McGuinty government trashes democracy and due diligence

CB013128Yesterday, I took the trouble to travel 4 hours to attend the Toronto “workshop” on the Green Energy Act held by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources. (Where was the Ministry of Energy to answer questions?)

 It appears the government was deluded if it expected Ontario taxpayers to accept a farcical juvenile “workbook” completion exercise under the strictly controlled direction of a hired “facilitator” as anything to do with the democratic process. Those who attended included township and county mayors, doctors, engineers and a broad spectrum of professional and working people, all voicing their outrage at the proposed “Green Energy Act” and its  trashing of local democracy as well as our long-established environmental protection mechanisms.
 
Only after repeated demands from those present was a plenary session allowed to listen to some of the very tragic stories told by people in our communities who are already suffering from noise related health problems as a result of wind turbines installed too close to their homes.
 
A medical doctor (and former University Dean of Medicine) begged the government to change a single word in the act so that people who complained about health problems could be better heard. However, since there were only a few minor civil servants present to listen to what the facilitator referred to as an “opportunity to vent”, people went away with the distinct impression that they had been manipulated into participating in a token consultation, totally meaningless to them or their issues. What would happen to their written input they asked? Would it become part of the public record? The MOE official could not answer this. We really haven’t thought of what we are going to do with it, he admitted. In fact Ministry representatives had few answers at all.
 
This was not consultation. This was not democracy. Bill 150 is anti-democratic in that it robs local communities of planning decisions, takes away the ability of conservation authorities to protect lands that most Ontarians believe are worth protecting from infrastructure projects.
 
At this public “workshop” the question was raised again and again by residents already suffering the harmful health effects of the wind turbines that have been installed in Ontario: “Why is the government not doing something to fix the problems that it has already allowed to be created before racing ahead with the installation of more wind power?” Others asked simply what is the great rush to install wind energy? Surely, with all the negative experience from industrial wind turbines collected over 20 years in Europe, we in Ontario are intelligent enough to make sure that we don’t ruin peoples’ lives and homes by placing heavy industrial equipment adjacent to human dwellings. Is Ontario so small that this is even necessary?

Why has there been no moratorium on installing wind energy while a government health study is carried out, as has been requested by a growing number of municipalities and county councils?
 
Why have there been no public town hall meetings across the province to allow people to voice their real concerns in an open and democratic fashion?  Is the Minister of Energy and Infrastructure no longer an elected official, responsible to the electorate? Is he now appointed by the corporations? Why does he not bother to reply to the letters so many of us have sent him voicing our concerns over these issues and offering our knowledge to assist  him?
 
Why does the Premier and the Deputy Premier continue to proclaim the unmitigated benefits of industrial wind energy developments when they have received and ignored documents and studies from Europe which indicate their wind energy there has not saved CO2 emissions but required back-up fossil fuel generating power plants to stabilize the grid? Even more coal is being burned in Denmark since wind was added and gas consumption for electricity generation has increased drastically in Germany and the UK to back up wind’s intermittency and unpredictability. Why is this cost being not being charged to the for- profit wind developers?
 
Why is the government ignoring the latest well-documented studies by European biologists that point to devastating degradation of sensitive natural habitats by wind turbine developments?
 
How does eliminating (read “streamling”) environmental assessment processes protect such areas?
 
Why has the Ontario Government not long ago established strict regulations about where the wind “farms” can be placed and where they must not be allowed?
 
Why has there been no proper study of the real costs of wind energy—to include the 5 billion dollar transmission lines necessary to transport the commercial wind electricity to the cities, as well as the cost of building and fuelling new gas plants to stabilized the grid? Why are the costs of these facilities which are required solely to benefit for-profit energy producers being passed on to taxpayers and consumers?
 
Has Mr. McGuinty still not understood that the Germans and the Danes have found it necessary to back up wind and shadow its production 90% of the time? Do not his remarks in the Legislature saying that “we don’t want to increase our dependence on gas because its price is bound to rise” suggest that he has not been able to grasp the reality of his government’s energy policy? Why is he not listening to what the people are telling him?
 
Why has the government not taken note of the studies completed by Tom Adams (formerly of Energy Probe) that found already installed wind energy in Ontario only 23% efficient?
 
How does the government calculate the thousands of green jobs that are to appear? How many of these can be derived from maintaining wind turbines when the big new Enbridge installation near Kincardine (199.5 MW) requires a mere 7 people?
 
Why are the people who are required under Bill 150 to pay for all the extra costs of wind, the taxpayers and electricity consumers, not being given an opportunity to discuss how they want their tax dollars used and how they want their electricity produced?
 
Would it not appear that most citizens are better at managing their own money than our government which is attempting to introduce a flawed scheme that will raise our electricity rates by at least 30% according to the estimate given in the Legislature by one opposition MPP?

Why isn’t a citizens’ committee (free from the vested interests and influence of the wind industry) being set up to examine the true economic, health, environmental and feasibility issues?
 
Why is the government not protecting local communities and rural inhabitants from the aggressive, intimidating, pressurizing and secretive tactics of people signing up leases on farms for wind energy development?
 
Why has there been no public discussion of the conflicts of interest inside the liberal party where a major fund raiser is also a wind energy company CEO?

How many local councils have mayors and councilors voting on projects that will benefit them financially?
 
Why does the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure rely so heavily on information supplied by the CANWEA lobbyists while it totally ignores the research that has been presented to it by diligent citizens?

Why has the Ministry not attempted to validate the claims of this industry—dominated by big oil, gas and energy concerns with further profits to be made from selling back-up gas, and speculative interests in “green credits”—when even the British Advertising Standards authority has required British Wind Industry representatives to cut by half their exaggerated claims for CO2 emission savings?
 
Why was Bill 150—given the complexity of amendments to existing legislation– so  quickly expedited though its first and second reading and sent off to committee before an adequate, informed and thoughtful discussion could be completed in the Legislature?
 
Why would such a sloppy piece of legislation—a poorly organized unimpressively written jumble of amendments to existing legislation, (including large passages obviously dictated by the wind industry), saturated with a maze of ambiguities which will result in huge government costs when they are eventually contested in the courts, be even considered as up to standard for our parliamentary system?
 
Why are local planning authority powers as well as those long established under the Ministries of the Environment and Natural Resources suddenly being transferred to the whims of the Minister of Energy and his unwritten regulations which we are expected to accept without ever seeing before the bill itself is passed?
 
Why is the Minister of Energy being allowed to supplant the due process already established under the Provincial Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement? Is this healthy democracy, in the public interest or even acceptable public accounting?
 
We are not naïve. We can no longer accept this way of doing government business. We demand to determine how our money is spent on the electricity we consume even if those we put our trust in as our elected representative seem to have sold out behind our backs.

I urge all readers of these questions, be they government members, civil servants or the general public, to think long and carefully about the very serious implications for civil rights and the environment that this deceitfully labeled “Green Energy Act” will have on our province. And I urge you to listen to your conscience and to do everything within your power to correct this very dangerous false step.

K. Stelling