Neighbours against neighbours

by Rick Conroy  Wellington Times

It is not the first time I’ve witnessed inept government policy tear away at the fabric of the community—thrusting families and friends across an unnecessary divide.

I grew up near Cornwall and went to high school in the city in ’70s. French and English families (most of the latter tracing their ancestors back to Scotland) had lived side by side for decades, if not centuries. Together they had cleared the land and settled the towns and villages.

But by the ’60s and ’70s, frustrations over language in government, schools and business next door in Quebec had boiled over into violence and social disorder. In the halfanglophone, half-francophone community of Cornwall, the rise of nationalism in Quebec roused activists who pressed for greater accommodation locally.

The battle settled in my high school which at the time operated on shifts, just like the mills in town. In the morning it was an English language high school, and in the afternoon a French language high school. Next year, vice versa. It was an untenable situation. Fights ensued. Picketing. Small-scale rioting. Then the board moved in, building a brand new school for the English-language students, finally segregating the French kids from the English. It was a surrender more than an accommodation.

It was also disastrous policy. Later on the Catholic board would decide it needed faith-based high schools in Cornwall too—erecting an additional two high schools. Forty years later, the city hasn’t grown—if anything it has shrunk since the mills closed. Cornwall has the same demographic challenges as Prince Edward County—a greying population— with little need for the abundance of high schools in its midst. But the greatest damage was done to the community—to the folks who had to clean up the mess made worse by government intervention. Neighbours turned on neighbours. Families who had worked side by side for years now no longer spoke to each other. Resentment and frustration lingered— largely unspoken—for decades.

Over time the anger and bitter voices diminished, but the hard feelings took a long time to fade. Some say it still exists—just calloused over. The cliché is that time heals all wounds. I suppose that is true if you wait long enough.

Today, another government policy is once again fraying communities here in Prince Edward County, and many other parts of rural Ontario. The province’s manic desire to see massive 40-storey industrial wind turbines obliterate the rural horizon has systematically moved through the County, pitting neighbour against neighbour and family against family. Early in the decade, the fight began in Hillier as developers planned to erect turbines on a ridge of land between Pleasant Bay and Huyck’s Bay. Later, the battlefield moved to Royal Road in South Marysburgh and Athol. In recent years the communities north of Picton, in Sophiasburgh and Hallowell, have been dragged into the fight. Now North Marysburgh residents have become entangled in a bitter and personal battle over the prospect of wind turbines in their midst.

It is a fight made more nasty and hurtful by the perception that on one side are long-time County families seeking to yield more from their land, while on the other side are more recent landowners who fear massive industrial wind turbines looming over their property will surely diminish its value. It is likely more nuanced that that—but nuance gets lost in these kind of skirmishes.

Worse, it is a neighbourhood fight fuelled by a seemingly endless stream of taxpayer dollars. On one side, some landowners simply can’t afford to turn down the $10,000 per year they can earn by hosting a turbine on their land. On the other side are property owners who earn their livelihood from the beauty and bounty of the land. Others have retreated here seeking the scenic wonders and quiet bliss of North Marysburgh. They look at Wolfe Island and see disaster looming—the end of the dream.

Caught in the middle is Councillor Ray Best—who has joined the landowners in signing a deal with a wind developer who seeks to construct 25 wind turbines along the spine of the peninsula. Best has faced two angry crowds at North Marysburgh Hall in recent weeks. He has also been confronted with an array of nasty emails and phone calls from disillusioned residents.

Many feel that Best has compromised his ability to represent them on perhaps the most important issue their community faces. He is the only representative North Marysburgh has on council.

Best argues, however, that the Green Energy Act largely removes local government authority in determining where and how many industrial wind turbines will be installed in the County. In his view, the voice of local government has been silenced on wind turbines. In practical terms, Best reasons, North Marysburgh residents are no worse off than Hallowell, Hillier or Athol.

In the end, as we found out in Cornwall, it doesn’t really matter who is right and who is wrong, regardless of how important it seemed at the time. What does matter is that governments should be community builders—not destroyers. It borders on the immoral that the provincial government would use taxpayer dollars to pit one neighbour against another.

