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Environment, Ontario Politics

The Politics of Wind Power: Liberals look to ‘John Tory’ Tim Hudak

Ontario Wind Farm - Image Courtesy of Renewable Power News

The Ontario Liberals sent a message to the future this week: it warned Conservative Premier Tim Hudak that if he wants to keep his absurd, long-standing promise to put a moratorium on all wind turbine farms in Ontario, that he would have to do it at the expense of taxpayer dollars and well-paying jobs in the alternative energy sector.

This week, Ontario’s Energy Minister Brad Duguid made the announcement that the wind turbine deal Ontario has with Korean multi-national Samsung has been renegotiated to bump up manufacturing job creation, while cutting the premium that Ontario would have paid on the electricity generated by the Samsung wind farms. What could have amounted to $585M, according to the Toronto Sun, will now likely cost Ontarians $110M.

And as reported by the Government of Ontario, “improvements to the Renewable Energy Approvals (REA) process that will provide greater certainty for developers, while continuing Ontario’s rigorous protection of the environment and human health.” This on top of the 20,000 jobs they say have already been created by the wind energy sector.

Not everyone is as sold on wind energy as the provincial Liberals, though. Recently, the turbine issue has become identified as an urban vs. rural conflict. Wind Concerns Ontario (founded in Innisfil, Ontario in 2008) is a grassroots umbrella coalition that represents 57 independent residents associations against wind turbines in 33 counties/districts. “Wind Concerns Ontario provides a strong, unified voice of opposition to the unchecked rush of locating thousands of massive industrial wind turbines across the province,” they argue, “which are too close to human habitation and are without the benefit of full environmental assessment.”

Their website hosts a litany of objections to wind energy: health, safety, viability, noise, wildlife. And far be it from me to belittle their concerns: this has become an urban vs. rural issue primarily because Ontario’s urban residents enjoy the benefits of green energy without the hassles and mess that can come with wind farms. You might not hear this often enough, rural Ontario, but from an urban resident – and I mean this with all due sincerity – thank you for hosting wind turbines. Your sacrifice is appreciated. And to be fair, your concerns against the manner in which the farms have been established, without proper due diligence and municipal support you claim, is troubling.

But here is where Wind Concerns Ontario loses me, and where I see a great opportunity for the Liberals to ‘John Tory’ Tim Hudak. (To ‘John Tory’ someone is to capitalize on a blustery promise made by someone in the heat of the moment that pigeon-holes them into supporting an unenviable position. But, amusingly enough, it’s all their own doing.)

Brian Macleod, writing in the Sudbury Star, also picked up on the opportunity that Hudak has presented. If you combine Ontarians’ support for green energy with their other top concern – jobs – then “you’ve got the makings of an uncomfortable scenario for Hudak,” Macleod argues, “since the Liberals claim their wind energy policies will create 50,000 jobs by the end of 2012.”

“Wind energy companies are speaking out,” he continues, “criticizing Hudak for his pledge to scrap the feed-in-tariff program, saying it will push investment elsewhere. The province is, in effect, supporting a burgeoning industry in which Ontario is a nationwide leader. This puts Hudak squarely at odds with companies that are bringing manufacturing investment to a province that has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

The Toronto Sun is right when their headlines snarls the ‘Grits dare Hudak to back out of new Samsung deal,’ because they are! Just like they dared John Tory to try and maintain his enthusiastic support for faith-based school funding, an issue so unimportant to most that a government could never be formed on the issue. But the difference here is, jobs and energy are things that a majority of people care about: these are issues large enough to sway voters, and the Liberals effort this week to hedge their bets was not only a good political move, but shows their committment to green energy for Ontario.

Even if it hurts the members of Wind Concerns Ontario. Because while it is regrettable that they object to wind turbines in their communities, there is an urgent need for alternative energy in this province, and NIMBY issues are difficult to navigate. And as I have written about elsewhere, sacrifice will be the name of the game moving forward with regards to energy in Ontario.

Tellingly, a July 2010 poll found 89% of Ontarians in favour of developing wind power, and only 3 out of 10 who didn’t want such a wind farm in their neighbourhood, according to Macleod. And scientific studies that ‘confirm’ the non-health hazards of wind turbines are as plentiful as those that ‘confirm’ their harmful effects. Effectively, it’s a draw.

