Grimsby Lincoln News – October 4, 2013
Debbie Zimmerman wants to make one thing clear: Niagara Region is a willing host.
The Grimsby regional councilor plans to introduce a motion to declare Niagara Region a willing host to renewable energy just one week after council failed to get a two-thirds majority vote to reconsider its support of West Lincoln and Wainfleet’s declarations as unwilling hosts. Regional council voted to support the two municipalities in July with a 15-8 vote. At the time, Zimmerman expressed concerns about possible legal and financial ramifications, suggesting council seek a legal opinion before voting.
“Wainfleet and West Lincoln have said they are not willing hosts to wind energy, point blank,” said Zimmerman. “That’s not what the rest of the Region has said.”
Zimmerman said the July motion cast some misconceptions — including the notion the region has declared itself an unwilling host.
“There is a misconception that the whole region is not in support of renewable energy,” Zimmerman sad. “And that’s just not true.”
Zimmerman looked down the road to Niagara Falls to prove that point.
“Niagara Falls is one of the largest renewable energy sources in Canada,” said Zimmerman, noting municipalities like Thorold, Welland and Fort Erie have embraced renewable energy as new industry. She said the declaration as a willing host is in line with the Green Energy Capital of Canada proclamation Regional council made in 2012.
“The Region may have supported Wainfleet and West Lincoln, now we are asking them to support the rest of the region,” Zimmerman said.
West Lincoln Mayor Douglas Joyner said little about the Sept. 19 Regional council meeting at last week’s township council meeting other than to thank the residents of West Lincoln for their continued support, after briefly updated council on what unfurled in regional chambers. He declined to comment when contacted by The News until Zimmerman introduces her motion — expected sometime this week for debate at the Oct. 10 council meeting.
While Coun. Sue Ellen Merritt was happy to see the region’s support for West Lincoln and Wainfleet stand, she was less than happy to learn of Zimmerman’s plans.
“Let’s be good neigbhours,” said Merritt, “and give them ours if they’re willing hosts.”
Wainfleet mayor April Jeffs says its time for the Region to drop the “unwillingness to host turbines” debate.
“We spent three hours listening to presentations and debating, and it didn’t change anything,” Jeffs said.
The Wainfleet mayor said Zimmerman’s motion is just a way around the reconsideration rules. Since last Thursday’s attempt failed, Jeffs said regional council would have to wait a year before it could reconsider the motion again.
But Zimmerman argued the new motion is not reconsideration, and is instead a new motion entirely.
“At the end of the day it’s another reconsideration motion,” Jeffs said. “I think it’s a back door way to override what they gave us.”
Jeffs said three other regional councils have already passed similar motions to support lower tier municipalities’ declaration as being an unwilling host of turbines. Those regions include Perth, Wellington and Grey counties.
“As far as I know they didn’t have these issues,” she said, adding all the infighting isn’t helping anyone on any front.
To date, 67 local municipalities have declared themselves unwilling hosts for turbines.
Grimsby’s regional councilor takes no issue with the declarations West Lincoln and Wainfleet have made for themselves.
“That’s fine, you can do that,” said Zimmerman. “But the rest of the Region may have a different view.”
This is why Niagara needs to declare itself, as a whole, a willing host to renewable energy. Especially since down the road in Niagara Falls is one of the largest renewable energy sources in the country — the falls itself.
“How can we declare ourselves as the green energy capital and not support renewable energy?” Zimmerman said.
Actual wind farms aren’t the only renewable projects to have economic impacts in the region. Through Niagara Region Wind Corp., which has an application before the province for a 230-megawatt wind farm in West Lincoln, German turbine manufacturer has set up a manufacturing facility in Beamsville with plans for a second Niagara manufacturing facility. TSP Canada Towers has set up shop in the former Dana auto parts manufacturing facility in Thorold — a city which has made investing in green energy a top priority. A number of solar companies have also popped up since the province legislated the Green Energy Act in 2009.