Posts Tagged ‘air quality Ontario’

Much has been made in Ontario about the need for cleaner air and indeed many of the non-governmental organizations such as Environmental Defence, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the Clean Air Alliance and the Registered Nurses Association, to name only a few, have gotten on the bandwagon with pleas ranging from  please stop pollution to the claim that “coal is killing people.”


The facts are (and by checking on writings by Ross McKitrick elsewhere on this site you can read those, as well as Ontario’s own clean air report) that Ontario has relatively good air quality and that what pollution does exist comes from south of the border and from automobiles. Dr. McKitrick and others have said that closing Ontario’s coal-fired power plants will not make a difference to Ontario’s air quality. Not that we’re defending coal but we need perspective.

Here, then, from Parker Gallant, a view on the recent rankings of countries according to air quality, Canada among them.

Going for First Place

 The September 27th edition of the National Post carried what an editor would refer to as filler pieces. The first on Page A7 was headed; “Canada ties for third among 90 countries ranked for air pollution” and the second filler was found on FP4 in a sidebar with the headline “WIND POWER DOUBLES IN CANADA”.

The first headline was from the first “Air Quality” database complied by the World Health Organization which gave Canada a tie with Australia following Estonia and Mauritius. The report purportedly covered 1,100 cities in 91 countries but we were beat by Estonia and Mauritius, incredible!

Looking at the production of electricity in Estonia the “Government policy and objectives toward its energy sector can be summarized in two ways: to provide a reliable source of energy for the country, and to provide such energy at the lowest possible cost.” Further “Estonia is unique among nations in its heavy use of oil shale.”

To be fair, Estonia does have 149 MW of wind generation which supplies less than 1/2 of 1% of their electricity consumption but one should also bear in mind that Estonia’s objective is to “provide energy at the lowest possible cost.”

Now lets take a look at Mauritius; # 2 in the WHO report. In the case of Mauritius this is the situation: “The generation of electrical energy is also dependent on diesel engines (61.7 percent), in three power stations, all situated around Port Louis. They have a total effective capacity of 176 megawatts. A seasonal contribution of 54.2 megawatts comes from hydro-plants and 90.5 megawatts from Independent Power Producers supplement capacity.”

The second filler was a press release by CanWEA [the Canadian Wind Energy Association] telling us that by the end of 2011 Canada’s installed wind capacity will be beyond 5,300 MW or reputedly enough to power 1.5 million Canadian homes. CanWEA goes on to say that another 6,000 MW has been contracted to come online across Canada. This press release also said “Ontario is expected to lead with 500 MW of wind power to be brought on line by the end of the year.”

So our drive from the Liberal government in Ontario has been to clean up the air by adding more and more controversial wind generation yet the two countries that beat us use principally “oil shale” and “diesel engines” to supply their households with electricity. That doesn’t sound clean or green!

Parker Gallant

Editor’s note: We’re not sure how Estonia and Mauritius would stack up against Ontario for air quality–they don’t have the 3MM people of Toronto chugging around in cars and buses, but Ontario’s air quality has continued to improve dramatically over the 1960s due to automobile-related initiatives like the Drive Clean program. What’s important to know is that industrial-scale wind power generation requires some form of back-up because it is unreliable and intermittent; Ontario’s choice is to build new natural gas plants to go along with wind power development. What effect will that have on air quality in future?

E-mail us at northgowerwindactiongroup@yahoo.ca

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Try as they might, the industrial wind developers can’t seem to get people to believe that their giant, noise-producing machines don’t have any effect on property value. Both the Canadian and the U.S. wind development lobby groups have commissioned deeply flawed studies to prove there is no effect, but the public isn’t buying it.

This week, a landmark case in Ontario, where a retired couple, on their own save for their real estate agent, is going head-to-head with MPAC over the assessment on their house on Wolfe Island. The island, as you may know, now has 86 industrial wind turbines—the people there were told there would be about 20. The Kenneys had retired to Wolfe Island, hoping for a few years on the formerly beautiful island (it looks like a power plant now–oh wait, that’s exactly what it is), hoping for the value of their property to increase modestly, providing them with some more money for later years in their retirement.

