Community council supports ban on industrializing Scarborough’s waterfront

References to windmills not allowed during debate, chair rules

By Danielle Milley  Inside Toronto

Speakers alluded to wind energy and used euphemisms for wind turbines as they waded through a verbal mine field at Scarborough Community Council.

More than 20 delegates were on hand Tuesday, April 27, afternoon to share their thoughts about Scarborough East Councillor Paul Ainslie’s motion requesting city council ask the provincial and federal governments not to “industrialize” any crown lands or adjacent waterways along the Scarborough Bluffs.

The goal of the motion was to prevent a wind farm from being erected offshore in Lake Ontario (Toronto Hydro is currently testing the viability of wind energy in the area). However, a procedural quandary meant speakers were substituting industrialize – or some form thereof – for the forbidden wind energy, turbines or farm on the ruling of Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Mike Del Grande, chair of Scarborough Community Council.

“If anyone comes this afternoon to talk about the pros and cons of wind mills I will deem them out of order,” he said. “I’m not going to repeat what has been had at executive committee.”

Ainslie, trying to build on the momentum of similar decisions in other municipalities, brought a motion seeking a moratorium on new wind energy projects to the city’s executive committee last week. It was debated at length and then the committee ended up instead passing a motion to encourage wind energy generation. (In the sphere of Toronto Council items can’t be debated by community council after a decision has already been made by executive committee).

That didn’t stop Scarborough councillors – or at least the ones left when the vote finally happened after 4 p.m. – from expressing their opposition to industrializing Scarborough’s waterfront and supporting Ainslie’s motion.

Scarborough Centre Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker was the lone vote against the motion, while councillors Ron Moeser, Michael Thompson, Raymond Cho and Adrian Heaps had to leave the meeting early so they didn’t vote.

“The reality is Councillor De Baeremaeker holds on firmly that he wants to have this type of industrialization take place…I happen to feel differently,” said Scarborough Southwest Councillor Brian Ashton.

“You don’t need to destroy the Scarborough waterfront to meet the green energy goals of the City of Toronto.”

Franz Hartmann, executive director of Toronto Environmental Alliance, said there is a challenge in that industrialize is not defined. He presented the example of a hypothetical technology that people don’t like.

“Do esthetics trump the greater good of the people? I have a personal responsibility to that and that is no,” he said. “I would hope elected officials took into account both perspectives and came down on the side of the greater good.”

Local resident Patrick James offered his definition of industrialize in the context of his debate when questioned by Thompson.

“A proposal by the city’s own Toronto Hydro to put up 400 feet steel turbines from Leslie Street spit to some point east of Ajax,” he said.

Despite uttering a forbidden word he was allowed to continue and so was the discussion for more than two hours.

The majority of delegates spoke out against industrializing the waterfront – speakers included Toronto Wind Action and Save the Bluffs. They spoke of protecting the pristine shoreline, birds, the view, property values, residents’ health, the water of the lake and the aquatic life in it – the same arguments used when opposing wind turbines.

Roy Wright of Save the Bluffs said he feels industrialization is any machinery or industry that can cause harm to human health.

“We oppose any large man made structures in the lake,” he said.

De Baeremaeker made the argument some structures people find unattractive are essential to our way of life.

“Ugliness is in the eye of the beholder. Some people think the CN Tower is ugly, some people think it’s beautiful,” he said, adding it is a necessary broadcast tower. “Should we stop building infrastructure that helps us and benefits our lives because it’s offensive to people?”

The question of industrializing Scarborough’s waterfront now goes to city council.