This is particularly troublesome for provincial Liberals, as their ambition rests on irrational and unsustainable economics; meanwhile threatening to make the County look like Wolfe Island.

The hard feelings being fanned in North Marysbugh will forever change that community. There will be no going back. The damage will get worse. Some will move on. Others will hunker down and fight harder. The community will be poorer as a result.

The culprit in this story isn’t Ray Best. The villain is a windmill-crazed government willing to use taxpayer funds to pit neighbour against neighbour.

It must be stopped.

rick@wellingtontimes.ca

6 thoughts on “Neighbours against neighbours

  1. The “War against Affordable Energy” also known as the FAKE Green Energy Act is a deliberate attempt to subvert any type of local input or democracy…It demonstrates fully the abuse and Tyranny of the Ontario Liberal Government….

    This abuse only happens when power is given to one ruling party and there is no recall provision for these abusive elitist politicians…

    Mike Harris was never as evil and subversive as Dalton McGuinty…Bob Rae could only aspire to the contempt and deceit that Dalton and his party have for rural Ontario…

  2. Couldn’t agree more, Randy. Dalton McGuinty has run amok with his ideology and ignored his constituents. He is redundant as a Premier.

  3. I disagree with Rick Conroy that “it borders on the immoral…” What the “government” is doing is far, far across that border, way deep into immorality.

  4. When the government subsidies on wind power run out, as they must, will the companies set up to harvest these subsidies simply walk away? If their partners in Spain or Denmark wash their hands of the developments, then will future generations of Ontarians be taxed for dismantling these eyesores?
    This is worth considering. I don’t see any positive future for wind power in the near future.

  5. ANY Government that engages in untendered lucrative contracts that block transparancy at the expense of the ratepayer/taxpayers is corrupt. The Green Energy Act simply enacted a new law so McGuilty could do the crime.
    He is the sole architect of the demise of Ontario’s Industrial economy. The MANY SECRETS contracts HE HAS SIGNED should be investigated by an INDEPENDANT AUDITOR and fraud charges should be laid. If we embrace Democracy we need to give our PREMIER his day in court and send this IDIOT to jail or an appropriate Institution for corrupt Politicians, so he can no longer line his pockets at the expense of our Grand Children who are now MORTGAGED to the limit as a direct result of his energy policies.
    McGuilty’s energy policies have effectively bankrupted this Province. A $ 21 Billion OPERATING Deficit from one budget to the next. Also ratepayers paid off $ 34 Billion on their electricity bills to pay off the stranded debt of $ 30 Billion and we still have $ 27 Billion stranded debt left.
    WHERE did the money go?????
    Unemployment and retirements will both rise while at the same time Dalton destroyed HIS OWN Ontario tax base.
    Ontario will become Canada’s financial sinkhole with no way out. NO INDUSTRY CAN affford to stay in Ontario when electricity cost wil triple from here as a result of the many secret contracts that were signed and guaranteed 20 years out.
    The damage has been done, the consequences will be more unemployment.
    We have proof that after 25 years of Green Energy Policies in Europe that they are forever subsidized by tax/ and ratepayers. These policies are simply neither affordable nor sustainable. Spain went bankrupt trying to attain Kyoto and are now enjoing a 20% unemployment as a result.
    France, England and Germany have both backed off their Carbon taxes in order to sustain some of their Industries. California,who was going to show the rest of the world how to live with GREEN energy is now bankrupt and some cities can no longer pay for policing, Emergency response or teachers.
    Their whole social network is crombling.

    Yet McGuilty wanted to copy similar energy policies for Ontario that lead to bankrutcy and unemployment as proven in so many other jurisdictions.
    I Hope McGuilty will be held accountable by the Justice system, or there will be no hope for the next Generations to pay for Ontario’s debt that was needlessly created by the McGuilty Government.

    Paul.

  6. Zero Credibility!
    That’s what these political parties now have by way of their actions or lack of that is supposed to assist the electorate and “manage their money”.

    All the political parties that have run Ontario have literally “bled us dry” and continue to do so all the while saying they are doing it for our own good!

    If anyone thinks this isn’t true then they must live on Mars.

    Zero Credibility with citizens and will never get it back………………time to pull the plug on the whole nest of snakes!

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