Green Party Leader praises vigilant citizens who stand up for all

The McGuinty government’s regulation to exempt the peaker plant from the Planning Act establishes a dangerous precedent for every municipality in the province. The government’s misuse of this regulation, in a manner contrary to its own enabling legislation, could forever negatively impact Greenbelt legislation and other important pieces of environmental and planning legislation. It is also a threat to local democracy and municipal decision making.

In an absurd logical twist, reminiscent of a Monty Python skit, the government gave the gas plant a conditional environmental assessment provided it complied with all local planning requirements. When King Township rightly raised questions about the location of the plant, however, the government then exempted the plant from those very same local planning laws. No municipality should have to expend the resources to defend provincial laws from the government itself as King has had to do in standing up for Greenbelt legislation before the Ontario Municipal Board.

Yet, the McGuinty government has continued to ram this plant through, dismissing the Township and King citizens as NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard).

I have joined with King residents in their legal claim because this effort is not about NIMBYism. It is about a vigilant group of citizens taking a last stand for what is right.

Now is the time for King residents and council, as well as citizens from across the province, to support the vigilance and courage on display by the plaintiffs in this legal claim. It may be the last chance to oppose the gas generator being placed in a flood plain, on a wetlands complex linked to the Holland Marsh, some of Ontario’s most productive farmland. Joining the legal claim and/or publicly supporting the plaintiffs is a respectful way to protest the province’s disrespect of the public planning process and legitimate local citizen concerns.

Time for Plan B on Proposed Nuclear Shipments

It’s time for a sober second thought on Bruce Power’s requested license to ship 32 100-tonne radioactive steam generators from Kincardine to Owen Sound, then through the Great Lakes to Sweden. In addition to serious health and safety concerns, the Green Party is worried that Ontario taxpayers will be on the hook for the high costs associated with any accidents.

Transporting nuclear waste through a water system that provides drinking water for 40 million people and contains a $4 billion fishery is troubling at best and catastrophic in a worse case scenario. The Green Party of Ontario is against this shipment.

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has announced that it will hold a one day public hearing into the shipment on September 29. Can the safety issues of the drinking supply for 40 million people be adequately addressed in one day? To make matters worse, the conclusion appears to be foregone. CNSC has publicly stated that there are no significant safety issues associated with the proposed shipment.

With clean-up costs for the Gulf oil spill reaching over $30 billion dollars, do we really want to assume the risks of nuclear shipments without a thorough public hearing? Ontario ratepayers are already paying for cost overruns associated with the construction of nuclear facilities, and taxpayers, while shipments are in Ontario, would likely be on the hook since nuclear operators are only liable for $75 million in the event of an accident. Financial liability beyond our borders is undetermined at this time.

Bruce Power’s previous Environmental Assessment declared that used steam generators are radioactive waste and would be stored on site. Since the shipment request is a significant deviation from previous plans, the GPO believes a full EA with public consultation must take place before these unprecedented shipments proceed. Prudence should prevail in this case.

The Ontario government has a responsibility to ensure the safety of our drinking water. It’s time for Premier McGuinty and Ontario Power Generation, as a provincially-owned corporation, to take a sober second look at threatening our health and safety. It’s time for Plan B on these proposed nuclear shipments.

Plan B will require a heavy dose of transparency and accountability when it comes to the financial and health costs associated with nuclear waste. If Ontario chooses to generate electricity using nuclear facilities, then the province has a responsibility to deal with its own waste and to be transparent with and accountable to citizens on what that plan is.

Open Letter to Minister of Energy Brad Duguid

An open letter to Brad Duguid, Hon. Minister of EnergyHonourable Brad Duguid
Ontario Minister of Energy
Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure
900 Bay Street, 4th Floor, Hearst Block
Toronto ON M7A 2E1

Dear Minister Duguid,

I am writing this open letter on behalf of the Green Party of Ontario to express our support for your decision, announced on August 13th, regarding the Solar MicroFIT program. I would like to compliment you and your government for listening to citizens and stakeholders in the emerging solar energy sector.

The decision to offer $0.802 to all ground-mount solar project applications which were outstanding as of July 2nd, will go some way to reassure investors and re-establish confidence in the program.

Likewise, the appointment of an advisory panel could help to reduce upheaval in connection with future program adjustments.

We strongly believe that community-based renewable energy is a key part of a sustainable energy future for the province, and we will support the efforts of any government which promises genuine progress in this direction.

At the same time, I would also note that government action to encourage the development of the solar industry in Ontario can only be effective if it is predictable, transparent and consultative.

On a related matter, I strongly encourage your ministry and the OPA to take the same approach to dealing with citizens as it relates to the construction of gas-fired power plants. As you likely know, I have joined with residents of King Township in a legal action requesting a Judicial Review of the process related to the York Energy Centre. I believe governments should engage citizens and municipalities in planning decisions and that they should adhere to the intent of planning and environmental legislation.

