McDonell: Kiboshing Nation Rise Wind Farm as bad as Liberals cancelling gas plants

MPP Jim McDonell, in Bonville on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

‘We can’t just spend a billion dollars to cancel a project and get nothing from it’

‘We can’t cancel it’

Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News

BONVILLE — Cancelling the Nation Rise Wind Project would be akin to the previous Liberal government’s costly kiboshing of gas plants, suggests local Tory MPP Jim McDonell, rejecting calls for political intervention to nix the unbuilt development after a provincial tribunal ruled against project opponents earlier this month.

McDonell is telling his Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry constituents not to expect such action, arguing that allowing Nation Rise to proceed at this point is the lesser of two financial evils.

“We can’t do what the previous government did,” McDonell told Nation Valley News, referring to the McGuinty government’s 2011 cancellation of two gas plants — a scandal that cost Ontario taxpayers over $1-billion — as well as the Liberals’ killing of a proposed offshore wind development that triggered a multi-million-dollar lawsuit.

Of the 33-turbine project that EDP Renewables intends to construct on a broad swath of North Stormont countryside, McDonell — interviewed a few days after the Environmental Review Tribunal rejected the project appeal — emphasized: “We’re going to make sure they follow all the rules.” 

Three of 10 turbines built by EDPR in another part of the Nation Valley, in the Brinston area. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

To the chagrin of the North Stormont Concerned Citizens (NSCC) group fighting the development, the newly elected Ford government left Nation Rise alone when it pulled the plug on nearly 700 other impending green energy projects last year — including the Eastern Fields Wind Project in neighbouring Glengarry-Prescott-Russell. The governing PC’s even passed special legislation to shut down an already approved project that started construction in another Conservative Eastern Ontario riding, Bay-of-Quinte.

But McDonell says those cancelled projects represent contracts where the developer was deficient one way or the other, giving the government an out. Though he’s “disappointed” that Nation Rise received approval in the last one or two days of the dying Wynne government — the developer in that case enjoys a “pretty well bulletproof” position, he said.

McDonell had the same message for an unhappy Ruby Mekker of Finch, member of the NSCC, when she questioned the MPP after he spoke at the federal Conservative Association meeting in Bonville on Saturday.

Mekker took the MPP to task for a quietly introduced Ford government regulation that appears to grandfather Nation Rise and some other Green Energy Act (now defunct) projects, allowing them to go ahead.

“We’ve always been clear: We would cancel any project we could cancel economically,” replied McDonell, who garnered a commanding 62 percent of the vote in last year’s provincial election.

“And we just can’t spend a billion dollars to cancel a project and get nothing from it,” he added.

“There’s a contract that was signed by the Liberals. It’s very concrete, we can’t cancel it — unless they [EDP Renewables] aren’t following the contract,” he said, as a murmur descended on the Lions Hall in Bonville.

“I mean, we are a province of law and contract law,” he explained, reiterating that developers were “not living up to their contracts” in those multiple cases that were cancelled by the Ford government.

“It was certainly a big change from the previous government. But we can’t just [as a province] issue government contracts and turn around and cancel them without expectation of paying them out.”

Mekker said the NSCC will submit a final project appeal to the minister responsible later this week.

Construction on the Nation Rise Wind Project could begin this year. Late in 2018, the township’s drainage superintendent presented a map to council showing a slew of municipal drain crossings the developer plans to install to accommodate the transport of huge turbine components and equipment onto the involved field sites.

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