Not to be.

This story comes on the heels of the report of five homes in the Ripley area being purchased by the corporate wind developer, which claimed that some people just can’t adapt to “change” and that perhaps because their view of their favourite “apple tree” has been lost, they are selling out. Insulting … and ridiculous.

Here is the story from the Whig-Standard.


By the way, in case you are swayed by the arguments that such sacrifices are necessary for job creation, and for air quality in Ontario, two facts: 1. only 3 jobs were created on Wolfe Island and the net result of the wind power generation project has been a decline in the Island’s economy; and 2. Ontario has very good air quality—what persists comes from south of the border and from CARS. That said, today, May 5th, air quality is “good to moderate” in Ontario, including Toronto which is “very good.” http://www.airqualityontario.com/reports/summary.cfm

The North Gower Wind Action Group Inc. is a community group in the North Gower-south Richmond area of Ottawa, where an industrial wind power generation project has been proposed. We are a corporate member of Wind Concerns Ontario Inc. Contact us at northgowerwindactiongroup@yahoo.ca

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The Ontario Liberal government and the wind power business lobby responds to concerns about the environment and specifically human health as a result of industrial wind power generation projects with the riposte that “thousands of people are dying from coal” every year: specifically, they claim that over 9,000 (sometimes they round it up to 10,000) die EACH YEAR, with a cost of $3 billion in health care.

This is preposterous.

It is based somewhat on a consultants’ report done 20 years ago for the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) which is still being used as a foundation for further “research”—not research at all, but statistical modelling.

Thoughtful people are saying, WHAT?! Nine THOUSAND people a year? Our own research (in progress) indicates that, obviously, that number is not accurate, but in reviewing Health Canada data, the numbers start out in the low hundreds (nationally) with the proviso that the numbers are NOT to be “piled”, i.e., you can’t take data from asthma, and other respiratory problems plus emergency room visits etc. etc., pile them together, and come up with a huge, magical, politically useful number. Worse, now the Liberals, urgently seeking re-election in October, have amped it up to say “our kids are dying,” which is a misuse of statistics on childhood asthma.

Even Chatham Medical Officer of Health David Colby, who has taken assignments for the corporate wind lobby, himself said this week that the deaths in Ontario were about 250 per year, associated with air pollution.

The media is finally waking up to this discrepancy, as seen in an article by a Maclean’s magazine asociate editor, appearing in today’s Kitchener-Waterloo Record. The story is here, with full text below. http://www.therecord.com/print/article/512878

Air pollution death toll claims just blowing smoke

Anyone tossing around allegations that a “crime” has been committed had better be prepared to defend those claims with solid evidence.

Two weeks ago on these pages local entrepreneur Derek Satnik made such a claim. In defending the viability of wind power Satnik, who works in the green energy industry, warned readers that they must consider the deadly impact of other forms of electricity. (“Does any potential health risk from wind power even matter? March 26, 2011)

Satnik writes: “The chief medical officer of Ontario publishes annual reports that talk about the 9,000 Ontarians who die every year from respiratory aliments caused in part by the emissions from coal based electricity plants.” He claims anyone who uses electricity is somehow “involved” in this devastating annual death toll. “It’s a crime that we’ve gone so long thinking it’s OK for anyone to turn on their fridge without thinking of who dies at the other end of the wires.” It seems a damning argument. If true.

So where is the provincial government’s list of coal-fired deaths?

I phoned the chief medical officer of Ontario in Toronto and was told her office has never produced any reports on respiratory deaths due to electricity or air pollution. Hmm.

However, the Ontario Medical Association – a non-government organization that represents doctors – did produce a report in 2008 on the death toll resulting from air pollution. While it does not explicitly finger coal power as the culprit, it’s possible Satnik just made a sloppy reference.

