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Protesters at Liberal event

Local Liberal candidate Kevin Eccles’ campaign got off to a rocky start on Wednesday night (September 7) as anti-wind turbine protesters surrounded a fundraising event held in Meaford and provincial Environment Minister John Wilkinson didn’t show up.

Close to 100 sign carrying protesters showed up at the meeting and marched around Meaford Hall as local Liberal supporters arrived for the fundraising event. The loud and energetic protesters chanted: “health studies first” and “where’s John Wilkinson?”

After about an hour of protesting Eccles came out from the Hall in an effort to engage and speak to the protesters.

Wind Concerns Ontario leader John Laforet spoke to Eccles about the Liberal party’s position on wind energy and the Green Energy Act. Laforet asked Eccles point blank if he would support a moratorium on further wind development until independent health studies are completed about the effects of wind turbines on human health.

More than 80 municipalities around Ontario have passed resolutions asking for a moratorium – including Eccles’ own municipality, West Grey.

Eccles would not offer his support to a moratorium and said he felt the studies had already been completed. Eccles said he supports the Green Energy Act, but would like to see it improved to allow more pre-consultation with the local community and municipality before wind energy projects get too far along.

Eccles said he is confident the government has studied health impacts and is satisfied with what has been done. However, he said he is always willing to consider new information.

“Is there something that can or will come forward? I would look at that, absolutely, with judicious eyes and certainly not sweep it aside. But, at this point in time, the ministries that are in regard for this – energy and the environment – say that the studies that they have are indicating that things are in a positive light for this,” said Eccles.

Provincial Environment Minister John Wilkinson was scheduled to attend the fundraiser at Meaford Hall, however, Eccles said the Minister was double booked on that day and cancelled his appearance several days before the event.

The protesters at the event were very clear about their goal: defeating the McGuinty government and getting Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak elected Premier.

“Citizens are fed up and ready to defeat the government,” Laforet said in an interview earlier in the evening. “We want a moratorium on wind energy development until health studies have been done. We have memos from their own government that say there is a problem. Why are they afraid of a study if there is no problem?” Laforet questioned.

During a scrum with reporters Eccles said the protesters attending his event didn’t surprise him.

“This is an engagement of the democratic process. The only way to move forward is to have engagement like this,” said Eccles.

Among the protesters early in the evening was local NDP candidate Paul Johnstone.

“It’s great the community is involved and speaking up. They see there are problems with the Green Energy Act,” said Johnstone.

Norma Schmidt, a resident of Underwood in Bruce County was particularly vocal when Eccles came outside to speak to the protesters.

“My life has been made a living hell because of the wind turbines,” said Schmidt, who said there are six turbines within one kilometre of her home and 11 within two kilometres. Schmidt said she suffers from migraines, ear and head pressure and nausea.

“I’m very sick. I have been told by doctors and specialists that I must leave my home,” she said.