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Premier Doug Ford should allow the province’s auditor general to investigate his government’s abrupt cancellation of a $230-million partially built wind farm, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Thursday.
The Nation Rise Wind Farm near Ottawa was three months away from completion when Environment Minister Jeff Yurek revoked its approval last month. Yurek cited concerns over local bat populations, a claim that clashes with analysis from independent scientists and Ontario government experts.
“Mr. Ford, the ball is in your court. If you believe this decision is not a waste of public money, and you did not use bogus evidence to justify it, let the auditor general prove it,” Horwath said.
Nation Rise, a 100-megawatt project, had already passed scrutiny from the province's Environmental Review Tribunal when it was cancelled. Sixteen of its 29 turbines were partially or completely constructed.
A year ago, the Progressive Conservative MPP for the area, Jim McDonell, said halting the project at this stage could cost $1 billion. He also compared that scenario to the previous Liberal government’s gas-plants scandal, which cost roughly the same amount and played a significant role in that party’s fall from power.
Sensing a weak point for a government that has made cost-cutting central to its mandate, the official Opposition NDP and the Green party have pounced on the comparison.
The NDP wrote to Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk in early January to ask her to probe the cost of cancelling Nation Rise. Lysyk agreed to audit the cost of the cancellation in her annual report, but that wouldn’t be released until December 2020. A special investigation would be faster, Horwath said.
“Mr. Ford has not come clean about how much it will cost Ontarians to rip it down,” she added.
So far, the government has spent $231 million to cancel about 750 renewable-energy projects approved under the previous government’s Green Energy Act. Most of that money was spent to axe another partially constructed wind farm — White Pines, which was smaller and further away from completion than Nation Rise.
It's "ridiculous" to tear down renewable-energy projects in the middle of a climate emergency, Horwath said.
“Doug Ford's war on the environment is putting us all in danger, and everyday Ontarians are footing a massive bill for it,” she said.
"Mr. Ford, the ball is in your court. If you believe this decision is not a waste of public money, and you did not use bogus evidence to justify it, let the auditor general prove it,” said Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. #onpoli
“The devastating bushfires that continue to rage in Australia should be a wakeup call about the urgency to take action.”
The company behind Nation Rise, EDP Renewables, isn’t currently seeking compensation from the government for the $230 million in capital it has sunk into the wind farm. But the company has filed an application to ask a judge to overturn Yurek’s decision, alleging it was “politically motivated” and the minister lacked the proper legal authority, National Observer first reported.
Andrew Buttigieg, a spokesman for Yurek, declined to comment: "As the matter is now under judicial consideration, it would be inappropriate to comment at this time."
The premier has previously said he would “tear up every wind turbine in this province” if he could.
Editor's Note: This story was updated at 3:24 p.m. to include comment from the Ontario environment minister's office.