RNAO two years ago: a sad day for nursing
CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario Doris Grinspun is directing the RNAO’s annual event which consists of meetings, a gala banquet, and of course, the Annual General Meeting for members.
We recall the AGM of two years ago, when two nurses plus an RNAO chapter, put forward a resolution to ask for support for clinical research into the field of environmental noise produced by industrial-scale wind turbines, and further, as a second part of the resolution, that a moratorium on wind power develoment be requested until the results of such research are released and analyzed.
The motion was defeated but not before there were dirty tricks aplenty on the part of RNAO staff (the director of research actually interrupted the resolution proponents’ session with voting delegates, so much so that delegates complained they were not able to speak or ask questions), misdirection was given about how much information could be provided to the delegates, and finally, the proponents’ presentation time was cut off by the chair—who incidentally, and completely illegally, spoke out against the motion before introducing it to the assembly. Easily a dozen delegates abstained from the vote, calling out to the chair that they wanted to hear more, but to no avail. The motion was defeated. (The chair also, erroneously, told the proponents that they would not be able to bring the resolution forward again for TWO YEARS. This is false and is not in the RNAO bylaws.)
So, where are we today? We actually have two clinical studies ongoing in Canada, one by Health Canada, and the other by the Renewable Energy Technology and Health (RETH) team at the University of Waterloo. The RETH team has already presented very preliminary results in poster format at a meeting earlier this year, showing a significant association between the noise from turbines and sleep disturbance.
We also have more studies from a variety of sources, including a recent article by otolaryngologist Dr Alec Salt whose work is increasingly showing a DIRECT link between the noise and vibration/infrasound produced by the machines used to generate power from wind energy and health effects.
The growing research on the effects of exposure to the noise and infrasound on children is disturbing.
We also have in Ontario an approval process for wind power projects that is being revealed as sloppy and indicative of the provincial government’s blind support for wind power. Requests have been made for a review by the Ombudsman of the review and approval process, because documents being presented as complete are in fact inaccurate, incomplete, or sometimes completely absent. There are also judicial reviews pending for the approval of individual projects, such as Amherst Island, as the inaccuracies of the documentation supporting the safety of the proposed power developments are egregiously incomplete.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario prepared a report that was released in 2010 based on work done in 2009, which maintained there were no direct causal links between the turbine noise and health (the government does not believe infrasound is important and will not even have a protocol to measure it until 2015), which the government and successive Environmental Review Tribunals rely on today expediently.
Complaints of excessive noise and poor health are in the hundreds in Ontario: the Ministry of the Environment has admitted in Tribunal hearings that it relies on the computer noise modelling supplied by the power developers. In other words, if a power project modelling shows it isn’t supposed to make noise at a certain level, then it surely can’t, and the Ministry does not even bother to send staff out to check.
Ontario families have become homeless. In December of the year the RNAO engineered the failure of the resolution of members to support research, 20 families went to Council in the City of Kincardine, requesting funds for emergency housing, as they had had to leave their homes due to the noise.
Today, more than 80 communities have passed bylaws or resolutions to say they are Not Willing Hosts to wind power because of the problems. Today, a coalition of communities is working together to create a noise nuisance bylaw to protect their residents at night from the turbine noise. Today, Ontario communities are taking advantage of every loophole, or minor power they have left after the Draconian Green Energy Act removed all democracy for Ontario’s rural and small-town communities.
And today, Ontario citizens are having to deal with higher electricity bills than ever seen before in this province, traceable to the government’s unproven zeal for renewable sources of power (a cost-benefit analysis as recommended by the Auditor-General was never done). The results are widely feared to be energy poverty as families must choose whether to buy food or pay their electricity bill, as well as job losses and business failure.
All this because a group of business people persuaded Ontario to adopt wind power as a source of power generation to replace coal—wind power cannot replace anything because of its inefficiency and unreliability. Coal has been replaced in Ontario by natural gas. The power developers (many with ties to the Ontario Liberal Party) have made millions–billions–in provincial subsidy dollars for very little benefit to the people of Ontario. One of the strategies suggested to the wind power development lobby by a consultant, the Sussex Strategy Group, was to persuade health-related groups to support wind power as a way to engender public support for the development of power from wind; it appears the RNAO fell in line with the developers’ corporate strategy.
The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario had a chance two years ago to at least listen to a burgeoning community health problem and at least listen to its members whose concern was well founded and genuine.
But it did not.
That was a sad day for nursing in Ontario, and leaves many questions as to the quality of leadership and the ties between politicians and nursing leadership.
In the meantime, the people of rural and small-town Ontario, and the health care professionals who live there and work within these communities, got no support from the organization that claims to “speak out for health.”