But if Hudak feels confident in the support of those 3 out of 10 and the remaining 11% who do not support wind turbines, then good luck to him. He’s going to need it.

– – –

In appreciation of the wishes of Wind Concerns Ontario, I have removed an image from the post which was used on their website. As mentioned in the comments section, my intention was never to insult their thoughts on the matter, however much I may disagree. I have modified to post subsequently of my own volition to show my willingness to better understand their concerns and appear less confrontational.

– awreeves, 08/05/2011, 13:55

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


9 thoughts on “The Politics of Wind Power: Liberals look to ‘John Tory’ Tim Hudak

  1. I ask that you please remove that photo off this post. You did not ask for permission to use it.

    You do not understand our concerns. None of this was based on science. The 550 setback was an arbitrary number chosen because it is halfway across most rural concessions.

    I find the rest of your article misinformed and extremely insulting. Please take the photo off your site.

    Wind Concerns Ontario

    Posted by MA | August 5, 2011, 1:01 pm
    • Thank you for your comment. I will respect your wishes and remove the photo from the site, although I gave credit where credit was due. I apologize, and will remove it from the site.

      My intention was never to insult, nor misinform. I would gladly welcome you to make your wishes clearer through the comment option to better inform myself and others as to your concerns. I may not agree with all of them, but I am most definitely interested.

      Communicating in this way is the best way to understand.

      Posted by awreeves | August 5, 2011, 1:48 pm
  2. A couple of points:
    Since economics is what is going to determine whether industrial wind power generation stands or falls, one point that is being ignored is the wide-ranging effect on property values in this province. City dwellers can think the turbines (they are NOT “wind mills” and the projects are not “farms” or “parks”) look nice but the reality of living near them, especially multiples, is that they are noisy and produce a specific type of vibration that can affect health. This is environmental noise and it is well documented as a source of health problems. Brampton area Realtor Chris Luxemburger did a study on property values near Shelburne, where there are over 100 turbines, and determined that a wind power project is a negative factor “like a quarry or a garbage dump.” Various analysts peg the property value loss as high as 40%.

    The Ontario Real Estate Association now has a question on its Sellers Property Information Sheet asking sellers to disclose whether a wind power project has been proposed near the subject property.

    In our community, the $20-million wind power project will provide profits to a company based in Germany, create NO jobs except for short-term construction work, and result in, conservatively, a $45-million loss in property values.

    What does THAT do to the economy, when you are affecting the value of what is for most people, their largest investment?

    As to the July 2010 Ipsos study (done for the wind power lobby group) which concluded 89 percent of respondents supported wind power development, the study was based on .0001% of the ONtario population, most of them urban dwellers who will never face living next to a noisy wind power plant. The lowest rate of acceptance of wind power projects in that study was in the south-west where they have hundreds and hundreds of turbines proposed and many operating wind projects.

    You say you want to understand the issues of those opposed to industrial-scale wind power developments, so here’s one: this is expropriation without compensation.

    Posted by northgowerwindturbines | August 5, 2011, 3:16 pm
  3. Here’s where you lose ME: “You might not hear this often enough, rural Ontario, but from an urban resident – and I mean this with all due sincerity – thank you for hosting wind turbines. Your sacrifice is appreciated.”

    It’s one thing to ‘sacrifice’ a ‘view’…Its’ a COMPLETELY different thing to sacrifice your health, your children’s health, your neighbour’s health. I’m in no mood to sacrifice my 2 young children’s’health. Nor am I in the mood to sacrifice the 300+ children’s health that will attend a rural school surrounded by 14 industrial wind turbines within a 3km radius of it. I don’t think the farmer up the road should have to sacrifice his prize winning herd of cattle to the stray voltage that worsens (guaranteed) with wind turbines. I don’t think the man up the road the other way, that trains horses, should sacrifice his livelihood because the horses do not like the tremors from the wind turbines. I don’t think the family farm that I work on should be sacrificed if just ONE of us gets sick, and we have to move (that includes my children, husband and parents, we all work together and live beside each other).