Then again, over 9,000 deaths a year is a massive loss of life. A closer look at the original source material is necessary.

The Ontario Medical Association’s Illness Costs of Air Pollution report states that “air pollution is a contributing factor in almost 9,500 premature deaths per year in Ontario.” It then provides a surprisingly detailed account of these fatalities. In Waterloo Region exactly 348 deaths were caused by air pollution. In Guelph and environs, the toll was 158. Hamilton: 445. Toronto: 2,130.

But there is something absurd about the precision with which the doctors’ organization claims to have identified death by smog. Air pollution never shows up as a cause on a death certificate. So how can anyone be sure of these numbers? In fact not all doctors agree with the outlandish claims.

Last year I asked Cambridge family physician Paul Cary about the smog deaths attributed to our region. He called it “quite ludicrous. In 40 years of medicine I have never once seen or heard of a patient struck down by air pollution.” While smog alerts can be associated with mass hospitalizations and an increase in deaths, Cary explains this is a spurious link. Heat-exhaustion and fluid loss are the real culprits, not pollution.

The numbers for smog deaths do not come from any tangible real world evidence, but have been inferred using computer models.

The Ontario Medical Association combines hospitalization and death rates, air quality readings and various other factors to create a guess at how many fatalities are due to air pollution. This includes short-term impacts arising from smog alerts as well as longer-term effects. Toronto Public Health uses the same technique to conclude that 1,700 residents die annually from air pollution.

But computer modeling of this kind is a highly subjective exercise. It is necessary to apply some common sense to the results.

Ross McKitrick, a University of Guelph economist, has taken a close look at the usefulness of the computer methods producing these smog death figures. First he took Toronto’s computer model and gave it data from the 1960s, when air pollution was noticeably worse than today. Back-testing is a common way to judge a computer model’s reliability. If it cannot explain what has already happened, then it’s usefulness in explaining the future is highly suspect.

The output was nonsense. In February 1965, for instance, the computer model claimed more people died from air pollution than died in the real world from all causes.

“The results I got suggest the models are implausible,” McKitrick told me. “They’re attributing over 100 percent of all deaths to air pollution. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Given the obvious flaws in existing computer models, McKitrick created his own simulation. With two Scottish academics he gathered 20 years of data from five Canadian cities – a far larger data set than used by the Ontario Medical Association – and performed a more sophisticated computer test. These results show air pollution to be almost entirely irrelevant to hospital admissions or death. Smoking and income are the most significant factors in explaining respiratory ailments.

“We can find no evidence that air pollution levels observed from 1974 to 1994 had a detrimental effect on either excess hospital admissions or time spent in hospital,” concludes the report in the academic journal Environmental Modelling & Software.

According to McKitrick, even if all forms of air pollution miraculously disappeared from Ontario over night, there would be no noticeable decline in the death rate. Claims of a massive death toll do not stand up to scrutiny.

Fans of wind power can blow all they like, but 9,000 people do not die every year because of coal-fired electricity.

Peter Shawn Taylor is editor-at-large of Maclean’s. He lives in Waterloo.


Our chairperson engaged Energy Minister Brad Duguid on this topic via a web-chat and he replied, Why quibble about numbers when it doesn’t matter how many but people–our children–are dying? This was meant to show that if you are opposed to industrial wind power generation projects, you obviously don’t care if people are dying.

Fact is, the truth matters–and 9,500 people a year dying in Ontario isn’t the truth.

NOTE—-Air pollution in Ontario today, April 7: all areas reporting air quality of GOOD to VERY GOOD.

Email northgowerwindactiongroup@yahoo.ca and you may follow us on Twitter at northgowerwind

The North Gower Wind Action Group Inc. is a community group of more than 300 families in the North Gower-south Richmond area of the City of Ottawa; we are a member of Wind Concerns Ontario Inc., a coalition of more than 50 such community groups devoted to the appropriate siting of industrial wind turbine installations.

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