Ontario Rivers Alliance members came together out of shear frustration at the current lack of transparency, cooperation, and accountability on the part of the Proponent, MNR and MOE. It became abundantly clear very early on that the best interests of the rivers and their ecosystems were not being served and protected, and these hydroelectric proposals were not going to be stopped through the normal Environmental Assessment process.
Following are a few comments submitted by ORA to the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA) in response to their research project:
Investigating and evaluating the effectiveness of the process based on the following broad criteria – the:
- transparency of information,
- level of public participation that routinely occurs,
- accessibility of both community consultations and project information; and
- existing appeal rights for this process.
- Place a moratorium on waterpower development until a study is undertaken to determine the cumulative impacts of these numerous (98 at present) waterpower projects on Ontario rivers and their ecosystems; as well as their impact on the Great Lakes and their tributaries.
- Power returned to municipalities and stakeholders to provide a significant role and say in whether or not a proposal will be good for their community and the environment
- Intervenors’ funding provided to stakeholders
- Provide a transparent, inclusive, open, cooperative and accountable process, where stakeholders have access to pertinent documentation and are included in a meaningful way
- Public forum style meetings where all questions and answers can be heard by everyone, and pertinent information is made available
- Strict regulations regarding the use of the “green energy” label
- End the proponent led process and return the power to Ministry staff to direct the application and approvals process so decisions are made in the best interests of our environment and natural resources – the present system is akin to putting the fox in charge of the chicken koop
- Ensure Stakeholders’ Advisory Panels (SAC) are a mandatory part of the application process
- Eliminate the necessity to sign a gag order to become a SAC member
- Stakeholder and Public Consultation and input before a FIT Contract is issued
There must be a possibility of a “no” outcome in the processing of these applications – currently that doesn’t seem to be the case once the FIT Contract is issued. Democracy must be restored.
- Proponent will not share detailed information because it is not in their best interests
- MNR and MOE will not share information because it is a proponent led process
- Public and stakeholders are left with no access to important documents and details about the proposal
- Freedom of Information Applications are submitted but the costs are prohibitive, and total into the thousands of dollars – and it takes months to get approval for access to documents
Level of Public Consultation:
- Generous incentives are offered by the proponent for key people to take a position on a Stakeholders’ Advisory Committee (SAC); however, to accept such a position a document must first be signed assuring there will be no negative comments about the project or the proponent. This would be an effective muzzle preventing effective representation to Stewardship members and/or the best interests of the river.
- Meetings are held in an Open House format with no opportunity for everyone to hear the concerns of others or the answers to those concerns
- Public Meetings are set up as a casual open house with very little detailed information – only conceptual drawings – engineered drawings exist but are not available to the public or stakeholders
- General Information of hydro-electric generation on bristle boards
- Very little detailed information about the specific project
- Held one public forum in Wanapitei at the insistence of two local mayors and the Chief of Henvey Inlet – it was a much better format where everyone could hear the questions and answers.
- Asked proponent for a Public Forum format for future meetings and was told “It is not going to happen.”
- The mantra is often used “Let me be clear, this is a proponent led process”, and it truly is – the proponent is in charge and decides how meetings will be conducted and how and what information will be shared
Accessibility of both Community Consultations and Project Information :
- Documents are conveniently never complete until the end of the EA process – at which time we only have 30 to 60 days in which to respond – the proponent decides
- MNR and MOE only observe the proponents actions, but seem to have no power to direct them to share information or conduct effective meetings
- The proponent has control of the process and will move things along in their own way and share what they want when they want
In the last 10 years there have been 50 requests for a Part 2 bump-up order to an Individual Environmental Assessment – all requests have been denied to date.
Chair, Ontario Rivers Alliance