Nov 25

Blessings Come In Many Disguises

If you live in a busy urban centre perhaps you’re thinking about escaping the rat race and living in a quiet, peaceful, rural area. They say there’s a lot to be said for simplifying your life; getting away from the hustle and bustle, along with the getting and spending lifestyle. May I suggest a destination? The Hamlet of Denbigh, nestled in the beautiful hills of north Addington Highlands, awaits you.  It’s rural it’s quiet, there’s no crime and with only a small country store in the ‘downtown core’ there’s little spending. Think of the money you’ll save!

There are a few houses for sale and land is available for house sites, all at very reasonable prices. They say it’s a black cloud indeed that doesn’t bring somebody some good, somewhere. It’s not that we’re desperate … yet… but there’s a limit to how much peace and quiet a soul can take.  So sell up and move to Denbigh. We need you. And if you’re an entrepreneur better yet !  Opportunities abound.  

“41 Stop Restaurant” closed just this past weekend. It’s for sale. You can probably get it cheap. Mom & pop could have a fine little business going for themselves. And a residence comes with it. A coffee shop would be nice…. real nice. Kind of like a wee Tim Hortons. There’s no place to go in the morning where the boys can gather over a coffee and set the world straight. Don’t forget the lady’s coffee klatsches. They’re out in the cold as well. You should see the traffic that goes up and down highway 41 and highway 28 right here in the hamlet ! How about some gas pumps! Talking about that, the ‘Swiss Inn’ is up for sale. For the life of me I can’t figure out why no one has bought the place. It’s goin’ for half nuthin’. Sitting on a nice piece of land at the intersection of 41 & 28 it’s an ideal business location.  Then there’s “The Blue Bench Cafe” set up and ready to go in the community centre. Joan, the proprietor, is retiring so it’s available. It was a popular, busy place. There are lots of reasons why businesses close. Here in Denbigh a lack of customers from the community and from off the highway is not one of them. 

Located about 45 minutes east of Bancroft, 50 minutes west of Renfrew, 1.5 hours north of Belleville, 1.5 hours west of Kanata, we’re at the hub of everything!  You don’t have to drive up here right away. But don’t wait too long. Now that the secret is out you never know. And we don’t want to get too big. Get into ‘youtube’ and search for my channel and videos. Type in “George Ross Denbigh, Ontario”. You will be able to take a drive around Denbigh, visit the ‘Swiss Inn’ inside and outside, check out ’41 Stop Restaurant’, tour the community centre and the ‘Blue Bench Cafe’. The video about the Swiss Inn has some great business ideas. And just to show you the beautiful countryside around Denbigh there’s a video, “Tour the hills of Denbigh”.  Oh, don’t forget to have a look at gran’ma on the trapline.  See you in Denbigh !  

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Sep 30

Big Things In The Wind Part 5

The series “Big Things In The Wind” by George Ross, is published simultaneously in The Madawaska Highlander and Wildwood Blog.  


Regular readers of The Highlander and Wildwood Blog will be familiar with the ongoing kerfluffle over ‘wind farms’ in Ward 1, Township of Addington Highlands, County of Lennox & Addington. News concerning wind energy proposals aimed at the Township of Addington Highlands has been extensively covered in four previous articles which can be found on-line at and

Last month’s article ‘Big Things In The Wind, Part 4’, detailed the final municipal Council proceedings in the decision making process. Three of five Council members have deemed that the Township welcomes the placement of industrial wind turbines. Residents of the Township are now labelled as ‘willing hosts’. This despite a clear and profound rejection of the IWT’s by a majority of residents.

The Township of Addington Highlands consists of two Wards. Ward 1 forms the northern part of the Township, Ward 2 comprises the southern half. Ward 1 is to be the possible future home of an unwelcome, indeterminate number of industrial wind turbines; hundreds is a safe guess. Two Councillors from Ward 2 voted in favour of the turbines. The Reeve, who lives a stone’s throw north of  ‘the line,’ far from the epicentre further north, and by all accounts is soon to take up residence even further south in Ward 2, also voted in favour. Be assured that no turbines will be anywhere near their neighbourhoods or threaten the value of their property. Both Councillors from Ward 1 voted against the wind farm proposals.

