Waking Up to New Realities

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

 

We’re wondering if a ‘tipping point’ has been reached. Is the era of ‘government/industry gangs doing whatever they please’ coming to an end? Will those who have been spending/wasting OUR money finally be forced to consider OUR views and priorities?

There are some hopeful signs.

Take for example the noises being made in opposition to the poorly-thought-out wind farms debacle. Our Ontario government has piled onto a ‘green’ bandwagon, apparently without sober consideration, and signed long term contracts that will mean excessive expenditure of taxpayers’ and hydro customers’ money for many decades into the future. At the same time there will be very little if any benefit to our environment or economy. In fact when all the detrimental effects are considered – to human health, endangered species, and property, to name a few – the negatives far outweigh any alleged positives. It appears that our provincial politicians have signed us up for an experiment that will cost us dearly, with an increasing likelihood that the promise of abundant green energy will prove to be an economic nightmare rather than the anticipated dream-come-true.

A hopeful sign is that a number of municipalities are passing bylaws to try to introduce a measure of prudence and caution to the picture – the ‘measure’ being in many cases a 2km setback from homes, and a number of fees to pay for things like decommissioning and property value losses. Another hopeful sign is a law passed in Denmark where 551 compensation payments have been made to people living next to wind projects with an average amount of 57,000 kroner per household. Real estate agents say the amount is often far below the actual property value loss, while politicians see it as a step in the right direction. The loss-of-value clause was passed by parliament in 2008 at the urging of Dansk Folkeparti (DF) and gave neighbours to wind turbines the opportunity to seek financial compensation for lost property value.

As you can see, internationally, others are way ahead of Ontario. Here, the government set an artificial price on renewable energy, and then slapped a 20-year guarantee on that price. This price-setting structure is called the Feed-In Tariff program (FIT), and the World Trade Organization has struck it down as an illegal subsidy that violates international trade law. Problem is the politicians are playing with OUR money. If their decisions were to turn out correct we will pay MUCH higher prices for energy. If they are incorrect we, and/or our grandchildren still pay, in the form of penalties and lawsuits!

The not-so-hopeful sign is that the affected companies aren’t accepting this situation without a fight. In Ontario we’ve seen threatening letters trying to put a ‘chill’ on local councils. We can be certain that more will follow, and in more industries besides the wind developers.

StMarysMasonryCementbagA recent example of just how successful and profitable this ‘pay us either way’ tactic can be for a developer has occurred in the Aggregate Industry. Not long ago a government Ministerial Zoning Order put a stop to a proposed open-pit quarry application near Carlisle Ontario. The applicant, St. Mary’s Cement, threatened to sue and it cost Ontario taxpayers $15million to settle. So WE paid $15M – a nice profit for St. Mary’s without shipping any stone – and what did we get for our money? Nothing but higher taxes and debts …. and McGuinty avoided facing a subpoena!

So the ‘new reality’ is that people are beginning to wake up and demand that their governments – servants of the people – start to actually serve them! The concept of ‘Full Cost Accounting’ is being actively discussed as a requirement for industrial development proposals, so that only those activities that are environmentally, socially, and economically viable will proceed. To allow continued industrial development to proceed while being heavily subsidized by taxpayers, ratepayers, municipalities and property owners, not to mention the uncalculated costs to environments and species at risk, is just not going to be acceptable any longer.

Politicians who don’t have their head in the sand must recognize these signs and see them as an opportunity to provide leadership in the direction we are already heading.

Help spread the wake up call!

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Need … or Greed?

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

One of the more questionable aspects of Ontario’s Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is the clause that prohibits anyone from asking if there truly is a NEED for more open pit aggregate mines – both pits and quarries. The PPS reads in Clause 2.5.2.1:  “Demonstration of need for mineral aggregate resources, including any type of supply/demand analysis, shall not be required …”
Since one of the main arguments repeatedly made by pit and quarry applicants is the alleged ‘NEED’ for more supply, it strikes us as bizarre that decision makers should be prohibited from responding with: “Oh really? We NEED more supply? Show us the evidence!” What kind of Alice in Wonderland world do we inhabit here? One side can talk incessantly about need but the other side “shall not”?

So we are asking “What is really going on here?”

