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An open letter to wpd Canada

An Open Letter to wpd Canada
Mr. Ian MacRae, President
wpd Canada

Wpd really must improve its communications if it expects to win over Prince Edward County residents.

In a Sept. 11th email sent to APPEC by Jonathan Clifford, wpd’s Renewable Energy Approvals Specialist, the implied claim of community support for the White Pines project strains all credibility:

“wpd acknowledges that not everyone in the community agrees with the White Pines project proposed for South Marysburgh and Atholl [sic].  Some are passionate in their opposition to our plans, and have communicated various reasons to other members of the public in their efforts to increase the opposition to our project.

The vote organized by the South Marysburgh Mirror is an example.  For many, it was one way to vocalize and formalize their opposition to the project.  However, the majority of eligible voters in South Marysburgh did not take part, and eligible voters in Atholl [sic] were not invited to participate.”

The Prince Edward County municipal website cites the population of South Marysburg as 868, but in the 2010 municipal election there were 1,117 eligible voters.   The 542 people who voted in the South Marysburgh Mirror’s poll are therefore either 62.4% or 48.5% of those eligible.  They certainly represent South Marysburgh opinion because everyone had to provide proof of age and residence or property ownership in order to cast a ballot.  Of those participants, 489 (or 90.2%) voted ‘No’ to wind development.

The 90% rejection of the White Pines project shows real democracy in action.  Wpd is equivocating when it dismisses this result because the “majority of eligible voters did not take part”?  As in democratic elections, non-participation does not invalidate the outcome.

South Marysburgh residents were given a well-publicized opportunity to express their views.  Why did so few wind supporters turn out?   Where were they hiding?

Indeed, it’s arguable that most of the 53 people who voted for wind development were those whose land is leased to wpd.  In other words, wpd had bought and paid for their votes.

The quibble about Athol is as faulty as the consistent misspelling of the name.  The White Pines project affects many residents in South Marysburgh but far fewer in Athol.   Even if those in Athol had all voted for wind development, it would not have materially changed the overwhelming vote against.

If wpd has facts to the contrary, make them public.  APPEC challenges wpd to prove it has significant community support.  Stop trying to spin the truth.

Henri Garand
Chair, APPEC

cc.  Doris Dumais, Director, Renewable Energy Approvals Branch, Ministry of Environment

Jonathan Clifford, Renewable Energy Approvals Specialist, wpd Canada

Filed Under: Letters and Opinion

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  1. Suzanne Lucas says:

    Interesting article Chris. Our local “Sustainability” group may want to check that one out. Here is another interesting article in the Toronto Star:–preparing-for-a-flood-of-renewable-power Funny how these articles always appear in the back pages. I’m always surprised at how little most people ( read urban voters) pay attention to the huge flaws in Ontario’s energy policy. How long will we be able to afford this stubborn disregard for the facts?

  2. Chris Keen says:

    Well worth reading:

    “Germany is way ahead of us on the very path our politicians want us to follow – and the problems it has encountered as a result are big news there. In fact, Germany is being horribly caught out by precisely the same delusion about renewable energy that our own politicians have fallen for. Like all enthusiasts for “free, clean, renewable electricity”, they overlook the fatal implications of the fact that wind speeds and sunlight constantly vary. They are taken in by the wind industry’s trick of vastly exaggerating the usefulness of wind farms by talking in terms of their “capacity”, hiding the fact that their actual output will waver between 100 per cent of capacity and zero. In Britain it averages around 25 per cent; in Germany it is lower, just 17 per cent.”

  3. Gary Mooney says:

    It’s my guess that those who came out to vote in the plebiscite are pretty much the same people who will come out to vote in the next municipal election.

    As to non-voters, I’m not critical of them, as others are. I see them as being content to let others decide on their behalf. Taking this point of view, the results of any plebiscite or election should be attributed to the total of eligible voters.

  4. Pamela Stagg says:

    One has only to look at the voter turnout in a typical municipal election — often under 20% of elegible voters — to realize that a turnout of 48% – 62% shows how important this issue is to South Marysburgh voters. And, as Henri Garand points out, low voter turnout in elections is never a reason to disregard the votes of those who chose to show up.

  5. Janet Davies says:

    Ahh grammar. A thing of beauty … or the cause of disastrous misunderstanding. I have a lovely book “Eats Shoots and Leaves” which illustrates beautifully the importance of a properly placed comma, a judicious pause, a dangling participle (I’m faking that last bit because I don’t really remember what it means.) WhatEVER, discourse is a good thing.

