Citizens across the province ask: “Is Ontario still a democracy?”
[Here is an opinion piece from the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists.]
Citizens all across Ontario have been asking themselves this question.
Over the past decade, municipalities and planners have participated in provincial programs to preserve our important natural heritage. People have joined together to help by participating in planning for the Niagara Escarpment, Oak Ridges Moraine, and countless smaller areas. They have contributed funds to conservancy and land trust organizations to allow the purchase and protection of significant natural areas.
In spite of all this, the Ontario government’s Green Energy Act has allowed developers to plow roughshod over important natural habitat. The Prince Edward County Field Naturalists will be in Divisional Court from Jan 21-24 to defend an Environmental Review Tribunal decision they won last July to stop an industrial wind turbine development at Ostrander Point Crown Land Block. The Ministry of Environment and the developer, Gilead Power, are appealing the Tribunal ruling that halted the project. Ostrander Point is in the centre of an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area that supports millions of migrating birds, bats and Monarch butterflies and Species at Risk, reptiles, plants and birds as well as areas of globally imperilled Alvar landscape.
Similarly, residents of Amherst Island, in eastern Lake Ontario, are fighting to stop the development of 37 industrial turbines covering the land famous for its ‘Owl Woods’ and the surrounding wetland staging areas for migrating shorebirds.
In the Niagara Peninsula, a 77 turbine project is threatening the security of 88 significant wetlands and 104 significant woodlands around Haldimand County. Other projects propose more of these huge installations to cover the entire Niagara Peninsula. Last year an active eagle nest was destroyed to make way for a turbine.
Wind turbines have been built in the Lake Huron migration corridor, on Manitoulin Island and projects are being proposed for the Oak Ridges Moraine.
Even the presence of Endangered Species does not stop these proposals. Permits to kill, harm and harass Species at Risk are issued to wind projects whenever they are found. For instance last year over 30 permits were issued for Bobolinks and Meadowlarks, both on the Ontario Species at Risk and COSEWIC lists. At the same time, the Ontario government has changed the regulations of the Endangered Species Act to exclude all major industries from even having to apply for permits to kill harm and harass Species at Risk.
Many of the new developments are not on farm fields or brownfields but are being proposed for Crown Lands such as Ostrander Point. The provincial government has handed over our Crown Lands to power corporations without any consultation. Public consultation is not required when a development is considered to be implementing a ‘higher level government decision’ such as fostering renewable energy. However, when the government decided to shut down coal fired plants and try to replace that energy created with renewable energy it neglected to set aside significant wildlife habitats from development and corporations immediately moved onto areas that have been denied them for generations.
Conservation was not considered in the new government policy. Instead of supporting and investing in renewable energy technology for homeowners to lower our emissions, government handed over control of energy policy to corporations, many of them oil and gas companies. Meanwhile, it has become clear that we do not need new power generation at all because the Canadian Press has reported that Ontario has had an electricity surplus since 2006.
More information at: www.saveostranderpoint.org or Cheryl Anderson 613-849-7743.