Hamilton tilting at windmills with ban

Brenda Johnson

by Emma Reilly, The Hamilton Spec
Hamilton’s city council wants to ban wind turbines from being built inside its city limits.  Glanbrook Councillor Brenda Johnson introduced a motion at the last city council meeting asking the province for a moratorium on wind turbines in Hamilton until further studies are completed.  Johnson — whose motion came at the height of the provincial election campaign — says it’s not clear what effects the towers have on things ranging from human health to bee population, and thinks the province should look more closely at these issues.

But environmental groups say that sends the wrong message. If Hamilton wants to reinvigorate its sagging manufacturing sector and attract green businesses, it should promote the creation of wind turbines — not block it.

Councillor Brian McHattie says the motion could also have political implications at the provincial level now that Premier Dalton McGuinty — the man behind the Green Energy Act — has a minority government.

Johnson’s motion first asked for a province-wide moratorium on industrial wind turbines. However, after pushback from her council colleagues, Johnson dropped the request for an all-out provincial ban on wind turbines and instead asked for a comprehensive health study and a ban on the turbines in Hamilton alone. It passed unanimously.

Johnson — who worked for Environment Hamilton before becoming a city councillor — says she was torn between her environmental background, the potential revenue the turbines can bring into the agricultural sector, and the concerns coming from her constituents.

However, after speaking with farmers in her area — who were also opposed to the turbines — Johnson pushed ahead with her motion.

“The bottom line is I was hired to be the voice for Ward 11’s residents,” Johnson said.

Johnson points out that 70 other Ontario municipalities have asked the province for a moratorium on wind turbines. She also says the Green Energy Act, introduced by the McGuinty Liberals, does not give cities any say whatsoever in where the turbines are built.

“We’re just so focused on getting things done and going it bigger and better that we haven’t stepped back and said, ‘Let’s take a look at this and make sure it’s the right thing to do,’” she said.

As soon as studies prove turbines are safe, Johnson said, “I’ll be the first one to jump on the bus and say ‘let’s go.’”

Councillor Brian McHattie, who often allies with Johnson on environmental issues around the council table, said he thought Johnson’s motion was “a bit of a jab at McGuinty and his green energy act.”

McHattie points out that PC leader Tim Hudak is also wary of wind turbines and Glanbrook is part of his provincial riding.

“Perhaps it has repercussions that way,” he said.

McHattie said he didn’t expect Johnson’s motion to ask for a moratorium across the province — especially given her history at Environment Hamilton.

“I was a little surprised that she wanted Ontario wide, certainly,” he said. “But when you become a city councillor, you need to represent your constituents as well as your core beliefs, and sometimes the two become cloudy.”

Bill Thompson, the Hamilton spokesperson for the environmental group Blue Green Canada, said Johnson’s motion appears to contradict another resolution council passed earlier this year to continue promoting a green economy.

“It’s sort of puzzling to me,” he said.

He also points out that both Ontario and Hamilton’s medical officers of health say there are no proven health risks associated with the turbines. Passing this motion may send a negative message to green businesses who have the potential to reinvigorate Hamilton’s manufacturing landscape.

“I’d be worried that it would send that (message). It’s like we decide we want to build electric automobiles but we don’t want them driving in the city,” he said.

“It’s peculiar that a small NIMBY group has this kind of influence over city council.”

10 thoughts on “Hamilton tilting at windmills with ban

  1. Councillor Johnson is being bullied and dismissed by her own council. What a bunch of heros these people are.Still denying harm. Money, money, money reigns or they would take it slow and do the studies first.

  2. What proof do they have that these so called green initiatives will bring economic vigour back to the Haldimand area? This assumption is based only on intuative knowledge that appeals to the visceral satisfaction that we are doing “something” towards a “green” future. Real world data shows quite the opposite, just look at Spain.

