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Bill 51 Issue
What is Bill 51, Section 23, and what is its effect?
Bill 51, Section 23 is a draft piece of legislation that was introduced to the Ontario Legislature by the McGuinty Government on December 12, 2005. If it becomes law, Section 23 of Bill 51 will allow the McGuinty cabinet to exempt from local municipal control prescribed private sector energy generation projects. In many cases, there would not be any need for an environmental assessment. All that would be required would be an environmental screening report, followed by a mere 30 day public comment period.
What is the Blue Highlands Citizens Coalition’s position re: Section 23 of Bill 51?
The BHCC strongly opposes Section 23 of Bill 51. The siting and permitting of private sector power generation facilities should remain subject to local municipal control.
From its inception, the BHCC has argued in favour of two important principles. First, the power generation development issue should be dealt with through a responsible, informed decision-making process. Second, the power generation development issue should be subject to local municipal control. Section 23 of Bill 51 offends both of these basic principles.
What are the specific reasons for the BHCC’s opposition to Section 23 of Bill 51?
There are a number of reasons the BHCC opposes the current form of Section 23 of Bill 51. They include the following:
1. It is fundamentally unfair. Affected residents would have virtually no ability to address local land use planning issues which arise in the context of a private sector developer’s plan to install prescribed power generation facilities within a municipality, with the resulting adverse consequences for the local community. Meanwhile, other residents will retain their right to go to the OMB with concerns about, for example, a minor extension to a neighbour’s house.
2. It is not consistent with worldwide practice. Other jurisdictions with extensive experience with new forms of power development (e.g., Germany, Denmark and Holland) have developed and implemented careful and informed planning policies and procedures regarding the installation of those power generation facilities. In its haste to enjoy the political benefits of encouraging new power development, the McGuinty government is ignoring the examples of these other, more experienced jurisdictions ... at the expense of Ontario municipalities and their residents.
3. A mere environmental screening will not address all relevant issues. As recommended by the Advisory Panel appointed by the McGuinty Government in 2004 regarding required environmental assessment reform, “an environmental assessment program should have a broad scope that encompasses pollution control, resource management and land use planning considerations”. Land use planning issues are best dealt with through control at the local municipal level. The proponent-driven nature of the environmental screening process (a process which the Ministry of the Environment has recognized is in need of reform) provides little to no assurance that credible and legitimate local land use planning issues (e.g., density, set-backs, maximum height, cumulative effects of multiple projects, etc.) will be adequately addressed.
4. The Required Regulatory Framework is already in place. The Provincial Policy Statement already provides that renewable energy systems shall be permitted in rural areas, and the Planning Act was recently amended to require that local municipal council decisions shall be consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement. Local municipal councils are in the best position to determine how best to provide for the implementation of renewable energy systems within any particular local community in a manner consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement.
5. Bill 51 facilitates power generation while ignoring energy conservation. We question the focus of the of the McGuinty government’s energy policy on energy generation (at the expense of residents), rather than on energy conservation. The Government is aggressively pursuing generation initiatives while making virtually no demonstrable progress regarding conservation.
6. The alleged benefits of new forms of power generation need to be proven before the adverse consequences are forced upon municipalities. For example, despite the apparent attraction of the wind power concept, there are real and substantial concerns as to the true practical benefits. The need for back-up generation (for when the wind is not blowing) is well recognized. The high cost of wind power is well documented. And the fact that the worst air quality days (the hot, hazy days of summer) are days when the wind doesn’t blow means that the alleged ability of wind power to address air quality concerns is subject to serious questions. These issues need to be the subject of informed, responsible debate before the adverse consequences of wind power generation facilities are forced upon rural residents and their communities.
7. The issues presented by power generation projects vary from municipality to municipality. What is right for one municipality may not be right for another municipality. Even within a single municipality, a proposed power generation development will present different issues within different communities. It is only through local control over the planning process that the relevant issues can be dealt with appropriately and democratically.
What You Can Do
Public input is essential if Section 23 of Bill 51 is to be amended so as to ensure that private sector power generation development remains the subject of both (i) responsible, informed decision-making, and (ii) local municipal control. To see how you can provide your input, please click here.
The BHCC executive