McGuinty’s green-energy policies cost Liberals seats in rural Ontario

by Karen Howlett and Steve Ladurantaye, Globe and Mail
Dalton McGuinty made a brief stop at the Gardenia Restaurant in Strathroy the day before voters went to the polls.  The Liberal Leader was trying to preserve the seat held by Maria Van Bommel in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, a rural riding just west of London. He was greeted last Wednesday afternoon by protesters, including one waving a sign reading, “Gadhafi, McGuinty: Dictators with Green Revolutions.” Local residents were unhappy about a number of issues, but close to the top of the list was the McGuinty government’s plan to erect industrial wind turbines in their community.

Ms. Van Bommel lost on Thursday evening, one of seven Liberal incumbents who went down to defeat in rural ridings where green energy and wind turbines were major issues. And they were not all backbenchers. Among the casualties was the agriculture minister (Carol Mitchell), the education minister (Leona Dombrowsky) and, most symbolically, the environment minister (John Wilkinson). The Progressive Conservatives won all seven of those seats.

Many factors were at play in these rural ridings during the campaign, but the one that cut across all regions was opposition to the Liberals’ plans to erect wind turbines. The Liberals, who fell just one seat short of winning a third majority, clearly got punished in rural Ontario over their drive to push renewable sources of energy – the centrepiece of their job-creation strategy.

The green-energy file will now be at the heart of Mr. McGuinty’s biggest challenge: shepherding his vision for transforming Ontario into a clean-energy powerhouse with a minority government for the next four years.

In a news conference on Friday, Mr. McGuinty ruled out negotiating with opposition leaders, saying his “major minority” gave him a strong mandate to pursue his agenda.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak had vowed to scrap a multibillion-dollar contract at the centre of the McGuinty government’s green-energy plan and generous incentives for developers of wind and solar power. The controversial deal with South Korean industrial giant Samsung Group dominated the only televised leaders’ debate during the campaign.

Mr. Hudak has put Mr. McGuinty on notice that he will be on a short leash around the provincial legislature.

“No longer can Dalton McGuinty make unilateral decisions without reaching out for support,” he said on Friday.

Mr. Hudak put the province’s green-energy policies in the forefront of his platform, although he never directly engaged in any discussions on the placement of wind farms and their giant turbines.

Instead, he decried the way the Liberal government paid generous incentives to developers of green energy that will drive up hydro bills in the province once the projects are up and running.

“We simply cannot afford these rich contracts,” Mr. Hudak said. “You can’t tax your way to prosperity. You can’t spend your way out of debt. And you can’t divide your way to a better future for all.”

The groups opposing wind turbines are on one side of the rural-urban divide in Ontario. They complain that bureaucrats at Queen’s Park make decisions that are unpopular in rural communities. Mr. McGuinty said the Samsung deal alone will create 50,000 jobs in Windsor, London, Tillsonburg and Toronto.

John Leforet, president of Wind Concerns, said the loss of Liberal seats was “a clear rejection of the Green Energy Act by rural Ontario.”

A Liberal official dismissed Wind Concerns as a “bizarre little group” that joined forces with the Progressive Conservatives to campaign against the Liberals’ clean-energy policies.

“They opposed the jobs and the cleaner air that we have been building in the growing clean energy economy,” the official said.

Three races where a cabinet minister was defeated

Huron Bruce

Winner: PC Lisa Thompson, general manager of the Ontario Dairy Goat Co-operative

Loser: Liberal Carol Mitchell, agriculture minister

What happened: The winds of change literally blew through this riding, with Ms. Thompson campaigning hard against wind energy projects. What started as a sleeper issue came to dominate the debate, and led to the ouster of a high-profile McGuinty cabinet minister.


Winner: PC Randy Pettapiece, two-term municipal councillor

Loser: Liberal John Wilkinson, environment minister

What happened: Mr. Pettapiece started his campaign expecting to run on a range of issues, but decided opposition to wind farms was a winner. He was right – he was able to harness local opposition to wind farms to knock off the province’s environment minister.

