Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bats, Wind Turbines and the Provincial Election

An article I read on wind turbines last week says a significant number of bats are falling victim to turbine blades every night.

The article can be found in the online version of the Green Bay Press Gazette. (

Research shows about 50 bats are killed annually by each wind turbine. (Another piece of research referenced in the article comes up with a similar number.) The bats don’t actually hit the blades but rather perish because air in low-pressure areas near the tips of the blades ruptures their lungs and causes internal hemorrhaging.

Who cares about bats one might ask?

We all should.

For one reason insect–eating bats save the agricultural industry at least $3 billion a year according to said Tom Kunz, an ecology professor at Boston University and co-author of the study.

I’m not aware of similar research here in Ontario but I can tell you that the issue of where wind turbines should be permitted will figure in the Ontario provincial election campaign later this year. Will someone be standing up for bats?

A group called Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) is in the midst of a tour of the province. Their mission is to protect the health, safety and quality of life of the people of Ontario from industrial wind turbines. (Their website makes mention of bats too.) WCO claims to comprise 57 grassroots citizens groups across 34 counties/districts in the province.

When the McGuinty Government brought in the Green Energy and Green Economy Act it seemed like a good idea that ultimate control for approvals of wind turbines was taken away from municipalities. At the time the Premier claimed that local governments were using by-laws and regulations to delay or stop proposed renewable energy projects. The municipal level of government may be the most responsive but it is also the most susceptible to NIMBY.

To stop a wind turbine now, rather than appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board, you must go to the Environmental Review Tribunal. Serious harm to human health or serious and irreversible harm to plant, life, animal life or the natural environment are grounds for appeals.

While human health concerns have yet to be attributed to wind turbines the bat research points to the need for politicians and scientists to come together and come out with solutions.

We need windpower.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Respect for Citizens Needed at Council Meetings

Over the last ten years I’ve attended a couple of dozen meetings of Standing Committees of Hamilton City Council.

Usually I’ve been there to watch; occasionally I’ve been presenting. From time to time I‘ve gone home happy as the issue that had prompted my attendance had been resolved appropriately, from my perspective anyway.

But almost always I’ve headed out into the real world following these meetings out of sorts because of the lack of respect that Hamilton Council consistently shows for the public.

This lack of respect takes many forms.

First, meetings frequently start late, usually because of lack of quorum. Once I was there for a 9:30 meeting that was about to be postponed. Seconds short of 10:00 a Mountain Councillor raced into Chambers arriving just under the wire so the meeting could get started. (Not having a quorum within thirty minutes of the scheduled start means no meeting.) Let’s face it those who are there to present or listen have other responsibilities that need their time.

Second, Councillors, some more than others, feel the need to get up and leave the room a lot. To be fair it isn’t easy sitting for the hours that the job requires and some, OK most, of the dialogue is tedious but these pols knew what the job entailed when they put their names forward.

Third, and this is what really turns my crank, is the propensity some councillors have for talking with the media in the middle of meetings. Way back when we were toddlers we all learned that it was rude to talk when others are talking. And someone - staff, a member of the public or another Councillor - is always talking at a Committee meeting. In my experience most municipalities’ procedural by-laws cover such matters and committee chairs have the power to enforce.

In this context I found Andrew Dreschel’s column in today’s Hamilton Spectator interesting. (

Dreschel reports that Peggy Chapman from Mayor Bratina’s office wants to start “regulating interactions in the Council Chambers.”

That would include, apparently, not allowing reporters to talk with councillors during proceedings and restricting councillors from talking privately with reporters during meetings.

The columnist seems to think that the Mayor’s initiative may be more about “exercising control than good form.”

But if Dreschel and others took a look around they’d likely find that Hamilton is out of step with other cities who think that at the heart of good form is respect for citizens.