The biggest unreported story in the Ontario media, despite all its talented investigative journalists, is the destruction of rural Ontario by massive wind “farms” and solar projects.
Wind turbines are not “farms” but sophisticated industrial machines, each taller than Toronto’s Royal York Hotel or the Ottawa Peace Tower. They will never be built in urban centres. So rural Ontario is being progressively devastated while residents of towns and cities, along with the media, remain uncaring.
Large wind and solar factories give the finger to rural economies, heritage, and property and business values and landscapes, while vast flocks of migrating birds, including endangered species, are killed by these lofty Cuisinarts. All these obvious outcomes are denied by an industry that cares not about climate change and only about government-enforced profits.
There is a lot here worth investigating. There’s the unreported but significant influence of the wind industry lobby in the initial drafting of Ontario’s Green Energy Act, a legislation of sweeping consequence that — despite warnings of harmful consequences by distinguished economists and professional engineers — was adopted with unusual speed by the legislature, moving from its introduction to passage in just 11 weeks. There is no business case for all this green energy, as the auditor general has consistently shown, yet the government was so forceful in implementing it that it took away from rural municipalities their planning and zoning powers, denying them any say in whether or not these intrusive projects would be imposed, regardless of local wishes.
Government approvals are handed out eagerly, with proponents facing few hurdles. And once a wind farm is planned for a rural community, it is virtually impossible for an appeal to succeed. There are severe limitations on the evidence that can be presented before the Environmental Review Tribunal, which will consider only evidence showing harm to human health or the environment, and not concerns over the impact on an area’s property values, businesses, quality of life, heritage or local economy. The Ontario Energy Board, which approves transmission lines, will only consider the merit of terms offered to landowners directly along the transmission lines (although, not the actually completed agreements) and whether approvals are in the interests of consumer price and reliability and the general public interest. This is all far less than what a real court of law would allow. Instead, provincial government lawyers, paid by taxpayers, stand before the board shoulder to shoulder with lawyers for the wind corporations pushing the projects over local objections.
Take Prince Edward County, where I live, as an example. Just over two-hours’ drive from Toronto and popular also with visitors from Ottawa, Quebec and the U.S., a community that once relied on agriculture, with no major industry, cultivated a creative tourism strategy based around the county’s many artisans and wineries and its loyalist heritage, unspoiled landscapes (including famous Sandbanks beaches), restaurants, hotels, and bed and breakfasts. Small-scale entrepreneurs invested millions of dollars. There are now 40 flourishing wineries here. Tourism has increased exponentially.
But a major 27-turbine wind project is being proposed for Prince Edward County, with a 28-kilometre transmission line that will bisect the landscape. This will have a crippling effect on local business and the overall economy, reducing property and business values and amounting to expropriation without compensation. Few visitors, I suspect, will come to admire our industrial-sized renewable-power installations.
Meanwhile, the picturesque islands that lie off eastern Ontario — Kingston’s Wolfe Island, Amherst Island and Prince Edward County — are critical staging posts on one of the most important flyways in North America. Birds and bats in the millions cross these areas twice a year during migration.
Indeed, a portion of Prince Edward County is an internationally recognized “Important Bird Area.” Wolfe Island, already plastered with turbines, has become a shadow of its former self, and if the wind industry has its say the same fate will befall Amherst Island and Prince Edward County, turning them into killing grounds for unbelievable numbers of migrating species.
Urban people already know some of the scandals of waste created by the Green Energy Act — Ontarians forced to pay for surplus energy dumped into New York and Michigan, while also paying producers to curtail their electricity generation. But the story of what’s happening in Ontario’s countryside is yet another scandal that urban folk need to know. We rural folk already know it well.
Garth Manning, a retired lawyer, is a former president of the Ontario Bar Association.