  3. Firstly, congrats to Glanbrook Councillor Brenda Johnson –
    for demonstrating some – common sense!

    “The bottom line is I was hired to be the voice for Ward 11’s residents,” Johnson said.

    continuing on:

    …….after reading this comment, I too, am puzzled! –

    Bill Thompson, the Hamilton spokesperson
    for the environmental group Blue Green Canada,
    said Johnson’s motion appears to contradict
    another resolution council passed earlier this year
    to continue promoting a green economy.

    “It’s sort of puzzling to me,” he said.

    Let’s see it!
    Obviously, this council – first looked at – and has – a ‘legal definition’ – of what a ‘green job’ is –
    because they never would have passed a resolution – ‘to continue promoting a green economy’ –
    without first having –
    this crucial legal definition – note: surrounding the continuing green economy debate.
    Right? Maybe not.

    Bill Thompson now –
    throwing ethical stones at council –
    while throwing jabs –
    “It’s peculiar that a small NIMBY group has this kind of influence over city council.”


  4. Can someone tell me if the rural portion of Hamilton has any proposed or existing IWT developments?
    Due to amalgamation, cities like Kingston and Ottawa have large rural areas, which have a minority voice on council.
    In Ottawa, a wind development is proposed for N. Gower in the rural end of the city. City council supports this, as does the Ottawa Citizen, the mayor and the Liberal cabinet members.
    A resolution calling for a moratorium on development, similar to the 70 other resolutions, failed to pass decisevely last year. It is a clear out of sight, out of mind situation.

    This is a real problem in Ottawa, I wonder if something similar is happening to the Hamilton resolution.

    • Yes, in Glanbrook. Click on Hamilton on the sidebar site map to get contact info. —->

  5. They are already looking at us here in the north (Petawawa) for energy but their idea is a lot of microdams that will dry up small rivers for the better part of the year etc etc etc. This has already happened in some areas. Our river here is one of the very last free running rivers into the Ottawa and is used by sturgeon for spawning (endangered species) and we are still fighting this issue. There is no forethought when it comes to turbines or dams. It is a case of just hire the company that wants to do it and let them go and these companies just appear out of the woodwork. What we need is one large hydro electric generating dam to cover the approx. 5,000 MW of power needed for the future.

  6. So anyone who looks into Industrial Wind Turbines and surmises that they are not green immediately becomes a NIMBY belonging to a bizarre little group of people who aren’t “Green enough”.
    The group is getting very large, and we will say that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

  7. Why is there an immediate assumption that calling for a cautious setback (2km is being adopted across the world as being the setback that seems to reduce harm) in lieu of ‘hard facts’ equates to opposition to turbines?
    Caution and clean energy development are not mutually exclusive concepts. Could someone please explain what motive – other than profit – drives the insistence that turbines be placed where they are demonstrably causing harm instead of at a more respectful distance.
    I am all for the development of renewable energy sources, we have a huge landmass and coastline. Why can’t turbines be placed at greater distance from people, bird migratory routes etc? Increased transmission costs/ lower profits for the corporations? Hmmm…
    It is ironic and very sad that ‘environmental groups’ are apparently unable to have any empathy for those whose lives are needlessly disrupted, for wildlife that is in danger, for rural communities whose property tax base is eroded while jumping with both feet onto a profit driven, cynical bandwagon.
    This should not be a debate polarized on wind or no wind, the debate should be WHY NOT wind carefully and respectfully placed.

    • If you do the science of IWTs you will learn that they don’t work,require backup power and they are very expensive. IWTs are useless “horse & buggy” machines. Wind has very little energy in it to begin with. You can check out the physics on how much energy wind has.

  8. Bill Thompson…..If you believe so strongly that industrial scale wind turbines next to homes are so benign, then you should be jumping at he opportunity to campaign to do the health and environmental studies, as well as to prove there is no negative affect to property values, so that the moratoriums can be lifted. Instead, all I have seen from the green groups, are stone throwing and name calling to the very people that have the backbone to speak up for innocent people who are getting steam rolled by a former majority red carpet.

    Thanks Brenda!! Thank you Hamilton City Council…..

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