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

February 22, 2011

Backlash:the industry mobilizes against community groups, citizens

We predicted this, and now it’s happening: the wind business is mobilizing its troops to fight against community groups throughout Ontario, who are protesting the industrialization of their communities, and who are concerned about the environmental impact of putting industrial wind turbines in our lakes.

Today, a representative of Trillium Power was on CFRA, claiming that Wind Concerns Ontario and other groups are funded by the fossil-fuel industry. He said, They can’t be getting by on $5 and $10 donations, they have “sophisticated communication strategies.”

Well, thanks for the compliments but we know from our own work here that we DO survive on the donations, no matter how big, from members of the community, and we certainly have never even heard from any corporate sponsors. Why? Because nobody thinks building huge industrial structures that DO make noise and produce vibration so close to homes, farms and our school is the right thing to do.

And also today, in The Ottawa Citizen, Picton-area community activist Don Chisholm graces Ottawa with his words of wisdom in a letter to the Editor. 

Green means wind

By Don Chisholm, Ottawa Citizen February 22, 2011 8:02 AM

Ontario’s Green Energy Act showed visionary leadership in the struggle to end society’s dependency on fossil fuels. The act has been enormously successful at creating jobs and investment in Ontario. But human nature threatens its viability.

The past century of fossil-fuel driven growth was a one-time historical anomaly. But after growth comes the down slope. Cheap energy made jobs plentiful. Many retired baby boomers with fat savings look forward to a comfortable retirement, ignoring the problem.

Advanced smart hydro grids and distributed energy generation are essential cornerstones for our next generation’s energy supply. Distributed sources mean energy must be collected from natural flows in many backyards. But boomers are sometimes NIMBYs. Many otherwise responsible citizens have voted to prevent wind energy development in our rural farming communities, or even in our lakes. Extensive wind energy is essentially to future energy supply. Many civilizations in the past have grown rapidly and then collapsed because shortterm comfort too often trumps long-term need.

Don Chisholm,

Picton, Ont.

Mr Chisholm is with a citizens’ group himself, the County Sustainability Group or CSG, which is fighting all kinds of development in Prince Edward County but somehow—we don’t understand this at all—they seem to feel industrial scale wind development is OK.
Sorry Mr Chisholm, but all your insults about NIMBYism aside, the fact is this:
-wind doesn’t work
-it has no place being sited next to homes
-wind will never replace fossil fuel or nuclear as a fuel source, it is too inefficient and unreliable

It’s only Tuesday: more industry plants will be surfacing soon.

November 3, 2010

Chernushenko on community politics: he’s got it right

Newly elected councillor for Capital ward in Ottawa wrote an opinion piece for the Ottawa Citizen, which appeared November 2. We support his idea of community consultation and input whenever large projects are concerned, and we really like his idea of not NIMBY, but, Yes In My Backyard or YIMBY.

Of course, the Green Energy Act has removed any possibility for discourse where “renewable” energy projects are involved, and it went so far as to supercede 21 pieces of democratically created legislation (such as The Heritage Act, the Planning Act, the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Conservation Land Act), and also to remove all local land use planning powers from every municipality in Ontario.

Democracy? Not in Ontario.

Here’s what Mr Chernushenko wrote.

From NIMBY to YIMBY: Embracing community-driven politics in Ottawa

By David Chernushenko, Citizen Special November 2, 2010

NIMBY. Not In My Backyard. It’s a potent label, convenient for dismissing local residents’ concerns and marginalizing people who want what’s best for their communities. But it’s a label that Ottawa’s new city council would do well to avoid tossing around if we want to create a less divisive, more productive way of operating for the good of the city as a whole.

Over and over in municipal politics, opponents to new projects are portrayed as obstructionists who hate change and certainly don’t want any in their neighbourhood. They form annoying groups with names like Friends of the Pond, or Citizens for the Way It’s Always Been. They raise “concerns,” object to “the process,” cite studies, and even propose alternatives. But all this takes time and slows progress. Decisions need to be made, and quickly, because time is money and we don’t want to miss this opportunity. So stop complaining, you NIMBYs, and let’s get on with it!

This cynical, divisive approach is useful for forcing through changes. But playing the NIMBY card is ultimately counterproductive, because it escalates disputes and entrenches a lack of trust. It contributes to polarized politics and a rancorous, dysfunctional civic atmosphere. Just look at the anger surrounding the Lansdowne Park development.

If we, instead, encourage and respect neighbourhood involvement in the ongoing evolution of communities, we might be pleasantly surprised by a very different, positive reaction: YIMBY, or Yes In My Backyard.

To avoid fighting over what people don’t want in their back yards, I suggest we start finding out what they do want in their backyards.

Residents’ concerns are typically based on personal knowledge and legitimate worries. They know their neighbourhood better than anyone, and they have a vested interest in keeping their community vibrant. They intend to stay there. It does nobody justice to dismiss them as mere NIMBYs.