Prince Edward-Hastings

Winner: PC Todd Smith, radio broadcaster

Loser: Liberal Leona Dombrowsky, education minister

What happened: While the largely rural riding has been divided by the prospect of wind farms along Lake Ontario, the Liberals may have underestimated how deep the division ran. When Ms. Dombrowsky tried to defend the party’s placement of turbines during a local debate, she was booed.

-compiled by Steve Ladurantaye

33 thoughts on “McGuinty’s green-energy policies cost Liberals seats in rural Ontario

  1. “bizarre little group” That took them out! I don’t know how the Liberals can face themselves knowing that most citizens in rural Ontario consider their Green Energy Act a form of tyranny. Rural Ontario is not a bizarre little group, they are taxpaying citizens.

    • Methinks the Liberal Spokesman will pay for the “bizarre little group” comment.

      Wind concerns should demand the resignation of that fool — publicly and loudly — the Liberals worked the “demonization” angle with many people during the campaign. Don’t let this one wait!

      • Let’s have the name of that Liberal fool, please, so we can all know who he/she is and work to get him/ her out of office….Probably not from rural Ontario..I find the comment personally slanderous …An attack on one’s character….Goes to show you just how many brains the person has…..Shouldn’t be in politics, period..I wonder how people get these jobs in the first place !!!!. .

    • Well, Globe & Mail Ms.Dombrowsky attended the late June,2008,Kingston meeting where the Ontario Green Energy Act was hatched.

  2. It is unfortunate, but clear that the Liberal government clearly does not have a lot of concern for rural Ontario – or those who live there.

    They (the liberal government) are pushing their philosophy on the urban citizens of the province, most who willing accept what they are told with no questioning.

    Are they right or are they wrong? Clearly there are some theoretical benefits to green or clean energy, however it is still an technology in its infancy, largely untested (certainly for any great length) and something that is attractive to some supporters.

    Easy to support though from a government perspective, simply tell the “theoretically good” story and forget anything else.

    They forget to tell the medical impact, land value impact, taxpayer or consumer cost impact.. and focus on their own agenda alone.

    The sad part is either due to lack of care, lack of interest, or whatever.. most of the GTA and/or some other large urban areas simply ignore any other information or dismiss it. (as the liberals said “bizarre little group”)

    It is unfortunate though, the Liberals have many immigrants votes solidly tied up, due to their past performance or future promises.

    Despite what the Mayor of Toronto may say, some of his hard hand budget tactics likely had some impact on the final outcome, allowing opposition to remind voters of the “Conservative” like mindset.

    McGinty has also clearly stated and maintains, that his “major” minority government gives him a clear mandate to continue forward. Clearly meaning or indicating that he will pursue this as far and as fast as he can, the opposition are going to have a challenge, as 100% of the NDP and PC party MPP’s need to stand together on these issues if they are to fall. Historically it is a difficult challenge to get the NDP and PC parties to stand solidly together on any issue, as they are at opposite ends of the spectrum on many issues.

    I suspect, despite opposition, this program will proceed in many area.. and our hydro rates will continue to climb – eventually becoming one of the highest in the world. Why.. well it is expensive technology, untested in some cases, certainly unproven as a reliable source.. and all requiring a secondary backup supply (typically fossil fuel as it is the generation source that can be brought on and offline the fastest)

    • Brian , you can’t fault Rob Ford for having a deficit and trying to find ways to get control
      That you can thank David Miller for.
      Everything that needs to be done now , and for those that lose their jobs due to cuts or shifts or sales of all due to good old “David Miller ” spending other peoples money without concern for taxpayer sustainability.
      As far as heavy handed , I don’t see Ford that way.
      Some media play him like that to be sure.
      TO has to understand that Ford is cleaning up David MIllers mess, and from what I have seen he has given everyone an opportunity to pitch their case to not cut something
      BUT , something has to be cut
      And the cuts have to be made because of David Millers overspending of other peoples money.
      Margaret Atwood should be raking Miller over the coals not Rob Ford.
      If you stay within budget within reason you don’t get into a mess that TO is in now..
      I remember in 2009 in the recession , the TTC starts spending money on new tech signs to tell people where the bus is and how long before the bus arrives.
      There is a schedule there tells people to expect a bus every 10 minutes.
      Yes they are cool , but when a $1 piece of paper will do the work , why do you need $10,000 technology at all bus stands?
      In a recession.
      Ford has taken the heat..which every mayor in every city is facing…they have run out of other peoples money.

