If Dufferin-Caledon MPP Sylvia Jones gets her way, the province will hand planning control of wind turbines back to municipalities.
The local Progressive Conservative introduced a private member’s bill on Monday (April 12) aimed at amending the Green Energy Act (GEA) to do just that.
“I think it’s critically important that local councils, municipal councils have the right to control and influence what happens within their communities,” Jones said.
“We do not have a cookie-cutter society in Ontario and we shouldn’t. Our communities are unique and if municipal councils and municipal elected officials see the need for influencing planning controls, then that’s what should be allowed.”
Prior to the GEA, which was put in place last year, municipalities had control over zoning and official plan approvals that could be used to place restrictions on where turbines could be located.
Municipalities were also able to negotiate amenity agreements with project developers that resulted in annual financial contributions for host communities.
The Ministry of the Environment now has authority over the approvals process. Municipalities are, however, allowed to weigh-in as a commenting agency on each proposed project.
Numerous municipal councils across Ontario have spoken out against their loss of planning authority, including several in Dufferin.
“We’re aware of the concerns of municipalities,” said Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Brad Duguid. “We have to, on behalf of Ontarians and on behalf of our generation, be prepared to move forward with green energy alternatives.”
The goal of the GEA, he added, is to bring renewable energy projects on-stream and help the government meet its goal of eliminating coal-fired power production by 2014. Along the way, the act is expected to create 50,000 jobs in the green energy sector.
“We remain committed to (eliminating coal power). The challenge that we have now is to ensure we don’t let processes get in the way of moving forward in a responsible manner,” Duguid said.
“We know that coal is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gases in Ontario. There’s no question that it is harming the health of ourselves and will harm the health, if we stick with it, of our kids and future generations.”
Jones’ bill received first reading this week; it’s not yet known when it will be up for second reading. If successful at second reading, her bill will be sent to a committee for public input and to hold public hearings.
“I anticipate it will make Liberal members who have been hearing the same kind of issues in their riding uncomfortable and have to defend their position as to why they’ve taken away municipal control,” the opposition MPP said. “Do I think that they’re suddenly going to all see the light and vote for my private member’s bill? …Time will tell.”
Duguid wouldn’t speculate on the chances of Jones’ bill receiving full approval, other than to state it doesn’t have his support.
“They do from time to time come to fruition, but it’s not too often,” he said of private member’s bills. “The positive thing about private members’ bills is they generate debate and discussion. I’m sure this bill will.”