By Pat Stier, MLA for Livingstone-MacLeod
The NDP government’s plan to overhaul our electricity grid has farmers and ranchers in southern Alberta worried, and rightly so.
In Ontario – unsightly, government-subsidized wind and solar projects have devastated local economies, view-sheds and property values – and rural Ontarians are upset. A columnist for the Financial Post called this debacle “the biggest unreported story in the Ontario media.”
Now – the NDP is determined to take a similar approach here as was taken in Ontario – but with little to no consultation with local municipalities and landowners first.
This is concerning for a number of reasons, but particularly with respect to property rights.
The former PC government used heavy-handed tactics to ensure landowners were no obstacle to their grandiose transmission projects in 2009. The government of the day passed draconian legislation in Bill 50 specifically for that purpose, and also brought in Bill 36, the Alberta Land Stewardship Act, to empower it to take or devalue the property of Alberta landowners without providing fair compensation or hearing.
At the time, the NDP was a fierce critic of Bill 36, but now the NDP is actually defending Bill 36 and refusing to repeal it, leaving many to wonder if sidelining landowner rights is the name of the game with respect to wind and solar projects in the southern part of the province.
Recently, I brought this concern to the Legislature, and asked the NDP the following questions point-blank: Where exactly are these wind and solar projects going to be located? Will the NDP confirm that there are no plans to use Bill 36 to force wind and solar projects through areas where landowners don’t want them? Will landowners affected by any changes be compensated at fair market value?
Given the size and scope of the NDP’s renewable energy plans, I expected to hear some half-decent answers. Unfortunately, all I got was vague, half-hearted commitments. The NDP truly had no real answers for southern Albertan landowners, and this is of great concern. (You can watch this exchange from question period at: wildro.se/windandsolar.)
Issues of property rights only scratch the surface of the problems that could arise for Albertans if the NDP does not consult or do its due diligence before it presses ahead, however.
I have already heard heartbreaking reports from folks in Lethbridge County and Warner County who are feeling gutted over The Stirling Wind Project – 46 wind turbines planned for the Lethbridge area. I share the same concerns they have: property values and compensation, expropriation, tourism, animal habitats, view-sheds and the constant noise the blades on these turbines make.
Many of these concerned Albertans are retirees who, after dedicating their lives to making our province a better place to live and work, just want to retire in peace and quiet.
I and my Wildrose colleagues are urging the government to do more consultation with local decision-makers before green-lighting a bunch of new projects. We are the only caucus in the Legislature taking this issue seriously, it seems.
Fortunately, unlike the folks in rural Ontario who wish they could go back in time and fight the development of these devastating projects, we have a chance to correct our course before it’s too late.
Pat Stier is the Wildrose Shadow Minister for Municipal Affairs and the MLA for Livingstone–Macleod