Bad actors

Posted: October 21, 2016 at 8:49 am   /   by   /   comments (6)

The image remains seared into the consciousness of everyone who witnessed the grotesque spectacle. The full power and fury of the state and its legal might, side by side with one of most powerful law firms in Canada, arrayed against the grey-haired volunteers of the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists. Five Goliaths against one David.

One side funded by taxpayers and corporate interests, the other by donations and the kindness of individuals in this community. One side working to forestall the demise of species at risk, the other side hungrily pursuing profits. Alongside them were government lawyers dispatched from Toronto to defeat the County’s Field Naturalists.

How did we get here? How did the people of Ontario become the enemy of the state?

At a moment in history when liberal democracy looks more fragile than it has done in 70 years, the troubles infecting this province may seem trivial by comparison. It isn’t trivial to the folks of PECFN still working to pay their legal bill. Nor to the folks still battling yet another powerful developer and an unrepentant province in South Marysburgh. Or on Amherst Island.

Yet it is only by understanding how and why governments turn against their people that we see the roots of unrest and decay in democracy. A goodly portion of Americans who despise Donald Trump will vote for him next month, not because they believe he is a better candidate than his opponent, but because they want to throw a brick through the window of a government they believe is working against their interests.

To be clear, this isn’t a defence of their choices, but rather a caution that we are not immune to the illness that has infected American politics in this cycle.

I expect most of the handful of folks who volunteer with PECFN would not describe themselves as political. Their interests lie mostly in the natural world and the beasts that populate it. PECFN didn’t set out do battle with a provincial government indifferent to the plight of its own endangered species, or with a corporation determined to reap profits from industrializing the County’s south shore. They were thrust into this fight because the provincial government shredded its own protections and safeguards to give corporate interests free rein.

But why? What drives elected officials to use the state’s power and resources against those working to protect the natural world it has abandoned?

We got a glimpse last week when Kathleen Wynne defended her government’s cap and trade emmissions scheme. She told a business audience in Niagara Falls that Ontarians are “very bad actors” in terms of per capita emissions of greenhouse gases. It wasn’t a slip of the tongue—or offhand remark. These words were part of a scripted speech.

Fortunately for the wretched folks in this province, we have a premier who understands good and bad—better than we do. She has unveiled the selfish and narrow view through which we see the world around us. Kathleen Wynne will be our better selves.

In this morality play your provincial government has decided it will not work in your interest— but rather what it believes your interest ought to be. It knows this better than you. Kathleen Wynne, and Dalton McGuinty before her, believe they know what is best, and cling to the hope that history will judge them better than Ontario’s weak and myopic voters do now.


But untethered by accountability to its voters and deaf to its ministries’ advice and counsel, provincial Liberals have made a terrible mess of the energy supply system in Ontario. It will take decades to fix. It has squandered billions of dollars chasing schemes unworthy of a Nigerian postmark. It has pushed manufacturing jobs out of the province. And it has rendered electricity bills that are unaffordable for many of its poorest rural residents. Meanwhile, it has made a select group of developers very, very wealthy.

In turn, they have dutifully filled her parties’ coffers— to arm her for the next election.

How is it that the most righteous tend to be the most susceptible to corruption and misdeeds? There is something distinctly Shakespearean in this tragedy.

In 2011, facing an election Energy Minister Brad Duguid announced a moratorium on offshore wind development. Loud opposition was building in Duguid’s own riding at the prospect of industrial wind turbines rising just offshore from the Scarborough Bluffs. The science was unsettled, he said. But it was politics pure and simple. Duguid and the Liberals won the election. This week, taxpayers of this province learned the cost of his calculation.

This is because Duguid’s decision also scuttled a project to build offshore wind turbines near Wolfe Island by American developer Windstream Energy. The company sued. Last week ,a court awarded the company $25 million plus its legal expenses of nearly $3 million. Ontario taxpayers are on the hook for this bill. Furthermore, the developer maintains that its 300 MW contract, worth $5.2 billion, is still in effect.