  6. David Norman says:

    Janet, my apologies… no you did not sound like a IWT supporter. I should have made my comment more clear. I was referring to the “turbine supporters in South Marysburgh”. The “honesty” reference was to your take on the situation.

  7. Janet Davies says:

    Gee, did I sound like a turbine supporter? 10 yrs ago, I helped stop the Council approved Royal Rd. turbine project. The OMB agreed there were serious flaws in the rushed approval process, but the hearings were deferred again and again (not by us) and never did resume. One wonders if the developers thought it easier to just wait until legislation removed our rights.

  8. David Norman says:

    Janet, although arrogantly totalitarian, even fascist to extent, your comment is refreshingly honest.

  9. Janet says:

    I suspect a lot of turbine supporters in South Marysburgh didn’t bother to vote because they don’t feel threatened in any way. They believe unhappy neighbours, threatened landowners and angry rural citizens are powerless to stop the wind turbines, so they don’t have to say a word. Just sit tight and wait for the government to push it through. The law suit is a little annoying, but the developers will pay for that, so no need to worry. No need to vote.

  10. David Norman says:

    Henri, this article caused me to sit back and ruminate on the implications for some time. If I were in Ian McRae’s, President WPD-Canada, position I would have cautioned and admonished Jonathan Clifford, Renewable Energy Approvals Specialist for this communications faux pas, and released Kevin Surette, Manager of Communications, from his position, for not controlling and vetting this communication. Any seasoned PR communicator would not take any aspect of this renewable energy “hearts and minds” campaign strategy for granted… even despite the totalitarian “school yard bully” legislative and approvals advantage afforded wind energy development. The apparent and increasingly expounded problematic nature of this technology from the perspectives of energy efficacy, carbon capture, economic viability, human and non-human health, and environmental virtue, are revealing it as precarious as a “house of cards”. When it inevitably collapses, those standing upon it will too fall unless they have learned to fly. Speaking of which, John Tory, the former leader of the Conservative Party of Ontario and now a main stream media political commentator, recently stated publicly that the “exit strategy” for McGuinty is well into the planning and implementation stages and he expects it to become public before this year lets out. Part of that strategy would be to caution Wind Energy development companies against directing public criticism back to the government or its agencies. However, as this communication from WPD-Canada illustrates, they do not seem to be handling this well on their own. I could direct them to several competent PR practitioners who would know how to handle these communications effectively… doing the least harm to their public relations image and protecting their financially motivated relationship with McGuinty’s, and his most unfortunate successor’s (sacrificial lamb), government.

  11. Doris Lane says:

    Does the government of the municipalities not realize that when the assessment goes down , the taxes on property decrease. In a municipality like ours which has such a heavy debt load I would think this would be a concern
    Does anyone care..

  12. Chris Keen says:

    I too sent a letter recently to Ian MacRae which was also answered by Jonathan Clifford.

    He dismissed my comments about the vote in pretty much the same words.

    In response to my expressed concern that my appraiser had advised me that wpd’s IWTs would devalue properties in South Marysburgh by 20% to 40%, Clifford replied that: “a statement of claim has been filed against wpd on this issue. wpd intends to defend itself. Both sides will present their arguments and an independent party will determine if there is merit in the claim…”

    It is hard to believe that MacRae/Clifford and wpd are unaware that what they are saying about property values being unaffected by IWTs is nonsense. A reader wrote to the editor of the Mitchell Advocate (Huron, Ontario) to advise readers of the following:

    “I sent away for a list of property assessment reductions from MPAC for Wolfe Island Township (home to the province’s second largest wind farm). This list, provided through the Freedom of Information Act, clearly shows all the assessment reductions since that wind farm became operational in 2009.

    The list shows 78 significant assessment reductions since 2008 totalling $3 million. The six largest reductions were over $100,000 each (one being as high as $143,000). All these properties are situated very close to the turbines themselves. This very clearly shows what can happen to property assessments when wind farms are erected around residential areas.”

    Equally disturbing is that MPAC, which WE pay for with our taxes, is apparently doing everything in its power to hide the reality of what happens to property values when IWTs are constructed. This is information the taxpayers of Ontario paid for and should be readily available. It should not require citizens to spend time and money to file a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain it. If the government has nothing to hide, there’s no need invoke the FOIA. Are you listening, Dalton?!! 

    Close to the end of his reply to me, Clifford advised that: “We recognize that, for many, the fears [of IWTS] are real, but the basis of those fears may not be factual.” Note, he does not say “ARE NOT”. Interesting…

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