Accessiblility is a ‘novel’ issue to the ERT (Adelaide Preliminary Hearing)
MLWAG & Wrightman vs. Nextera & MOE Preliminary Hearing, Sept 16, Strathroy
After many twists and turns, what began 4 years ago as a fight against a faceless, uncaring foreign corporation, aided by a two-faced political and administrative elite, comes full-up against the citizens.
Briefly the issues coalesced right from the start:
A lone camcorder stood unobtrusively to the side waiting to be activated. In a panic, NextEra counsel, Mahony immediately drew ERT Chair Muldoon’s attention to it, who then asked the appellants if it was turned on. It was not— further discussion delayed until later. No microphone were present again – the audience cold not hear what was being said.
Two residents then applied for presenter status which was quickly granted. Then 5 minutes later a surprise arrived – Stephana Johnston, from Clear Creek announced that she too wished to make a presentation speaking to the faults of the appeal process. Not being able to hear from the back, she moved her walker to the front and positioned it facing Nextera rep, Ben Greenhouse and counsel Dennis Mahony. This was very noticeable.
Objections were heard from the MOE and Nextera with the MOE lawyer saying, “… I don’t see the relevance…” – ditto for the company. Again, status granted.
The issue of the venue came up. Petitions and e-mails of numerous people requesting the venue be moved to the well equipped County Council chambers in London. Why? This hearing room was in a community centre right next to a hockey rink. The room was almost at capacity with 50+ people there, no microphones, let alone equipment to video-conference – oh, when THAT happens, we move it to TORONTO, right! The patronizing never ends.
What the ERT and counsel found out was this community will not be treated in a patronizing way – our local council meetings taught us well how to deal with that. So many times the audience shouted out, “Speak up!” – which emphasized the inadequacy of the venue. We later found out that the hearing is to be moved to the old Strathroy arena in town, an even worse facility with dance classes and construction going on.
The Chair did something he rarely does – he polled th audience – said he wanted to know how the felt about the venue. For 30 minutes residents spoke out about the reasons to move. Counsel Mahony meekly protested that moving to London would exclude other community members who weren’t there that day – who were pro-wind – Really? Well why were they not there? Fill in the blanks. The only time they show up is when their drains get crushed – as happens when your oversized monster machines roll in – I wonder how well those expenses will get covered. Of course there’s a “mediation” clause built into the contract – 3 lawyers take their sweet time to settle a $5 dispute. Guess who wins that one. Decision reserved on this – residents are watching closely and do not appreciate being marginalized. In past, the Toronto lawyers are only too happy to hold the hearing in downtown Toronto with hardly ever any local representation. I’d much rather drive to London than Toronto.
There was a 15 minute recess. When we came back, another surprise – a young women who with her husband, operate an organic dairy farm in the project stated she wanted status to bring forth the stray voltage (current) issues that put their dairy at risk. When asked how many witnesses she would call (five) – counsel Mahony’s jaw dropped. That a respected member of the farming community would step forward to do this is a major challenge to the project and is a big crack in the wall. The wind companies do not enjoy wide support- and that includes the lease-holders who are discovering just how insensitive the wind reps are. With this move, the farm community will now be able to present and argue its major issues.
Normally a pre-hearing is relatively quiet with no surprises – lawyers like that. They don’t want smart residents speaking out, being assertive of their rights. But don’t go – we’re not done yet!
Accessibility: this is a huge issue for Esther Wrightman. The present 19th century rules forbid recording generally, but a person with a disability may apply for special consideration. In this day and age where wheel-chair access is routinely provided, the ERT requires a person with disability to seek accommodation, which may or may not be granted as may be the case. Chair Muldoon stated it was the first time he had received a request for video-recording. He asked Esther – what exactly she was seeking? Was it for this hearing only or was it in a broader sense? – to which she replied simply and clearly, “Both.”
A 2-part process was set-up in which the parties would be to provide written submissions on the immediate request. The second broader issue for the public would be her request for a permanent rules change – which as Esther emphasized, was outside of the this hearing and therefore not in the purview of the other counsel. It was her request alone. As Chair Muldoon noted, this request/issue is “novel.”
And so ended Day 1.