March 25, 2011

Ottawa’s villages to become ghost towns? Does anybody care?

In today’s Ottawa Citizen, columnist and Osgoode resident Joe Banks writes that amalgamation has virtually killed Ottawa’s rural villages; he says the lack of local councils that used to work to encourage development, means there is none now, and the villages will be “ghost towns.” He thinks Ottawa should care about that.

We wish Ottawa cared about that. Or cared about anything in its villages, or the quality of life for village residents. If they did, they would almost certainly have some thoughts about having North Gower transformed into an industrial power plant, with huge industrial wind turbines proposed for just outside the village proper boundary, but still very close to homes and families in North Gower subdivisions. The same goes for south Richmond. (And, it must be stated, that the 10 turbines proposed could only be the beginning: Shelburne started with 20, they now have 150, and dozens more are planned.Haldimand/Norfolk already has dozens, and the province just annnounced another 176.) The same thing is happening right across Ontario, as rural communities are being used as “resource plantations” for industrial wind turbine developments, gravel quarries, and dumps.

Here is Joe Banks’ column from the Citizen:

Ottawa’s villages could become ghost towns

By Joe Banks, Ottawa CitizenMarch 25, 2011


The eight-foot-high for-sale sign adorning the former Main Street Café has been standing for so long, it is now less an ad than a part of the landscape. Across the street, the old bakery has been closed for a decade, converted to a home, and the once-bustling Sweet Peas Pantry and gift store is a more recent casualty, as is Julee’s craft and quilt shop, which closed last year.

The former brown Boyd-block food store beside the long-gone rail yards that will soon become a bike path, has been an empty shell for as long as anyone can remember, alternating as a storage for the amateur theatre group and some residential rentals. Mary’s Dollar Store, and even the Sundays-open flea market, both once operating out of the little mall, is largely forgotten by the villagers.

If we didn’t have an arena, the popular Red Dot Café, Raymond’s convenience, Pat’s gas and video and Ozzie’s Pizza, it’d look to a visitor as if Osgoode Village was up for sale -or on its way to becoming a ghost town.

It’s sad, yes, but Metcalfe, North Gower, Vernon, Kars, and Fitzroy Harbour, all have their own versions of village gentrification.

None of this happened overnight. It has happened over a decade, coincidentally since amalgamation.

That this is news to you is because it transpired like a slow dissolve at the end of a movie. Nobody noticed.

It’s not a reach to say that Ottawa’s smallest villages have become true bedroom communities in every sense of the word, attracting everyone who wants rural quiet within reach of urban amenities.

My fellow villagers blame amalgamation, and it’s tempting to agree with them.

Prior to that forced marriage, the former cities and townships that made up the Region of OttawaCarleton competed with each other. Each had a council and separate staffs that did what they could to attract residential, and consequently, business development, into their communities. The regional government kept on eye on the bigger picture, including the prospect of urban sprawl.

That competition, virtually overnight, disappeared, as the city was ordered by the province to become one big happy family. Since then, in our determination to halt development from the city’s inside, there has been a steady decline in the economic activity of the villages, even as their populations grew, and continued to become, like ours, highly attractive places to live. To urbanists, this is evidence of tough love, that development intensification inside the Greenbelt has worked, that the line has been held on sprawl, and contained to where existing services end.

But from the rural perspective, it’s a policy that is working a little too well, as a perception is reinforced that limiting growth here, in fact, means no growth at all.

That’s not the kind of signal to send to future small rural business owners. Who would want to chance a million-dollar mortgage on a village diner in Osgoode, for example, when they could get one for a ground floor condo in Hintonburg, or a new one in Carleton Place or Kemptville?

Investment dollars follow certainty. And right now, the city’s intensification policy doesn’t give rural entrepreneurs or their lenders that warm and fuzzy feeling that its villages will be anything more than bedrooms for the urban city’s living room.