It is the largest award ever ordered under the North American Free Trade Agreement—yet it is just the most recent cheque written by this government for power that will not be generated.

Ontarians have, indeed, been very bad actors.


Join PEPTBO for their Fall Dinner on October 29 at the Waring House Inn Banquet Hall. Noted ornithologist Jean Iron will be the keynote speaker. For more information visit or call the Waring House at 613- 476-7492 ext. 4220.

Comments (6)

  • October 25, 2016 at 8:27 am notinduttondunwich

    Time for some good old fashion peasant uprising pitchfork training….

  • October 24, 2016 at 5:36 pm Richard Mann

    Here is a “time line” showing the history of Wind Turbine Noise problems, going back as far as 1979. Each entry provides documentation:

    1979 “First complaints received from a dozen families within a 3km radius of turbine”.
    1981 “Wind turbine operation creates enormous sound pressure waves”
    1982 “Closed windows and doors do not protect occupants from LFN”
    1982 “NASA research on human impacts provided to wind industry”
    1985 “Hypothesis for infrasound-induced motion sickness”
    1987 “Wind industry told that dB(A) unsuitable to measure LFN emissions from wind turbines”

    2004 “Wind industry knows noise models inadequate” (from Vestas)

    2011 “Vestas knew that low frequency noise from larger turbines needed greater setbacks”

  • October 24, 2016 at 5:33 pm Richard Mann

    The problem is Wind and Solar are not reducing C02 and our government will not admit this costly failure. Ontario’s professional Engineers, those tasked with generation, transmission and billing, have reported the problem. our government continues to build more wind and solar.

    Reference: “Ontario’s Electricity Dilemma – Achieving Low Emissions at Reasonable Electricity Rates”. Ontario Society of Professional Engineers (OSPE). April 2015.
    (Archived at:

    Page 15 of 23. “Why Will Emissions Double as We Add Wind and Solar Plants ?”

    – Wind and Solar require flexible backup generation.

    – Nuclear is too inflexible to backup renewables without expensive engineering changes to the reactors.

    – Flexible electric storage is too expensive at the moment.

    – Consequently natural gas provides the backup for wind and solar in North America.

    – When you add wind and solar you are actually forced to reduce nuclear generation to make room for more natural gas generation to provide flexible backup.

    – Ontario currently produces electricity at less than 40 grams of CO2 emissions/kWh.

    – Wind and solar with natural gas backup produces electricity at about 200 grams of CO2 emissions/kWh. Therefore adding wind and solar to Ontario’s grid drives CO2 emissions higher. From 2016 to 2032 as Ontario phases out nuclear capacity to make room for wind and solar, CO2 emissions will double (2013 LTEP data).

    – In Ontario, with limited economic hydro and expensive storage, it is mathematically impossible to achieve low CO2 emissions at reasonable electricity prices without nuclear generation.

  • October 22, 2016 at 7:37 pm Sommer

    The irony that this government is ruining our environment in rural Ontario in order to come off as self righteous protectors of the environment, is well captured in this piece of writing.
    Yes, turning decent citizens of Ontario into enemies of the government, because these residents are desperately trying to protect their homes and the natural environment that surrounds their homes, is the ridiculous reality we ‘re facing in Ontario.
    Who will ever be able to fix this mess?

  • October 22, 2016 at 5:57 pm Elizabeth Barry

    I have actually read Alice Through the Looking Glass. This reminds me of that. Jam? sorry No Jam for Tea today… But Jam yesterday, Jam tomorrow, just never jam today. This sounds just like the no-Wynne government.

    I have a tiny house. We are power misers. Yet my latest bill, no heating, or cooking (gas) or A/C is included, OK I watered the garden to keep it green, $600 for the last bill. This is damaging my savings.

    • October 28, 2016 at 10:28 am Gary Mooney

      Hi, Elizabeth. Re your $600 bill, is your service type “Seasonal” (see page 2)? If so, the bill is for 3 months.

      I have done a lot of research into electricity rates and cannot see any way that your bill could be $600, even for the coldest month of the year. I’d be willing to have a look at your situation to see if I can come up with an explanation.

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