Rally urges province to step in and put stop to White Pines project
More than 300 people marched a kilometre and a half down Main Street Sunday waving signs, singing Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Going to Take It,” and chanting about stopping Premier Kathleen Wynne.
With Oct. 15 the date that wpd is allowed to begin full-blown site work for the White Pines Wind Project on the county’s south shore, local wind opponents decided they’d stage a protest and informational rally in hopes that the province will make a decision to stop the installation of nine 500-foot turbines dead in its tracks.
Following a two-and-a-half hour rally at the Regent Theatre featuring a range of speeches on health impacts, endangered species, water, the law, and local implications, winemaker Norman Hardie delivered a plea to the majority of people who remained that Prince Edward County should not give up its fight.
“Going forward, we have to let this government know that this is not going to happen. It is simply not going to happen,” he said. “The government is in position to cancel this project for a half a million dollars. It’s going to cost us $100 million over the next 20 years. We don’t need to spend $100 million on energy we don’t need. We have a chance to cancel these contracts and with all these other reasons, we put these together and the government has no choice — it has to change.”
Hardie said he chose to locate his winery in the county for its incredible climate and soils. Since he arrived in 2001, the industry has grown from hosting two wineries to more than 50. He noted how many prominent magazines and newspapers are featuring articles about the municipality but it will all stop if turbines go up.
“This expansion will not continue when we lost the soils down in the southern part of the county. We’re all farmers. We farm land. We listen to the experts and the growth will be stymied significantly if these turbines go up,” he said. “No one is going to write about us when we have 54-storey towers slinging away down in South Bay.”
Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith told the audience he expected that when former premier Dalton McGuinty resigned five years ago to the day, there were expectations the Liberals would change their tune on the controversial Green Energy Act and restore respect for rural communities. It hasn’t happened.
“Kathleen Wynne paid lip service to it. She said she needed to change, she realized she had no hope in rural Ontario if she didn’t make some changes,” Smith said.
Despite that promise, projects are still going ahead in non-willing host communities like Prince Edward County.
After hearing the experts gathered for the rally — people like Dr. Robert McMurtry, an Order of Canada inductee and former medical dean at Western University; Les Stanfield, a former Ministry of Natural Resources water biologist who authored the province’s streams protocol; and John Hirsch and Cheryl Anderson, appellants in successful, underdog Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT)hearings — Smith said it “should be obvious to anyone with common sense” the project should be cancelled, but yet it continues. The reason, he said, is simply politics.
He noted that after both the ERT that quashed the nine-turbine Ostrander Point Wind Project and the ERT that reduced the White Pines Wind Project from 27 turbines to nine, most thought local opponents had won on environmental grounds. Then, Smith said, the government buckled as the Independent Electricity Systems Operator amended its contract to allow White Pines proponent wpd to produce much less power.
“The government bent over backwards to accommodate a Germany company to allow them to go ahead, changing the contract so they could set up and operate in Prince Edward County, an unwilling host community when I don’t think any community in Ontario has put up such a fight.”
Smith called the decision to abdicate the project “an easy one” clouded by politics and by people misunderstanding the impact industrial wind projects have on the energy system.
“People out there still think this is about the merits of green energy. This isn’t about the merits of green energy. Green energy is great if it’s in the right place, at the right time, at an affordable rate. This is anything but that.”
He explained Ontario has an oversupply of energy and the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers believe last year the province wasted $1 billion of clean, green, reliable and cheap energy because it gave priority to expensive subsidized wind and solar companies being paid a guaranteed 13.5 cents a kilowatt hour to supply the power grid.
“We’re letting four cents a kilowatt hour spill over our hydro electric dams so we can pay more for wind and solar. That’s enough to power every residential home in Toronto for an entire year. It’s enough to take every customer on the Ottawa grid — industrial included off the grid for an entire year,” he said. “This is the biggest con job in Canadian history, the Green Energy Act.”
He concluded by saying the wind opponents need just a bit more time, either to allow various judicial challenges to work through the system (the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County has challenged the validity of wpd’s contract in a case that will be heard Nov. 17, while the County Coalition for Safe, Appropriate Green Energy has challenged the Green Energy Act on grounds it discriminates against rural residents) or to allow a new government to come in and cancel projects before big penalties occur (though if the IESO gives companies like wpd notices to proceed with projects, the penalties would become more difficult to pay).
Mayor Robert Quaiff also criticized the province for not moving to cancel the project or amend the Green Energy Act. He said former energy minister Bob Chiarelli once told him to state the municipality doesn’t want turbines and they’d be listened to. An announcement never came.
While acknowledging efforts of local groups fighting industrial wind projects, Quaiff said many municipal efforts have been “stonewalled” but said he has no plans to give up or accept anything less than a total victory.
“It’s still in the back of my mind and in my heart to do everything in my power to get this project killed, “he said. “We have to be 100 per cent successful. Nothing else will do. It’s still not acceptable. They need to be cancelled.”
The mayor said there’s no financial sustainability in the project as it currently stands and the power from the proposed nine turbines is inconsequential — yet, it could kill the gem the county is. Quaiff said he thought wpd was acting out of spite.
“We’re dealing with Mickey Mouse here. Nine turbines? Give me a break.”
To cheers, Quaiff said he’d continue the fight, even in the face of recent threats of legal action council faced after not immediately approving permits for wpd’s construction activities.
“You know what I say? Bring it. If you want legal action, bring it, because I’m not going to waiver and I’m not going to stop.”
South Marysburgh councillor Steve Ferguson, one of the organizers of the rally, was pleased with the day.
“I’m a big believer in go big or go home. This is pretty big,” Ferguson said in his introductory remarks. He said he wanted to be sure people were aware the project is slated to go ahead and it could impact people for all of its two-decade lifespan.
“We have to demonstrate to the public at large, including elsewhere in Ontario, how resistant this community is to the intrusion of industrial wind turbines into its midst. In my mind, it is better to have demonstrated our concerns too many times than to hear after the fact we should have tried harder.”
It was suggested during the rally that a logical next step would be a bus trip to Queen’s Park.