11/29/2011 04:01 EST | Updated 01/29/2012 05:12 EST

Open Letter to Premier McGuinty: Restore Local Democracy

image via GE

Premier McGuinty,

As you are aware, Bill 10, the Local Municipality Democracy Act, 2011, will be introduced on Dec. 1. The bill seeks to restore local democracy to planning decisions for renewable energy projects that the Green Energy Act stripped nearly three years ago. Rural Ontarians will be watching closely and expect you to support restoring local democracy.

Your declaration that you are prepared to listen to Bill 10 is a positive step to address all that has happened since Feb. 11 2009 when you stated you would not hesitate to 'foist' renewable energy projects on communities, and lashed out at concerned citizens.

Until your speech that day in London, I was a proud Ontario Liberal. I joined the Liberal Party when I was 14. My first summer job as a university student was at Queen's Park as an intern at the Liberal Caucus Services Bureau. I went on to work for MPP Brad Duguid that fall, was elected riding director of the Ontario Young Liberals and served as the Liberal Party of Canada riding president for Scarborough Guildwood for three years.

It was your decision to accuse Scarborough Bluffs residents of NIMBYism for opposition to a project your government has since agreed was unreasonable for the reasons we stated, that forced me to leave the Liberal party, and join Wind Concerns Ontario as a spokesperson and later President.

I've had the opportunity to travel to over 80 municipalities throughout Ontario and work with many concerned citizens and elected municipal officials to seek to express their concerns to those very projects you've sought to "foist" on them. The concerns are real, and need to be addressed.

Seventy-nine municipal councils have moved motions of moratorium urging your government to stop approvals until local control is restored and they've got a proper health study to inform safe setbacks from homes. It has been disheartening to watch these motions, which have been forwarded to you and your ministers, only to be ignored.

That's why during the last election we took direct political action as a last resort. As I travelled from community to community, I met many former Liberals who, like me, would be voting for another party for the first time because they too had lost faith in your government over your Green Energy policies. The results were seen on election night when Liberal veterans fell throughout northern and rural Ontario.

The Green Energy Act has done a lot of damage to communities in rural Ontario. Neighbours aren't speaking, people are getting sick, citizens have been compelled to go to great lengths to resist the fundamentally anti-democratic approach. As a consequence, your government has only been able to approve 12 wind turbines under the regulations that the Green Energy Act brought in over two years ago.

Liberal MPPs received thousands of concerns, ministers had all the information they needed and 79 motions from municipal councils crossed your desk. If you fail to act to allow this bill to pass second reading, the question becomes, what must citizens do to be heard in your Ontario? You must ask yourself if you have any moral authority to govern rural Ontario from the cities and impose upon rural residents through a failed process citizens have clearly articulated their opposition to.

It important that you listen to citizens and municipalities who have clearly tried a number of ways over the last three years to tell you this isn't working.

Demonstrate good faith for rural Ontario's concerns by doing more than just listening, but facilitating discussion to address the concerns with Ontario's Green Energy Act. Support the bill at the second reading so it can get to a committee where it can be made acceptable to all involved before returning to the legislature for third reading.

I would also encourage you to help put together a working group made up of an equal number of MPPs, municipal politicians from communities who have expressed concerns, Wind Concerns Ontario members and CanWEA members to discuss solutions that can work for all involved. If there is a desire by your government to listen, then this might be the best way to find a workable solution to address the urban-rural divide the Green Energy Act has created.

Tens of thousands of rural Ontarians will be watching on Thursday, I hope for everyone's sake they will see their Premier standing in support of local democracy.


John Laforet

Former President

Wind Concerns Ontario