With a clutch of disgruntled local residents on hand to back him up, Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair yesterday denounced what he called the “anarchic” development of hydro wind power on the Lower North Shore and Gaspe peninsula.
Boisclair said if elected March 26, the PQ will clean up the process managed by the Liberals and do more than just provide guidelines to private developers and municipalities in the economically starved region.
The PQ would draw up strict regulations covering everything from how close wind turbines can be placed to homes, to banning them in certain picturesque tourist regions and sensitive ecosystems.
The PQ would also get Hydro-Quebec to take over the development on public lands in such places as the far north where the equipment cannot be seen or heard by residents.
“The laissez-faire of the Jean Charest government in wind development has created dissatisfaction in the population,” Boisclair said at a news conference held in one of the region’s new wind farms. On the nearby hills, close to 50 180-foot turbine equipped towers were spinning.
“We believe in it,” Boisclair said. “We were the first to have invested in the development of wind power and there is room for us to do more in Quebec, but especially to do better in the deployment of units in Quebec.
“That said, what we are realizing is that wind power is being developed in an anarchic way on Quebec’s territory. Things cannot continue in this manner.”
Standing nearby was Lyse Girardin, who moved to this quiet coastal village only to end up with 50 wind turbines installed on a neighbour’s property around her tiny home, with more on the way.
Like Boisclair, Girardin – who speaks for the small eco-group Eole-Prudence – is not opposed to the greener form of energy, but said residents felt pressured by developers to allow the turbines on their land and local municipalities were ill-equipped to really put up a fight.
“This development now is happening in an anarchic way,” she told Boisclair before his news conference. “What we ask is that you humanize this development if ever you are elected the next government.”
The case illustrates the problem of the wind power scheme. On the one hand, investment over the last few years has created close to 1,000 jobs in the region, while reducing dependence on hydro power.
But the turbines are huge and, in some cases, noisy and – when concentrated in wind parks – mar the countryside that tourists flock here to see, local residents say.
“It’s not the money I’m interested in,” Girardin said. “It’s true, for my neighbour, it pays her retirement. She has 10 or 12 there and I understand. But there would be so many other ways to do it. We should not leave the municipalities at the mercy of the promoters. People were unaware of the impact and they signed for 20 or 50 years.”
The group wants to halt further expansion of the projects in their village and nearby St. Ulric and St. Damase. The PQ says over the next 10 years it wants 20 per cent of Quebec’s power to come from wind power.
By Philip Authier
11 March 2007
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