      • Oh I agree, can not disagree that hard issues need to be faced and Ford needs to do it. But just saying that the timing may have been bad for PC’s, as it may have had an impact as the polls seemed to swing fairly significantly in TO area at that time (toward liberals). And media has indicated that they have a feeling the issue could at least in part be attributed to the budget issues in TO. If Ford could have used any delay tactics to delay decision, it may have helped the PC party.. not sure but maybe.

  3. Welll after thinking about the “bizarre little group” comment for a while something occurred to me:

    That comment came form a bizarre little group that believes the following:

    a) Installing medieval technology like “windmills” will power Ontario.
    b) Installing medieval technology like “windmills” will lower CO2.
    c) Installing medieval technology like “windmills” and duplicating our current electrical generation system will cause less toxic CO2 production.
    d) Installing medieval technology like “windmills” will turn Ontario into an economic power house by doubling — perhaps tripling our costs of electrical energy production and supporting many thousands of extra workers to do what we can already do efficiently
    e) Installing medieval technology like “windmills” along with battery backups will power Ontario — nay Canada — despite the fact that that would take more lead than exists in the world — despite lead being one of the most abundant minerals.
    f) Installing state of the art Solar power and batteries (see previous point) will power Ontario through our cold dark winter nights.
    g) Instituting a Carbon Tax will reduce the “Toxic” CO2 in the ir and save the planet.
    h) That David Suzuki is more than a fruit fly geneticist.
    i) That Al Gore is a prophet.
    j) That recent extreme weather is caused by Global Warming — despite a relatively stable temperature has been observed for the last 10 years.

    Anyway — who said who is bizarre?

  4. I have been reading this website for a good amount of time and IMO the PC’s were not connected… they joined us!

    And the one good thing for me in all this is Ms Dombrowsky is out of a job..
    I got out and voted…

    I hope and pray we can stop them from putting those things in the lake..


    • Jackie we are all praying with you!! But McGinty apparently does not pray to same God as we do.

    • There was a time (2008-2009) when the PCs wouldn’t even respond to our emails. They did not want to touch this issue with a 10 foot pole. One by one, they eventually started to pay attention. We were actually abit surprised that they would go out on a limb and make it an election issue.

      First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

      • Well no politician would touch this issue; at least initially. If there is a way to keep this momentium going it may be beneficial. It may be a good time to get some of the MPPs more active in some of the real issue and concerns, why we believe they are real.. evidence locally and globally.. and see if they can turn things around a bit. They do have some ability to change things, if they have desire, evidence and convinced it may help their long term political career.

  5. OK, somebody dig out that motion that Bill Murdoch had last year – you know the one – the ‘Let’s seperate from Toronto” motion. Wow, does it ever make sense right NOW, and I’m not joking. Rural PC’s, and maybe NDP’s, have good reason to present it again. We have more in common with the North West Territories’s than with T.O.

    • Can not disagree there.. the unfortunate reality is that TO rules the province, and we all benefit or suffer from their decisions. And.. it is the TO people who come through our areas on weekends.. vacation time.. and some areas even at night as bedroom community.

      But I would vote to support it!

  6. Isn’t it just amazing how many reporters are now talking about wind turbines AFTER the election.

    • yeah, they wonder what the heck happened…they were sleeping when the buses hit rural Ontario. Couldn’t pull a word out of them pre-election.

    • It is actually not bad.. too bad a little late.. but still late better than never. If used properly there may be some opportunity to leverage that attention. It will not last long.. soon there will be another flavour of the week for them to focus on.

      • Maybe he means it is now an NDP controlled government..

