Kudos to Peter Kormos, Elizabeth Witmer, Sylvia Jones, Ernie Hardeman, Joyce Savoline
Mr. Peter Kormos: Yet I’ve got to speak for my folks, who have serious concerns about wind farms, as they’re called, adjacent to residential properties. I’ve got a good constituent, a good person, Tom Briggs down in Wainfleet, who is very, very concerned about the wind farm proposal for Wainfleet. He understands. He likes clean energy, as well. He’s proposing that there should be no wind farm closer than 1.5 kilometres. He has collected a whole lot of research and done his Internet research. I’ll be speaking to him when I go down to the ratepayers’ association meeting in Wainfleet on March 28. I got that contact with him and heard what he had to say, and again, I wasn’t sure until I read-did you read the op-ed piece that appeared in a number of papers, “An Open Letter to Mr. Dalton McGuinty,” from Barbara Ashbee Lormand and Dennis Lormand from Shelburne, Ontario? They live next to windmills.
Again, New Democrats support wind as a source of electrical energy, no two ways about it. The other day I heard the government talk about a 500-metre barrier between residences and windmills. Surely there are going to be people coming before this committee, and quite frankly, I hope that Barbara Lormand and Dennis Lormand do-because they talk about this persistent hum, buzz and vibration in their house. Just imagine that for a minute: persistent, always, 100%, until the wind stops blowing, even to the point where the dog is getting frantic. I have no reason to disbelieve these people.
We see nothing in this legislation that provides for environmental assessments-because there are other issues that have been raised about turbines-nothing that provides for, again, the need to protect residential homeowners from the impact of this technology. Don’t you find that a little bothersome?
Mrs. Elizabeth Witmer: I’m very pleased today to have the opportunity to speak to Bill 150, An Act to enact the Green Energy Act, 2009 and to build a green economy, to repeal the Energy Conservation Leadership Act, 2006 and the Energy Efficiency Act and to amend other statutes.
Today, as a member of Her Majesty’s loyal opposition, it is my responsibility to point out the flaws and shortcomings in this legislation, and to speak on behalf of all Ontarians who have expressed concerns, asked questions and want to know that their concerns and questions will be addressed by this government.
Although I support green energy, I am concerned not only about the lack of detail in this bill, but also the details that may be buried in this bill and the haste to pass this bill by the government, without extensive consultation with stakeholders and the public.
If we take a look at the media, it’s obvious there are concerns. From the Ottawa Citizen: “The Premier’s new green energy plan is just a badly planned distraction from Ontario’s worsening economic outlook.” If we take a look at the National Post, “The Province’s Green Energy Plan Is Turning Ontario into a Green Police State,” and if we take a look at the Hamilton Spectator, “Green Audits Won’t Work.”
It’s obvious: The public should be entitled to answers from this government.
I have to question whether this government, in bringing forward this bill and acting so hastily, has taken the time to ask the tough questions. I wonder whether they have done the necessary in-depth analysis about the impact and how they plan to implement this bill, or is this energy bill, as some suggest, more about the McGuinty government seeking to associate with the icon of appearing green?
We do know that Premier McGuinty so little understood Ontario energy needs that in the 2003 election he irresponsibly, without a plan, promised to close Ontario’s coal-powered plants by 2007. To date, the only government to close a plant was our government when we closed Lakeview.
We also know that the Minister of Energy and the Premier have indicated they have no idea how the 50,000 jobs that they’re promising will be created. But if they hearken back to the real world, Ontario, in January alone, lost 71,000 jobs.
We also know that the Minister of Energy and the Premier have no answers when it comes to targets, electrical rates or the cost of this plan for consumers and businesses. They seem to forget that the Ontario economy depends on a secure supply of affordable energy that will enable us to compete with our neighbouring American states. That is critical if we are to retain jobs in Ontario.
However, since I only have 10 minutes, let me put some concerns and unanswered questions about the bill on the table. I will not deal with the issue of the erosion of democratic rights or the loss of local participation in decisions that directly impact the communities affected by the act. I will not deal with the mandatory $300 energy audit, which must be reconsidered since it imposes another layer of bureaucracy that will cost homeowners money. Other people are doing that, and they will do so effectively.
I want to go back, again, to whether or not this government and this Premier asked the tough questions or did the necessary in-depth analysis about the impact of the changes proposed in this bill.
As health critic, I want to look first at the health risks of wind turbines. Bill 150 does not address health concerns. It is a bizarre omission. The health of Ontarians should surely be mainstreamed in all government policy decisions, particularly those where the potential impacts are either obvious or widely reported by independent professionals with expertise.