Instead, we need to focus on the things we can agree on. We need to develop mechanisms for local residents to declare and constructively contribute to what they would like to see in their backyards, and move forward from there.

By defining what people want and need, and why, and by using this information throughout the planning process, we are more likely to get everyone on the same page and willing to endorse the final results. By reducing conflict, we can save time, effort and money.

Here are some specific suggestions to shift from NIMBY to YIMBY:

-Respect the City’s Official Plan. This document exists for a reason, and we can avoid conflict by actually applying its guiding principles.

-Encourage and apply community development plans (CDPs) and neighbourhood plans to flesh out the official plan in ways that respect unique community characteristics, as determined by the residents.

-Give planners and developers advance information so they can understand what’s important to the community. For example, create a map-based tool that lets individuals and community groups identify favourite features and places, and share their insight into transportation issues, business and social dynamics, cultural and ecological attributes and other local factors.

-Seek creative input on land-use options for neighbourhoods and specific properties. Create an open-source registry of unique ideas, and provide copyright-type protection for sufficiently detailed proposals.

-Require a public meeting before site plan applications are submitted. This will help move us away from after-the-fact “public consultations” that devolve into shouting matches and only reinforce NIMBY attitudes.

-Hold smaller meetings between councillors, developers, community associations, concerned residents and local experts who have both a stake and a credible reputation to help bring sides together.

-Develop community councils empowered to make decisions on local issues, for example minor zoning variances. This decentralization would free the committee of adjustment and council to focus on issues of larger relevance.

One advantage of this YIMBY approach is its versatility. These principles can be applied to large-scale developments like Lansdowne Park, the Soeurs de la Visitation site in Westboro, or the Oblate lands in Old Ottawa East. They apply equally well to transit and transportation, landfills, small-scale urban in-fill developments, women’s shelters and halfway houses, wind turbines, or energy-from-waste projects.

It’s time to move away from endless and divisive debate over what should not happen, and to start exploring what should happen. It won’t come easily. We have generations of habits to shift. But we can get there, especially if we drop that nasty NIMBY label.

David Chernushenko was elected to Ottawa city council on Oct. 25 representing Capital ward.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen


August 24, 2010

The “cunning dunces”

More pundits are weighing in on the true meaning of the Ontario government’s amazing flip-flop on subsidies for solar power. Can they really be that stupid? you might ask, or, what are they really trying to achieve. As Ottawa Citizen columnist John Robson puts it, they are dumb but smart all at the same time. Their goal? Not the environment, not your health, not Ontario’s prosperity: their goal is just to get elected again.

Here is the piece:

February 2, 2010

The Samsung deal in Ontario: crafty or crazy?

We’ll be watching TVOntario’s The Agenda tonight at 8 (it repeats at 11) to see Norman Rubin of Energy Probe and others discuss the Ontario government’s $7-billion deal with an Asia consortium, headed by Samsung.

In the days immediately after, all kinds of people said this deal was completely insane, and when you realize there are reports out of Germany and Spain saying that the investment in wind has been a costly mistake, why now is Ontario going down this same road?

Crafty or crazy? Crazy! Except for the foreign-owned companies like NextEra and Prowind and others who are here to scoop up taxpayer/ratepayer dollars.

 But we’ll watch. Especially home-grown Citizen columnist Randall Denley.

To get in touch with the North Gower Wind Action Group directly, email them at or mail PO Box 485, North Gower ON K0A 2T0

December 28, 2009

“The Canadian Leadership vacuum”

Randall Denley of The Ottawa Citizen writes in the December 27th edition that “Canada’s political leadership scene is as bleak as a January landscape. … All we have for leaders is a group of pipsqueaks and bullies.”

He reviews the national scene and then gets to Ontario’s Dalton McGuinty who is currently enjoying an 18-per-cent approval rating. That’s due to the $24.7 billion deficit, the HST and the “truth-bending” on election promises, Denley says. He doesn’t even mention the rape of Ontario’s countryside in the name of “green energy” which is really business interests.

(Question, if this is all about producing clean renewable energy, WHY is NextEra, which is owned by Florida Power and Light, in Ontario? It’s not about producing clean energy for the citizens of Florida. It’s not about saving lives from the effects of air pollution…it’s about the money our provincial government is handing out like Hallowe’en candy.)

Denley concludes that “…our governments too often think thay can limit the damage by hiding the information they do have. Sorry, it doesn’t work. What we desperately need are leaders who have fresh ideas, a real sense of the common good and a willingness to tell the truth. In a country of 33 million people, surely we can generate a couple of dozen people like that. Even one would be a start.”

For those of us facing the onslaught of improperly sited industrial wind turbines, we desperately need such a leader in government or opposition. Fresh ideas? Not wind turbines: when they have been installed at breakneck speed in Europe they have proven not to be a good idea, for the economy, for the people, for power generation—nothing. An awareness of common good? That isn’t wind turbines. Telling the truth? The Ontario government isn’t telling the whole truth about wind turbines and the wind developers certainly aren’t.