Hence the rise of what I call PIMBYism -the Please In My Back Yard advocates. These are people who believe in some development, some growth, and some tinkering with the city’s plan. It was in play in Manotick when the silent supporters of the Minto subdivision proclaimed their support of that village’s growth, even as thousands of their neighbours rallied against it.

Our village’s PIMBYists have been rooting for a 90-unit development on the south side of Osgoode known as the Buckles subdivision, and the further progression of the 30-unit Fairfield Estates on the north side.

Buckles was approved 10 years ago, but hasn’t had a single house built on it yet for reasons only the developer knows. Fairfield is in its third phase but two-thirds of it remain empty.

But is true modest growth possible when we have been so fixated on containing it inside the Greenbelt? It’s a timely question as the city’s planners have embarked on the latest review of the official plan, and villages are on the agenda. Public consultations in the lead-up to the OP review, which will regulate the city’s growth over the next halfdecade, are already under way, to help planners learn whether villages should be allowed to grow, and if so, by how much.

Any at all would be a welcome relief from the sight of for sale signs that would, in any other neighbourhood in this city, be temporary.

Joe Banks is an Osgoode Village resident and a former Ottawa area community newspaper editor and publisher.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

If you’d like to comment, email the Citizen at

March 10, 2011

North Gower resident writes a letter

One of the questions we are asked is, how do you know that your community group represents a wider view from the community? Well, aside from the several hundred people who signed the petition that went to the Ontario legislature via MPP Lisa MacLeod, and the 300+ families on our e-mail list, and the 125+ people who come to our information meetings, the countless volunteers working daily on this issue, I guess we don’t know what everyone is thinking.

In the Smith’s Falls EMC today is a letter to the editor from a North Gower resident. She writes:

Dear Editor:

I wish to volunteer my two cents into what is becoming an endlessly revolving argument about the wind turbine farms.

First off, not all of us in the North Gower area are against the Wind Turbine project being proposed for this area. I know from personal experience that wind turbines can perform well here. That being said, if viable scientific evidence can be established into the ill effects of this type of farm, then certainly additional precautions should be implemented – whether it be an increased setback from homes, or possibly smaller or fewer of the turbines.

The Ontario government has illustrated that it can change its mind if such evidence comes to light, as shown by the recent hold on the installation of off-shore wind turbines.

I certainly don’t think that this means that the whole concept or use of wind turbines should be scrapped – this would be extremely short sighted behaviour, given that we do need to stop relying on non-renewable resources for our hydro and energy.

Now is the time to be developing alternative energies to sustain our power requirements – when we can take the time to do it properly, and improve on them.

Debbie Gervais

North Gower

We’re not sure where this resident lives in relation to the proposed industrial wind development, and neither can we know how informed she is, but she has a few facts wrong:

-there is already valid scientific evidence that if the turbines are located too close to people’s homes, people can experience sleep deprivation and then ill health effects

-the Ontario government is standing firm that its 550-meter setback is “safe” despite evidence from around the world in countries that already have turbines, that a setback of 1-2 km is better (note that other countries such as Germany have setbacks between zones, not between the base of a turbine and the centre of a house, as Ontario does). The truth is, the 550-meters is more about geography than health: if we had a 1 km setback, there would be NO turbines in southern and eastern Ontario because of the way the roads and concessions are laid out.

-a proper scientific study is needed to have an evidence-based setback. Ontario now has such a research project ongoing, but it is headed by an expert in electrical engineering, and they plan to take 5 years to come to a conclusion. Ontario will be long done with populating its rural areas with turbines by then.

-industrial wind turbines are a flawed technology–they are intermittent and require fossil-fuel back-up; this is why Ontario is also building natural gas-fired power plants at the same time as it is encouraging wind power development.