Let’s take a look at what Dr. Nina Pierpont said: “I can tell you, definitely and unequivocally, that wind turbines of the size you are contemplating do, in fact, cause harm to human health when placed within two kilometres of peoples’ homes.” There is no peer-reviewed scientific report written by a certified clinician that disputes Dr. Pierpont’s conclusions. Indeed, her research findings are supported by eminent research scientists, academics and medical bodies around the world, and I have the list here.
Extensive research on the health and safety effects of wind turbines confirms that noise from turbines can be heard up to two kilometres away and can induce sleep disturbance, depression, chronic stress, migraines, nausea and memory loss. Dr. Robert McMurtry, former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario, points out that the Ontario environment ministry’s existing regulations regarding acceptable noise levels are flawed, as they fail to measure low-frequency noise. He states, “It is not possible to develop authoritative guidelines for setbacks of wind turbines if low-frequency noise is not taken into account.”
So we have the Premier making pronouncements that there aren’t any health concerns related to industrial wind turbines. However, in saying so, his pronouncement flies in the face of worldwide evidence to the contrary. The World Health Organization states: “It is important to promote the development and the application of health impact assessments in the energy field.”
So I go back to where I started. Why has this government not taken action to ensure that the health concerns in this bill are addressed? Why are there no provincial standards for wind turbine setbacks? In Germany and Denmark, setback distances are typically between 1.5 and two kilometres. Would it not be negligent on the part of the government to proceed with the construction of industrial wind turbines without establishing setback standards based on a full epidemiological study of the health risks and the impacts as recommended by Dr. McMurtry, the former dean of medicine at the University of Western Ontario?
Another question that needs to be answered is whether wind power really is that green, or even a viable economic alternative to other renewable energy options. Has the McGuinty government examined the European experience, where wind power has been in existence for a decade or more? Unfortunately, the evidence is mounting that wind power has not delivered on its promise. We know that Denmark is the world’s most wind-intensive nation, with more than 6,000 turbines generating 19% of its electricity. But, apparently, not one fossil fuel power plant has closed, 50% more coal-generated electricity is needed to cover wind failings, pollution and carbon dioxide emissions rose 36% in 2006 alone, and Danish electricity costs are higher than in Ontario.
And what are the Danes saying about wind power now? “Windmills are a mistake and economically make no sense,” says Niels Gram, Danish Federation of Industries. “Wind turbines do not reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” says Flemming Nissen, head of Denmark’s largest energy utility.
In fact, Der Spiegel, in Germany, says this about the German plants: Germany’s “CO2 emissions haven’t been reduced by even a single gram,” despite all their wind turbines. In fact, Germany has had to build many more coal- and gas-fired plants.
As you can see, when we take a look at this bill, there are many unanswered questions and concerns. Time does not allow for me to raise any more at this time, but I would recommend that this government go back and ask the tough questions that you have refused to ask thus far. Do the in-depth analysis of the health risks associated with wind turbine setbacks. Determine whether wind power is really that green or even a viable economical alternative to other options.
Unless and until those questions are answered and that analysis is completed, it would be irresponsible to support this bill. People in this province deserve answers. I trust that this government will take the time to get it right. I hope there will be extensive consultations and amendments.
Ms. Sylvia Jones: It amazes me that the Liberal member from Eglinton-Lawrence would choose to focus his debate on how it’s a great thing that Bill 150 is going to limit the ability of the public to have input on the placement of generation projects. By far the greatest number of conversations, e-mails and phone calls that I have had on Bill 150 are around concerns raised with our municipal partners and the landowners, who are saying, “Why are the Liberals allowing the removal of our input when it comes to placement of turbines?”
It comes out beautifully in an e-mail that I received: “Bill 150 essentially excludes Ontarians from any say in the establishment and location of industrial wind turbine plants. It provides a glaring example of the Liberal government’s systematic indifference to the rights and interests of rural Ontarians, and an inexcusable disregard for public health concerns.”
The lead-in to that is that after approval is given, there are 15 days for an Ontario resident to appeal one of these approvals to the Environmental Review Tribunal. Fifteen days? You would have to go onto the Environmental Bill of Rights essentially daily to monitor what kind of approval processes have been occurring and how quickly they are going, and then you have a mere 15 days to put together your process and arguments against an approval process.
