ARTHUR – Wind Concerns Ontario president John Laforet, believes peaceful protests and political debates can go hand-in-hand.
On Sept. 14, his organization ended up with the chance to make that happen. After the cancellation of the originally slated meeting at the Arthur community centre by local farm groups, WCO decided to host the meeting.
Laforet admitted “The WCO did plan a rally outside an all candidates meeting here in Arthur. That meeting was planned by the Wellington Federation of Agriculture.
“On Monday (Sept. 12), they cancelled the meeting, citing safety concerns and a risk of property damage – which we took as a personal offense.”
Laforet contended, “In over three years, WCO has held rallies and events around the province. There has never been an incident of property damage or any kind of harm to anybody.”
He added the OPP are brought in when the WCO holds a protest to ensure safety.
“After reaching out to local community groups to see what interest there was in maintaining the event tonight, WCO stepped up and sponsored the all candidates meeting.”
All six were contacted. Only Liberal John Wilkinson declined. Laforet pointed out the WCO went through all the steps to make the candidate meeting happen.
While the rally still took place, Laforet said it was followed by a democratic all candidates meeting “The only difference … is that John Wilkinson won’t be attending.”
Local protest groups involved included Oppose Belwood Wind Farms, Stop Mapleton Wind Farms, and representation from east and west Perth County.
Laforet expressed hope that people from the agricultural community would still attend and the night would prove both types of events could happen at the same time,
He said, “The goal is for people who are not members of Wind Concerns Ontario to learn that this is not a meeting about wind, it is a meeting about agriculture.”
He was happy Wayne Baker, president of the Arthur Chamber of Commerce, and Rob Unsworth, president of the Wellington County Cattlemen’s Association agreed to assist him co-moderate the meeting to ensure that it remains focussed on local issues and agriculture.
At the rally itself, Laforet told those gathered the original meeting was cancelled because organizers knew WCO was coming.
“We wanted to send a message to John Wilkinson, Minister of the Environment.”
“This is a symbolic protest. What we’re showing is that you can have a protest and a debate as part of a peaceful democratic process.”
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