by Michael Den Tandt, Toronto Sun
Here’s something Premier Dalton McGuinty could do if he wanted to mitigate the destruction of his party in every corner of rural Ontario, come October.
He could appear on TV and say something like this: I’m sorry. I messed up. The Green Energy Act, our entire approach to energy, is wrong. We need to scrap it and start over. And we will.
Starting today, we put the interests of people first.
When we launched our wind energy program, we had the best of intentions. We believed wind turbines offered a relatively cheap, clean source of energy that could help wean Ontario off coal. We thought it would provide rural people with additional income. We thought it was a win-win.
Politically it was a no-brainer, because a clear majority of Ontarians were enthusiastic about wind power and green energy generally. It seemed like a pragmatic way to move us away from our reliance on fossil fuels. And there was a clear social consensus that man-made global warming was a very serious problem with an obvious solution.
Since then, a great deal has changed. The numbers of people reporting health problems as a result of proximity to wind turbines, has multiplied. Nobody wants to live next to them or own property next to them. There are anti-wind protest movements in every corner of Ontario.
The science of man-made global warming has come under new scrutiny. It turns out there is no clear scientific consensus on the causes of global warming, or on whether any future climate change can be predicted with accuracy. As a result, the international movement to “fight” climate change has stalled.
In Ontario the social consensus around wind power has dissolved. This has happened gradually. Our government failed to recognize this change. So we’re now stuck defending a policy that is no longer popular. We make our arguments about the great benefits of wind power to Ontarians, but nobody believes us.
We still think alternative energy is the way to go. But we’re reinventing our approach. From today onward, we’re going small — family-sized, in fact.
If re-elected this October, we’ll put serious money into developing compact, integrated alternative energy systems that can provide families with all the clean, sustainable energy they need — with perhaps a little extra to sell back to the grid. Small, modern, quiet windmills will play a part. But so will solar. So will geothermal. So will micro-hydro.
Focusing on small
We’ll offer incentives to industry and to universities who lead applied research in this area, focusing on the small. Our goal is to foster an Ontario industry that produces, for example, roofing tiles that store solar energy. We’d like to see an Ontario company develop and mass-market small, lightweight, very strong wind turbines, no taller than a telephone pole. We’ll help farmers buy them.
If Ontarians have a flowing river or a creek on their property we’ll help them acquire the micro-hydro technology they need to harness that energy in a small way.
We will not allow big multi-national companies to trample on the rights of Ontario landowners. We will send them packing. We will restore the power of municipalities, led by local citizens, to determine the scale of energy project they are comfortable with, if any.
No one has a right to do things that materially devalues a neighbour’s property or harms their health. That is a sacred principle in Ontario and we are restoring its pride of place.