By John Kastner, Stratford Beacon Herald
There are more than a few people in Ontario anxiously awaiting the decision of three divisional-court judges in Toronto because their opinion could change the landscape in Ontario — literally and politically.
At stake is the province’s Green Energy Act, more specifically windmills. The opponents of those electricity-producing turbines argue that they cause health problems. The lack of a smoking gun is of no concern to those citizens’ groups that have rallied against them and they have managed to get the matter into court.
A short drive from Stratford — towards Chatham, Kincardine, Shelburne — gives one a clear indication of the future of electricity production in this province as hundreds of turbines have popped up like dandelions.
However, wind farms still produce a small percentage of our electricity. That said, they are an integral part of the province’s energy strategy as it tries to move away from other sources, particularly coal-fired generators.
It’s doubtful the judges will outlaw them altogether, but who knows. One would suspect that the most the three learned justices will do is insist that there be stringent rules regarding distances from buildings and people and so on. So it’s not realistic to expect that the decision will be life and death for wind farms in Ontario.
The same cannot be said, however, for the political future of Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. His popularity has waned, and the Conservatives and leader Tim Hudak have identified electricity as his Achilles heel.
Should McGuinty’s grand plan for hydro, the Green Energy Act, get a thumbs down from the courts, the Conservatives will make hay for months — right up to voting day this fall.
Combine that with the general malaise about the Liberals in Ontario and the HST and suddenly one senses its the winds of change that are picking up speed across Ontario.
Looking forward, should the Green Energy Act hit the curb so might Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals in this year’s election, which brings us to the local impact of all of this on our own MPP, John Wilkinson.
Wilkinson was the point person for the much hated HST yet has managed to deflect most the anger — usually by presenting rational arguments for its implementation.
As environment minister, the Green Energy Act will be critical to his portfolio as well.
So, as we await the decision by the courts in relation to wind power in Ontario, we also know that some of us, McGuinty and Wilkinson for example, will be watching this situation with quite a bit more interest than the rest of us. Their future may depend on it.