It is irritating enough that three of the five Council members, who live far from the proposed installation sites, disregarded majority opinion, but if one were then to assume that politicians in Queen’s Park had any interest in the Township it would be quite galling indeed to contemplate their celebration of ‘our’ decision along with their accompanying popping of corks. When news of our ‘willingness’ reached their lofty heights did they smile benevolently and imagine the masses huddled along Highway 41, cheering while the excavators, bull dozers and massive turbines go rolling by? Let not your sleep be disturbed on this account dear corpus vile. They know nothing about you and if perchance, they do; they care not a whit.

There has been much in the way of accusations and name calling directed at the three ‘in favour’ Council members. Two of them, Reeve Henry Hogg and Bill Cox, Councillor for Ward 2 have belatedly attempted to explain themselves in the pages of  “The Frontenac News”, a local newspaper. 

Mr. Cox, in a “Letter to the Editor”, dated 17th September, stated that he voted for the projects because the provincial government would ultimately over-rule any Council rejection of the wind farms, therefore the township, by  not voting in favour of the projects and not negotiating financial benefits, would end up with little, if any, financial benefits compared to having stayed in the game and had a say. On one hand there is some truth to his argument. On the other, his vote, while not reaching the level of a quisling response, is greatly weakened and not to be admired when one considers the circumstances the Township was placed in. This shakedown by the provincial government hiding behind its Green Energy Act, should have been rejected on principle alone. Some things are worth fighting for.   

Mr. Hogg’s much too late riposte, dated 10th September, offered him no favour or advantage. In his defence, a telephone interview, (by editor Jeff Green) as soft ball as it was, did not afford him the benefit of second thought or the opportunity to edit his statement. It was unwise. The best that can be said of Mr. Hogg’s explanation is that it represents a classic example of an ad hominem reaction, full of inaccuracies, directed at residents of Ward 1. Absent a carefully reasoned, business-like explanation of his decision to vote for the wind farm proposals, the best response for Mr. Hogg would have been, no response.   

There is much more to say against the positions of Mr. Cox and Reeve Hogg. It would be all too easy to unpack and dissect. We’ll leave some bones behind for others to pick at. In the mean time Mrs. Helen Yanch, the other Councillor from Ward 2, has yet to poke her head above the wall since her “yes” vote.           

It did not have to be this way. Let’s go back to 22nd March, 2015. This was the day that ‘NextEra Energy’, one of the protagonists in this sordid venture, first approached Council with their grand plan. Whether it be a business meeting or something more personal, first dates should be an occasion during which pleasantries are exchanged and both parties politely assess and get to know each other. Is not the prospect of a first date approached with the thought that it is an introduction to perhaps something else in the future? One should act in good faith, be honest, be sincere, be considerate … all those nice things. Being overly eager is not one of them.

During the meeting at hand, NextEra Energy was the suitor, Council the pursued. Here a degree of coyness and even a blush now and then on the part of Council would have well served our interests. Instead we were treated to a tawdry Council display amounting to an unseemly rush to the bedroom door, so to speak. But these are modern times, let’s not be prudish. What’s the harm? Except that in this tete-à-tete there was the prospect of gaining or losing millions of dollars. What must NextEra representatives have thought? Surely the bargaining position of the Council “yes” contingent was weakened. Fortunately Councillor Fritsch, from Ward 1, stepped in and delayed consummation of the hoped for relationship long enough so as to obtain a much improved dowry over the initial offering. Curious readers will find the salacious details on-line.

Of course the thought that is in the minds of most people is, “Why the hurry?” NextEra was not about to fold and go away. Sure they were shamelessly pursuing other townships, but being business philanderers in search of profit, they would have persisted. Why present ourselves in an eager way and hastily agree to a business arrangement as if we had nothing to offer and even less to lose? This question is at the heart of most conversations concerning the Council meeting of 22nd March 2015.

