Open Letter to the Green Energy Act Standing Committee

RE Hearings on Bill 150:

A measure of healthy democracy is the willingness of a government to listen to input from citizens. A friend from British Columbia recently called my Ontario government Stalinist. I am beginning to understand why.

There has been no meaningful public consultation on Bill 150. I recently took the trouble and traveled 8 hours to attend the so-called workshop on Bill 150 held by the Ministry of the Environment in North York Public Library. The exercise was condescending, insulting and pointless. Participants were given “workbooks” and urged by a hired facilitator to write down their views on pre-selected aspects of the act. Only after numerous participants repeatedly demanded open discussion was a limited plenary session allowed. One person asked the presiding civil servant what he intended to do with their comments. We haven’t decided was his vague reply. Would they become part of the public record? He did not know.

In fact he did not have answers to most other questions either. Most participants left feeling frustrated and affronted, especially when the facilitator suggested the workshop was to provide them with an opportunity to “vent”.  Does the Ontario Government and particularly the Ministry of Energy not understand the meaning of dialogue?

I have just been offered one of 14 spots to make an oral presentation to the Standing Committee discussing Bill 150 in Sault Ste. Marie. I live in Bruce County. Is this a joke? I wish I could share your sense of humour.

You do realize that the trip takes 7 plus hours each way and a midday presentation would require overnight accommodation. Yesterday we had
another snow storm that made roads treacherous and sometimes impassable. Monday may be no different.

I asked your assistant why you could not add another half day to hearings in Toronto or London? I was told this is logistically impossible. Hmmm.

Is not the only logical explanation that it is government policy is to discourage public consultation on this issue? Has not the Minister of Energy done everything in his power to sell his version of the bill to the public even by going to the extent of plastering his own portrait over Toronto bus shelters?

Has he mentioned his plans to jeopardize the World Biosphere Niagara Escarpment with infrastructure projects?

Has he mentioned disabling environmental assessments or taking away planning powers from local municipalities and conservation authorities?

Has he told people the true cost his bill will have on electricity rates and the likelihood that more industry will leave the province?

This has already happened when wind turbines were installed in Spain and electricity prices skyrocketed? Denmark has the highest electricity prices in Europe. Has the public been informed that wind turbines in German and Denmark actually led to an increase in CO2 emissions and coal and gas consumption for electricity production?

Of course not. His failure to accept input from very well informed citizens suggests either that he knows the truth and is being deceptive when he insists that electricity costs will rise by only 1%, or that he is naïve and uninformed and all the more in need of the consultations that have been asked for by Ontario’s electorate.

Your offer of a spot at the hearings in Sault Ste Marie is all the more surprising because I was one of the first to request an appearance before the committee, telephoning your office before the hearings had even been publicly advertised. At that time your assistant took my name and particulars. Several weeks later I was telephoned and asked my preference of location and I indicated Toronto.

And yet yesterday, in Toronto, there were four spots for which no one was confirmed to speak. Is this total incompetence or more sinister manipulation?

Citizens do not appreciate being insulted in this manner.

Why have only 125-150 of the approximately 300 people who have asked
to speak to the committee been allowed to do so? Why has the selection
of those who did get to speak been so unbalanced?

Barbara Ashbee, who has suffered serious health effects and who has written countless letters to ministers, was denied the opportunity to speak at any of these hearings.

John Harrison, retired Physics professor from Queens University has spoken out in the past.   He also was denied.    

Tony Clark led a citizen’s group in the OMB hearings of the Enbridge Wind project.   He also was denied.

From the volume of applications and the widespread concern about Bill 150, it would appear that the committee should be adding quite a few more sessions for people in Southern Ontario who still wish to participate.

I have to say that I shall have to decline your offer to travel 14 hours with an overnight stay to speak for 10 minutes to the committee in Sault Ste. Marie. I am not prepared to jump through the hoop this time. It is the duty of the government to consult with citizens and to make appropriate arrangements to do so. Such arrangements are quite inappropriate and indicate arrogant contempt for the public consultation process.

I am sending a copy of this letter also to those who have directed you to make this decision.