-we’re not sure what the “personal experience” with wind turbines would be in this area, given that the Canada Wind Atlas states the area is “poor” to “marginal” for a wind resource. Since we don’t have any industrial-scale turbines here, her experience would have to be with a small wind mill. THAT, i.e., small scale, is an appropriate use of wind power development, NOT 626-foot industrial towers.

-this is industrialization of a rural community that, because of the Green Energy Act, is not getting to have its say. What it could do to property values is expropriation without compensation.

Last, of course everyone wants a clean and effective power system in Ontario. But wind doesn’t work. We don’t see why the people of North Gower have to participate in an experiment that will see no benefits to our community and which is really all about profits going to an offshore corporate developer. “Take the time and do it properly”? WE AGREE!!!!

And, we’re not alone: dozens of Ontario communities have now passed resolutions or motions objecting to industrial wind turbine projects and asking for their planning powers to be returned, AND for independent health studies.

View of turbines at Melancthon, near Orangeville, Ontario.

January 25, 2011


CanWEA’s CEO Robert Hornung appeared on CFRA (580 radio in Ottawa) this morning, following the station’s interview with Ian Hanna yesterday. Mr Hanna, of course, is the applicant in the legal case asking for a judicial review of the Green Energy Act. (Evidence in the case on Mr Hanna’s side is available at )

It is strange that when host Mark Sutcliffe asked what evidence CanWEA would be presenting in the case Mr Hornung didn’t respond that in fact, the case is wrapped up and has now gone to the panel of judges for a decision.

His points:

-“tens of thousands” of turbines are operating in Europe with no problems.

-Ontario’s 550-meter setback is the most stringent in North America

-the Green Energy Act was created with the “best” evidence

-medical experts have not been able to find any link between wind turbines and health problems

-Canada’s wind industry is “responsible” and would never do anything that harms people

Our response:

Europe:there are 675 community groups in France opposed to wind turbine development; in fact, there are 410 federations of anti-wind development groups in 21 countries in Europe. That’s NOT “no problems.”

Ontario’s 550-meter setback may indeed be stringent in North America but that doesn’t make it right: there is no scientific study justifying that setback. On the other hand, there are studies suggesting a setback of 1-2 km. Of course, that won’t work in Ontario: a setback greater than 550 meters is all about geography, not health—if setbacks were greater than 55o, no turbines would be built in populated areas at all.

At the time of the creation of the Green Energy Act, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment had NO capability of measuring the noise produced by industrial wind turbines. The setbacks and regulations were based on modelling, not actual experience.

Medical experts have not been able to find a link between turbine noise and health effects. He means the Arlene King report. Let’s recount a few other things that Dr King put in her report.

-wind turbine noise was perceived as more annoying than transportation or industrial noise at comparable levels

-…there is no widely accepted protocol for the measurement of noise from wind turbines, [so] current regulatory requirements are based on modelling

-ice throw launched far from the turbine may pose a significant hazard

-…sound measurements at residential areas around wind turbines and comparisons with sound levels around other rural and urban areas to assess actual ambient noise levels prevalent in Ontario is a key data gap that could be addressed.

In other words, Dr King left the door open for more research; she also said she examined the scientific evidence “to date” (although Dr Carl Phillips says there is enough evidence that shows health effects already) but didn’t say she wouldn’t look at more or new evidence.

As for Canada’s wind industry being “responsible” we offer no comment. As John Laforet told the 125 people in North Gower last weekend, “Do the science! Prove it!”

We await the verdict of the panel of judges.

More news daily at

May 14, 2010

The rural revolt

From today’s Toronto Sun:

Wind revolt won’t die

Rural opposition to massive turbine farms in the countryside won’t blow over


Last Updated: May 14, 2010 12:00am

Employees of the wind industry and Ontario Liberal politicians are scratching their heads. Why the fuss about wind turbines?

Some of them still think the furor will blow over. It’s just the griping of a few malcontents and health quacks — people who wear tinfoil helmets in their living rooms to ward off spy beams. The march of progress can’t be stopped. The Green Energy Act is law, turbines are coming to the countryside and that’s it.