Whatever is done, said or written, all fair minded individuals, through dialectic engagement attempt to find truth in every argument. If someone starts off with a presupposed opinion on any particular subject, would he not welcome all debate against his position so that by reason and facts he might see his opinion vindicated? Or it might happen that he is shown to be wrong. Regardless, to this man truth trumps pride. If  he is mistaken in his decision would it not be better to learn the truth sooner than later? Of course there is a possibility that he is not interested in the truth. Perhaps he has other interests or motives. ‘And thereby hangs a tale.’

This quicksand should have been foreseen by Council in the early minutes of the 22nd March meeting. That it was not foreseen or that it was disregarded, lends credence to the related disparaging comments presently circulating in the township about Council members in attendance, the same individuals who later voted against the majority opinion of Township residents.

Although three members of Council, from the beginning, were determined to have IWT’s installed in Ward 1, they should have presented their case by assiduously inquiring into the sense and non-sense of the wind farm proposals. The facts, as much as possible, should have been presented to the electorate so that they might make the final decision. Each individual would, according to their own values, vote for or against the proposal. In this most important matter, the most important issue to ever come before the Township Council and one which directly affects the life style and social values of the residents of the Township, trusting and respecting the decision of a well informed electorate would have been the best course to follow.

NextEra Energy Canada and Renewable Energy Systems Canada have now submitted bids to the ‘Independent Electricity System Operator’ seeking approval for construction of wind farms in Addington Highlands and nearby North Frontenac township. A decision is expected early 2016.

The Council vote in Addington Highlands in favour of the projects adds ‘points’ to the bids, increasing the possibility of acceptance. Numerous letters detailing complaints and accusations from constituents, concerned community groups, lawyers and representatives of various orders of government have been sent to members of IESO in an effort to persuade them that Addington Highlands is not a ‘willing host’. The neighbouring township council of North Frontenac has strongly rejected the wind energy proposals slated for their area. It is hoped that this will add more weight in the fight against the proposals. The history of IESO decisions in other municipalities is not encouraging. What is needed now are reinforcements in the form of Blanding Turtles marching north from Prince Edward County.   

In the meantime, Bon Echo Area Residents Against Turbines (BEARAT) continue the battle on another front. They recently filed a complaint with the United States Justice Department against the project’s American parent companies. The complaint alleges that Florida-based NextEra Energy and Colorado-based Renewable Energy Systems Americas, violated the United States’ Foreign Corrupt Practices Act when their Canadian subsidiaries offered financial compensation in exchange for resolutions of municipal support. The following comment has been posted on BEARAT’s facebook page, “The corruption allegations will likely force the IESO to pass the project files to the Ontario Attorney General’s Office. Combined with evidence for the proponents being in violation of several IESO Mandatory Requirements, and the strength of our other petitions, we hope this should be enough to put the North Frontenac and Addington Highlands bids to the bottom of the IESO selection committee’s pile.”

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Sep 27

Rocket mass heater

This version of a rocket mass heater incorporates a heat sink box and a single “bell” type heat exchanger for heat recovery along with some other “mass” for heat storage.

So far it works quite well. The temperatures in the “J” tube burn chamber are high enough to burn smoke and pretty well everything else. The minimum temperature required is about 620 deg C. Once it warms up there’s no smoke at the chimney cap, just an occasional puff of steam. I can place my hand over the end of the flue pipe

It burns twigs, branches or finely split firewood and will go all day long on far less wood than a regular wood stove.

I built the contraption you see in the video as an experiment. Will the system keep the building warm overnight during the winter? I suppose it all depends on the storage capacity.

I could build in a cooking surface and a bake oven; a hybrid version of a “Russian Stove”.

So far the only problem I have with it is that on windy days there are occasional back drafts that cause a puff of smoke to come out of the feed tube. I might raise the height of the flue pipe or install a wind proof chimney cap.

Here’s the video.

