Debate over the future of industrial wind power projects is expected to rage at Queen’s Park this week, when the Progressive Conservative party moves it to the top of the agenda.
Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones and her blue colleagues will bring forward a resolution calling for a moratorium on new turbines pending the outcome of studies on human health.
“People are actually starting to live closer to the turbines and we’re hearing more and more stories from people who are suffering with symptoms,” Jones said of what inspired the resolution, which will be debated Wednesday (April 28). “It is calling for action.”
The provincial government has repeatedly rejected calls for a full epidemiological study, from opposition politicians, some medical professionals and concerned citizens.
Such demands have been made for more than a year, before and after creation of the Green Energy Act (GEA), which came into effect last fall.
The GEA is designed to shorten the approvals process in order to encourage the development of renewable energy projects.
“Wind turbines have been around for a very, very long time, so there’s a lot of documentation on health effects on wind turbines. None of that has shown any kind of evidence that there are health effects as a result of wind turbines,” Brad Duguid, minister of energy and infrastructure, said during a recent interview with The Banner.
“That being said, I think it’s important the government keep an open mind in terms of these issues,” he said, noting a review of green energy technology and the health effects of that technology are underway.
“We’ll continue in Ontario to take the lead to ensure that we can, on a continual basis, reassure Ontarians that these projects have minimal amounts of impact, if any, on health.”
In order to force new debate on the issue, the Progressive Conservatives are using one of four Opposition Days available during this legislative sitting.
“We get to choose what is being debated that day, which would not normally be the case. It’s normally government bills and legislation,” Jones explained of Opposition Days.
Motions approved on such occasions are not binding, but they “certainly open up the discussion and allow us to have a legislative debate.”
“Opposition Day motions are not about passing resolutions as much as they are ensuring that the debate takes place,” she added. “Generally, Liberals don’t vote for Progressive Conservative and NDP Opposition Day motions.”
The resolution up for debate also calls for the municipal planning authority, removed through the GEA, to be reinstated. Jones recently introduced a private member’s bill seeking to accomplish that very goal.
Her bill received first reading, but a date has yet to be set for second reading. If approved at that stage, Jones’ request would go out for public input.
“I think what it is, is a roundabout attempt to bring us back to the use of coal plants,” Duguid said of Jones’ bill. “We have to, on behalf of Ontarians and on behalf of our generation, be prepared to move forward with green energy alternatives.”
Despite the minister’s comments, Jones is calling on Premier Dalton McGuinty to allow his Liberal MPPs to vote freely on her bill.
“The general rule on private member’s bills, and obviously it’s an unwritten rule, is that members have the ability to review and vote with their communities, with their conscience,” she said.
“They, generally speaking, are not considered to be … controlled votes.”