Keith Stelling

Copies to:
George Smitherman, Minister of Energy gsmitherman.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Dalton McGuinty, Premier dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
David Orazietti MPP dorazietti.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Jim Brownell MPP  jbrownell.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Linda Jeffrey MPP  ljeffrey.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Kuldip Kular MPP  kkular.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Rosario Marchese MPP  rmarchese-co@ndp.on.ca
Bill Mauro  MPP bmauro.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org
Carol Mitchell MPP  cmitchell.mpp@liberal.ola.org
Robert Bailey MPP  bob.baileyco@pc.ola.org
Joyce Savoline MPP  joyce.savoline@pc.ola.org
Bill Murdock MPP  bill.murdoch@pc.ola.org
Andre Marin Ombudsman of Ontario  info@ombudsman.on.ca

Randy Hillier MPP  randy.hillier@pc.ola.org
Christine Elliot MPP christine.elliott@pc.ola.org
Tim Hudak MPP  tim.hudak@pc.ola
Bob Runciman MPP bob.runciman@pc.ola.org
Sylvia Jones MPP  sylvia.jones@pc.ola.org
Elizabeth Witmer MPP  elizabeth.witmer@pc.ola.org
John Yakabuski MPP  john.yakabuski@pc.ola.org
 separate e-mail for
 Peter Kormos MPP pkormos-qp@ndp.on.ca
 Andrea Horwath  ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca
Trevor Day, Clerk for Standing Committee trevor_day@ontla.ola.org

3 thoughts on “Open Letter to the Green Energy Act Standing Committee

  1. I totally concur with the views expressed re the hearing on Bill 150 . The action by this Liberal government re energy issues is a farce . The Premier & his minions only want to listen to those who support their limited vision for Ontario. To treat genuinely concerned citizens & taxpayers with disdain , disrespect & arrogance is reprehensible ! The conduct of people such as those at the hearing in question brings discredit to the government , and to the concept of legitimate democracy here in Ontario. They should be ashamed , as should Mr. McGuinty ,Mr. Smitherman ,et al !
    Premier McGuinty …you were elected as leader of ALL Ontarians , not just those who voted for you …or don’t you realize this as yet ? Show some consideration for the things expressed by those with a contrarian opinion on legitimate issues or simply declare yourself to be the fascist you are rapidly becoming !

  2. Hi, I to Like Keith Stelling requested an opportunity to speak to bill150. I was finally offered the Saulte STe. Marie location . I live in Wellington County .I did drive to the Soo and present a brief –. 3 days .My issue is sustaining the quickly diminishing class 1 food land in S-W ont by strategically planting trees
    Helping farmers adapt to climate change.Pointing out our first priority must be to sustain our food land. Wind farms can sterilize the landscape by limiting the tree cover. see the following brief on this issue— It Pays to Plant Trees and Turbines
    In the Right Places
    The Trees for Mapleton Project
    Helping farmers adapt to climate change

    Prepared for the Standing Committee on General Government receiving public input on Bill 150.

    Submitted by Paul Day, Mapleton Township

    Preamble:
    I appreciate the opportunity to offer input on Bill 150 and I commend the Province’s “GO GREEN Action plan” on climate change, encouraging more trees on the landscape, energy conservation and efficiency etc..
    There are good examples where natural infrastructures provide multiple benefits to humans and the rest of the ecosystem which we are all a part of, at a fraction of the cost of an engineered infrastructure, The watersheds that supply New York City are well known examples.
    As you set out to establish priorities and objectives for the landscape, I would like to share some concerns and some suggestions based on experience and projects in Wellington county and Mapleton township

    Background:

    The world loses an area equal to Scotland [78.8 Million,Km2]

    of arable land through urban sprawl and erosion every year.

    Ontario contains 50% of Canada’s class 1 land .

    Ontario has lost 600,000 acres of this land between 1996 and 2006 –nearing 1 million acres to date. Mostly due to urban sprawl.

    [Source –Ontario Farm land trusts]

    The remaining land has been degraded through loss of tree cover and removal of natural systems, leaving the food production lands defenseless facing climate change. As Aldo Leopold said,’ WE HAVE FORGOTTEN THE LAND’

    The farm cash receipts for 2006 in Ontario equal $8.93 billion dollars according to 2006 census. Using a multiplier from Cornell University[ Prof. Bills] of 3.235 . The economic benefit to Ontario approximates 29 billion dollars.

    I think we should be concerned about this trend and protect, sustain and improve the food production capacity of the remaining lands.

