PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY - The tax man may have the last word in the ongoing battle to stop a pair of wind turbine developments in Prince Edward County.
At a committee of the whole meeting in Picton Thursday afternoon, council opted to wait for a ruling from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to determine if donations to help offset the legal costs of a pair of appeals qualify for official income tax receipts.
The decision came after hearing from a pair of local residents the municipality could be liable for the taxes from the donations and also risk its ability to receive donations.
CAO James Hepburn told the committee the municipality’s legal counsel had determined the South Shore Appeal fund would qualify as a “Project of Community Interest,” paving the way for donations to be made to the County to help offset the legal costs of both, the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists (PECFN) and the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County (APPEC).
PECFN is currently in Environmental Review Tribunal hearings to determine if Gilead Power can offer remedy to harm Blandings turtles at its nine-turbine Ostrander Point development, while APPEC begins an appeal of the 27-turbine wpd White Pines Wind Inc. development.
In his report, Hepburn said both groups align with the municipality’s position on wind development in Prince Edward County.
“The “South Shore Appeal Fund” is a collaborative effort by the APPEC and PECFN to pay for the legal expenses incurred in defending the south shore of Prince Edward County from the construction and operation of industrial wind turbines. PECFN and APPEC continue to challenge the permitting of the industrial wind turbine projects along the south shore of the County which is a candidate Natural Core Area in the County’s Official Plan,” he said in the report. “Council declared Prince Edward County itself as an unwilling host to industrial wind turbines on April 23, 2013. As of October 2015, there are 90 townships and counties in Ontario who have passed resolutions confirming that they are not willing host communities” for industrial wind turbines.”
Jason Alford, a community liaison representative with wpd Canada, told the committee he was speaking as a Sophiasburgh resident and not representing his employer. He said issuing tax receipts may contravene CRA guidelines.
“I see from the report that staff has consulted with outside legal counsel regarding this issue, but has CRA been contacted for their approval of this proposal? I would think that a letter of approval from the CRA on this issue would be a great comfort to this council while deliberating on whether to proceed with this proposal. If the proposal were disallowed by CRA then we would know before we went further and were exposed to penalty or sanction. Will the County be liable for the taxes owed if CRA is not consulted and later rules that this use of charitable status is found to be inappropriate?” he asked. “If PEC’s charitable status is revoked, what effect will that have upon other County initiatives?
“These groups, APPEC and PECFN, have existed for a number of years and they have been opposed to the wind energy developments for a number of years. If their purpose is charitable in accordance with CRA guidelines then why haven’t they applied for charity status themselves?”
Coun. Kevin Gale said he could not support a motion to issue the receipts until a decision was issued by CRA.
“I don’t know about this as it stands because I’m not sure if they are going to look at this as being more political than charitable,” he said. “I’d be a lot more comfortable knowing exactly where we stand before we start issuing the receipts and find ourselves in trouble.