Green energy bill angers Guildwood residents

Residents of Guildwood may be seeing red after the release of Ontario’s new Green Energy Act. The act may reduce the input they have with the province in negotiating environmental developments in the area.

Unveiled on Feb. 23, the act will introduce fixed prices for electricity generated from renewable sources. It will also establish efficiency standards for appliances and require homeowners to conduct energy audits before selling their houses.

“The city doesn’t have any control over these issues,” said Ward 43 councillor Paul Ainslie, who supports the act environmentally but is concerned for his residents’ say in the matter.

Some Guildwood residents like John Laforet, an activist with the Save the Toronto Bluffs group, say they are displeased with the act.

Laforet called it “one of the most undemocratic pieces of legislature in the past decades.”

“These proposed projects are unprecedented based on other world examples of offshore wind projects. Ontario has some of the weakest legislation when it comes to calculating the adverse effects of these projects that require environmental assessments, which the province wants to remove,” Laforet says.

One of the issues regards the Scarborough Bluffs, where the province and Toronto Hydro have proposed projects for wind turbine systems. Ainslie says the bluffs are under provincial jurisdiction, so it’s already difficult to get much out of negotiations, especially with Toronto Hydro, which normally relays that information to residents.

“Toronto Hydro says it wants a public process. It wants feedback if residents want an anemometer for wind testing, not wind turbines. If the testing is successful, that will lead to an environmental assessment for wind turbines, which my residents don’t want,” said Ainslie. “But now the province is saying they want wind turbines in Scarborough, and if wind testing works, they can go straight to wind turbines and skip the environmental assessment..”

Ainslie said his residents get a bad rap in Toronto because the bluffs are in his ward as are most of the protesters against the turbines.

“We have to be transparent about this process. Residents are concerned about how the process works regarding all the development, and now the province comes out with this like-it-or-lump-it attitude.

Ainslie said he found it funny when energy minister George Smitherman said that the act is designed to stop NIMBYs like his residents when it didn’t really involve them. “I’ve always said we have residents who are for it, against it, but mostly those who don’t know much about what’s going on.”

Ainslie says some of the concerns his residents have expressed include effects on property values, migratory birds, monarch butterflies, bats, the aesthetics of the turbines and economics surrounding their building.

Laforet said he agrees with the councillor on the lack of awareness of the issues, stressing residents should read the bill because it will have a major impact on their ability to take part in decision-making.