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Storm brewing over wind energy

Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) has three core issues when it comes to turbines: science, democracy and economic fairness.

And the crowd of about 200 or so supporters who gathered outside Minister of the Environment John Wilkinson’s campaign office on Erie Street made it known they share the group’s concerns.

Armed with placards, the group gathered to hear WCO’s John Laforet speak as part of the organization’s provincewide campaign.

“I look forward to the day we can come to Stratford just to have a good time, but we’ve got some work to do before we get there,” Laforet said, perched in the back of a pick-up truck.

“This is democracy in action and we know John Wilkinson and the Ontario Liberals don’t like it, which is why it’s so critical to continue to exercise our democratic rights against the anti-democratic Green Energy Act.”

WCO, which represents 58 groups in 35 districts, is pushing to make wind turbines the defining issue in the upcoming provincial election on Oct. 6.

Laforet said Wilkinson’s attempt to compare the relative merits of coal-fired energy and wind turbines is unrelated to WCO’s concerns, adding studies done on wind turbine safety must be undertaken in real-life and just not on computers.

“All John Wilkinson can say is if you use a computer model and build turbines in Fantasia, none of the Disney characters would get sick … that’s great news,” Laforet said sarcastically. “I am sure if you put turbines in Sim City no one would get sick either but that’s not the case in rural Ontario.”

In fact, 135 families have reported negative health effects from the turbines, he said, adding people don’t move out of their homes in protest, but because they realize they cannot live there anymore.

“It is nothing short of a tragedy what this government has allowed to happen and we have to make sure it stops on Oct. 6,” Laforet said.

The group is calling for a moratorium on all wind developments until a proper healthy study has been completed and provincewide minimum setbacks are in place to guarantee the protection of human health.

They also want to see municipalities regain the power to oversee decisions on wind developments, something 80 municipal councils have demanded only to be ignored by the province, Laforet said.

With the Liberals saying they will continue to move forward with turbine construction if re-elected, and the NDP and Greens not taking their position far enough, Laforet said the only solution is to elect a Progressive Conservative government.

WCO was planning on canvassing door-to-door in Stratford Thursday on behalf of Perth-Wellington PC candidate Randy Pettapiece. Laforet encouraged members of the public in attendance to come out and join the effort.

“It’s critical we stand up and fight,” he said. “… With 30 days left to go, now is not the time to give up.”

Of the 8,000 turbines the Liberals pledged to erect two years ago, only eight have been approved to date, Laforet said, adding their fight has been successful but won’t last forever.

“I don’t think we have four more years of ideas to risk it under a Liberal government.”

After his address, the crowd was led by Stratford police on a short march through the downtown.

Though Wilkinson did not attend the rally, his campaign manager Amber Anderson and campaign chair Tony Vigar were spotted in the crowd. Also in attendance were a handful of wind energy supporters from Kincardine.