Grant Robertson Guelph Mercury
It seems these days all manner of sins can be hidden by just throwing the label ‘green’ on it.
For those like the National Farmers Union that have fought for sound and sustainable environmental policies long before it was trendy, seeing the word ‘green’ co-opted is indeed troubling.
It is clear that this is precisely what the McGuinty government is up to with the so-called “Green” Energy Act.
Very few people are opposed to more production of energy from sources that are less polluting, more sustainable or less damaging to the environment. The truth is, of course, that all energy production comes at a cost to one or all of those, whether one wants to admit it or not.
In response to local concerns, many municipal governments have tried to enact regulations that find a balance in local communities.
Recently, Premier Dalton McGuinty has dismissed those concerned about the impact of large-scale, megaproject wind production, or taking up large amounts of valuable farm land for solar farms as simply ‘Nimbyism” (or not in my backyard).
It is funny how those who shout NIMBY at those concerned about these kinds of actions, are always the ones who will never have such things in their backyard.
Much of this ‘green’ energy production is taking up good farmland. It rarely occurs in places such as along the lakeshore in downtown Toronto or in Rosedale. To address local concerns, the McGuinty government is simply going to legislate that municipalities have no power to create local rules for local communities. It will be mandated that projects be given their permits within six months of applying. For those who cheer these rules they need to step back and consider the very dangerous precedent this will set.
It is not a stretch to think that this might mean many projects given fast-tracking without local control. Today it is green energy projects. Tomorrow it will be something else that you will want to question and you won’t be able to because we have now set this precedent.
This is the thin edge of the wedge and those who support this as a short-term solution will rue the day when something they don’t like comes to their neck of the woods.
It is worth noting that Energy and Infrastructure Minister George Smitherman is the same person, when he was Health Minister, who removed much of the local control that is now causing the shut down of emergency care in small-town hospitals and chasing away doctors from those communities.
We are facing real economic and environmental problems. The solutions will not be found in massive megaprojects that take wealth out of communities. Instead it will be found in providing support for individual energy generation.
In rural Ontario we have many barns with south-facing slopes perfect for solar generation, but the costs of installation and the red-tape to try to sell excess power back into the grid make it out of reach. Towers the size of old TV antennas on farm after farm would produce more power, more jobs and be more acceptable to communities; however, costs and regulations hinder this production.
It is time for much more creative solutions — solutions that would make many of Ontario’s farms producers of high-quality food, but also producers of much of Ontario’s energy needs.
Instead though, it appears local communities will be run over in the search to hand public money and guaranteed incomes over to the friends of political fundraisers rather than making a bold step into a truly ‘green’ future.
Paisley-area farmer Grant Robertson is a senior elected official with the National Farmers Union-Ontario and a national board member of the farmers union. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.