Many people are in favour of green energy projects, and in Ontario this would include wind turbine projects. Most people do not live close to a wind turbine, and it is likely fair to say that most people would not be keen to have a wind turbine erected within 750 metres of their house, especially without their consent. What is a person to do if they object to a wind turbine project? In our free and democratic society, one of the tools we have is to challenge a perceived ‘wrong-doing’ in court. A group of residents near Goderich Ontario, concerned about the health implications of the wind turbine projects, decided to raise a constitutional objection to various wind turbine projects in their area. They lost their case before the Divisional Court and have been ordered to pay $340,000 in costs.
There is nothing unusual in this – civil litigants who lose normally pay ‘costs’ to the winning party. What has made this story emotional is the image of billion-dollar companies ‘squeezing’ costs out of farm families who are doing nothing more than trying to protect their property values and their quality of life. The wind turbines have become flash points for the perceived inability of government decision makers to understand the needs and concerns of those living in rural areas. But setting the emotionally charged image of the family farm in opposition to the equally emotionally charged topic of green energy and climate change is unfair to both groups, and obscures the basic legal point of this decision.
In our legal system, ‘the winner takes all’. Litigants need to be very aware of the financial risks before embarking on litigation, and need to make financial provision for the possibility that they may not win their case in court. Everyone, farmers included, needs solid legal advice when considering whether to ‘have their day in court’.
- An order for costs is unlikely to be altered by emotional appeals to preserving the family farm. Litigants must weigh the potential cost of losing before embarking on litigation.
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