in May, the province announced changes that will require developers to work more closely with municipalities. Energy projects that are part of a co-op, owned by a First Nation or at least half-owned by a municipality, will get priority for the Feed-in Tariff program “which is good, because if the private company has community support already, then the project will be more successful,” said Kristopher Stevens, executive director of Ontario Sustainable Energy Association (OSEA).
To that end, Wynne has asked the OSEA, a non-profit organization, to raise awareness in communities slated for the turbine projects about the benefits of hosting, including the financial gains that can come from being power generators in a cash-strapped economy.
“It’s going to require a transformation in the way we think about energy,” said Stevens, who noted one of the best things about the Green Energy Act is that it supports smaller scale projects.
“What we want is to have lots of points of light — sort of like the Internet — so that if part of the system goes off, the rest of the system can isolate it and keep running.”
He said such a change would prevent blackouts like the one that happened in much of Eastern Ontario and the Northeastern United States 10 years ago. “What happened in Ohio affected everyone because were pushing power from one centralized place,” said Stevens.
So far, 62 municipalities across Ontario have declared themselves not willing hosts to wind-power projects, citing health problems and loss in property values as their main concerns.
However, while research into the issue is limited. Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, in a 2010 report, concluded that “the scientific evidence available to date does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.”
The report said that while some residents might find the sound and vibrations from nearby wind turbines annoying, the sound is not sufficient to cause hearing problems and there is no scientific evidence the vibrations cause health issues.

The report recommended that “community engagement at the outset of planning for wind turbines is important and may alleviate health concerns.”
Health Canada has launched a major study into the effect of wind turbines on health.
The Marlborough 1 project in North Gower is on hold until the province announces its new procurement process. However wind developer Prowind, headquartered in Germany, has said it intends to reapply when the new process is in place.
In a letter to Ottawa Wind Concerns, a North Gower anti-wind turbine group, Mayor Jim Watson reiterated that the province is responsible for granting approval for wind projects and called the regulatory regime “quite onerous.” However, before any project is approved, he said, the city “will review all documentation and information relating to the proposed development and fully participate in any such consultative process.”

Not a Willing Host communities voices grow

Posted here on the London Free Press website, the online version of a feature for this weekend.

This blows: Growing list of Ontario municipalities declare ‘unwilling hosts’ to wind turbines

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By ,The London Free Press
First posted: | Updated:
wind turbines
Wind powered turbines spin on a wind farm in Port Burwell, a town near London, Ont. (Derek Ruttan/QMI Agency files)

LONDON, ONT. – Enough. Dozens of Ontario municipalities say they don’t want wind turbines.
Heavily pushed by the provincial Liberal government, the electricity they produce deeply subsidized by taxpayers, giant wind energy projects have sprouted across rural Ontario — often pitting neighbour against neighbour and community against community.
With local control over where the highrise-sized towers can be built taken away by the province, many communities — especially in southwestern Ontario — were already fuming about wind turbines long before Premier Kathleen Wynne took office in February, vowing not to impose such projects any more on places unwilling to take them.
Now, a list of unwilling hosts is circulating — with 61 of the province’s 444 municipalities already on it.
That number will only rise, observers warn, as the “Not a Willing Host” movement grows and pressures the government to bar the industrial turbines from rural Ontario, where 1,200 have already cropped up.
Wind Concerns Ontario, an organization upset at the province’s aggressive promotion of wind power at the expense of local control, compiles and maintains the list of unwilling hosts.
“It was important for someone to keep this list and say, ‘You are not alone,’” said Wind Concerns president Jane Wilson.
“Wind power can work,” she conceded, “but plunking them (turbines) down, right next to communities and next to homes and schools, is not the right idea.”
Ninety municipalities — in favourable zones, located mainly in southwestern and eastern Ontario — “are vulnerable to wind power,” she said.
“That’s where the wind companies have been prospecting.” As the list stands now, two-thirds of those “vulnerable” municipalities are effectively saying no more.
Wind Concerns has dubbed the seven years of wind power development under the Liberals “a disaster for rural Ontario.”

Read the full article at the London Free Press site.