The Ontario Liberals attempt to quell voter outrage with their natural gas plant proposal on the Mississauga-Etobicoke border, further demonstrates how politicized Ontario's energy planning has become under Ontario Liberal Leader Dalton McGuinty.
As PC Leader Tim Hudak seized on McGuinty's cancellation of a natural gas plant that continues to be constructed days after McGuinty pledged a re-elected Liberal government would cancel the plan, double standards began emerging in McGuinty's messaging.
McGuinty claimed the decision had nothing to do with politics, attributing the decision to what Mississauga.com calls "new rules that would prevent even a wind turbine on the site because of the proximity to a residential area, and ample electricity supplies." This will no doubt prove curious to opponents of industrial wind turbines, as the Government of Ontario amended the regulations that govern the Green Energy Act as of Jan. 1 2011 to state:
"The wind turbine setback prohibitions in Ontario Regulation 359/09 required proponents to consider all noise receptors at the time of construction. This approach did not reflect the fact that the surrounding conditions could change between the time of approval and time of construction. This amendment changes the time at which a proponent must consider noise impacts to surrounding noise receptors, requiring proponents to consider all noise receptors at the time they make their site plan public."
In other words, before Jan. 1 2011, setbacks from homes are based on where homes exist at the time of construction, but under the new rules if a private property owner who is not participating in the project chooses to build a home after the site plan of the project is known, they are not afforded the minimum setbacks offered to Ontarians by the regulations.
McGuinty's logic for moving the gas plant as a result of new condos being built after the site plan was released is not consistent with regulations his cabinet passed this year for wind turbines, and the new rules mandate the opposite of what McGuinty claimed they do.
Another claim made by McGuinty was that by canceling this plant it shows "his party listens to local communities," according to the CBC. It's a great story, except for the 77 motions of moratorium that municipal councils, representing more than two million Ontarians, have sent the premier regarding industrial wind development proposals they don't believe are safe under Ontario's current regulations. McGuinty continues to ignore these communities.
When the premier announced Ontario's Green Energy Act in February 2009, he not only attacked a local grassroots group in Scarborough opposing a project the premier has since agreed is irresponsible, he stated he would not hesitate to foist projects on communities. But less than two weeks before his government is faced with the potential of going down in defeat, McGuinty has a new tune and his party has stated his government will find a "more rigorous way to site gas plants in a way that works for local families and energy producers."
One might ask, what is different about this particular natural gas plant? McGuinty's claim is the community presented a "compelling argument" his government listened to. McGuinty was not 'compelled' when news broke his government downplayed over a thousand pages of internal documents demonstrating wind turbines causing over two hundred reports of health problems in Ontario.
If an abundance of energy makes this 280 megawatt proposed natural gas plant in Mississauga and Etobicoke unnecessary, why does McGuinty insist on foisting industrial wind projects on 77 municipalities in Ontario that aren't willing hosts? Why does McGuinty still not believe the government should work on developing more rigorous setbacks based on a health study being called for by these municipalities and citizens to develop a way that works for local families and energy producers?
The continued bowing to pressure over energy projects in urban Liberal seats continues to imperil the Ontario Liberal party's chances of hanging onto to ridings in rural Ontario where their industrial wind policy appears to be providing the controversy to local races.
If McGuinty's support of democracy and compelling arguments is legitimate, a moratorium, proper independent health study on impacts from wind turbines and restoration of planning control should be forthcoming for rural municipalities.
As McGuinty said "There's never a wrong time to do the right thing." He should heed his own advice or prepare to watch Premier Hudak do the right thing for rural Ontario instead, with the support of MPPs in ridings the Liberals will lose over their industrial wind policies.