Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry, along with Steve Clark, MPP for Leeds and Grenville, hosted an Industrial Wind Turbine Projects Meeting on April 10th at the DC Community Centre in Dixon’s Corners.
In addition to McDonell and Clark, the panel included Sandra Mancini and Geoff Owens from the South Nation Conservation Authority, realtor/appraiser Norris Wilson, president of Wind Concerns Ontario Jane Wilson, and Dan Scharff, a risk management consultant.
The politicians also invited representatives from Prowind Canada, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources, all of whom, declined to come, said McDonell.
“It’s disappointing that they didn’t take that opportunity,” said Clark.
Locally, South Dundas mayor Steven Byvelds and South Dundas councillor Jim Graham were in attendance. Close to 100 people attended the meeting from South Dundas, North Dundas and Leeds and Grenville.
During his opening talk, Clark, who is also the PC party’s municipal affairs critic, pointed out a number of flaws he sees associated with Ontario’s Green Energy Act.
He admitted that the issue “really came home to roost for me” after accepting an invitation from Lisa Thompson to attend an meeting in her riding of Huron-Bruce where municipal officials and the public came together to discuss the impact of wind turbines on their communities.
Lisa Thompson, MPP for Huron-Bruce, tabled a motion on December 8, 2011 calling for a moratorium on all further industrial wind turbine development until a third party health and environmental study could be completed.
On March 8th, she used her private members ballot to debate the motion. It was defeated when Liberals and NDP banded together to vote against it.
Thompson was quoted in a recent press release from her office, dated February 21st: “The health and well-being of the people of Ontario should be first priority when developing renewable energy projects.”
“The McGuinty Liberals have failed to listen to rural Ontario, and have forged ahead placing industrial wind turbines in communities that are not willing hosts, without knowing the health and environmental implications,” she added.
Included in Thompson’s invitation to Clark was the opportunity to see the “hundreds and hundreds of turbines.”
Remarking on his visit to Chesley, Ontario, Clark said that seeing turbines “from one end to the other,” wasn’t what shocked him the most. “What surprised me was the numbers and, at night, the red lights going off and on.”
He told the audience that the turbines were “very close to the road. There was a sign… ‘watch for falling ice and don’t come within 300 meters of turbine’… but they were less than 100 from the road!”
Referring to the February 9th Huron-Bruce meeting, Clark said, “I was there for about two hours listening to the frustrations and I pledged that night that I was going to join them.” He was referring to joining the massive walk-out planned for Premier Dalton McGuinty’s speech during the ROMA (Rural Ontario Municipal Association) conference.
He told the DC Community Centre audience that he’d heard people say it would be disrespectful to walkout on the premier during his speech and his response to that: “it is more disrespectful how the government is dealing with rural Ontario on this issue.”
Clark followed through on his pledge and he was one of many who walked out on McGuinty’s ROMA conference speech.
“Even with some setbacks, I believe you still have to be very vocal,” said Clark. “Jim’s been a very strong advocate for this riding.”
Looking out toward the audience, he continued: “I appreciate the frustration… there were people here years ago who aren’t here tonight because they felt there was very little hope.”
At this point, McDonell informed audience members that he’d brought along a petition for people to sign. He said, this issue is “tearing rural municipalities apart, pitting neighbour against neighbour. It really splits up and divides communities.”
When asked what was next in terms of strategy, McDonell said, “getting information out. In the auditor general’s report, he commits over a hundred pages to the green energy act. I want people to see the real numbers.”
Clark chimed in, reporting that “I’ve already had a major employer come to me (who said) he can save $8,000 a month going across the border.”
“More and more you’re going to see it as a job creation issue.”
“A lot of MPPs are looking at the options open to us. We’re going to use all the tools open to us to keep driving home the message that things have to change.”
“It’s a top priority for our economic viability in this province. Not a day goes by when I don’t get a call about hydro costs.”
According to Jane Wilson, “wind developers make $500,000 per year per turbine, sometimes more. That’s your money that’s being paid to them in subsidies.”
As for the proposed South Branch Wind Farm, Wilson stated that the turbines are expected to be 626 feet, “so they’ll be more expensive.”
McDonell turned the discussion back to the instability of wind power and the inability to store excess power, saying, “we’re taking on record levels of power.”
“It’s bankrupting the province. It’s not talked about by the government so people still think this is a good thing. We already have the highest property taxes in the country.”
“The excess power flowing to the grid… the system will fail,” said McDonell.
Moving away from the issue of excess and volatile power, realtor Norris Wilson brought the topic around to decreased property values for those homes situated near wind turbines.
“The wind companies will tell you they don’t devalue your property,” said Norris Wilson. “It’s just common sense that if you put these moving machines around peoples property, they’re going to devalue them.”
He went on to say that properties near these wind turbines have gone down in value anywhere from approximately 25 per cent to 40 per cent.
He reported that there are wind companies that have purchased properties from people and then resold those properties for anywhere between 40 to 60 per cent less than their original value.
“It scares the crap out of me,” he said.
Moving from the issue of property value, McDonell brought the discussion around to the Green Energy Act’s ability to preempt people’s and municipalities’ rights to have a say in what goes on in their communities.
“There’s no input required or allowed from local municipalities,” said McDonell. “It’s basically ‘this is the way it is.’”
“But for change,” he continued, “it takes the public as a whole.”
Clark, agreeing with McDonell, added that “you’ve got 80 municipalities that have passed resolutions but… municipalities need to have a bigger role in government.”
He said that municipal politicians “need to speak up for their municipalities.”
“Local mayors need to ask their government to represent them.”
“OFA, the Christian Farmers… passed resolutions. I think that’s the only reason they moved it a little bit…. it got their attention,” said Clark, referring to the recent changes to the Green Energy Act.
He further stated that “municipalities have got to start putting their names on the line and start asking their own associations to represent them.”
McDonell chimed in, saying that “people need to speak up. That’s why we’re trying to get the message out.”
Scharff agreed, saying that “this fight is going to be won in cities. The people whose minds have to change are in the cities. Most of these people don’t even know about this.”
“Urban areas still see this as a great idea,” said McDonell.
Scharff talked about the issue of the ‘brand’: “‘If it’s green, it’s good.’ This has been indoctrinated… that this is the right thing to do.”
“It’s not an issue in the cities. You have to make it an issue in the cities,” he told the audience.
Adding to the point, Clark said, “what we’re facing is a game of numbers. When the Liberals and NDP vote together, they can vote us down every time.”
As for the people who have to live and deal with these turbines on a daily basis around their homes and in their communities, Jane Wilson reported that “calls to the Ministry of Environment (MOE) are getting nowhere. 100 calls… no one visited from MOE in over a year. She was told ‘there’s nothing we can do.’”
Wilson also suggested that industrial wind turbines are “just about the worst thing you could do to children with autism.”
In the end, audience members were left with commitments from both MPPs to continue pursuing the issue at Queen’s Park.
For now, the South Branch Wind Farm is still moving forward.
Prowind Canada submitted their final report to MOE just last week. Once MOE has declared the report complete, people will have 30 days to submit comments.