Arran-Elderslie may invoke the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in its latest attempt to block unwanted wind turbine development.
At a special meeting of council Thursday, Coun. Mark Davis circulated a draft bylaw calling for protection of life, liberty and security of the person under section 7 of the charter, claiming wind turbines cause serious health effects and are a blight on the rural landscape.
“We owe it to our people to maintain their health and well-being . . . We don’t want Arran-Elderslie to look like Bruce Township,” with all of its wind turbines, said Davis. “It’s disgraceful and disgusting.”
Davis said he’s not being critical of neighbouring Bruce Township in Kincardine with rows and rows of wind turbines cluttering up the view, but it’s not what he wants to see in Arran-Elderslie.
“We don’t make much money farming but there are few things we do have and that’s some gorgeous homesteads that have taken one or two hundred years to create beautiful pastoral scenes. Those big things (wind turbines) flopping around, they don’t work for me,” he said.
Mayor Ron Oswald said he expects council will support Davis’ proposal at Monday’s council meeting. Arran-Elderslie would then circulate the bylaw to all municipalities in Ontario for support.
Chatsworth, West Grey, Grey Highlands, Georgian Bluffs, Saugeen Shores and South Bruce are also considering the charter challenge as a way to discourage wind energy development projects in their municipalities. Representatives of all but Georgian Bluffs attended Thursday’s meeting in Chesley.
West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles is optimistic that other municipalities across Ontario who are facing the same challenges under the province’s new Green Energy and Green Economy Act will support the call for a moratorium on further wind energy development until independent health studies can be conducted.
He said he’s heard of an application for a wind turbine along the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto that has sparked concern from a member of metro council and that may be what it will take to garner support for the opposition by rural municipalities.
“Once it gets to be something from an urban area our voice up here starts to be taken note of,” said Eccles, who supports the charter challenge.
“In the Green Energy Act there are very few options left for municipalities or individuals to put their voices forward,” he said.
Under provisions of the Green Energy and Green Economy Act passed in 2009 local approval under the Planning Act for renewable energy projects has been removed and replaced by provincial government approval.
The charter challenge is just part of the strategy planned by Arran-Elderslie to discourage and delay wind energy developers from pushing forward with their plans.
Davis advocates requesting that developers provide certificates issued by Health Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Natural Resources confirming that the proposed wind generation facility being applied for does not cause ill health effects.
Saugeen Shores Deputy-mayor Doug Freiburger recalled a similar approach of creating obstacles and delays taken by Saugeen Shores a few years ago that successfully discouraged a wind energy developer who eventually gave up and went away.
“We just made it an inhospitable environment. At the time that was all we had to use and eventually the wind energy company decided to leave because they decided we weren’t going to be a good partner,” said Freiburger.
“Unfortunately the Green Energy Act has taken that away and doesn’t really allow us to do much in an inhospitable way. We have a right to comment on what is right for our municipalities.”
Freiburger recommended seeking support from local First Nations communities, which have the right to require developers to consult with them on any of their historic lands.
Grey Highlands Mayor Brian Mullin said he plans to seek a legal opinion first before introducing the Arran-Elderslie charter bylaw to his council.
One wind energy proposal in Arran-Elderslie is awaiting approval by the government. It’s approximately 76 turbines would be located near Burgoyne on the boundary with Saugeen Shores.
Davis said he’s confident that his council would defend a legal challenge to the bylaw.
He plans to attend a rally at Queen’s Park on Wednesday in support of a private member’s bill by Conservative MPP Sylvia Jones calling on the government to give municipalities back their Planning Act power for renewable energy projects.
Last October a motion by Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Murdoch calling for the government to impose a moratorium and undertake a health study to determine the potential impacts of wind turbines on people’s health was defeated by the government majority.
Since then Conservative Ted Arnott, MPP for Wellington-Halton Hills, introduced a similar motion last month, seeking a provincial moratorium until health studies are completed.