by CATHY DOBSON, Sarnia Observer
Lambton’s rural leaders say they hope Tim Hudak is as good as his word. The Progressive Conservative leader and Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey issued a joint statement Thursday promising to restore decision-making authority on wind turbines to the local level if elected this fall. The Liberal government’s 2009 Green Energy Act allows wind farms to bypass the municipal planning process and is a thorn in the side of many rural mayors.
At a recent meeting with Hudak and Bailey in Toronto, members of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association asked what a PC government would do about municipal authority on wind and solar power projects.
“I guess we forced their hand because now they’ve promised they’ll give the power back to the municipalities,” said Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper. “It’s exactly what everybody wanted.”
With at least two wind farm proposals pending in his municipality, Napper said his council wants to make the ultimate decision, not leave it up to provincial authority.
“Right now we have no control whatsoever,” Napper said. “I can’t think of anything else where they’ve come down and taken control like this. It’s fundamentally wrong. Any time a municipality loses power over its own affairs it’s a big deal.
“Pretty soon all we’ll be doing is selling dog tags.”
He credited Hudak for listening to the mayors, calling Thursday’s announcement welcome news.
Local constituents regularly complain to Bailey about wind turbines being built near their homes, according to a written statement released by his office.
“Recently, one mother told me that she felt she had no choice, no guarantee and no voice in regards to a wind turbine slated to be built to tower over her property.
“I think the premier is completely out of touch on this issue,” said Bailey. “I believe that the people of Sarnia-Lambton know best when it comes to making decisions regarding our communities, not bureaucrats in downtown Toronto offices.”
Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Bill Bilton, who also met with Hudak, said time will tell if the PC leader keeps his word.
“Sometimes it’s just election talk, but I think (Hudak’s comments) bear some weight. We’ll have to see.”
All Ontario’s mayors are watching the issue because they are concerned about the erosion of their power, Bilton said.
“It’s a slippery slope. When the province passed the Green Energy Act, it took the heat off of us but I don’t know if that’s a good thing.”
Meanwhile, on Thursday a panel of judges dismissed a challenge to a regulation in the Green Energy Act that requires turbines be set back at least 550 metres from homes.
The court found Ontario’s Environment Minister had followed proper process in determining the set back.