Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Airing Dirty Laundry for All to See

This morning I had the pleasure of helping Environmental Defence and their Come Clean project. With the federal election behind us, the focus in Ontario is now on the provincial election coming up in October. There's no time like the present to get both our newly elected federal officials and the provincial candidates to Come Clean and provide straight answers on where they stand on environmental issues. How do we get their attention? Air their dirty laundry on the front lawn at Queen's Park (home to Ontario's provincial parliament).

The dirty bed sheet reads, "Bed bugs, bed bugs, everywhere! ... Why, you might ask? Well that's because a year ago our Nanny Premier Dalton McGuinty banned pesticide use across the province." - Conservative MPP Randy Hillier. For those of you who didn't hear, Toronto had a bed bug outbreak in the winter, and Premier McGuinty banned pesticides in 2009. Mr. Hillier thinks the latter is to blame for the former, ignoring three facts: (1) the ban makes exceptions when public health and safety are in jeopardy; (2) several pesticide products are still approved for use; and (3) businesses may only use these products once licensed. Most importantly, our rivers and lakes are being kept clean of cancer-causing toxins. We should thank Premier McGuinty for being a good nanny! As for Mr. Hillier, he's got some laundry to do.

Top: "The information we have acquired will help us and wind developers make better-informed decisions on offshore wind power projects." - then Minister of Natural Resources Donna Cansfield. In 2008, Minister Cansfield announced that the Ontario Liberals were lifting a moratorium on offshore wind farms that was put in place in 2006. Notably, the government was going to establish a partnership with various organizations that strive to protect migratory birds. But then (bottom), Environment Minister John Wilkinson said that "[offshore wind] requires a cautious approach until the science of environmental impact is clear." We heard this earlier this year, when the Liberals reversed the 2008 decision and will again put a halt to wind power development for another two years. They claim that this is about seeking more scientific evidence, but I think we all know what they're really seeking is votes this October!

It's not just the Liberals and Conservatives making no sense, though. Above, NDP MPP Peter Kormos is quoted as saying, "Wind turbines could end up being the biggest financial and corporate scam the province has witnessed since eHealth." Mr. Kormos has also publicly backed complaints from anti-wind groups! Strange, I thought the NDP's official stance was to advocate for an aggressive transition to renewable energy?

And then there was the leader of the Ontario Conservatives, Tim Hudak. Oh, Mr. Hudak. Hoping to be elected Premier this fall, just yesterday he promised that "an Ontario PC government will end the sweetheart Samsung deal ... [and] will end the FIT program." Mr. Hudak wants to kill a deal with Samsung that is set to create tens of thousands of jobs in the wind and solar energy industries. Would that initially save money? Yes. Would that help save struggling economies in places like Windsor that have been devastated by the auto industry crash? No. Mr. Hudak also wants to kill the feed-in-tariff (FIT) program which provides stable prices within long-term contracts to developers of clean energy, effectively stimulating the renewable energy industry while helping Ontario phase out its coal-fired power plants. Last, but certainly not least, Mr. Hudak has stated that "it's not a Greenbelt; it's a 'greenbotch'." He's referring to one of the world's largest areas to be permanently protected from urban development and sprawl: the ecologically sensitive Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario. Why anyone would oppose the preservation of such beautiful green space, farmland, forests, wetlands, and watersheds is beyond me. Are we not already taking up enough space? Please Ontario, don't elect this man in October.

To learn more about Come Clean project, check out the project website. Meanwhile, what do you think? Please share your reactions!


  1. Ooooh! What a great idea! Dirty Laundry!

    That last one has me seeing red. When I heard about your massive Samsung wind deal, my heart leapt with joy. When I see other Ontario blogs I read putting up solar panels and getting paid a premium for their energy due to your FIT program, I am green with envy. I really really hope Hudak does not get in. What will it take to ensure that?!?!?!?!?!?!

  2. We keep writing about important issues and pointing out how big of a mess people like Hudak will make if elected. I really don't know what else to do. Look at how many Ontarians voted blue last week. They're sure to cast their provincial ballots the same way this October. It's a little scary.

  3. Hi Andrea! I'm very cautious about certain renewable energies... I'd really like to see cities be able to generate enough power within city boundaries. I read/heard somewhere that Paris heats half its buildings through incineration. What are all the pros and cons for this possible option?

    I'm also not completely comfortable with hydro power - have you seen the movie Borealis? I've just seen the trailer but it makes me think twice about how positive hydro power is.

    And I'm concerned that we keep using up more and more land for human needs:

    I'm really not sure what the impact of wind farms are on other species and their habitats around the farms - especially if they are in water.

    Plan B 4.0 gave me some hope - there were some stats in the book that were incredible - enough wasted electricity at night that all of north america could power their electric cars with it?? And if we all used CFLS and/or LEDS the energy savings would be incredible... It was a very interesting read.

    I'd love to know what others think (especially with it being election season)! Great topic!

  4. Thanks for sharing all of these links!

    I'd like to see cities generate as much power as possible within city boundaries just as much as I'd like to see cities grow as much food as possible within city boundaries. There's a lot of wasted space when you think about large city parks that could incorporate a community garden, or new buildings with green roofs that could have rooftop gardens on them.

    Yes, incineration, hydroelectric dams, and wind farms have their share of downsides. But we need to get away from coal. I wish there was an easy solution... there never is one.

    To play devil's advocate for a moment, I'd counter your statement about switching all incandescents to CFLs by saying that lighting accounts for a very small chunk of our overall energy use, and tossing out incandescent bulbs before they're burnt out is wasteful, too. Again, no easy solutions!

  5. So right - always that balance between using what we have (rather than tossing it out) and using new resources to create more energy efficient products!

    I thought the same about the percentage but here's the quote from PLAN B 4.0: shifting to CFLs in homes, to the most advanced linear fluorescents in office buildings, commercial outlets, and factories, and to LEDs in traffic lights would cut the world share of electricity used for lighting from 19 percent to 7 percent. This would save enough electricity to close 705 of the world’s 2,670 coal-fired plants.

    They also talk about developing "a national electrical grid that can distribute electricity efficiently across the country" - it explains there are times where there is excess generating capacity and transmitting capacity and times when there is too much demand. If a smart grid could be used sharing "real-time information across the entire electrical grid (it) could allow at least a 20 percent improvement in energy efficiency in the United States".

    It was good news to me that we could just improve our current system and gain such efficiencies!

    Plan B 4.0 talks alot about how to get away from coal plants. I keep meaning to compare this book (by Earth Policy) with the Post Carbon Reader ( - Richard Gilbert and Anthony Perl wrote the transportation chapter for this one (they are both from Canada). : )

  6. So true: our system is probably inefficient just by nature of being old and outdated. The drop from 19% to 7% is impressive, too. I wonder how we'd get around the problem of people living in building where their electricity costs are incorporated into their rent, so they don't feel as much pressure to conserve (not always turning off lights when leaving a room)? I've often thought about high rise apartment buildings, having lived in two of them over the past four years. They're overheated in the winter, which caused me and many of my neighbours to keep the windows open 365 days of the year. There's a huge problem right there! I wonder who we should lobby to enact new legislation that would force landlords to keep hydro and heating out of rent charges? We (taxpayers) would have to pay for the costs associated with renovating old buildings to measure power use separately, though... :(