Here’s a tip, from the hinterland. This is incorrect. The furor is building, not waning. Premier Dalton McGuinty was already a long shot for a third term. With wind in the mix and barring a radical re-do of the Green Energy Act, he is positioned to lose every rural and small-town seat.

People who live in the country do so by choice. Some stay because we wish to raise our children close to family. Others leave to pursue a career and then eventually come home. And others still, mainly boomers, retire to a small town or a farm because they’re tired of city life.

People who live in small towns or on farms are connected to the countryside in a way that most city people are not. We hunt, fish, cycle, hike, walk or drive through it all the time. Many residents of small towns are linked through family to a farm or plot of land.

For 30 years now, people who live on or near the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere Preserve, have lived within the strictures of the Niagara Escarpment Commission. This appointed body tells rural people what they can or cannot build on their property.

There are many rules. They do not account for family circumstances or in many cases for common sense. For example, the NEC won’t permit a landowner to build a second home on a 100-acre plot of land to house an ailing parent. Yet it does permit the Blue Mountain ski resort in Collingwood, Ont.

Despite these seeming contradictions, farmers and landowners have grudgingly learned to live with the NEC. But now along comes Big Wind, propelled by the vision of former Ontario deputy premier George Smitherman.

The vision is one in which the Ontario landscape, including land directly proximate to the Escarpment, is festooned with massive industrial turbines. Suddenly, preserving our agricultural and geographic heritage is less important. Indeed, such values don’t even seem to figure in the debate. Nor has there yet been a serious effort to expand nuclear — still the only way to produce huge quantities of energy without emitting carbon.

An irony about current-day Ontario: We have a government that says it is deeply committed to environmental protection. If a rare species of dung beetle is unearthed in a marsh, chances are no building will be allowed there. But disrupting the ecosystem of thousands of rural people? Not a problem. Disrupt away.

There was a good way to bring in wind energy.

The good way would have respected the wishes of communities that chose not to allow industrial-scale projects. It would have induced industry to offer small, farm-sized wind turbines at a reasonable price. It would have made it much easier for people to use wind (or solar) to satisfy their own energy needs, and sell any excess back to the grid. It would have been a local-first movement.

Instead McGuinty chose big industry, backed by big government. In doing so he trampled on the most important political idea to hit rural Canada in modern times: Greater local control of the food supply and stewardship of the land.

No, this revolt will not go away.

December 26, 2009

Icy day brings questions

It’s an icy day here in North Gower, with a freezing rain warning in effect all morning and into the afternoon on this Boxing Day, 2009. While the thoughts of many go back to the ice storm of 1998-1999, others may gaze out over the beautiful landscape, imagining what it will look like (and sound like) after the industrial wind turbines go in … and think, what about ice on those things?

Good question.

Actually, it is something that has to be considered and already has been in European jurisdictions, with some recommendations for safety. Basically, ice falls directly below the turbine rotors but ice “throw” can occur too. The research that has been done is based on analysis of turbines that are 200-400 feet in height… we have absolutely no idea what the ice shed would be from the 626-foot wind turbines Prowind has planned for North Gower.

Here is the conclusion from a report on the risks associated with ice shed and throw.


The experience and the results of many calculations show that during operation small fragments are hitting the ground in a larger distance than those with a big area whereas from stopped turbines the larger pieces can be transported wider than small ones. However, provided that the turbine is operating the area of risk is larger than at standstill. In both cases the wind direction is an important parameter for the assessment of possible risk and an important parameter for the control systems concerning its behaviour during icing events. Ice sensors and also ice detection by using power curve plausibilisation or two anemometers – one heated, one unheated – is not reliable enough at the moment and needs to be improved. …

In Germany and Austria ice throw/fall prediction reports are required by the building authorities of some districts, especially in the inland and mountainous regions. Together with the increasing number of wind turbines at these sites the number of ice throw reports for building permission increases. It is to be expected that in connection with this, the number of experts and competing companies will increase as well and will improve the knowledge.

