Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ford's cancellation of wind farm just one of many false steps

If you needed any more evidence as to how new Ontario Premier Doug Ford is going to govern this poor beleaguered province, then yesterday provided it. And we haven't even had the Speech from the Throne yet!
After summarily cancelling Ontario's cap-and-trade greenhouse gas system that took years and millions of dollars to negotiate and institute (in the full knowledge that all provinces need to have a carbon tax system in place, and leaving in the process over $2.8 billion in stranded emissions allowances with which he has no idea how to deal), after scrapping rebates for electric vehicles and the GreenON program for energy efficiency rebates, after rolling back progressive changes to the province's sex education curriculum (back to the 1998 version), and after forcing out the whole of the board of a private company (Hydro One) on the erroneous premise that this is somehow going to save tax-payers some money, his latest wheeze is to cancel an almost completely-built wind farm because ... well, I'm not sure why, really.
Ford just seems to have some vague idea that wind farms, and climate change mitigation in general is "bad", but the main reason being put forward publicly is that the contract for the 9-turbine 18.5-megawatt White Pines project was agreed and approved just a few days after the Ontario election was called (or "in the middle of an election campaign", according to Ford's spokesman), which the Ford camp argues is naughty, because it was technically finalized during an election period when major government decisions are traditionally put on hold. So, of course it has to be cancelled!
Reading between the lines, though, one of the biggest reasons for the cancellation is the fact that Prince Edward County MPP Todd Smith (who also happens to be Ford's House Leader) is against it, and that Prince Edward County is a region of rich conservative hobby farmers, who just don't like those newfangled things in their manicured back yards. There has been a lot of local opposition to the project by a lot of influential people, and there are any number of oppositional websites with names like Mothers Against Turbines, County Coalition for Safe and Appropriate Green Energy, Wind Concern Ontario, Save the Bees, etc, not to mention all the local newspapers.
The construction company in charge of the project, German-owned WPD Canada Corp, pledges, as it is well within its rights to do, that it will be claiming about $100 million in damages for the cancelled contract, which received its official go-ahead this May from the arm's-length government agency Independent Electricity System Operator, and not from Kathleen Wynne personally, as Ford tries to imply. This money will come straight out of taxpayers' pockets (and not just those of the well-heeled Prince Edward County taxpayers).
The project, ten years in the making (it was originally approved back in 2009), is already well under way, with one turbine already installed and the others just weeks away from completion. To cancel it now is even more cynical than whatever Mr. Ford believes the Wynne government got away with. As the construction company spokesman notes, also quite rightly, this will look very bad from a commercial point of view, and may well put off potential international investors in a newly flaky Ontario investment environment. And, as well as being on the hook for at least $100 million, the cancellation will of course mean that we will not be able to reap the cheap, clean electricity benefit from the wind farm after all those years of planning. Lose-lose-lose.
But then the Ford government doesn't see it that way. The same spokesman claims that, "Cancelling the project will be a net benefit and result in savings for Ontario's ratepayers, after they will no longer be on the hook for this overpriced wind power". In fact, it has been many years since wind power has been considered an expensive energy option, even ignoring the environmental benefit.
Doug Ford's agenda is demonstrably clear, and he has made very little attempt to conceal it: he wants to roll back anything even vaguely progressive that has happened in recent years, especially anything that might benefit the environment, regardless of the costs to Ontario or its people. Like a certain Mr. Trump, he would like to see a return to the '90s, or even the '70s if possible. This is the essence of conservatism: a resistance to change, however laudable. Although I have a suspicion that many conservatives would take issue with the idea that Ford is pursuing traditional conservative ideology, or indeed ANY ideology other than just a knee-jerk reaction to reverse out anything the Liberals did. His approach is just a constant howl of "NO!", without any constructive "yes" to put in its place.
Anyway, you voted in a Ford-led Conservative government, I certainly didn't. So, get used to this, and worse. If you couldn't see it coming, then you were deliberately blinkering yourselves, or hiding behind your single-issue hobbyhorses. Use as many equine metaphors as you like, this is the new reality, and it's not going to be pretty. Ontario may end up an economic basket case, and will almost certainly become an international environmental pariah. Get used to it.

No comments: