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Crowd rallies against wind turbines

Arran-Elderslie council is being praised by Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) for its efforts to keep industrial wind turbines out of the municipality.

WCO president John LaForet told 65 wind energy opponents in Tara last Wednesday night that Arran-Elderslie council -and in particular its most outspoken critic of turbines, deputy mayor Mark Davis -“deserve a lot of credit for their tireless efforts” saying Arran-Elderslie council “is an example of what local municipal leaders can do when faced with handcuffing by the provincial government.”

LaForet said Arran-Elderslie’s challenge to the Canadian charter and calling for an end to industrial wind energy installations until a proper health study is done to determine what, if any, health effects are caused by the turbines “has put the municipality on the leader board . . . Arran-Elderslie is the leading name in this fight and they ought to be commended for the stand they have taken,” LaForet said, his comment drawing loud applause from the audience. That motion has now received the support of more than 80 municipalities across the province, the WCO head said.

LaForet was in Tara as part of his across-the-province “Truth About Turbines” tour. His day last Wednesday began with a protest march in Chesley and after Tara’s meeting, LaForet, while in the region, spoke at similar meetings in Lion’s Head on Thursday evening and in Markdale on Saturday.

LaForet told those in attendance that it is “critical” for opponents of industrial wind turbines to “continue doing everything possible to hold the wind industry back” over the next 114 days until a provincial election is held in October.

“We need to motivate and energize . . . we need to cease what may be our best opportunity,” LaForet said, saying he believes this fall’s election “will change things dramatically in the province of Ontario.”

Although he never directly encouraged people to vote Progressive Conservative, LaForet did say that the PCs were the only political party to support a moratorium on wind turbine development until health impacts are studied and control over the siting of turbines is returned to local municipalities.

It was the McGuinty Liberals that passed the Green Energy Act, which has stripped local municipalities of the power to control wind turbine development. Wind Concerns Ontario has been calling, since 2008, for independent health and environmental studies, as well as the return to local communities the land use and zoning authority taken away by The Green Energy Act

“They have failed rural Ontario,” LaForet said.

“Wind Concerns Ontario,” he said, “has reached out to all political parties, and has lobbied all of them, to change their views on industrial wind energy. And over the last two years that we did that, we’ve seen the Progressive Conservatives consistently inch closer and closer to our viewpoint on this,” he told the crowd.

Some people living near wind farms have complained of headaches, sleeplessness, joint and muscle aches. Stephana Johnson of Norfolk County is one of them, having 38 wind turbines near her home. She also spoke at the Tara meeting and urged those in the room to “arm yourselves . . . make sure wind turbines never come to your community. Your life will never be the same.”

Mike McMurray, a Flesherton-area realtor, also spoke, saying there is “a definite resistance on the part of buyers” to buy property in areas where turbines “are even being talked about.” He admitted there “is indeed a drop in property values because of them” and said such losses in values “are felt up to two miles away.”

McMurray said the groundswell of opposition to turbines “is warranted. They (turbines) will destroy the lifestyle we have known.”

Arran-Elderslie’s deputy mayor Mark Davis, who has led council’s fight against turbines, said local residents “take for granted clear skies and starry nights. There are lots of city dwellers looking to leave the city and move here but they won’t with these things here. Why would you take God’s gift to us -a beautiful countryside -and pollute it by living under a canopy of industrial wind turbines or as I like to call them,” he said, “floppy monuments to government stupidity.”

Davis said he is saddened to see what the debate has done, and is doing, to local communities, in some cases pitting neighbours against neighbours. “What it comes down to is money versus morality. I applaud those who do what’s good for their community ahead of the thickness of their wallets.”

Ian Hannah, a Prince Edward County resident who has challenged turbine developments in court, spoke of his personal experiences “fighting the battle” legally and urged those in attendance to “not grow weary but continue to fight. It angers me,” he said, “that those in power won’t listen to us . . . everyone has a right to be listened to.”

LaForet said his group (Wind Concerns Ontario) “remains adamant that no development be considered until a proper health study is done. That’s been our position and it will continue to be our position . . . the Green Energy Act did not take away our voting rights,” LaForet said, reminding the audience of “the strength in numbers to organize, to vote and to win this fight.”