SooToday.com has received a copy of the following letter from a loyal reader and local Save Ontario’s Algoma Region (SOAR) activist to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier Government of Ontario
February 25, 2013
Create a sustainable economy for Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma that will provide long-term jobs, based on existing resources and infrastructure, requiring little capital investment.
Build economic activity and local jobs using cultural and environmental tourism.
The Action Plan:
The Ontario Government and the Private Sector Working Together to develop Algoma’s cultural and environment tourism as economic assets.
• 2011: The Northern Ontario Regional Tourism Organization (NORTO) was established by the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to lead tourism marketing, investment attraction, work force development/capacity and product development across Northern Ontario.
• 2012: Funding from the private sector enabled consulting professionals to review cultural tourism and economic development opportunities that can be generated in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma based on the Group of Seven, which began creating its iconic Canadian art in Algoma in 1918.
• 2013: Practical job-creating initiatives begin, led by the tourism industry with government support. Excitement, enthusiasm and opportunity identification continues to expand with the approach of the 100th anniversary of the Group of Seven’s founding in the Algoma District.
Growing Algoma’s Cultural Tourism Asset:
The history and work of the Group of Seven in Algoma is a unique asset which grows in value every year, as shown by the current exhibition at the McMichael Gallery, recently returned from great success in London, Amsterdam and Oslo.
Every visitor to that exhibit is being shown the incomparable beauty of Algoma.
This type of exposure is invaluable.
Much of the infrastructure needed to attract visitors and create jobs already exists in Provincial Parks, the Trans-Canada Highway, the hotel and food services industry of Sault Ste. Marie, Wawa and the North Shore, and the Algoma Central Railway – Agawa Canyon Tour Train.
And, of course, the major asset is the natural wilderness beauty of the region.
Premier Wynne, Algoma Needs Your Leadership:
Your government must take action to preserve and protect the areas of Algoma and the North Shore of Lake Superior where the Group of Seven created their famous art.
The Ministry of the Environment is currently reviewing two project applications for large wind turbine installations which will severely impact the future of cultural and environmental tourism in this area.
We need your leadership, and that of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to protect these assets and promote long-term, sustainable, low-cost job growth.
The Bow Lake Wind Project, one of potentially many additional industrial wind projects in Algoma, is located within the Group of Seven painting sites.
Without your intervention, Algoma’s expanding cultural tourism-based economy will be lost if this culturally significant region is impacted by further industrial development.
Recently, on January 21, 2013, you responded personally to the 2013 Report on Industrial Wind Turbine Development in Algoma sent to you from Save Ontario’s Algoma Region (SOAR).
You were the only leadership candidate to take the time to address a rural concern which has now become critical for local residents.
Your commitment to “increasing municipal autonomy and local control over the siting of green energy infrastructure” and your belief that “working together we can build a sustainable clean energy infrastructure” offer those of us who live in Northern Ontario new hope that you can and will intervene on behalf of those who live in Algoma -- the rural area north of Sault Ste. Marie.
The Asset At Risk:
The Canadian Automobile Association commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Canada Highway in an article
“Ocean to Ocean”:
“...I didn't want to rush what is arguably the most beautiful section of the highway: around Lake Superior's north shore from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay. When you drive through a rock cut and then drop down toward the lake, with green trees to the horizon on one side and blue water on the other, there is no better place to be in the world”
Will this scenic drive still have the same impact on travellers when hundreds of towering wind turbines industrialize the landscape?
The Voyageur Trail runs along Lake Superior and in the Algoma Highlands.
Lake Superior Provincial Park will be in sight (and possibly sound) of the turbines planned for the Bow Lake Wind Project which is now on the brink of receiving Renewable Energy Approval to develop a 36-turbine site of monstrous size.
The Bow Lake Project will be immediately adjacent to Lake Superior Provincial Park, one of Algoma’s major tourist attractions.
Water routes are being created for canoeists, kayakers and boaters who come from all over the world to visit the clean waters and haunting coastline of Lake Superior.
When they learn that wind turbine industrialization of the Lake Superior coastline and watershed corridor is imminent, visitors are horrified.
The future of the public’s recreational enjoyment in Algoma will be diminished by such industrial activity.
Premier Wynne, there is mounting evidence that rural areas can achieve a sustainable economy without industrialization: indeed, because of the very absence of industrialization.
In Algoma, a sustainable economy can be based on environmental and cultural tourism.
On January 2, 2013, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) released Ontario Arts and Culture Tourism Profile.
Martha Durdin, OAC Chair has said: “This report demonstrates the important role that arts and culture play in Ontario’s tourism industry in terms of spending, economic impact and attracting visitors. It also provides useful information on how to further tap into this large potential market for the province’s arts and culture offerings.”
The Honourable Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Michael Chan, has said: “Cultural tourism is a powerful force that is transforming global travel and trends. Our diverse arts, culture and heritage has helped us attract visitors from within our borders and beyond to explore and experience our exciting province. Our government is committed to evolving our tourism strategy to align with our cultural assets...”
