The Ford government’s cancellation of almost 800 renewable energy projects after taking power last year will cost Ontarians at least $231 million, prompting comparisons with a previous Liberal government’s costly axing of gas plants.
“The similarities are striking,” New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns (Toronto-Danforth) said Tuesday of the July 2018 moves that stopped 758 projects and the White Pines wind turbine farm in Prince Edward County.
“Wasting $231 million to cancel hydro contracts is the sort of thing the previous Liberal government did during the gas plants scandal.”
The figure was in the latest public accounts from the Ministry of Energy.
When the projects were cancelled, Energy Minister Greg Rickford claimed the move would save energy ratepayers $790 million and said none of the 758 projects had reached “development milestones,” making it cheaper to scrap them.
Rickford was not in the legislature’s daily question period Tuesday, leaving associate minister Bill Walker to defend the cancellations. When the projects were cancelled, Rickford repeatedly refused to discuss the costs of any penalties and told reporters legislation would be passed to keep them “as low as they can be.”
“Our government has been very clear it would act to cancel any unnecessary contracts. Ontario has an adequate supply of power right now,” Walker said.
He added the White Pines project was the subject of a downsizing order by the Environmental Review Tribunal, reducing it by two-thirds to nine wine turbines that were opposed by the local municipality and many area residents in part over concerns over migratory birds and the Blandings turtle.
That regulatory decision “should have led to cancelling the contract at that time.”
Observers have suggested the White Pines cancellation alone could cost $100 million, but Walker would not comment on that figure.
While the Progressive Conservatives promised that scrapping the projects would not cost hydro ratepayers, that is clearly not the case, Tabuns said.
“How can the premier claim he’s saving taxpayers and ratepayers money when he’s throwing away $231 million not to build renewable energy?” he asked.
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Green Leader Mike Schreiner said it was wrong-headed for the Ford government to order White Pines dismantled — even though he agrees the Liberal government chose a bad location — because more renewable energy is needed to fight climate change.
“Once the wind turbines were put in place they should stay in place especially because the company put in mitigation measures to address some of the concerns around endangered species,” Schreiner said.