A small Eastern Ontario community is going through what Western Ontario communities have already had to endure: the unpleasant fallout of a wind turbine project. In this case, they are being erected on farmers’ fields from Crysler to Finch southeast of Ottawa. There are 29 of them and they will be operational by June – when there is wind.
The pancake landscape punctured by turbines are wonderful for those with contracts. The money is very good. Honestly, if someone offered me $25,000 a year to stick a wind turbine behind my house, I might say: “Well, I think there’s room for two back there.”
But in the big picture this is not about just each property owner with a contract. Neighbours cannot avoid seeing them. Some might have to endure hearing the blades cut through the wind or live with shadow flicker (due to blades passing in front of the sun) in yards and in homes. On this project a shadow flicker analysis by the turbine company reported as many as 440 houses in the area will experience shadow flicker. In the worst case, two homes will be affected by up to five turbine blades for more than 40 minutes per day for at least 160 days per year.
Going back a few years, the local township of North Stormont surveyed the locals and found their citizens didn’t want them – a petition of more than 600 names was collected in under one week. The local council reasoned that it didn’t want them either and unanimously voted to declare itself an unwilling host of turbines. It was a decision made largely to ensure local harmony and who better to determine what the local people want than, well, the local people.
But things didn’t go that way. Less than one week before announcing a provincial election in 2018, the Liberal government under Premier Kathleen Wynne greenlighted the project. This was in spite of a long-standing agreement not to approve major projects when another government could take over. Wynne got a two-for-one deal, sticking it to the next government and the locals at Crysler, Berwick and Finch.
The wind turbines have caused a lot of anger on both sides. The project was so acrimonious that in this small community friendships broke up, family members stopped talking to each other, and more than 10 property owners sold their houses and moved away. Some farmers who told salespeople to shove their enticing contracts, now have to look at the results on someone else’s property.
Wind turbines that change the landscape should not be the decision of each property owner alone. But in the end it became the decision of each property owner and you can imagine what each might have been told: “If you don’t sign up for it, your neighbour will.” So, those with a wind turbine contract might be unfairly maligned. Some hosts of wind projects regret their decision but are bound by a contract.
This ugly event is a testimony to why governments should listen to the people they work for and adhere to a principle that many people have never even heard of. It’s the principle of subsidiarity: those who have to live with the results of a decision should make the decision. When the voters only live a few minutes from a decision-maker’s house and can see him or her in the grocery store and at Church on Sunday, the decision-maker thinks longer and harder about the right thing to do. Toronto should never have decided what should happen in this small farming community 400 kilometres away. The decision makers don’t know the people. At this point, does anyone think they care?
Now the community is stuck with 29 turbines: Large, inefficient, taxpayer-subsidizing generators of intermittent power. So, it was not even a good business decision.
What do you do now?
Certainly, if there are issues with shadow flicker and noise, they need to be addressed, but as for the turbines themselves, long-time former Mayor Dennis Fife, who opposed the project, summed it up. “They’re here. Learn to live with them.”
He’s right. It’s not worth the grief to harbour resentment. You can’t change it. Put it behind you and get on with your life. Plan your future, raise your kids, make the best of it. Work on forgiving neighbours and former friends. Be thankful for the little things of each day. For the sake of your own happiness and that of your family, everyone needs to move on.
Patrick Meagher is editor of Farmers Forum and can be reached at