By Peter Epp
Posted 18 days ago
You can almost date Dalton McGuinty's decline within the eyes of rural Ontario from the moment he and his party introduced legislation that banned cosmetic pesticides.
It was February 2009, and the ban on lawn sprays was to go into effect April 22.
The date was no coincidence, it was Earth Day.
The reason for that date was purely political and symbolic. It was the premier's effort to cater to those within his party and within Ontario who support 'green' initiatives, even if those initiatives are not supported by common sense or science.
With the 'green' crowd, it's about politics and symbolism.
The ban on cosmetic pesticides is a useful example. Pesticides became verboten on the lawns of homeowners and commercial enterprises, but allowed on golf courses and, of course, in agriculture.
Why one and not the others?
At the time, I wrote there was fundamentally little difference among these three areas, with the exception that farmers and golf course groundskeepers cannot apply pesticides without being certified. And if a farmer doesn't have that certification, he or she hires a certified professional who does.
Why wouldn't the McGuinty government simply extend that policy of certification to suburbia, I wondered. Why not permit the use of cosmetic pesticides on the lawns of homeowners, but only if applied by a licensed professional?
At the time, I concluded that the ban on cosmetic pesticides wasn't about keeping Ontario 'green'. It was about keeping Ontario's 'green' community happy. And they wanted cosmetic pesticides banned. And so McGuinty complied.
The Green Energy Policy soon followed, and has made about as much sense as banning cosmetic pesticides on homeowners' lawns while permitting the same on golf courses.
The policy is filled with incongruities. The amount of electricity produced by solar and wind sources isn't large enough to warrant the massive amounts of subsidy being paid out by the province. That's especially the case when you consider that our coal-fired generating plants have been incredibly efficient from a cost perspective.
But it has been the wind turbines that have raised the ire of rural Ontario. Although some landowners have financially benefitted from having a turbine on their land, these monstrous structures have changed the appearance of the rural landscape in a big and permanent way.
I'm not going to get into the health problems that turbines are said to cause. There is so much argument on both sides of that issue. But it's fair to say that if there are health problems caused by turbines, they are borne by rural people alone, and not by the folks in downtown Toronto who are absolutely delighted that Ontario is charting a 'green' future.
What's really irksome, however, is the fact the Green Energy Policy, from the start, allowed developers to install equipment at locations without first having to secure approval from a local municipal council. Not only is this an affront to constitutional procedure, but it's lead, for example, to solar panel installations next to rural roadways. Some municipalities have expressed fear they're liable for any damage to these panels, should a road plow or snowplow throw stones or cause other damage. Unfortunately, rural municipalities weren't first asked, nor was their opinion even considered.
I don't know why much of rural Southwestern Ontario voted for the Progressive Conservative ticket on Oct. 6. Some pundits are suggesting it's the wind turbine issue, and maybe that's a part of it.
What I do know is that most people don't like to be taken for granted. And for several years now, McGuinty and his government have assumed they didn't need to ask rural Ontario's opinion.
The ban against cosmetic pesticides is just plain dumb. The Green Energy Policy is riddled with problems and inconsistencies, and the problems it has produced are borne almost entirely by rural residents, most of whom weren't asked in the first place.
Well, their opinion was sought on Oct. 6.