Questions may linger about the potential cost of the Ontario government’s decision to make legislation to cancel the White Pines Wind Project one of its first priorities, but one can surmise the messaging is paramount for the new faces wielding power at Queen’s Park.
Clearly, this government wishes to make a case that it plans to usher an element of common sense into the procurement process, while also showing that it is listening to the will of the constituents that elected it.
Fittingly, Prince Edward County is at the centre of this statement. Residents in this community have been fighting the issue of industrial wind turbine development on the south shore, in particular, for well over a decade and the municipality itself declared itself an unwilling host five years ago. That, alone, should have been enough to give the previous government pause.
Beyond that, the environmental placing of such a project near an internationally significant migratory bird flight path and in rare alvar habitat was shaky to begin with — as seen in the Environmental Review Tribunals that quashed the Ostrander Point project and greatly reduced scope of the White Pines project , but it became infuriating to think that Ontario forged both when it was exporting power to the United States at a loss and when the viability of the production capability of the White Pines project was limited. Simply put, this project should never have been given the go-ahead and the residents of South Marysburgh should not have been subjected to the long-term agony it has caused them, nor the unrest related to recent construction.
No one can blame wpd Canada for its eagerness to get its project moving or its hope of recouping project costs. It merely worked under the direction of a government that pursued an ideology to an irrational end, placing the procurement of renewable energy generation the paramount — above the will of host communities and above the science that showed high payments for intermittent technology was a system bound to fail. It will no doubt make its case.
While Ontario residents surely wish to see costs on the energy file decrease — and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers suggests hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not over $1 billion was lost in exports in less than two years — this isn’t a situation where the Ford government is to blame. If anything, the public should be asking why the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) agreed to a contract for reduced generation for a power project that is sited in an area, that is an unwilling host while outstanding legal questions surrounded the project. It should also ask why that same body would offer the project a Notice to Proceed during an election campaign with full knowledge the party leading in the polls intended to stop it. Both decisions are rotten.
Unlike the previous government which flip-flopped on gas plants it planned, the new government has been clear all along on its intent to stop projects that hadn’t received a Notice To Proceed and it has a valid question about the role the IESO should play at election time. It makes sense this government wants to use the first chance it has to show the landscape has changed. Beyond that, though, Ontario doesn’t need the power and cancelling the project is simply the right thing to do for the community most affected. While one has to see how the legislation plays out, it’s refreshing to see that at the heart of this decision.