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Ontario’s Green Energy and Green Economy Act: Why a Well-Intentioned Law is Mired in Controversy and Opposed by Rural Communities

David McRobert, Julian Tennent-Riddell, Chad Walker


This article explores the legal framework and resulting social tensions related to renewable energy development in Ontario, Canada. Under the Green Energy and Green Economy Act 2009, the government of Ontario has helped to create a successful, growing base of renewable electricity in the province. Despite successes in terms of increased procurement of renewables, the law-making process used to develop the GEGEA and the legal mechanisms which guide its implementation are an example of a failure by government to opt for a consensus-based decision making model. In this paper, through both legislative review and a critical discussion of current legal proceedings in the province, the authors analyse the evolution of renewable energy law and policy in Ontario between 2006 and 2016. The authors conclude that the province’s centralised, top-down financing, development and approval processes are likely playing a role in terms of the perception of health problems, and are perpetuating environmental, social and procedural injustices. This article highlights the potential role of increased community-based project development and local involvement in approvals to reduce legal and political conflicts and concludes with proposals for some legal and policy changes that should be made in Ontario - and could be considered by legislators and policymakers in other similar jurisdictions - to facilitate approvals for projects and infrastructure necessary to promote long-term, sustainable renewable energy growth.

David McRobert, Barrister and Solicitor, Ontario and Adjunct Professor, York University, 1994-2011. For correspondence: <mailto:mcrobert@sympatico.ca>; Julian Tennent-Riddell, J.D. Candidate, 2017, Peter Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC; Chad Walker, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography, Collaborative Programme in Environment and Sustainability, Western University, Ontario.

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