Minister of the Environment still twisting in the wind
Ted Arnott, MPP
Wellington – Halton Hills
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 20, 2011
Minister of the Environment still twisting in the wind
(Queen’s Park) – Ontario’s Minister of the Environment has again refused to account for his
contradictory promises on industrial wind farm consultations.
The minister’s opportunity to clear the air came during a special “late show” debate held April 19 in
the Ontario Legislature, at the request of Wellington-Halton Hills MPP Ted Arnott. He took the
minister to task for being less than candid to his constituents.
“On numerous occasions, this minister has failed to clarify his own remarks to his own constituents,”
he charged. “For failing to correct his own record, for failing to uphold even the most basic
standards of truth, he owes his constituents an apology.”
No apology was forthcoming. Neither did the minister, John Wilkinson, refute or deny Mr. Arnott’s
“This minister still hasn’t taken responsibility for his own misleading statements to his constituents,”
Mr. Arnott said following the debate. “Either he didn’t know what he was talking about, or he
deliberately misled the people who turned out to express their legitimate concerns about wind farm
proposals for their neighbourhoods.”
Mr. Arnott was referring to a meeting held May 2010, when the minister appeared to promise that if
municipalities refused to sign off on wind farm applications, the Ministry of the Environment would
not approve them. Both the Wellington Advertiser and the Drayton Community News reported his
statements in their May 21, 2010 editions.
One of the minister’s constituents attended that meeting and, in a recent email to the minister,
copied to Mr. Arnott, backed up the media’s account: “You gave us the impression that the
municipality had the right not to sign if they felt the company had failed to address concerns by the
But by allowing a wind farm proposal for Mapleton Township to proceed even though it lacked the
municipal consultation form, he betrayed his previous statements. Both municipalities chose not to
sign the minister’s form.
“Instead of doing the right thing and acknowledging he was wrong, he chose to attack me,” Mr.
Arnott said. “But it’s not about me. Opposition MPPs have a responsibility to hold the government
to account; when a minister makes misleading statements, we must call attention to them.” He
continued: “In the final analysis, his constituents will hold him accountable as well.”
– 30 –
Attached: Ontario Hansard
Ted Arnott, MPP
Ontario Hansard – 19-April2011
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The member for Wellington–Halton Hills, you have five
minutes in which to give your question.
Mr. Ted Arnott: Here we go again, discussing the Minister of the Environment’s contradictory
statements on wind farm approvals. The last time I felt it was necessary to trigger a late show on this
subject, which we had on October 5, the minister sent his parliamentary assistant, the member for
Oak Ridges–Markham, to defend his own remarks. While her comments were intended to explain
the approvals process, they did not in any way explain the minister’s contradictory public
statements—but that’s hardly surprising. He gave her a near-impossible task: to defend the
confusing and rapidly shifting words of her minister.
It’s highly unfortunate that this debate is even necessary. Little has changed since last October,
when I called the minister to account for his own contradictory statements regarding the municipal
consultation process on industrial wind farms. At that time, I asked only that he repeat what he’d told
his constituents at a meeting in Mapleton township. He failed to do so, necessitating a late show
debate. And here we are yet again, at another late show debate on the same issue, because the
same minister continues to duck responsibility for his own remarks.
I want to remind the House of our last late show debate, in a brief summary. Two community
newspapers reported the remarks of the Minister of the Environment before he became the minister,
when he was still the Minister of Revenue. In both the Wellington Advertiser and the Drayton
Community News, in their May 21, 2010, editions, the minister appeared to promise his constituents
that if municipalities refused to sign off on the wind farm applications, the Ministry of the
Environment would not approve those applications. I’ll read from the article verbatim:
“One resident in the gallery asked point-blank if there is anything the township could do to stop wind
farms if the proponents have otherwise met all the government’s criteria.
“Wilkinson replied companies must obtain the signature of the township for the application to be
“‘If the application is not complete, the’” application “‘will not proceed,’ he said.”
Again, let’s imagine the minister taking questions at that meeting, at which the atmosphere was no
doubt very heated. It was, of course, his Liberal government that imposed the Green Energy Act,
and no doubt he supported it.
One of the minister’s own constituents recently wrote the following to the minister, copying me:
“Since I was present at that particular council meeting, I can say that you indeed said that an REA
must be signed by the municipality in order to be deemed complete. You gave us the impression that the municipality had the right not to sign if they felt the company had failed to address concerns
by the municipality.”
And so we have the minister, under fire, attempting to shift the blame for the wind farms to the local
municipal government, implying that they could somehow veto the project application by denying a
signature. Of course, we now know that’s utter nonsense. The McGuinty government stripped
municipalities of their power to stop wind farms, and it’s time the minister finally admitted it.
In October, the minister failed to categorically repeat his earlier assurances. Instead, he told this
House that a wind farm proponent “must submit a complete application, and that includes a review
and a consultation with the municipality….”
I go back to the minister’s constituent who wrote to him recently: “Stating in the paper that a
municipality merely has to be consulted is not what you said. Please explain why you felt the need to
alter your statement.” He still hasn’t provided that explanation.