    Worse still, we aren’t being asked to ‘sacrifice’ for the urban good. We are being TOLD to. If you ever had to go through the process that we have out here in rural Ontario, had all your rights stripped from you, government ‘directives’ used to force you into a corner, you would lose all faith in our political system.

    I’m 30 and I voted Liberal/Green in ever past election. Guess where my vote is going this time?

    Posted by windaction | August 5, 2011, 4:01 pm
    • Many thanks to northgowerwindturbines and windaction for your helpful and enlightening comments. You’ve given me some interesting and sobering things to think about as this debate moves forward, and I truly appreciate it.

      This is the kind of dialogue that gets people thinking…

      Posted by awreeves | August 5, 2011, 4:30 pm
  4. “You might not hear this often enough, rural Ontario, but from an urban resident – and I mean this with all due sincerity – thank you for hosting wind turbines. Your sacrifice is appreciated.”

    Urbanites do not believe wind turbines can hurt people. They think that the blades gently turn in the wind. They don’t know about the motors in the nacelles and the generators at the base of them that are constantly running and the fact that they use just as much or more electricity in the winter to keep the motor and oils warm enough to run them. They don’t live in the shadow of them when at 2 in the morning they sound like a large outdoor washing machine gyrating at 60 and 70 decibels (documented). They don’t know that the turbines run way over the 40 dba guidelines all the time but the developers never have to shut them down when the children are crying about headaches and stomaches and earaches. No, it is the family that has to leave their house. It is the family that has to go live with gramma and grampa, or has to rent a second place to live, paying a second rent and utilities because their house is no longer habitable.
    Have you looked at video testimonies. Do you really think these people are lying that they are just having some fun by renting a second location?
    Is that sacrifice enough for you? How many is too many? 1 family, 12 families, 30 families 100 families?? How many have to sacrifce their health and their lives because our man Dalton wants to keep his status as the green energy king.
    I watched my family, including my pets get sick. I got sick. And we “sacrificed” our home; the home we planned on living into our retirement in. The house that remodelled, the house that we poured our heart and soul into not expecting anything bad to happen as we watched the turbines being built. We said good for us. we are part of the green initiative.
    But when it did go wrong we had no help. No one from the government would meet with us. We were called nimbys. we were called complainers. My husband was wasting away to nothing and I guarantee you we got out just in time.
    So to hell with your green dreams and your choice not to believe what is happening. 80 municipalities know what is happening and maybe you want to do some research. 80 muncipalities are formally calling for a halt to wind turbines. That my friend is a statement in itself and one you should take heed of.

    Posted by snowball | August 5, 2011, 7:58 pm
  5. Are you aware that close to 30 families in Ontario have had to abandon their homes?

    A few lucky ones were bought out by the wind companies but were required to sign gag orders.

    Others, like 80 year old Stephana Johnson, are now sleeping in her son’s basement or trailer most nights. The Liberal government and the wind company (owned by the former President of the Federal Liberal Party) has simply ignored the problem for years now.

    Sacrifice is easy from your point of view. Exactly what sacrifice are YOU making?

    Posted by MA | August 6, 2011, 6:37 am
  6. Please watch all these videos. These are regular rural residents, many of them welcomed wind turbines into their community. Most of them have had to move/abandon/sell-out to their homes to wind developers since — you can’t live in a toxic environment, you just can’t. Noise pollution and electrical pollution can be very damaging as you will see. Like I said, this isn’t sacrifice, this is torture. http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com/video-testamonies/

    Posted by windaction | August 6, 2011, 8:51 am
  7. Thank you for your open-mindeness: it’s almost not your fault as the current government has manipulated the public into going along with all this. As Tom Adams, ex of Energy Probe and now an independent energy consultant has said, in calling for a repeal of the Green Energy Act, the mostly urban-based media is completely unaware of the “corrosive” nature of what is going on in Ontario’s rural communities.
    We are being told we have no choice in the matter, we obviously don’t care if children are dying from pollution (not true), and that health problems for a few people are expendable so that the larger populace can have electricity and that there will be thousands of jobs (also not true).

    Posted by northgowerwindturbines | August 6, 2011, 4:41 pm

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