“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Kathleen Wynne’s relationship with Ontario’s agricultural community began in ignorance and reckless self-assurance in February 2013.
Remember her short stint as agriculture minister while serving as Premier at the same time?
Little more than a year later, Peterborough’s Jeff Leal was moved up from his role as “minister of rural affairs” to become the fully-fledged Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs – one of Wynne’s better decisions.
Leal’s participation has been welcome but when it comes to things agricultural and rural, too often the Premier’s office still gets involved.
Wynne and her government have moved forward with former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s plans to transform broad sweeps of rural Ontario into an industrial backyard for power generation.
It is not that turbine and solar installations were necessarily poor choices. What government has failed to recognize was the need for rural communities to exercise some degree of ownership over the projects.
In Europe, wind farms are often owned by the communities in which they are located. There, opposition to the turbines might best be described as muted.
Had the European model been adopted, the situation in Chatham-Kent – turbine development threatening groundwater resources – might never have developed.
Instead, the Wynne government has allowed transnational wind development corporations to divide rural communities, as the companies brought rural landowners on side with lucrative contracts and sold investment shares to local governments, municipalities and indigenous peoples. A good way to encourage their silence, it would seem.
The situation is similar, though far more entrenched, with government’s handling of waste in the province. Rural Ontario continues to be the dumping ground for urban waste.
The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is now on record for having called a halt to the North Kent Wind project. The testament of well drillers and other hydrological experts, those uninfluenced by industry or its lapdog, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, have confirmed there is a problem.
Yet Wynne and her government have failed to respond or even acknowledge the issue.
The turbine developers drove multiple pilings for each of the turbines through the shallow aquifer into the fragile black shale bedrock below. What could possibly go wrong?
Prior to the construction of the turbines, well systems in the area may not have supplied a perfectly pristine source of water but they did run clear. Now many have literally been choked with black shale particles.
The Wynne government’s hubris has also come into play with its handling of the processing vegetable industry.
Several decisions, often made through another lapdog, the Farm Products Marketing Commission, have gradually usurped the independence of the growers’ elected board of directors on the premise they were doing a poor job.
The function of the growers’ board was to simply represent the best interests of growers. That required that the board not only push for fair pricing for growers but also work closely with processors so that the entire industry could move forward.
That is no longer a likely outcome, given that growers who may have only their self-interest at heart have been appointed to the board along with an appointed chair.
The remaining elected grower representatives have found themselves in a powerless position, beyond what might be accomplished through persuasion.
Incompetence might describe the Wynne government’s handling of the situation, born out of ignorance or, perhaps, just perhaps, of something far more troubling. ◊