Grey-haired, 81-year-old Stephana Johnston is the kind of person to give the provincial Liberals fits when she waits outside Dalton McGuinty’s campaign bus this fall.
Leaning against her walker, she looks frail – except when she starts talking about wind power.
“We are suffering and it is a horror story and you are responsible because you agreed to the Green Energy Act,” Johnston tells Lambton-Kent-Middlesex Liberal MPP Maria Van Bommel.
With the next Ontario election only five months away, wind energy and the Green Energy Act is on track to become a huge issue of the campaign.
Johnston says she had to move from her home on the north shore of Lake Erie near Long Point after nearby wind turbines started interrupting her sleep.
“There are some nights when I wake up and just everything inside me is quivering. It has compromised my immune system. I am going everywhere I can go to prevent what has happened to us,” she vows.
Slowed by her walker but energized by her anger, Johnston still marched down the main street of Strathroy Saturday with about 80 others to protest wind turbines.
The peaceful protest march erupted into a raucous, hour-long confrontation with Van Bommel.
Van Bommel could barely finish a sentence without being shouted down by furious protesters who demanded she support a moratorium on turbines until research proves they are safe.
At times she had to stop and simply take the barrage of insults from protesters, some in tears and some claiming she betrayed their friendship.
“Imagine when (McGuinty’s) bus is met 28 days straight with crowds like that in Strathroy,” says John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario.
Urban dwellers and political analysts are underestimating the anger in rural and small town Ontario over wind turbines, he says. “This is the fight for the life and death of rural life. There is a huge anger out there and I think it is going to get worse.”
For wind energy opponents, the stakes are high. “This is our only shot,” Laforet says.
Wind Concerns – a coalition of 57 groups – will likely endorse either parties or individual candidates and encourage rural residents unhappy with McGuinty to work on getting him ousted.
Eighty municipalities representing two million people have called for a moratorium on wind farms, Laforet adds.
“There a lot of people looking for something to do. Direct political action is the most effective thing a resident of Ontario with concerns about wind can do.”
Hundreds of wind turbines have been installed or proposed in many areas of Southwestern Ontario, a 10-riding region dominated by McGuinty’s Liberals.
Opponents say turbines emit low-pitched sounds that disrupt the body’s rhythms and cause headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, rapid heart rate irritability and concentration problems.
Proponents say there is no proof of ill effects and turbines are better for the environment and personal health than the coal-fired generating plants they are supposed to replace.
“It’s a very emotional issue and I think we have to recognize that,” Van Bommel said Saturday after the protest. “There are many things that are going to be election issues in rural Ontario. I‘m sure the Green Energy Act will be uppermost in many people’s minds.”
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