Danger, Politicians on the Loose

Reading the news today reminded me of how much politicians are like ill-tempered teenagers loose with Daddy’s credit card. We have the province of Alberta which has been spending like drunken sailors for years, floating on the idea of unlimited, never-ending oil wealth. And Ontario, which under the new premier has announced that they are going to impose stricter income tests for some provincial benefits to ‘spread the pain’ of the $12billion deficit (so far) but shows no sign of backing off on any of the expensive and wasteful projects they have been backing since politicizing the electrical grid. (And we won’t even touch the mess in Health Care…).  So we can create new boards with suites of expensive ‘C’ type jobs but don’t have the money to help the citizenry struggling with their declining fortunes. Alberta has been complaining that their growing oil supplies from the tar sands has not been selling well or at the prices of the much easier to refine West Texas Intermediate crude — and that the world in effect owes it to them to pay top dollar for a growing surplus. At least Ontario hasn’t been complaining that the increasing amounts of unusable electricity their frantic wind farm buildout has been producing is not selling for world-class prices. I hear that in effect they have to pay other areas to take it. And yet, with some of the highest power prices in North America, industry leaving with loud complaints about unaffordable power, natural areas being despoiled and rural groups becoming increasingly opposed — their enthusiasm continues seemingly stronger than ever. One wonders if the business relationships between the leaders of the Ontario Liberal party and wind companies had anything to do with it?

I have been thinking that in effect, the Ontario government has declared war on rural Ontario with the Green (Greed) Energy act. So I wrote a letter to the Premier with copies to various and sundry:

“An Open Letter to Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario

Extraordinary problems require extraordinary measures. This is the justification behind emergency measures implemented in wartime and during disasters. From its approach and impact, the Green Energy Act is such a measure.

The Green Energy Act allows specific kinds of energy projects to bypass local authority, ignore environmental rules and dismiss the concerns of affected residents – democracy, as we know it, has simply been suspended. Recent egregious examples are the siting of wind projects in environmentally ‘protected’ areas like Ostrander Point, important migratory bird areas like Amherst Island and the removal of an eagles’ nest, a protected species identified by MNR, by a wind developer.

Rural communities and the ‘protected’ natural areas around them have been targeted by wind farm developers. The implementation process makes it clear that local and environmental concerns are at best merely acceptable collateral damage. The environmental assessment process being followed including the public meetings are a cruel hoax if the project is never at risk – only the unwilling ‘hosts’ who cannot say no.

It is starting to be realized that property values around wind farms are impacted and the statutory value for property taxes on alternate energy projects limits their contribution – two factors that will harm rural communities for decades.

Soaring power prices in Ontario means that instead of an Ontario advantage there is now a liability – how high will power prices and the rapidly mounting debt go? And the FIT program has kept the prices of private alternate energy solutions high – sustaining the costs for systems that are increasingly economical elsewhere. And it is ironic that these prices rise as Ontario produces larger power surpluses – an increasing hardship for people on fixed incomes.

Recent revelations of health impacts from wind plant noise and flicker suggest that the potential for harm is more than just economic.

Your government has clearly indicated continuing support for the Green Energy Act although you have allowed that communities might have a say in projects at some point in the future.

Rural communities are being asked to make personal and economic sacrifices for the foreseeable future as a result of the Green Energy Act. What your government has failed to do is provide a credible explanation of the nature of the extraordinary emergency behind doing this. The rural voters and their families enduring this sacrifice deserve nothing less. Failing that, the entire Green Energy program should be scrapped immediately.”

As with everything else, the silence of yet another rock falling unheard and unseen, is deafening…

The problem is that ignoring all the socially engineered babble about saving the planet, this whole program has very real costs to the people it is being inflicted on. Fortunately, the costs of dumping all this unwanted power is being absorbed by everyone.

And let us not forget that Ontario hired Enron and its Canadian business partners to help re-architect the highly successful Ontario power system. One of the arguments was the debt that had been run up developing a highly successful and economical power system — with the bulk of the power then coming from hydroelectric and nuclear. Proponents are fond of showing the installed capacity graphs for the time and ignore the capacity utilization data. Right now burning natural gas accounts for 1/4th of Ontario’s power — not so green. Every time I look the infamous coal accounts for only a few percent, much like wind, but it was only ‘fired up’ when there was a big demand. One could say that they helped develop a California solution for Ontario with all the potential for abuse that implies. And that debt, which is being paid for by direct deduction from our power bills, has become just another revenue stream flowing into their coffers. Maybe someday they will apply it to the real debt. Which seems to be a tiny fraction of what these folks have run up since…

I guess the root of the problem is that the one thing we do not have in the political arena (nor seem likely to ever get) is evidence-based policy. Oh, there are official excuses for various actions to be sure. But no one articulates any measures of what the policy is to accomplish, then publish those metrics and the real results. To say nothing of having the guts to kill a program when the results don’t get realized. Instead, we follow Einsteins’ definition of insanity — repeating the same failed processes over and over and expecting different results.

Or what is worse, spinning fables about what the results are supposed to be and keeping quiet about the real ones.  Sometimes it makes me wonder if instead of thinking of Canada in general and Ontario in specific as democracies we were to think along the lines of classic Chicago or perhaps recent Zimbabwe. So regardless of how irrational or wasteful a policy might seem or how much these folks persisted in actions despite all visible evidence to the contrary — we could relax, comfortable in the thought that the right people were making money, too bad about the collateral damage.


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