Editorial – ‘Winds’ of change

Chris Clegg

This newspaper sympathizes with the M.D. of Smoky River council as they deal with the proposed wind project north of Falher.

We could not agree more with Reeve Robert Brochu when he says he is disappointed that neighbours are being pitted against neighbours in the dispute.

ABO Wind is proposing to erect just under 30 giant wind turbines in the region. The project is estimated at over $300 million. It is, as they say, a big deal!

The problem facing the M.D. of Smoky River as they put their two cents into the decision-making process is people supporting and proposing the project can find studies supporting their claim. It is not a clear matter. Sides are polarized.

It is generally accepted that the turbines do cause some people problems, others see no effect. A recent visit by the M.D. to southern Alberta suggests so.

No one at this newspaper can offer dazzling insight or solution. Why? None of us have lived near a wind turbine or experienced living by a wind turbine. We can read the reports or hear the testimonies but until you actually live beside one, how do you know for sure?

At a public information meeting June 28 at Guy hosted by the M.D. of Smoky River, one woman suggested a referendum. Council promised to consider the idea.

The problem with referendums is they are never binding. Even after the people vote on the matter, council does not have to act on what the people want. High Prairie town council held a vote to ban parking on Highway 2 through town on Oct. 19, 1998 and the people passed it 415-328. Council chose to snub the vote. The parking ban never happened. So much for what the people at the time wanted!

It is always a dangerous slope to slide down when you oppose what the people want.

In the case of the wind turbines, Brochu has pointed out many times the Alberta Utilities Commission makes the final decision. Odd that the local jurisdiction does not, but that is another story.

For the sake of argument let’s say the M.D. does proceed with a referendum. Will the AUC listen to what the people of the M.D. of Smoky River say? That is the million-dollar question.

Interesting that Brochu said members of the AUC are appointed by the Government of Alberta, yet the process was designed to keep the government at arm’s length from the decision-making process.

Really!

Does the government think the people are so naïve that if members of the AUC make a decision the government opposes they may find themselves looking for new work? Hey, if you don’t go along with the boss, we know who it does not end well for most of the time!

A referendum would likely result in a negative vote unless there is a strong silent majority in the M.D., and there might well be.

But no matter what the outcome of the vote, at least the people of the M.D. would feel they had a say in the matter. In a democracy, that should be worth something and for that reason, the M.D should seriously consider holding the referendum.

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