The rugged beauty of Algoma has been made world-famous by Canada’s Group of Seven.
These artists were so captivated by the land and waters of the Near North that they devoted their lives to painting it.
Their landscapes formed the basis of Canadian art which defined Canada not only in the eyes of the world, but for Canadians themselves.
Current research has located many of the Group of Seven painting sites in Algoma.
Any industrial development of the Lake Superior Coast and Watershed will impact negatively on cultural tourism generated through these sites.
Recently, a visitor to the McMichael Gallery wrote:
“Last weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Tom Thomson exhibition at the gallery. And while I was there, I wondered if the McMichael Gallery was aware of the imminent destruction of many of the Group's painting sites in the Algoma District as a result of the proliferation of industrial wind projects along the Lake Superior Heritage Coastline north of Sault Ste. Marie. I was particularly saddened to see J.E.H. MacDonald's "Montreal Falls" and "Near Montreal Lake" knowing that this area is roughly the site of the Bow Lake Wind Project which is reaching its final stages of approval in December 2012.”
Victoria Dickenson, McMichael Gallery Executive Director, responded:
“While the McMichael certainly appreciates the role of the Algoma landscape in the work of the Group of Seven, we do not feel we can comment on this particular issue. I have already, however, passed your concerns along to our Deputy Minister, who will convey them to colleagues in the Ministry of Energy.”
The Director’s comments are valid. It is not the role of an art gallery to involve itself in political wrangles.
It is, rather, the responsibility of the legislative representatives elected to protect and support the needs and requirements of their constituents and to respond to their repeated requests for assistance in dealing with laws and regulations which impact them.
SOAR has repeatedly said that all political parties involved in the governance of Ontario’s resources must work together to ensure that economic growth, as desirable as it is to create jobs, must not in the process destroy significant job opportunities for rural Ontario.
The Bow Lake Wind Project is of immediate concern.
Will the Ministries of Tourism, Culture and Sport, Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources act quickly enough to pause the Bow Lake Wind Project which is now in consideration for REA approval?
The Ministries named have already been made aware of the impact that the Bow Lake Wind project will have on the Group of Seven painting sites located in this area – which is also accessed by the Algoma Tour Train, a premier year-round tourist attraction. To date, these Ministries have repeatedly stated that they have no responsibility to protect these assets – the majority of which are on Crown Land.
The predicament is this: the Bow Lake Wind Project is the first of many such industrial intrusions in Algoma.
A second project, the Goulais Wind Farm, is also proceeding in the REA process and several more are awaiting FIT Contracts.
Algoma already has 126-turbine wind project located on the coast north of Sault Ste. Marie.
The navigation lights of the Prince Wind Project can be seen for a radius of 90 kms – at a cost to one of Algoma’s major tourist attractions – the dark night skies.
It can be argued that Algoma has already made a considerable contribution to the renewable energy plan of the Ontario government.
Not only is the Prince Wind Project one of the largest industrial wind installations in Ontario, Sault Ste. Marie is the site of several large solar farms.
And, of course, Algoma has been producing hydro-generated electricity for Ontario for decades.
Premier Wynne you have said:
“We are working to bring people together and find common ground - because that’s what we do in Ontario. When we find fair, creative solutions to the challenges we face, we all succeed together.”
We need your help to save the economic future of Algoma and we need it now.
We need your intervention to halt the further industrialization of Algoma’s iconic landscape which jeopardizes the potential of our environmental and cultural economy.
Save Ontario’s Algoma Region (SOAR)
(Cell: 705 971 0818)
Andrea Horwath - Leader New Democratic Party of Ontario
Tim Hudak - Leader Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
Hon Charles Sousa, Minister of Finance
Hon. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Economic Development, Trade and Employment
Hon. Linda Jeffrey, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing
Hon. James J. Bradley , Minister of the Environment: (Sarah Raetsen)
Hon. Michael Chan, Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport
Hon. Michael Gravelle, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
Hon. Jeff Leal, Ministry of Rural Affairs
Hon. Glenn R Murray, Ministry of Transportation/ Ministry of Infrastructure
Hon. David Orazietti, Ministry of Natural Resources: (Erin Nixon)
Michael Mantha, MPP Algoma-Manitoulin
Debbie Amaroso, Mayor of Sault Ste. Marie
Bryan Hayes, MP Algoma
Linda Nowicki, Mayor of Wawa
Members of the Press
Save Ontario’s Algoma Region (SOAR) is dedicated to promoting and preserving the coastal corridor of Lake Superior as a Heritage Coast to be preserved in its natural state for perpetuity. A grass roots, non-profit, advocacy group of concerned residents, permanent and seasonal, in the District of Algoma, SOAR, since 2010, has had a mandate to inform citizens of the impact of industrialized wind turbine development planned for the area north of Sault Ste. Marie up to Montreal River Harbour.
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