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Aug 19

Big Things In The Wind Pt. 4

The beginning of efforts by Addington Highlands Township Council to support the installation of wind energy farms in the Township dates back to 22nd March 2015. Parts 1 – 3 of ‘Big Things In The Wind’ chronicle Council proceedings in this regard from 22nd March up to and including the Council meeting of 6th July 2015.

The next Addington Highlands Township Council meeting following 6th July was held on 20 July 2015 in Flinton before a full house of staunch anti wind farm protesters. Primary articles on the meeting agenda were two motions. (1) A motion proposed by Reeve Hogg to provide ‘support in principle’ for the NextEra and RES wind farm proposals subject to negotiated details of the Vibrancy Agreement, Road Use Agreement and other legal matters. (2) A motion from Councillor Fritsch proposing that decisions regarding 2015 wind farm proposals be postponed for up to one year in order for the Township to develop a renewable energy strategy and acquire further information so that Council will be in a position to better respond to any 2016 submissions.

Councillor Fritsch asked Council to reverse the order of the meeting agenda so that his motion be presented first. This was rejected by Councillors Yanch, Cox and Reeve Hogg.

Reeve Hogg read the motion to provide support “in principle”. It was passed with Hogg, Yanch & Cox voting in favour and Fritsch, Thompson against. This effectively nullified Councillor Fritsch’s motion which was not voted on. Those in attendance loudly voiced their disapproval. They knew that with this vote the stage was set for a final vote of support at a Council meeting scheduled for 4th of August. A vote of support is the same as stating that the Township is a “willing host”. The gallery erupted with loud yelling, expressing  frustration and anger. There had been some earlier talk that Hogg and Cox had contributed in some way to Councillor Fritsch’s motion, giving faint hope to the possibility that one of them would vote with Fritsch & Thompson. Now the word “betrayed” was in the air.

At some point near the end of the meeting or immediately after, a negotiating committee was formed. It consisted of Reeve Henry Hogg and Councillor Bill Cox, with Town Clerk Christine Reed. Apparently they were to represent residents of the township in talks concerning the community benefits agreement and road use agreement in consultation with the Township lawyer. Upon hearing this news most people expressed dismay. The feeling was that the Township would be ineffectively represented, in that whatever details were agreed upon, benefits to the Township would be far less than what could be gained by more competent, business-like negotiators.

The committee met on 21st July at Flinton. Attendance included Reeve Hog, Councillor Cox, Clerk Christine Reed and Patricia Gray, Planning and Development Administrative Assistant. Reeve Hogg chaired the meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to review the wind energy agreements with NextEra Energy and Renewable Energy Systems. The minutes are a public record should anyone wish further information.

A special Council meeting on 30th July was convened by Reeve Hogg for the purpose of reviewing the Township lawyer’s updated draft of the Community Benefits Agreement (Vibrancy Fund) and Road Use Agreement, which included results of legal changes and “negotiations” introduced on 21st July. This was a necessary step leading up to the upcoming Council meeting of 4th August.

Councillor Tony Fritsch addressed Council with the following remarks:

“The objective of a negotiating committee is to negotiate the very best possible outcome for the Township in terms of financial, legal issues and protection of it citizens.

I am absolutely stunned that the negotiating committee intentionally chose to not ask for more money from NextEra and RES in this last round of negotiating. In fact it is stated in their committee meeting minutes and correspondence that ‘It is determined that the Township has already negotiated when they asked for double the proposed per megawatt compensation and will not request more’ and that ‘Council does not wish to further negotiate the per megawatt compensation’.

Council gave their bargaining chips away when they rushed to approve supporting the projects on July 20, with the terms of the vibrancy agreements not final.  You are not in much of a bargaining position once you say you are going to support it.

I am appalled at the behaviour and the lack of due diligence in properly looking after the best interests of the Township and its residents.”

Councillor Fritsch later  later made a motion to request the payment per megawatt of nameplate capacity and per km of Transmission Line on township right of ways to be upped by 20%.  This motion was defeated 3 to 2 (Fritsch & Thompson, Ward 1 in favour).

