By Monte Sonnenberg, Brantford Expositor
The McGuinty government’s green energy program suffered a blow Friday when the Ontario Federation of Agriculture weighed in against further wind turbine development. OFA’s about-face caught everyone off guard. Not long ago, turbines were regarded as a new, welcome income stream for rural landowners who have the space to accommodate them. However, after a period of sober reflection, OFA has concluded that the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
Opposition to wind turbines prompted the McGuinty government to take planning authority for them away from municipalities, thus undermining a cornerstone of local government.
Wind farm proposals have pitted those who want to reap the revenue against neighbours who worry about potential health impacts and the demonstrable fact that turbines lower surrounding property values.
Rural communities also take pride in their appearance.
Many have concluded that this industrialization of rural Ontario is a blight on the landscape and a menace to wildlife.
OFA also is put off by the cost. Somehow, jurisdictions in the U.S. can
profitably generate wind power for about seven cents a kilowatt hour, the same price as conventional sources.
In Ontario, we’re paying nearly double that.
The impact of OFA’s move on green energy policy remains to be seen. Municipal opposition to the loss of planning power in this area didn’t faze the McGuinty government.
Nor have the numerous petitions calling for a comprehensive review of wind turbines and their potential impact on health.
But there are risks to defying the OFA. The federation is a respected voice in rural Ontario, an area that is increasingly less inclined to vote for the provincial Liberals.
The party’s disregard for rural issues has all but poisoned the well for Liberal candidates in ridings.
The McGuinty government and its ham-fisted imposition of wind power is part of a pattern.
OFA’s reassessment of wind power is a warning that the provincial Liberals are at risk of entrenching this alienation across all of rural Ontario.