Wind project cancellation deals a blow to Ontario’s business reputation

 

The White Pines Wind Project in Prince Edward County was scheduled to go into operation this fall.White Pines wind turbines, Prince Edward County. Photo: The Star

The mixed bag that is Bill 2, currently making its way through the legislature, aims to make Hydro One accountable (again), get York University students back to school (again) and drive a stake through the White Pines Wind Project in Prince Edward County.

It is the latter schedule, the White Pines Wind Project Termination Act, that drew Germany’s ambassador to Canada, Sabine Sparwasser, into media interviews Monday, offering a big picture take on the implications of the project’s cancellation.

“I’ve been involved in numerous activities where we say, ‘Come to Canada, this is a very good place to do business,’” Sparwasser said in an interview with the Star.

You know where this is going. That sentence is like one of those narrative cliffhangers where the action pivots and you anticipate that, bam, events are not going to unfold as originally predicted.

“We’re trying to enhance direct investment, and in that context it is not good news if you have a case where a project by a German company that has been here for the last 10 years and a project that’s close to completion and that has respected all the regulation and has produced all the licences required, is suddenly or is in the process of being suddenly unilaterally cancelled and basically dismantled.”

The ordered demise of White Pines is an obvious win for the legion of protesters who have spent years fighting the down-scaled project — the original plan was for 27 turbines — which was scheduled to go into operation this fall. Prince Edward County keeps the company of close to 100 municipalities and counties that declared themselves unwilling hosts for industrial turbines, a reminder of the deeply unpopular rural stance to the pro-wind power initiatives of the deceased Liberal government. Anti-turbine forces are jubilant, or would be were it not for the ongoing construction of the project, pending passage of the legislation. Four of the turbines are up. The supporting infrastructure is largely in place. Construction continues.

…So it has fallen to Ambassador Sparwasser to advance the broader trade argument. “We’re living in a very uncertain world in terms of world trade policy,” she says. “Germany and Canada and the EU and Canada are very like-minded partners. We have concluded the most progressive, comprehensive economic and trade agreement. We do want to do more business. We do want to do more in trade co-operation.”

And direct investment? “We’re all trying to enhance the good relationship and more co-operation and more direct investment, and in that context a story where investors actually who have invested in good faith and have fulfilled all the obligations but find themselves in a really, really difficult position and their project is basically cancelled on the spot.

“That,” Sparwasser concludes, “is not a good story to tell.”

 Eight years ago, White Pines obtained a FIT (feed-in tariff) contract, the program that was supposed to position Ontario as a North American leader in clean energy. The company now estimates its potential loss as something in the area of $100 million.
Bay of Quinte MPP and Government House Leader Todd Smith, who promised during the provincial election to see the project through to cancellation, offered White Pines this tip in the Picton Gazette last week: “The best advice for the company is to honour the will of the government standing up for the will of the people.”
Go quietly, in other words. White Pines has chosen a different path, highlighting how poorly this reflects upon Ontario’s open-for-business mantra. In this the company is right.  SOURCE

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