After the 2021 federal elections, the government cleared and swept away all outstanding petition requests at the beginning of the new parliament. One was a 3,300 signatures petition submitted by the Save Georgian Bay Association.
I understand that this is a standard accepted procedure, and there was no wrongdoing. The e-petitions, on the other hand, need 500 signatures in 120 days and be sponsored by an MP. The government is “obliged to provide a written response, posted online, within 45 days.”
Three petitions raised: e-2575 May 7, 2020, with 1,008 signatures, e-2670 June 15, 2020, with 1,273 signatures, and e-2860 September 29, 2020, with 388 signatures. In a nutshell, the response to the petitions raised in May and June 2020 is that “TC Energy’s proposed hydroelectric pumped-storage plant would be subject to the Impact Assessment Agency (IAA). The Agency is awaiting the submission of an acceptable initial description of the project by the proponent.”
What is an “acceptable initial description?” Since IAA is waiting for TC Energy’s proposal, who can address the TC Energy or OPS benefits which will most certainly appear in the recommendation?
Will Ontario taxpayers save millions from the operation of the hydroelectric pump storage in the form of tax savings? Is a potential tax saving of $250 per year acceptable? Unfortunately, it is an unsubstantiated claim, a simple math calculation without cost considerations or environmental damage. So why has TC Energy not published the estimates showing how a saving of $250 million can be realized? What will they use as accountability metrics? And what are the consequences if the $250 million is not realized?
Is Hydroelectric Pump Storage green, not affecting climate change? Many environmental engineers disagree. So, if the truth falls somewhere between these views, what is the acceptable IAA standard to accept the proposal? Is it 10%, 20%, or 90% green?
What guarantees that the proposed underground facility design will not affect fish spawning grounds, aquatic life habitat, water turbidity and terrestrial ecosystems? TC Energy claims that the underground design will have little or no impact. Environmental engineers disagree. Suppose the environment assessment determines that there will be a marginal impact. What are the IAA acceptable metrics? I don’t know what they are because they are not published on the IAA website.
What footprint remains after the four years of construction activities? Environmental engineers are making it abundantly clear that
- pollutants will be released into the environment,
- excavation of the escarpment will impact the water table,
- terrestrial habitat will be destroyed,
- temporary accommodations for the four-year project will be abandoned and left vacant, and
- the DND facilities will move to a different location to make way for the reservoir.
If the project does not earn $250 million per year, it’s not as green as expected by IAA, destroys aquatic and terrestrial habitats, or creates turbidity. So who will respond, and what can they do once the project is in operation?
The Federal Government destroyed a petition from 3,300 citizens without a response and diverted all e-petitions to an IAA process. Unfortunately, politicians at all levels take a “wait and see approach” or sweep the voice of concerned citizens under the rug and hope that the protests to save Georgian Bay disappear.
Is the fate of Georgian Bay already determined and sealed, or should the voice of concerned citizens to preserve and protect Georgian Bay for our children and grandchildren be answered?
Citizens of Meaford and the rest of Ontario, what do you think? Is the call from citizens an irritation that should be dodged and swept away by the broom of democracy?
Pat Zita, Meaford