Wind company, Ontario government had cozy relationship until deal fell apart

Art by Paul Bloomer, The Money Counters

Art by Paul Bloomer, The Money Counters

David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen
The Ontario government’s decision to ditch its plan for wind farms in the Great Lakes seems to have been made all the more awkward by the lobbyist-lubricated relationship the province had developed with the company that wanted to build one of the biggest.

The company was Windstream Energy, which is seeking as much as $568 million in damages on the grounds that the government mistreated it because it’s backed by American money, which would be a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

But back when it seemed to be well on its way to building a wind farm in the water off Kingston, Windstream had a lobbyist named Chris Benedetti helping it along. Benedetti is a specialist in energy policy for Sussex Strategy Group (he’s had dozens upon dozens of industry clients, according to the Ontario lobbying registry), and a former federal Liberal staffer.

If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he promoted the $6,000-a-plate fundraiser that offered intimate conversations with Premier Kathleen Wynne and Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli as its big draw earlier this year. That’s the one that shamed the Liberals into finally pursuing reforms to political fundraising because, though completely legal, it looked so gross when people found out.

We know what politicians get out of such events: A whole lot of money. But now, thanks to the company’s own claims in its case against the government, which rely heavily on evidence from Benedetti himself, we know what Windstream’s lobbyists got before everything fell apart. Read article

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