COLUMN: Council gets it right, for a change

In this Aug. 5, 2015 file photo, an EDP Renewables wind turbine slowly turns in the breeze in a field northeast of Dixons Corners. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

MORRISBURG — South Dundas council got it right Tuesday night by voting against a motion to support EDP Renewables plan for 24-36 more wind turbines in the municipality. The vote was three-to-one against supporting EDP, with one councillor stepping out of the vote due to a declared conflict of interest. Critics have stated that South Dundas has missed out of the promised revenue opportunity from this deal, good. Sometimes taking a stand is worth more than money.

EDP Renewables, which already operates a wind “farm” in Brinston, was offering the municipality $262,500 per year for 25 years, if the council would support the project. That support amounts to a higher point score for the project in the eyes of the provincial government, which decides who gets to build what project where. The project may still be approved by the province, but without municipal support.

Proponents of the deal are too quick to point out that now, if the province does approve of EDP Renewables’ plan, the municipality will not get the $262,500. That is correct, and it is best that they do not have it to count on. If you look at other municipalities in the region, which grow to rely on money dependent on provincially or federally funded schemes, it is hard to wean themselves off of it.

Take the Town of Gananoque and the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands for example. The province placed a new OLG Casino on the border between the two municipalities, and each receives a payment from the casino every quarter for being the hosts. When the casino was first built, the talk was to place the funds in a reserve and draw on it as needed for projects, infrastructure or other needs. Over a decade later, the two municipalities rely on the gambling money as part of their overall budget. When the provincial Liberals started looking at relocating the casino to Kingston, a hew and cry was heard from the area. Not only from those who were employed by the casino and by the businesses that benefit from it being where it is, but even louder was the cry from the municipal leaders in those two host communities.

That casino should not have been located where it was, but at the time the Progressive Conservatives were in power, Kingston and the Islands was held by a Liberal MPP, Leeds-Grenville MPP Bob Runciman was PC, guess where it landed? Sitting governments always put the perceived “good” projects in ridings they hold, and stick the perceived “bad” projects in ridings they don’t.

Which brings us back to wind turbines. Flash forward to the next provincial election in 2018. If the provincial Liberals are finally turfed from office, will the next government will keep the Liberal’s “Green Energy Act”? An act, that forces the province to pay for the most expensive forms of energy first, grossly subsidized by the taxpayer, and sell surplus cheap energy at a loss. If a new government was smart enough to understand this did not make financial sense to buy high and sell at a loss, then the lucrative power contracts that enable companies like EDP Renewables profitable would be in jeopardy.

If the power contracts were cancelled, would EDP Renewables walk away from the turbines? What would South Dundas do then if they took the money, planned long term use of the money, only to lose the money? Had the council supported EDP Renewables’ plan, they would be stuck with a program or project they’d have to cancel or raise taxes to support, AND have to deal with white elephant wind turbines that are a blight on the farm land.

South Dundas needs development, they need an Economic Development Officer with a real budget and plan to grow jobs in South Dundas. South Dundas needs industry to locate here, to attract long term investment in the community. Unsustainable energy schemes reliant on the whims of the provincial government of the day is not the way to do this. For a change, South Dundas council got it right.

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