By Tom Collins and Patrick Meagher
DUTTON DUNWICH — Eastern Ontario MPP Randy Hillier (PC-Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington) said municipalities need to be willing to be vocal and actively fight against wind turbines if they don’t want them. There were two different wind project proposals for Addington Highlands Township — the only Eastern Ontario municipality to vote in favour of turbines — but the province didn’t approve either because of how loudly people spoke out against the project, he said.
“We’re talking about electricity developers,” Hillier said. “They take the path of least resistance. And there was a lot of resistance here, so they chose to go elsewhere.”
Property owners have to be prepared to do more than write letters and sign petitions, Hillier said, adding that they need to be willing to take the next step. Amherst Island, which is in Hillier’s riding, was previously approved for a wind project that is expected to see 27 turbines constructed. But Hillier said the fight there isn’t over.
“We’ve told (developers) down in Amherst Island, ‘you try to bring any equipment across to the island to put up those turbines, we will stop you,’ ” he said. “You have to demonstrate that you mean business. An island is a pretty easy thing to defend. I have no doubt that people there will block any ferry access or any marine access for any product coming into the island that has to do with wind turbines.”
Hillier said he would “absolutely” be there blocking the ferry access.
“I would never ask anybody to do what I wouldn’t do,” he said. “Civil disobedience is a tool you don’t use lightly, but there are times when it’s called for, or when there are no other options left.”
Meantime, North Frontenac Township is keeping up the fight through the political process. North Frontenac passed a motion last month that would require the province to approve projects only in municipalities that want them and sent letters to all municipalities across the province asking for their support. The council figures that if at least half of 444 municipalities agree, then the province will listen.
In Western Ontario, Cameron McWilliam, mayor of Dutton Dunwich in Elgin County, said while his council might support such a motion, he is unsure if it will change anything.
“Up to this point, the province hasn’t demonstrated that they’re going to listen to the municipalities on this issue,” McWilliam said. “I don’t know if they clearly understand how divisive it is in the rural communities and I’m not even sure they even care what it’s done to the rural communities at this point.”
The Kingston Whig-Standard reported Deputy Premier Deb Matthews as saying “The local voice does matter, but we are not prepared to give people a veto.”
McWilliam said it is frustrating his community was approved for a 30-turbine project when Malahide, a 45-minute drive to the east and a supporter of wind energy projects, wasn’t. Bayham, a one-hour drive from Dutton Dunwich, also voted in favour of turbines but wasn’t awarded a project.
McWilliam hasn’t been able to get an answer from the province on why Dutton Dunwich was awarded a project even though the locals don’t want it.
Fifty per cent of residents responded to a municipal poll in early 2014, with 84 per cent voting against turbines.
Lakeshore mayor Tom Bain said his community is already home to more than 90 turbines and another 46 are in the process of being built. Council thought the area was saturated and passed a moratorium on new wind turbine developments in December.
“The province just overruled us,” said Bain. “Our hands have been handcuffed. Council has spoken out and said we have enough now. We don’t want anymore, and yet they keep coming our way. It’s very frustrating when you think there are municipalities out there that are saying ‘we’ll take them’ and we’re here saying ‘we don’t want them anymore.’
Bain said council will now work with the developer to get the best deal for his residents. As part of the deal for accepting turbines on their turf, many developers give thousands of dollars per year to hosting municipalities.