        But I think a minor personage has a major misunderstanding… ;-(

  7. The shift is to industrialized growth for economies in 3rd world countries.
    McGuinty is not focussed on industry , like manufacturing.for Ontario.
    MaRs a prime example.
    Ontario will recreate new industry in the form of ” Idea Industries” or ” Thought Innovation”
    Or so the plan goes.
    He knows that Cap and Trade and high Electricity costs , along with intentionally high Gas prices will destroy our major manufacturing and industrial sector
    We are being pushed to use less gas because China is the hottest car market in the world and they need more and more gas. At 1.3 Billion people you can see why. Then there is India at 1.5 Billion and Africa at 1 Billion.while Canada is at 34 Million people.
    Our economy is going flat and set to tumble along with our social services
    North America is not where global corporations future and market are focussing.
    So he is betting that Ontario can become an Industry of Innovation .
    Of course every other country in the world has some pretty “Smart” people….so it remains to be seen if this new direction will bear fruit.
    As far as the old manufacturing and industrial sector and good old “old fashion” jobs for the average Joe, not sure how that will work out for them.

  8. McGuinty still does not get it. In any of his post election speech’s he states he has the mandate to continue, certainly no mention of the great divide. I think we are still in trouble re the IWT. the cities do not care. My one daughter a teacher voted for the Liberals and did not even mind giving him the $60.00 “after all McGuinty gave her a raise!!! See what we are up against even the once country people do not give a dam.

    • Oh yes.. and he received that “clear mandate” from his “major minority”.. ??!!

      Does the idiot not know that a minority is a minority.. but somehow for the first time in Canadian politics a minority has somehow become a MAJOR minority (simply because he is only one seat short)..

  9. Well, without this bizarre little group, McGuinty would have have his nice third majority. So I’m not surprised in public at least Liberals appear to be doubling down with petty name calling. Behind the scenes, there be some pissed off libs. McGuiinty will be facing some sharp knives over time.

    In the meantime, Hudak owes us.

    • Well Hudak does owe us.. but it is unfortunate that a few more PC’s did not get out.. some of the ridings were not that far apart in the PC/Liberal split and it would not have taken many more PC votes to swing the bar a little more toward the blue. I doubt that it could swing far enough to actually be blue.. but it perhaps could swing far enough to take away any ability that McGinty has to do any further harm in the next term. Right now it is almost as scary as it has been.. one seat does not stop him at all. fairly easy to get an extra vote (especially from one of the NDP ridings — at least on many issues).

      • Remember in politics, the owe thing is a marriage of convenience. This battle is far from over. United on this issue we have a chance.

  10. — and here I am trying to ANALyze the term “major minority”.
    Is this a real minority?
    Is this is the real earnest truth?
    This is bizarre —

  11. It takes one PC taking the job as Speaker…
    The NDP will have to show what they are really made of and who they really are.
    Hopefully there are some people with integrity and see the harm being done

    • We can only hope and pray. The NDP historically have claimed and promoted themselves as being for the people vs big business. The PC’s not always so.. none the less the PC’s generally do have better fiscal policies than the Liberals IMHO.

      Having said that, this issue is not entirely fiscal or financially related – although it does have some very large impacts there long term (potential medical costs, long term utility rates, impact to jobs, poor use of tax dollars, double funding of utility generation (green solar or wind PLUS fossil backup generator, shall we go on).

      However, this also clearly has social and moral impacts, which are areas that hopefully the NDP understand and believe in. NDP will also understand some of the fiscal/financial ones when it comes to rate payers utility increases and huge profits going to corporations (in some cases foreign ones).

      So it should be possible to bring in both ends of the spectrum as supporters, but perhaps for some differing reasons. This needs to be handled well, and the right people educated in impacts and areas that are meaningful to them. If they (being NDP) understand the impacts, and believe the impacts.. and are fully convinced the impacts are real.. they (being NDP) will join the fight I think and support the cause.

    • Let the Liberal Party remain a minority party. This will take them down 2 votes.

  12. Remember that the NDP energy platform comes from Greenpeace. Greenpeace has promoted IWTs around the world. It’s Greenpeace that gave Ontario the Green Energy Act with politicians who were willing to go along with their agenda. Expect more of the same actions to take place.

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