by Harvey Wrightman
The buzz-words nowadays are “Community Engagement” or “Social license” – when you hear those words from the policy mandarins of the provincial government, the people who know what is best for us, be ready for something that is quite the opposite. Unhappy with the widespread opposition to wind projects, our mandarins have been scheming to show there is no opposition. To get the sentiment of a community to a project, ordinary people like myself would simply canvass/petition/survey the affected area. Not so with the mandarins, who seeing the problems of direct democracy, prefer to add layers of insensitivity to the process – ask those who will not be affected – and offer them some money. That will get desired results. It’s called, diluting the pool.
The IESO (Independent Electricity system Operator) has released the new Large Renewable Procurement (LRP) (click on LRP I RFP and go to Sec. 3.3, pg. 47), which means more large wind projects. For this round of contracts, companies need only conduct ONE public meeting (see, we did have an effect at those open houses); but, the companies must obtain a measure of local support.
So looking at the chart: “Community Engagement” rates 80 points, and “Aboriginal Participation” rates 20 points. The aim for the wind company is to get as much consent to their project as possible. Not so easy these days as people have become aware of the adverse impacts of wind turbines. The higher the point score, the higher the project is in the queue, supposedly. Let’s see how they might do it.
An example of “Aboriginal Participation” would be the Grand Bend Wind Farm where both Walpole Island FN and Sarnia FN have a share in the project. Essentially the province provided a large part of the cash for First Nations to buy-in. Significantly Kettle and Stoney Point FN which is next door to the project refused to take the money offered to join that venture. Walpole Is. And Sarnia are 40 km removed. Therein lies the first flaw in the process: those most affected are the least likely to give consent. Cash offerings have the look of “blood money.” Makes sense doesn’t it. Well, not to the provincial mandarins who imagine they are always correct; and, who act without knowledge of local conditions. This is a mistake that they make repeatedly.
On to “Community Engagement”. This is got/bought by approaching local landowners to participate, either being offered “turbine host contracts” or “good neighbour contracts”. Once signed to either contract, all rights to oppose the project are finished – and for 50 years forward. Given the negative impacts of turbines, signing a “good neighbour” contract is not very attractive. In the original draft document, the consent of 100% of the abutting was proposed. Wind companies bargained that down to 75%. Here is where communities can mobilize, but they must act quickly and network/footwork through the area to counter the land maggots who will be harassing people in the project area, telling whatever lies are needed to get signatures.
…and, the mandarins have one more trick to play – the municipal council which will always be rent seekers and willing to sell out their residents for a dollar on a doughnut – how well I understand that. Wind companies will offer “vibrancy funds” which may mean “bribrancy funds”, “schmeergelder”, “grease money” – whatever term you prefer. The mandarins deliberately capped the individual turbine assessment at $60,000 – $100,000/ turbine – artificially low so the companies could offer “cash incentives” to municipalities and maybe some under the table money/favours. Who knows? This is where forceful, direct action is needed to impress on the council the nature of this money and any acceptance of it. There are some things that should not be done and selling out the people for a few shekels is high on the list. It doesn’t have to be done.