    As evidenced by the recent article in the Rural Voices (publication) on Trees for Mapleton, there is a growing appreciation that we need trees on the agricultural landscape to ensure the long term sustainability of agriculture This is especially true as we prepare to face down climate change. One way to sustain and improve the productive capacity is to plant windbreaks, shelterbelts and buffers along streams. The countryside of South-western Ontario has been neglected in terms of tree cover. The area loses approximately $150 million a year through lower crop yields and and increased energy costs. “Gone with the wind”

    Let’s use an ongoing project to illustrate

    Trees For Mapleton

    I am a landowner in Mapleton Township , Wellington County and am involved in a tree planting campaign. The objective of this project is to help farmers adapt to climate change, by strategically planting 5 million trees as windbreaks, shelterbelts, stream buffers etc. This is a continuation of other initiatives by landowners in Mapleton and Wellington county over the past several years.

    This township like many in S-W Ontario has a tree cover less than 10 %. This is a densely populated, intensive agricultural community.

    Studies indicate that the township loses over $3 million per year due to lack of trees –(lower yields , higher energy costs) about $20 thousand for the average farm per year..

    This loss extrapolated across S-W Ontario approximates $150 million per year .” Gone with the wind”

    This project along with many partners has established funding to assist farmers to plant this green infrastructure.

    This funding package includes approximately $5 000 per farm for tree planting plus the salary of a farm-forester dedicated to the township. Funding sources include Trillium Foundation, Wellington County, Trees Ontario, Green Cover and Wellington Green Legacy.

    Landowners have signed on to plant 27 km of windbreaks this spring ,a fall planting will also take place hopefully meeting our 50 thousand tree target for 2009.

    A potential barrier to food land sustainability — A wind energy project.

    This same windy, environmentally challenged terrain has attracted another environmental initiative –A wind energy project.

    As part of the contract with landowners, tree set –backs and tree height restrictions are imposed.

    In fact there is a potential sterilization affect that puts up another barrier to restoring a durable landscape. Besides the issue of hampering tree planting and it’s benefits, a key concern of mine is the lack of an appropriate environmental assessment for this major project.[currently only a potentially biased assessment commissioned by the energy company] A real shortfall in this assessment is that it assesses the current environment i.e. no trees , therefore no birds or pollinators, or other wildlife, therefore a good place for turbines but alas no long term healthy countryside.

    Note: 30% of our food is pollinated by honey bees which are under great stress. We must establish pollinator habitat for alternative insects. Windbreaks and buffer strips are an ideal location. [According to Einstein if we lose the honey bee —man has 4 more years before extinction]

    Tree planting programs like the above mentioned, will provide a resilient countryside helping adapt to climate change , substantial carbon sequestering and ensuring long term food production.

    Recommendations for committee members to consider:

    1] The province needs to set priorities for the Landscape.

    2] Natural infrastructures provide multiple benefits while wind turbines only achieve a single but important objective.

    3] The County of Wellington in its approved official plan amendment No.62,section4.13.1.2 [d] [vi] states that turbines should be located “in such a way as to minimize where possible the displacement of prime agriculture land and interference with agricultural operations, including ongoing or future reforestation. We trust the province will likewise put trees on an equal or priority footing when approving where turbines go. Remember there is likely to be an opportunity cost here.

    4] We need to make sure ample consideration is given to trees and reforestation plantings. It makes sense to place turbines on poorer agricultural soils or increased energy yield areas like shorelines. It doesn’t make sense to have lease agreements that prohibit tree planting which in turn protect the farm resources and capacity for food production. Further, farmers in an effort to utilize all their arable land, are planning turbine access roads on property lines thus displacing ideal windbreak plantings.

    5] A more rigorous environmental assessment process that takes into account a healthy tree cover and pollinator habitat

    6] Consider a vision of 20 years ahead—[ 2030] a web of windbreaks , connected woodlots, and buffered streams across Southern Ontario providing resilience and durability to our top priority; food production. NOTE: This more sustainable agricultural landscape would potentially reduce the energy yield of wind turbines rendering them a cost rather than a benefit if placed on prime food production land with appropriate windbreaks. [Ref. SGURR –Trees reduce Wind turbine energy yield]

    7] The province should consider payments to landowners who supply environmental goods and services for the benefit of the wider community

    Respectfully,

    Paul Day

    MBA

    Mapleton landowner /farmer

    Associations:

    Wellington County Stewardship Council. Past Chair

    Trees For Mapleton. Chair

    Maitland Valley Conservation Authority [Water Partnership]

    Wellington County Green Legacy

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