Grey County ponders charter of rights challenge

Grey County council is considering the possibility of using the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to challenge the McGuinty government’s Green Energy Act.

In municipal circles, the Green Energy Act is widely reviled, because it removed all planning authority local municipalities have over alternative energy projects such as wind farms.

Several local Grey and Bruce municipalities have launched an investigation into the possibility of using the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to challenge the provincial law. County council agreed at its regular meeting on May 4 to get involved.

Chatsworth Mayor Howard Greig and The Blue Mountains Mayor Ellen Anderson combined to bring forward a resolution asking county staff to investigate the possibility of using the Charter to overrule the provincial laws until independent studies into the health effects of wind turbines can be completed. The resolution also asked the provincial government to reconsider its decision to take away municipal planning authority on the matter.

“Our ability to have input has been removed by the Green Energy Act,” commented Greig. “Too many people are coming forward with concerns about health effects and there are still no independent studies on the health issue. All of the research has been done by the proponents,” said Greig.

The Mayor of Chatsworth went on to question the environmental benefits of wind farms, considering the damage that will be done to local farmland to build the massive industrial towers.

“They’re putting roads across good farmland, damage is being done to farms. The landowner owns the wind turbines after 20 years. There are so many downsides to this,” said Greig, who added that he has spoken to numerous landowners who have agreed to have wind towers on their farms but would not make the same choice if given the option again.

“I haven’t come across anybody that would sign the lease again if given the chance,” he said.

The Blue Mountains Mayor Ellen Anderson seconded Greig’s resolution and said it is wrong of the provincial government to eliminate municipalities from the equation. Anderson said she attended meetings with provincial officials, where municipal representatives were promised planning controls would remain in place.

“It was stated clearly by those politicians that municipalities do have the knowledge and ability to make opinions and form educated decisions. Our control being taken way was not something we agreed to,” said Anderson. “Our municipal voice needs to be heard,” she said.

Only Southgate Mayor Don Lewis spoke against the resolution.

“The province has taken control of this issue. Why do we need to spend more taxpayer money when it is out of our control?” Lewis asked. “This is not in our jurisdiction. It’s a waste of money,” he said.

The comments from Lewis drew a sarcastic response from Grey Highlands Mayor Brian Mullin.

“Maybe we should let the province make all of our decisions,” said Mullin, who has an industrial wind turbine project moving forward in his municipality. “These are major industrial complexes. Our future, looking forward, is tourism and visitors coming to see our natural landscapes. We should take action now, before our landscape is completely covered by these,” said Mullin.

Greig’s resolution easily passed through county council and a staff report about the matter will come forward in the future

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