As a general recommendation it can be stated that wind farm developers should be very careful at ice endangered sites in the planning phase and take ice throw into account as a safety issue. Each incident or accident caused by ice throw is an unnecessary event and will decrease the public acceptance of wind energy.


The full report may be viewed here:

And there’s that idea again: poor siting of wind turbine installations will lead to poor public acceptance of the use of wind as an effective power source. Putting eight huge wind turbines so close to hundreds of homes in North Gower just doesn’t seem like a good idea for anyone. Except the wind developer.

Put the turbines where the wind is, not where the people are.

To get in touch with the North Gower Wind Action Group directly, email them at

November 27, 2009

…not where the people are

The Sierra Club, whose motto is “Explore, enjoy and protect the planet” published its guidelines for siting industrial wind turbine developments quite some time ago, and they are worth a revisit if only to underscore the chief concerns of the effect of noise and the need to ensure safety.

c. Visual/Scenic and Noise Impacts
Visual impacts are highly subjective. The best way for Club activists to ensure minimal visual impact is to develop regional recommendations for places that wind should and should not be sited.

Federal aviation rules require specific lighting on turbines of certain heights. This lighting should always be minimized for aesthetic reasons, unless specific lighting is shown to reduce bird or bat mortality. Evidence suggests that lighting increases rather than reduces bird mortality. As more study is done, it may be appropriate to seek modification of the Federal rules for the wind industry, in particular to reduce or eliminate the need for strobing, bright colors, and lights visible from the ground. Wind turbines might be assigned a unique warning light color which signals aviators, but also changes impact on bird behavior.

We suggest that wind developers restrict their impact on involuntary neighbors to near-ambient noise levels at the closest residence. Legally binding mechanisms to guarantee sustained noise control should be considered.

d. Safety
Windmills have the potential to throw blades. Under storm conditions turbine blades can throw ice to considerable distances. Siting should take account of risks to humans as well as to biota.

In the case of North Gower, where we are being treated like the Cinderella of Ottawa, the City should take steps to ensure that noise levels are not exceeded by wind turbine developments, particularly when the developer has deliberately chosen to site the turbines so close to so many homes. They are following the letter of the Green Energy Act requirements, of course, but the 550 meter setback is subject to question.

Supporters of wind turbine developments frequently cite the numbers of wind turbines erected in Ontario and in other locations and then the numbers of people complaining, concluding that the majority of wind turbine sites cause no disturbances. That is true, but the defining factor is the location. Locating industrial structures that DO make noise close to homes makes no sense and guarantees problems from–and for– the “involuntary neighbours” in future.

October 18, 2009

The “worst government in Canada”?

Terence Corcoran, Editor of The National Post wrote this weekend:

“Every now and then a province falls into the hands of blundering politicians so inept that their government ends up deserving of the title ‘Canada’s Worst Gorvernment’. It’s a rare award. At any time somebody has to be the worst, but no award for routine bottom-of-the-barrel performnce seems necessary. Occasionally, however, the metric of incompetence is so large and conspicuous it demands special recognition. The Liberal regime of Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, now slipping into deficits that are likely to exceed $30 billion over two years and continue into the future, has hit the tipping point and triggered its candidacy as Canada’s Worst Government.”

Corcoran writes that the deficit outlook plus the eHealth scandal is key, plus “that followed the province’s Green Energy Act, a plan to force electricity users to pay 80 cents for a kilowatt hour of solar power and subsidize scores of industrial rent seekers.”

Industrial rent seekers“. That’s what we’re dealing with: the rural landscape being destroyed, the value of homes and property diminished if not erased altogether, and all for what?

For shame.

We ask again, who benefits from industrial wind turbines in North Gower? Not the people of North Gower, not the people of Ottawa, not the people of Ontario. Then, who?

