By Tom Collins and Patrick Meagher
PERTH — Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington MPP Randy Hillier 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 the only Eastern Ontario anti-wind power municipality to keep 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.
However, North Frontenac mayor Ron Higgins isn’t hopeful. “To try and address this issue alone is impossible,” he said. “It’s really hard for one municipality to fight it. We need to get together and co-ordinate forces. If you don’t have more than half, I don’t think the current government is going to listen.”
North Stormont mayor Dennis Fife said the North Frontenac motion won’t work and his municipality won’t bother fighting. “That promise was out there a couple of years ago and the province didn’t follow through with it,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything left to do. We don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight a losing battle.”
Nation mayor François St. Amour says the province is a bully for forcing wind turbines onto municipalities that don’t want them.
“Since the inception of the Green Energy Act, the province has been bullying the municipalities,” St. Amour said. He said the Nation, a municipality of about 11,500 people east of Ottawa in the united counties of Prescott-Russell that includes the towns of Casselman and St. Isidore, could fight the province but it’s not going to happen.
The municipality doesn’t have the money to fight and wouldn’t if it did because “the amount of resources that the province would put into it would make it kind of ridiculous,” St. Amour said.
So Nation officials will work with the wind turbine company to get annual payments to benefit the community, St. Amour said. As part of the deal for accepting turbines on their turf, many developers give thousands of dollars per year to hosting municipalities.
The Township of South Dundas — home to the 10-turbine wind project at Brinston — gets $30,000 a year for 20 years from the wind power developer to be used for public recreation facilities, community events, job training related to sustainability or renewable energy or other community-related activities approved by council.
Meantime, the wind turbines have been hotly contested and began to tear apart the community last summer, St. Amour said. “I don’t think it could get more fractured than it was last summer. I even know it’s turmoil within families. Last summer it was the only thing you could hear around here. Until they’re installed, there’s going to be very vocal calls to stop them from getting built.”