Martin Regg Cohn
There’s nothing wrong with having second thoughts on wind power. But third thoughts?
Queen’s Park has rightly been put through the wringer for announcing so sneakily on a Friday afternoon that offshore wind turbines are dead in the water — hoping to submerge the issue in a busy news cycle.
Almost ignored, though, is how the Liberal government dipped into its old playbook to reprise a five-year-old stunt that it pulled off, with similar expediency, on the eve of the last election. Yes, we’ve seen this movie before. It turns out that Ontario’s latest twists and turns on offshore turbines are recycled spin from 2006-08.
Back then, the Liberals did a 360 on offshore wind, first imposing a moratorium (ostensibly awaiting more research), then conveniently giving the all-clear signal after winning re-election. Having come full circle, they’ve now done a 180 again — with a rerun of that same science fiction theme.
The Liberals are not alone in their environmental expediency. The opposition parties are no less shameless in bending with the political winds, but more on that later.
Confused? Here’s a second look at the zigzagging turbines timeline:
In 2006, ahead of a tough election, the Liberals quietly announced a moratorium on offshore projects because of “concerns raised” about the impact on birds and other environmental risks — pending further scientific study.
Fast forward to January 2008, just after the Liberals won re-election. Boasting that the province had done its science homework, then minister of natural resources Donna Cansfield proclaimed: “The information we have acquired will help us and wind developers make better-informed decisions on offshore wind power projects.”
Until the next election, that is. Now the Liberals have rediscovered (political) science. Announcing the latest moratorium, Environment Minister John Wilkinson claimed that offshore wind requires “a cautious approach until the science of environmental impact is clear.”
Most people have forgotten the ever-changing wind patterns at Queen’s Park, but John Kourtoff has a long memory. As head of Trillium Power Wind Corp., which planned a $15 billion bet on offshore wind farms, he is the forgotten victim in a political squeeze play.
Kourtoff was signing a deal with a major investor late on that fateful Friday, Feb. 11, when Blackberrys and iPhones started buzzing at the table: “We all looked, and it was a bombshell.”
Kourtoff believes his company was worth $100 million until that moment. Now it is “worth 100 cents.” And he is threatening legal action to recover the cost of being electoral road kill.
But it is the price paid by all Ontarians that remains to be calculated. And as MPPs return to the Legislature this Tuesday, environmental groups want to head off future tactical retreats by the Liberals — and any further ambushes by the opposition. With Ontario becoming ground zero for the anti-wind movement, it’s time for a counterattack, says Rick Smith of Environmental Defence.
A coalition of like-minded lobby groups will launch a campaign this week to stiffen the spines of politicians who have been supine for too long.
“Each party in its own way is fumbling the ball and the environmental movement is not going to take this lying down,” Smith said.
A sensible strategy. Unless, of course, voters are having second thoughts about whether they’re really willing to make sacrifices for the environment — and still pay the price for it.
Are voters, like the Liberal government, having a few third thoughts on the environment?