Cohn: Ontario reverses its spin on offshore wind

By Martin Regg Cohn Queen’s Park, Toronto Star

Regime change in Egypt can come in handy when you’re trying to hang on to power here in Ontario. So what better time than a Friday afternoon, with all eyes on the fall of dictatorship in Cairo, for Queen’s Park to cut loose its own political deadweight — offshore wind turbines.

Turbines were threatening too much political turbulence for Premier Dalton McGuinty in an election year. Better to shore up his own democratic prospects by reversing himself on offshore turbines on a day when Ontario voters were looking elsewhere.

That was the political — and communications — calculation made by the Liberal team when it suddenly announced that renewable energy offshore is dead in the water. But the government’s decision to bend with the political winds left the environmental movement reeling.

Fuming Rick Smith

Rick Smith, who heads the lobby group Environmental Defence, still hadn’t heard the news when I called, though the urgent messages started coming in from government liaison people as we spoke. Like most environmentalists, he hadn’t expected the premier to trim his sails at the first sight of stormy seas.

“I’m surprised that I would have to find about it from you,” Smith fumed. “We’re one of the key stakeholders.”

But voters, not stakeholders, are what count with an election less than eight months away. And while the front lawn of Queen’s Park is not exactly Tahrir Square these days, wind turbines have been nothing but trouble for the McGuinty government.

Ontario is seen as ground zero for the anti-turbine movement, both onshore and offshore. There are louder protests here — and more media coverage — than elsewhere on the continent, says Robert Hornung, who tracks the movement for his membership at the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

Smith argues that the government is gaining nothing from the move: “The leadership of the anti-wind groups are opposed to wind turbines period — onshore and offshore.”

Offshore applications to date make up only a handful of the many hundreds received so far, and the government’s terse news release pointed out that none have been built. Queen’s Park is pulling the plug until “further scientific research is conducted.”

But the reality is that public opinion research, rather than scientific research, is driving the government’s agenda these days. A number of Liberal ridings are being buffeted by wind turbine troubles, notably the Scarborough seat held by Energy Minister Brad Duguid.

The premier likes to boast in his speeches about Ontario’s groundbreaking renewable energy policies and his focus on good government. He has long resisted NIMBYism, and his ministers are known to mock them as BANANAs — Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything. But with an election coming, his new priority is putting out political fires — most recently by nixing the gas-fired power plant in Oakville that threatened another Liberal seat.

The opposition is profiting from the anti-wind movement, with many MPPs stirring it up in their ridings at every opportunity. Most of the huffing and puffing is directed against onshore wind farms, which face a 550-metre setback. Offshore turbines, by contrast, faced a five-kilometre setback — virtually out of sight, but by no means out of mind.

The enduring setback, environmentalists say, is to their own movement. Rather than calming the anti-wind movement, McGuinty’s climb-down could well energize it.

11 thoughts on “Cohn: Ontario reverses its spin on offshore wind

  1. Poor little “Stakeholder” Smith. People of Ontario are pretty fed up with listening to these Green “crackers” yapping off about the Global Warming and C02 BS while their Hydro Bills are climbing beyond the ridiculous all in the name of saving the planet from being ignited in a fiery death!

    You stakeholders are becoming the “laughing stock” of the world and I think you just might want to shut your pie holes and take a break from showing the rest of Ontario how absolutely lunatic you’ve become…………calling us BANANA’s is like listening to a spoiled child in a school yard who can’t have his marbles back!

    Maybe Rick Smith and Tyler Hamilton among others can all hang out together and make phone calls to Suzuki and May and ask them to kiss their “boo boos” all batter!

  2. Well that’s great… we have a Zoologist (Smith) and a Fruit Fly Specialist (Suzuki) who think they understand wind power and “Green Energy”.

    Maybe I should start working in their field — investigating their work in their field. Will they support me? I doubt it!

    My advice to them? Take a hike — stick to our training.

    ..or I’ll break your pipettes, regrind your scalpels and fog your microscopes… not that you guys have touched that equipment in w while eh? Too busy cashing cheques and writing flaky grant proposals I’ll bet!

    Global warming my a$$.

  3. So Rick Smith, who’s crying now? You’ve pushed the government down this wind turbine path. Now your plans lie in ruins. You should listen to all those who are suffering because of your efforts. Redirect your efforts to getting emission controls installed on our coal plants.

  4. Nothing from the GLOBE & MAIL yet? Or are they still in the fog of the unknown!!!

  5. I was going to bring up the “stakeholder” question here as I believed being a “stakeholder” is one who has a dollar investment in Wind Power. Now this Rick Smith couldn’t possibly be the head of a non-profit organization that is supported by OUR tax dollars and also have personal investment of $$$ in Wind could he?

    Of course this IS Ontario and McGuinty has “leveled” the playing field for all kinds of what used to be called “corrupt investments!”…….but are now LEGAL!

    The GEA would never have been allowed to function unless the Government was turned into a “Dicatorship” supporting an industry that “bribes” people with cash to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do with their lands and homes, lease them to strangers for life!

  6. Barbara, this link will take you to the Globe and Mail article on the matter.

    The Liberals have done the PCs a favour by scrapping the turbines in the lakes while taking the fall for it.

    “The Conservative party feels there is no need for offshore wind farms, Mr. Yakabuski said. Other forms of renewable energy “must be at rates that families and small businesses can afford and [projects] must be in communities that welcome it.” (Globe and Mail article)

  7. “But voters, not stakeholders, are what count with an election less than eight months away”

    Is it just me or does anyone else find it unacceptable that voters only count because there is an election less than eight months away?

  8. It appears that in the U.K. the European Union is forcing wind turbines on the people. In Ontario it is the GEA that is forcing wind turbines onto Ontarians.

    Every Ontarian who pays a Hydro bill is a stakeholder and why should they be asked to pay for obsolete machinery/wind turbines that perform well below their stated capacity and pay very high prices for these machines.

    That’s like paying for a machine that is supposed to produce 2,000 widgets/day but only produces 200/day and sometimes produces 0 widgets/day. What a waste of money!!!

    The present government must think Ontarians are stupid!!!

  9. We, who are opposing the offshore windfarms are the Environmentalists. The Great Lakes are part of our environment. They are unique in all the World. We want to protect this valuable part of our enviromnent from the hideous intrusion of industrial wind farms in our places of beauty, drinking water, and recreation. Every country in the World envies this treasure. Let’s be real environmentalists and protect our lakes!!!

  10. “But voters, not stakeholders, are what count with an election less than eight months away”

    Is it just me or does anyone else find it unacceptable that voters only count because there is an election less than eight months away?


    Stakeholders are simply those that can eat steak while those who are paying for it can only “eat cake”

    I’m growing weary of the cake!


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