Yours truly,
Mike Schreiner
Leader, Green Party of Ontario

Cc: Colin Andersen, Chief Executive Officer, OPA

Leader’s Blog

Lackluster Logic Threatens Local Democracy
In the wake of the McGuinty government’s unprecedented regulation to exempt a gas fired electrical peaker plant in King Township from the Planning Act, will municipal councils have any democratic role in local planning in Ontario? This is an important question that deserves an answer from Premier McGuinty, especially as he prepares to address the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) in Windsor today.

The seemingly simple act of misusing this regulation, in a manner contrary to its own enabling legislation, could forever negatively impact the Greenbelt and numerous other pieces of environmental and planning legislation. In an absurd logical twist, reminiscent of a Monty Python skit, the government gave the gas plant a conditional environmental assessment provided it complied with all local planning requirements. The government then exempted the plant from the very same local planning laws. This sets a dangerous precedent for the entire province of Ontario and every municipality within it.

The lacklustre logic involved in this decision should have AMO delegates wondering what role the Premier envisions for municipalities in Ontario. Will the burden of standing up for due process fall on the shoulders of citizens? Will other municipalities, like King Township, be placed in the difficult position of having to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend provincial legislation from the government itself?

Although the province has a responsibility to ensure Ontarians have access to a reliable supply of electricity, I do not believe it is right or effective to destroy local democracy in the process. The one thing I do know is that a comprehensive energy plan will need wide public consultation. An effective energy plan will require openness and a level of engagement that is sorely lacking in the McGuinty government. I have spent time talking with German and Danish energy experts about the 21st century transformation of their electrical systems. Their success, particularly in getting renewable energy installed, was by working with, not in opposition to, local municipalities and residents.

Today, it’s time for the Premier to commit to treating municipalities as full partners in planning for our future. It is time to restore local democracy in Ontario.

Reversal of OPA’s Price Reduction: Solar MicroFIT

On the July long weekend, the Liberal government suddenly announced a 27% retroactive reduction in the feed-in-tariff rate for ground mounted solar projects, which left almost 10,000 solar entrepreneurs hanging.

The reaction from the solar industry and individual project owners was unanimous across the province: to demand that the government honour its commitment to existing project applicants and institute more transparency in future rate reviews. These demands were whole-heartedly supported by the GPO in a province wide campaign.

“Today’s announcement represents a complete victory for the supporters of community based solar power and the GPO. The Green Party of Ontario is the only political party which has consistently stood up as a champion for community based solar energy projects and entrepreneurs”, says Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario.

For more information: http://newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/August2010/13/c2560.html

Background: Mike Schreiner Solar MicroFIT Op-Ed https://gpo.ca/node/2660

Mike Schreiner Solar MicroFIT Op-Ed

The unexpected announcement proposing to reduce the feed-in tariff rate for small ground-mounted solar projects by 27% has sparked outrage from thousands of farmers, solar energy entrepreneurs and citizens who have invested thousands of dollars in helping Ontario develop a vibrant solar industry.

The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) is expected to announce its final decision later this week, but whatever final decision is reached, the MicroFIT debacle offers important insights into the priorities and values of the current Liberal government as well as lessons for those who support a stable, fair and transparent investment climate promoting sustainability in Ontario.

Last year, the Liberal government introduced the MicroFIT program to stimulate the development of small-scale renewable energy in the province. The program offered landowners who invested in solar energy projects smaller than 10 kilowatts the opportunity to sell power back to the grid at $0.802 per kilowatt hour under a 20-year, fixed price contract. The government said the offer would remain in effect until a review in 2011, and everyone who met the contract conditions would be offered a contract.

The response showed a deep ground-swell of support with over 16,000 applications received by the start of last month and installation companies, distributors and manufactures began investing in staff and equipment to meet the demand.

Then, on the Friday of the July long weekend, Energy and Infrastructure Minister Brad Duguid made the surprise announcement that wreaked havoc in the emerging solar energy industry. The government would no longer stand by its commitment to pay $0.802 kilowatt hour for ground mounted solar projects. Worse yet, this change would be applied retroactively to the nearly 10,000 project owners who had already submitted an application but did not have a contract because of processing delays at the OPA.

The instability and uncertainty created by the unexpected cuts caused a domino effect. Betrayed and outraged project owners, mostly farmers, cancelled outstanding orders. Renewable energy entrepreneurs saw business collapse overnight, leaving them on the hook with millions of dollars invested in inventory and training. Solar manufacturers halted job-creating investments in new facilities. Sadly for some, RRSP investments and savings may be lost.

There is no dispute that the government has the right to review programs based on changes to the economy or budget resources. What farmers and solar energy entrepreneurs have demanded, with the support of the Green Party, is that the government honour it’s commitment to all those who had submitted a contract application by the start of July, and that any review of the feed-in tariff going forward should be done in an open, transparent and predictable way.

Renewable energy, including community-based renewable energy, needs to be a key pillar of Ontario’s energy strategy moving forward. A community focused energy strategy will lead to a decentralized and distributed system of power generation that will be more resilient and secure. Such an approach creates opportunities for every Ontarian to be green energy entrepreneurs generating income and creating jobs in communities across the province. To achieve this vision, the public must demand the Liberal government honour its commitments and support a transparent, open and predictable process.