Report on all-candidates’ meeting on energy issues — Sep 20, 2011
[Thanks to Henri Garard, Chair, APPEC for this report]
The Picton United Church wasn’t filled to capacity last evening, but 200-350 people (estimates vary) listened closely to Leona Dombrowsky (Liberal), Sherry Hayes (NDP), Treat Hull (Green), Todd Smith (PC) and Trueman Tuck (People First Republic Party of Ontario) explain their positions on energy policy.
The event was well-organized, with time allotted for brief position summaries, responses to other candidates’ statements, and answers to questions from a panel of journalists and, finally, from eight members of the public. Richard Johnston, former MPP and owner of By Chadsey’s Cairns winery, moderated. The panel consisted of Steve Campbell (County Magazine), Rick Conroy (Wellington Times) and Stevie Cameron, author of On the Take.
The audience was enthusiastic and already well-informed. Every candidate had supporters and was treated civilly except when defending failed government policies and processes.
Although the topic of energy was approached from many angles, these are the main differences in the candidates’ positions:
Leona Dombrowsky (Liberal). A government under Dalton McGuinty is committed to its plan for developing renewable energy projects. The existing Ministry of Environment consultation process allows members of the public and municipal councils to register all their concerns before the MOE makes a decision whether or not to approve any industrial wind project. Environmental issues, such as the presence of endangered species, are considered in the approval process.
Sherry Hayes (NDP). An NDP government would continue to develop large renewable energy projects but not through the private sector. With the Ontario Power Authority as the developer, there would be no need for expensive subsidies to private companies. Emphasis would also be given to an energy conservation program, with home renovation grants available to Ontario citizens.
Treat Hull (Green). The Green Party supports future large-scale renewable energy projects but, in the interim, believes it would be cheaper and more environmentally responsible to purchase hydroelectric power from Quebec and to encourage energy conservation among Ontario consumers. The Green Party also holds that municipalities should have control over zoning of wind projects. Mr. Hull personally opposes wind development at Ostrander Point.
Todd Smith (PC). The Progressive Conservative Party would cancel the Feed-in Tariff program (which provides subsidized rates to renewable energy projects) because it is not affordable. It would also impose a moratorium on wind development until an independent epidemiological study determines how projects could be implemented safely. Finally, it would restore municipal authority over project development. This would enable the County to exclude wind projects from natural areas, tourist sites and access routes, or wherever projects are deemed inappropriate.
Trueman Tuck (People First Republic Party of Ontario). Mr. Tuck favours residential renewable energy projects over high-cost, industrial-scale projects. He also opposes wind development at Ostrander Point.
Candidates’ Response to an Important Question. One question from the journalists’ panel should be highlighted. Ms. Hayes, Mr. Hull and Mr. Smith were asked how their parties would govern with a minority. Ms. Hayes said the NDP would try to negotiate support for its policies. Mr. Hull admitted that the Green Party would elect no more than one or two candidates, but he would personally fight for local interests and ensure they received attention. Mr. Smith declined to consider minority status; he said the Progressive Conservatives are focussed on winning a majority.