Posted By MARY GOLEM, Grey Bruce Shoreline Beacon
Arran Elderslie and representatives of its neighbouring municipalities “will wait and see” what level of support there is from municipalities across Ontario before proceeding with any further opposition to wind energy projects.
Arran Elderslie recently passed a bylaw to amend the municipal code in order to invoke a section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in an attempt to block wind turbine development within the municipality. However, when Arran Elderslie attempted to circulate the bylaw to all Ontario municipalities through AMO (the Association of Municipalities of Ontario) “we encountered a roadblock,” Arran-Elderslie chief administrative officer (CAO) -clerk A.P. Crawford told a special council meeting in Chesley Thursday night. “AMO declined to circulate it for policy reasons,” Crawford told members of Arran-Elderslie council, as well as representatives of Grey Highlands, West Grey, Georgian Bluffs, Huron-Kinloss, South Bruce and Chatsworth councils who were invited to the meeting to discuss their opposition to wind energy projects.
“That’s pretty interesting,” Chatsworth mayor Howard Greig and West Grey mayor Kevin Eccles responded, both saying they had never heard of such a refusal.
Instead of AMO circulating the bylaw, Crawford was instead offered the mailing list at a reduced cost and had to do it herself, a tedious process that took considerable time and as a result, the bylaw did not get sent to all Ontario municipalities until last Friday.
To date, Chatsworth council has supported Arran-Elderslie’s bylaw, while Grey Highlands has given it first and second reading, and Huron-Kinloss has “supported it in principle,” councillor Anne Eadie said. Meanwhile, Georgian Bluffs “is prepared to adopt the county (of Grey) bylaw whenever it passes,” mayor Al Barfoot told the meeting.
Arran Elderslie councillor Mark Davis, who had Arran Elderslie’s former CAO Joan Albright draft the bylaw said he is “waiting to see what kind of support there is out there for it from other municipalities in the province” and said he has received word from the Bruce County Federation of Agriculture that they also intend to support it.
Davis said earlier this week he has received “a lot of positive comments” about his council’s unanimous support of the bylaw and despite some opposition from two of his own councillors to spend money to defend it, Davis said council “should remain open-minded . . . it’s difficult to pass a bylaw and then say you are not willing to defend it. I’m convinced this (opposition) is just going to build,” he added.
Davis said he was approached by a local farmer, with six generations of his family farming in the municipality, just prior to Thursday’s night meeting praising council for its efforts to fight wind towers. “He went so far as to tell me he’d get his cheque book out if needed.”
“It may come to the point where we do use private funds,” Davis told the press after the meeting, adding if enough municipalities agree to support the bylaw and “contribute some money, say $10,000 even, that’s a sum we can live with and still accomplish what we want to do.”
Chatsworth mayor Howard Greig agreed with Davis that councils who pass the bylaw, must also be willing to spend money to defend it.
“What we’re doing is protecting our tax base,” Greig said, “and that justifies spending money to defend this bylaw.”
“The biggest legacy we will leave for future generations is that we kept turbines out of here,” Davis added. “We’re in a holding pattern now . . . we’ll wait and see who else is willing to come on board and we’ll meet again in another month.”
John Mann, a Port Elgin lawyer, who was in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, praised Albright and Davis for crafting “a phenomenal bylaw.” He urged those in attendance to also challenge Section 2 of the Green Energy Act which gives municipalities “paramount power and the primary responsibility” of the Act’s requirement for “community consultation. Local democracy is key,” Mann said. “The Act states community consultation shall be administered, not may be, but shall . . . that opens the door for you to oppose this in yet another way.”
Local consultation, Mann is the foundation of democracy and I’d argue that right until hell freezes over . . . I’d find it shocking if the Supreme Court ever said local people had no say. If that ever happened, it would indeed be a sad day for democracy.”
The group also agreed to seek support for their battle from the local First Nations communities and will meet again June 24 to plan their next steps..