Doug Ford government spent $231M to scrap green energy projects

Provincial documents show the Ford government spent more than $230 million to cancel renewable energy projects that included a partially-built wind farm in a cabinet minister's riding. 

The spending was revealed Tuesday in question period by the opposition NDP, who accused the Ford government of throwing away money on scrapping energy projects as the Liberal government did earlier in the decade. 

The province's public accounts for 2018-19 show spending of $231 million by the Ministry of Energy on unexplained "other transactions."

Inquiries by an NDP researcher uncovered that these "other transactions" were "to fulfil a government commitment to wind down renewable energy contracts" including the White Pines wind farm in Prince Edward County.

Premier Doug Ford promised that electricity ratepayers would not be on the hook for scrapping the wind farm, which was one of the first acts of his government after taking power in June 2018. 

Dave Chidley/Canadian Press

"Wasting $231 million to cancel hydro contracts is the sort of thing the previous Liberal government did during the gas plant scandal," NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns said on Tuesday. 

The associate minister of energy, Bill Walker, said the province didn't need the power from the White Pines project but didn't deny the cost of the cancellation. 

"This municipality was an unwilling host from day one. They did not want the turbines. We did the right thing," said Walker in question period. 

Walker pointed to actions of the previous Liberal governments, whose moves to cancel gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville ended up costing upwards of $1 billion, according to the province's auditor general.  

"I'll take fair criticism for decisions that were made when we were in government," John Fraser, the Liberal interim leader, said Tuesday at Queen's Park. "But I also believe that this government's going down the wrong path with energy and electricity, and tearing up these contracts was the absolute wrong thing to do."

The White Pines wind farm is in the riding of Todd Smith, the PC MPP for Bay of Quinte and the government's minister of children, community and social services. 

CBC

"This is a project that residents of Prince Edward County had been fighting against since it was proposed," Smith told reporters Tuesday.  

Four out of the nine turbines approved for the project were built in 2018. After the election, the new government put a stop-work order on construction. Crews are currently working to dismantle those four turbines. 

"For this government to rip up contracts and literally rip wind turbines out of the ground is a huge waste of money and makes absolutely no sense," said Green party Leader Mike Schreiner. 

The NDP researcher had to resort to a roundabout way of confirming that the $230 million listed on the 2018-19 books was spent cancelling energy projects. When government officials did not reply to his queries about the "other transactions," he asked legislative library staff to find out.

"Costs associated with the wind down and subsequent termination of renewable energy contracts (including the costs associated with the termination of the White Pines Wind project) are not anticipated to exceed $231 million," a ministry official said in an email to the library staffer.

"Total compensation for the termination of the White Pines Wind project is within the above amount and is still to be finalized, as there are a number of activities, such as decommissioning, that need to take place."