Interesting sidebar. Right next to Denley’s column is an Ontario government announcement of information sessions on protecting species of birds, animals and plants at risk of extinction. Location? Alfred Taylor Centre in North Gower, a few kilometers away from where 626-foot giant towers will be killing birds and bats, and producing 40dB of noise, 24 hours a day.

Species at risk? Include people who love the rural countryside and who are now being victimized by people who see Ontario’s landscape as a resource plantation. Including the farmers who we thought had pledged to manage the land.


Put the turbines where the wind is, not where the people—and the birds and the animals—are.

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

October 7, 2009

Oh, ow, I haz a discomfort

(Pardon the LOLspeak). Letter in The Ottawa Citizen today in response to the North Gower resident’s letter that was published on the weekend. In a refreshing turn from claiming that industrial wind turbine objectors are simply NIMBYs, the letter writer claimed that the world is going to hell in a sandstorm (like Australia) and the way to save it is to experience “discomfort, maybe even great discomfort” but that by doing so “Our descendants will have a future.”  “Now is not the time for short-term thinking,” adds the letter writer who then goes on to laud the Ontario government for the Green Energy Act.

“Short-term thinking?” When the landscape will be altered for at least 20 years, when people’s health could be affected, when their property values will decline by 10-30%, the environment will suffer negative impact permanently…and all for an industrial development that might–we say might–produce a small amount of electricity?

We say again, who is really benefitting from the North Gower industrial wind turbine proposal? Not the citizens of North Gower, not the citizens of Ottawa, and not the citizens of Ontario.

Contact us at

or, the North Gower Wind Action Group at

October 5, 2009

Letter to the editor

It’s tough to get this issue into the media locally. North Gower seems to be regarded as one of:

a)quaint little bunch of houses with nothing really there

b) a bunch of farms and nothing else really there

c) a bunch of new houses with nothing else really there.

So, nothing there? Why not put up industrial wind turbines!

Anyway, one resident was successful in getting the issues out, in a letter to The Ottawa Citizen. Here it is:

 Rural residents paying price for green energy act



  • 3 Oct 2009
  • Ottawa Citizen

    I wish to express my grave concerns with the passing of Ontario’s Green Energy Act. No matter where anyone buys a home, if it is near agricultural land, there is no guarantee that this land will not be used to erect industrial wind turbines more than 400 feet high, a mere 550 metres from the centre of your home, and residents are now powerless to prevent such an unwanted intrusion.

    The green energy guidelines and regulations are still so incomplete that no government agency is even able to base them on peer-reviewed scientific or medical evidence to back up their unproven claim that there are no negative health impacts from these setback distances due to inaudible ultra-low-frequency sound or stray voltage.

    However, there are already many victims across Ontario who have been forced out of their homes to prevent further health deterioration who would argue otherwise.

    Wind-industry proponents are hasty to say that property values may even increase thanks to local wind turbines, yet the federal Library of Parliament contains a document stating “there is evidence that both the visual and noise pollution do have an economic impact in the form of lowered property values.” It would, therefore, become impossible to sell one’s home at a fair price to afford to buy elsewhere. Some families have already had to swallow this unforeseen financial kick-inthe-face and attempt a new life elsewhere with emptied pockets.

    To make matters even more alarming, wind industry proponents state that the industry as a whole stimulates the economy. This, in spite of their own admission that the taxpayers who generously provide their subsidies will also be expected to pay more than double for their electricity costs once wind turbines become firmly established in Ontario. Hydro One is now attempting to gain the go-ahead from the Ontario Energy Board to raise the delivery portion of hydro bills by 9.5 per cent in 2010 and again in 2011 by 13 per cent, even though George Smitherman stated last February that the increase will only be one per cent annually. And how will our economy be stimulated by causing reduced property values which, in North Gower alone, are conservatively estimated to drop by $50 million?


    As if that isn’t already enough to grab our attention, some North Gower residents are surprised that people looking to purchase homes in their community are not able to get all the facts, either from local government, their own real estate agents, or the wind developer, and as a result they are resorting to contact residents to glean more information on the plans for this area before considering a purchase.

    The public, myself included, strongly favours true green energy initiatives. McGuinty promises to shut down coal-fired power stations thanks to the power generated by industrial wind turbines, but in Germany and Denmark (two of Europe’s biggest wind-energy producers), not one single coal-fired power station has been shut down as a result of wind energy. So, what’s the point?

    The Liberals’ message to us all seems to be that we should no longer choose to live in the country, yet we should expect to pay significantly higher bills.

    Clearly, Energy Minister George Smitherman and Premier Dalton McGuinty have not done their math homework and are banking on the public’s gullibility in believing that somehow, in spite of the mounting evidence, our lifestyles are still improved and that wind energy is clean and free.

    LESLIE CHANDLER, North Gower

    Blog at