It’s unconscionable to me that that would be what this member and this Liberal government hold up as the beautiful part of Bill 150, and to me is an indication of how little respect they show for homeowners and our municipal partners.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: Many of us have received letters from people who live near wind farms-and this is, again, the challenge of dealing with renewable energy behind closed doors. Many of us have received letters from people who live near wind farms. They raise some legitimate concerns about proper distance for setbacks or how far the wind turbines must be located from homes. I’ve never spent the night in a house located close to a turbine, and I would bet that the same is true for Mr. McGuinty, the energy minister or, in fact, the entire cabinet. So why would we trust them to make the decision, behind closed doors, through regulations, on how far turbines should be from homes? Why wouldn’t they ask the people who are presently living next to the turbines, to see what the proper distance should be? Why would we want to cut municipalities, and the people who have experienced living near turbines or are going to have them near their homes, out of this decision?
Most of the people who have written aren’t saying that there should be no turbines. They’re just saying that we need to have them far enough away that the vibration and stray voltage aren’t a problem. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.
Many farmers in Ontario are already dealing with the effects of stray voltage on their livestock. Shouldn’t they have a right to be part of the discussion on new energy projects? Wouldn’t their input be useful when deciding how far away energy projects should be from their livestock?
I recently met with a constituent, Keith Leeson, who lives near a number of proposed turbines and is very concerned about the impact that any stray voltage would have. He provided me with an engineering report prepared for the Ontario Energy Board by Kinectrics which outlines some of the problems of stray voltage and looks at a few of the possible solutions. Before the government imposes new energy projects on neighbourhoods and municipalities, shouldn’t we ensure that we understand the stray voltage that will be generated and how we should deal with it?
Mrs. Joyce Savoline: I think this is another one of those cases where the emperor wears new clothes and we’re all supposed to admire this as though there really were something there to admire.
This act is being touted to allegedly reduce the carbon footprint in Ontario. There have been no carbon reduction targets set and I’m sure that there aren’t going to be any set, and the reason for that is that there probably won’t be any significant reductions in the carbon footprint.
The minister talks about subsidies that will support renewable power. This will be accomplished through the feed-in tariffs. That’s how it works in Europe, and that’s where we’re taking our example. In Europe, prices have soared as much as 40% for electricity and energy, and I’m not sure the people of Ontario understand how all that is going to happen. The sorry part of all that is that the carbon footprint is no smaller now than it was before they started renewable energy and feed-in tariffs in Europe.
Clean, renewable energy is a good goal. This is motherhood; how can anybody argue with it? This important decision, the magnitude of this long-lasting decision, is something that we ought to take very seriously and carefully-listen to the people it’s going to directly affect. I think that it behooves us to listen to Ontarians, as they want to tell us about their personal experiences and their thoughts. Just because it’s opposing what the government is presenting doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen. Isn’t that democracy? What happened to democracy in this House? So I think that we need to have long and meaningful consultation.
Mr. Ernie Hardeman: I want to thank the members from Parkdale-High Park, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Burlington and Ottawa-Orléans for their kind comments.
I did want to just quickly go back to that part of my presentation that dealt with the presentation from Keith Leeson in my riding, who was in the process of dealing with a wind turbine farm that’s being built just outside his boundary. In the EA that they’re presently doing for that, there was an engineer’s report that I mentioned in my presentation that was done for the Ontario Energy Board that speaks of that stray voltage that will be generated from the wiring, the process of the transmission from the turbine into the grid. That’s the challenge we face. There is nothing in this bill that deals with that. To get the power out of the wind and get it into the grid is where the problem is. That is all part of building the turbine facility, and that is not being addressed with this. When Keith asked me what the government is doing in Bill 150 to protect him from that stray voltage, what they are doing about the setbacks, I said, “According to the bill, the minister gets to make all those decisions.” “Well,” he said to me, “who is the minister accountable to?” I said, “No one but his cabinet colleagues,” because this bill gives him total right over setting separation distances, dealing with the stray voltage, dealing with where they go.
They’ve taken the authority away from everyone, including municipalities, and put it all at the minister’s desk. The application comes in. He reviews the application. If he deems that it’s appropriate, he’ll decide how much he is going to pay for the power to come from that facility and then he will place it in someone’s backyard without ever consulting with anyone in that process. I think that’s what is so distasteful to my community, that in fact they’ve gone through this process of the environmental assessment and now it appears it won’t even finish because the minister will override it and give approval to this application without the community having any further say in it. That’s the challenge that this bill is presenting to my community.