There followed a discussion about a bursary fund. Councillor Fritsch stated, “We are sitting here today debating over a small bursary fund issue and completely missing the bigger, more important issue of negotiating more money for the Township.  Another 20% is another few million dollars for the Township.”

Council met again August 4th 2015, at Denbigh. Matters for consideration related to the wind farms were: Community Benefits and Development Agreement for RES & NextEra, Municipal Resolution of Support for NextEra and RES, Resolution Regarding The Road Use Agreement with NextEra and RES. These six motions received majority Council support with Reeve Hogg, and Ward 2 Councillors Cox & Yanch in favour. Councillors Fritsch and Thompson, both from Ward 1 voted against.

The meeting was attended by 100 or so ‘anti-turbine’ protesters mostly from Ward 1.  Immediately prior to the start of voting everyone in the gallery, but for two people, stood up and turned their backs to Council. At the end of the voting process the protesters left the building while loudly shouting at Hogg, Yanch & Cox.

This meeting and its minutes will prove to be of historic interest some years from now. The minutes of the meeting are a public record. Pertinent segments of the meeting are featured on a Youtube video. It can be viewed by searching Youtube for ‘Addington Highlands Wind Farms’.

Councillor Fritsch’s (Ward 1) address to Council can be seen on the video. His remarks are included here:

“From early March this year, I have been pushing for the Council to take a Leadership role on the Wind Turbine issue, soliciting the input of all its residents, addressing fully all the issues surrounding Industrial Wind Turbines, negotiating the very best financial and legal terms in discussions with the developers, and taking its time to ensure we and our residents fully understand all the issues and then making a decision that the majority of our residents can support and respect.

From my perspective our Council has not done a proper job of dealing with these issues.

It is very clear that a significant majority of the Addington Highlands Ward 1 residents do not support Industrial Wind Turbines in our Township.

Therefore as an  elected representative of Ward 1, respecting the interests of Ward 1 residents, I cannot support any of the currently proposed projects by NextEra and RES.

I strongly believe that Council should follow the direction outlined in a motion I  ‘tabled’ at the July 20th meeting because Council stubbornly would not change the meeting agenda order into something logical.”

The meeting of August 4th was the last opportunity for Council to vote against the wind farm proposals and state that Addington Highlands is not  a ‘willing host’. This effort was not successful. Addington Highlands is now on record as supporting and approving the placement of industrial wind turbines, construction of many kilometers of roads and clearing of forests for transmission line right of ways.

Exactly how a community wherein an overwhelming majority of residents are not in favour of the wind farm projects, can be said to be ‘willing hosts’, and how Council arrived at this decision, are matters of grave concern to most Addington Highlands, Ward 1 residents.

Looking back at events since 22nd March it now appears that Reeve Hogg, Councillors Yanch and Cox were steadfastly determined, over many months, to thwart the will of the majority of residents. The record will show that, but for cursory attempts; inquiries by Council into the proposed wind farm project’s positive/negative impact on the Township, were light-weight, unsubstantive, frail efforts. There is also a pervading belief that the deal that was struck between the Township and the wind energy companies is inferior to what the Township could have achieved if there had been more time and a more experienced, more competent, Township negotiating team.

All ‘due-diligence’ work carried out by Township staff and Council members between 22nd March and 4th August should be compiled and fully accounted for and made a public record. It is expected that terms of agreements between Township and the wind energy companies will be carefully studied and any deficiencies will be reported on. Township residents have a right to know if their paid representatives have competently represented the best interests of the Township.

NextEra & RES will submit bids to the IESO by early September for  contracts to supply wind energy electricity, to be generated in Ward 1 Addington Highlands, to the grid.  The Independent Electricity System Operator is a Crown corporation responsible for operating the electricity market and directing the operation of the bulk electrical system in the province of Ontario. A decision by IESO is expected in December and will be subject to environment & regulatory approvals among other requirements.

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