Consider a few facts:

…    According to expert analyst Dr. L. Jensen, Phd. Geoscience: “… it will take … 208 years at present rates of consumption, to consume all the sand and gravel reserves under license in 2010. No doubt this 208 year supply has considerably increased with the additional 200 licenses and permits added to the inventory during the past 2 years.”… from a submission made to the ARA Review Committee, May 2012
…   The gravel industry, with help from their lobbyists at the OSSGA, has made a mass appeal of their property tax assessments, apparently successfully. The result will be that municipalities must REFUND and forego hundreds of thousands of dollars to wealthy pit and quarry owners. The tax burden presently shifted onto residential property owners from groups like this who receive favoured treatment amounts to $20 million annually in Wellington County alone, or $731 per property owner.
…  Despite dire predictions of ever-increasing need that accompany applications, Ontario aggregate production, which was 171 million tonnes in 2000, fell to 159 million tonnes in 2011. (from TOARC statistics)
…  Due to a failed quarry application near Carlisle Ontario, the applicant St. Mary’s Cement threatened to sue the province for costs incurred and loss of future revenues. The province has settled, costing Ontario taxpayers $15million! What a sweet deal! You apply for a pit and if you win you get to make $millions supplying aggregate to the province (taxpayers). If you lose, you get $millions for the loss of potential revenue (from the gravel you don’t have to supply). Yikes! Is this nuts, or are we nuts for putting up with it?
…  When an ordinary property owner seeks compensation from their ‘new neighbour’ – an open pit mine – for a drastic drop in the value of their property, the applicants, operators, and elected representatives all run and hide. Is there no ‘NEED’ for wealthy pit operators to pay compensation for what are often devastating losses due to their ‘needed’ operations?
greed3
So again we ask is it NEED or GREED at work here? And why should we be prevented from asking what the needs of the various parties actually are?

Watch Where You’re Going!

Dedicated to Digging for Truth, Blasting the Myths, and Etching Reality in Stone.

Watch out … You may not like what you find down that ‘gravel’ road.

It seems that the whole world has caught some kind of ‘green fever’. Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ hard earned money is being spent chasing green dreams. Virtually all essential industries have been hit – health, energy production, transportation, manufacturing, food production, environment, to name a few. In some few cases we are benefiting economically from new developments. In many other cases things just aren’t working out, except for the favored few who are well connected with politicians who write them massive cheques.

It is industry lobbyists who are writing the scripts and the taxpayers who are paying the shot.

One example of immediate concern to us is the influence wielded by the gravel industry. For many decades they have had their way with very little interference from those who must suffer the negative consequences of their activities. They are the ‘self-monitoring’ people who write the laws, and are in charge of enforcing them, (if you can call their feeble efforts ‘enforcement’).

A recent news article, and industry response, is a small example of where we’re going if we don’t pay close attention. The topic was ‘Recycling’ of aggregates and the journalist asked “Is Recycling Always a Good Thing?

An aggregate industry lobbyist answered with a resounding ‘Yes!’ And in the process dishonestly branded a community group as “opposing recycling” when the truth is the group – PitSense –  is emphatically in favour of recycling … but in a manner that makes SENSE! Then, when members of that group sought to refute the lobbyist’s false accusation, the newspaper refused to publish their letters.

Why is this upsetting? Could it be because the public is being lulled, with help from a media that lacks balance, into believing that the aggregate industry is only thinking of what’s best for Ontarians? Well just consider for a few minutes an example of what the folks at PitSense are concerned about …

Do YOU know what is in this massive pile of demolition debris? ….

demolition1 Does aggregate lobbyist Moreen Miller know? Does she even care, or does she just want to be paid handsomely to say it’s OK to drop this junk 6 feet away from sources of drinking water, while pretending to be doing the ‘any recycling is good’ thing? demolition2

These pictures are from the demolition site of the old Brampton Hospital. Lord only knows what toxic junk is in this mess. Do we want this stuff recycled? YES, of course. But … are people who have not demonstrated any idea of how to do it responsibly the best ones to do it? NO. Are below-water-table pits in rural residential areas a suitable location for storage and/or processing of this stuff? NOOOO!

But are there truckloads of money to be made here? HELL YES, which is why lobbyists like Moreen Miller are willing to bend the truth more than a little when representing her powerful industry in their pursuit of profits.

We repeat – let’s keep our eyes open and WATCH WHERE WE’RE GOING – or we may end up in a very nasty place.