Read all of Terence Corcoran’s article here (his assessment of Ontario gets worse than what we’ve quoted, not better):

October 15, 2009

Another review of wind turbines and health

Obviously, the Ontario government has been watching at least a little bit of public reaction and the expressions of concern about health effects of industrial wind turbines, as back in September, they released a review report on wind turbines and health, through the Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion.

If you wanted to be calmed down, this would do it, as they have covered off health effects due to noise and vibration, as well as safety issues from ice shed and ice throw.

The figures on ice throw however do not jive with the Queen’s University physics professor report (we are still trying to find that again, among our tower of research studies) and we wonder too if the measurements of perceived noise was based on a single turbine, or a very small installation of turbines. Certainly, the idea that 30 dB is all you would hear does not coalesce with reports from people living next to large installations that altogether, the turbines sound like living next to an airport.

Anyway, the PowerPoint presentation is here:

October 13, 2009

And in other communities…

A total of 35 other communities in Ontario have concerns about industrial wind turbine developments, and their effects on health and property values.

News from other communities, this weekend:


Contact us at,

or the North Gower Wind Action Group at

October 8, 2009

New to the issue? There’s plenty to learn

We understand that a number of residents in North Gower are only just now realizing the extent of the proposal for industrial wind turbines in the area. There was a public notice about it earlier this year, but it was placed in the Ottawa Citizen advertising a public meeting to be held in downtown Ottawa on a late winter night… not sure how many people went to that one.

There was, to the best of our knowledge, no public announcement when the proposal changed, i.e., from 10 turbines in one area, west of the village proper, to 5 there and 5 more scattered throughout the village area. (This was likely done so the project could employ the minimum setback of 550 meters.)

If you are new to this issue there is plenty to read: go to

for an overview of the Ontario situation and to see that there are 34 other municipalities concerned about or actively protesting proposed industrial turbine developments.

In North Gower, the issues are these:

-there are many reports of health effects from the constant noise from industrial wind turbines and some residents in other areas of Ontario have had to have the wind developers buy their properties; while there are relatively few studies showing that turbines affect health, there are also few studies showing that they ARE safe

-to our knowledge there is no other proposed industrial turbine project that is so close to homes and businesses as this one is

-because of the proximity to houses, the property value of those houses may decline—significantly. One estimate is that North Gower property values could decline by as much as $30 million. (Cost of the project? 30 million)

-wind energy is not necessarily “green”. In fact it is an unreliable source  of energy and the wind turbines themselves USE energy. The construction process is very destructive, requiring new roadways, and many tons of concrete. Transporting the huge components by truck is very disruptive, polluting and expensive.

-North Gower is an area of limited wind potential, according to the Canada Wind Atlas. There are many other areas in the province with more wind. And fewer houses.

-proponents of renewable energy, such as Dr David Suzuki, emphasize that renewable energy projects must be properly sited, to avoid doing more harm than good

-the claim that wind turbines create jobs is a myth. Initially, there are construction jobs but after that, there is one or two jobs per 10 turbines

-wind turbines cannot really contribute significantly to Ontario’s power supply. Wind is unreliable and the turbines do not perform efficiently. Many perform at only 12-20% of their potential.

-wind turbines do affect the environment: they can disturb the water table, bats and birds fly into them to their death (note that Prowind was carrying out bird migration studies in August and September. And, what month is this, when there are constantly geese flying overhead?).

-industrial wind turbines affect the rural landscape. Why locate a development so close to a village when there is plenty of uninhabited land nearby? (Keep asking yourself that question)

That’s it for now: reject any claims that North Gower residents are guilty of NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard); this project has the potential to affect residents, the environment, wildlife and livestock negatively.

We say again: who is benefitting from this proposal? Not the residents of North Gower (there is no free electricity for you), not the citizens of Ottawa, and not the people of Ontario.

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