Now, incredibly, he’s changed his story once again. First, the minister suggested municipalities have
an effective veto over new wind farm proposals. Then he suggested that the wind farm proponent
need only submit proof of their consultations, in the form of a complete application. Now, incredibly,
he suggests that the application need not be complete after all.
Here’s a fact: The Wellington Advertiser reported on March 25 that the county of Wellington and the
township of Mapleton have refused to submit the municipal consultation form on a wind farm
proposal in Mapleton township.
The minister used to say that a complete application requires the municipal consultation form. But
now we know he accepted the NextEra wind farm application, even without the required form, nine
days before the county of Wellington took its stand.
This clarifies something important. For months, municipal officials have been trying to understand
the minister’s contradictory remarks, trying to understand exactly what he meant by “consultation,”
but this latest development makes one thing clear: The minister’s consultation isn’t even worth the
paper it’s written on. That paper, in this case, doesn’t even exist.
We now know, notwithstanding the minister’s empty promises of consultation and complete
applications, that this government is determined to foist industrial wind farms on places where the
elected municipal governments don’t want them. On numerous occasions, this minister has failed to
clarify his own remarks to his own constituents. For failing to correct his own record, for failing to
uphold even the most basic standards of truth, he owes his constituents an apology.
The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Julia Munro): The minister has up to five minutes in which to respond.
Hon. John Wilkinson: It’s a pleasure to rise today and expand on the values behind the Green
Energy Act. Mainly, these are the right to clean air, respect for our municipal partners, and
transforming our economy with good-paying green jobs.
But first I want to touch on what I would call the evolution of the MPP for Wellington–Halton Hills.
There was a time when you were on this side of the House and you supported protecting the
environment. In 1997, you said in this House, “Protecting the integrity of our natural environment so that future
generations have clean water, clean air and a safe environment requires commitment, political will
Obviously, you knew that green energy was the right thing to do, because in 2002 you said in this
House, “We are aiming for green energy…. It will benefit all Ontarians.”
But my friend’s commitment to the environment and green energy has subsided. When recently
debating green energy policy, he said in this House, “Who in their right mind would promise to shut
down a fifth of Ontario’s generating capacity?”
I’ll tell you who: The McGuinty government made the promise of cleaner air to all kids and families
who are suffering from dirty air, and we are fulfilling the promise we made despite your objections.
Is the $3 billion in annual health care costs or the great number of people in this province who suffer
or die due to poor air quality affordable?
I’ll tell you where I stand. I’m with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the
chief medical officer of health, the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, the Ontario Medical
Association, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, the Asthma Society and the Lung
On this side of House, we value our municipal partners. When you were in government, I say to the
member, you wiped 50% of them, including my hometown, right off the map of Ontario through
forced amalgamations, completely getting rid of them with the stroke of a pen. In contrast, we have
uploaded literally billions of dollars in costs that your party forced on them and that never should
have been placed on the property taxpayer in the first place.
Municipal consultation is an essential part of the renewable energy approval process. We want to
hear from municipalities. Our act actually says that, by law, companies must provide municipalities
an opportunity to have their say. I encourage all municipalities to fill out a municipal consultation
form because we will make the company address any reasonable comments or the project will not
go forward. But they are not limited to that form. We will take their comments in any form they
choose to provide them. That’s why I want to put on the record that I am so very pleased that
Warden White in the county of Wellington wrote to me. Their feedback is now included in the
submission that will be thoroughly reviewed and decided upon. I want to be clear: Not signing the
form is not a veto, but we will say no unless the municipalities have had an opportunity to have their
I want to say in these last few minutes that it’s best to touch on the third value: creating new jobs
and supporting our farmers. The Green Energy Act is good for our environment and our economy.
Just ask the more than 20,000 Ontarians who support green energy and signed up for the microFIT
program. Many of those people are local farmers, small businesses and families in my riding and in
the riding of the member opposite.
That’s who I’m standing up for today. They work hard every day to underpin our rural economy.
That’s why I’m proud to be part of a government that is supporting them.
We already know that your leader wants to rip up those contracts. Kris Barnier, a staffer in his office,
said, “We need to be perfectly clear … a PC government will shut down all of the planned expansion
of the … microFIT plan. There will be no new contracts.” I say that I believe that your plan will hurt farmers, it will hurt local business owners and it will hurt
parents wanting cleaner air for their kids.
You have repeatedly accused me of being contradictory, so let me be clear. I believe that your
position has evolved over the last few years. I remember when you were with Mr. Harris and you
thought the environment was worth protecting. No wonder he didn’t put you in the cabinet. I
remember when you were with Mr. Eves: Then you said that you thought that we should have green
energy. What happened there? The lights went out. So obviously Mr. Eves wasn’t listening to you.
He would have valued, as would have Mr. Harris, your wise counsel.
But now we have Mr. Hudak in the House, and what does he do? He supports the member from
Haldimand–Norfolk, who’s all for dirty coal.
On this side of the House, clean air trumps all. That’s why we’re moving ahead with green energy.
We’ll do that in consultation with our municipal partners, as we always have.