OTTAWA – Did wind turbines cost the Ontario Liberals their majority in Thursday’s provincial election? A close look at the election results suggests it’s more than possible.
The Liberals lost 10 seats – almost all in rural Ontario – targeted by the anti-wind coalition Wind Concerns Ontario. Had they retained even one of those seats, they’d have won a majority government.
Progressive Conservative or New Democrat candidates defeated seven incumbent Liberals, and won three Liberal seats where the incumbent wasn’t running for re-election. All the ridings are home to industrial turbine projects or have active proposals for some.
Three Liberal cabinet ministers from rural Ontario were among the casualties, including Environment Minister John Wilkinson, an outspoken defender of the government’s green energy policy, who went down to narrow defeat in Perth-Wellington. He won the seat by 6,000 votes in 2007.
Leona Dombrowsky, education minister in Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet, lost by 3,000 votes after winning by 6,000 votes in the last election. And Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell, whose margin of victory in 2007 was 7,000 votes, fell to Tory Lisa Thompson by 4,500 votes in Huron Bruce.
Liberal incumbents also lost in Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, Northumberland-Quinte West and Algoma-Manitoulin. Conservative candidates won in two open Liberal seats – Chatham-Kent-Essex and Elgin-Middlesex-London, and the NDP picked up Essex.
All 10 seats were targeted by Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of wind opponents that claims to have mobilized thousands of volunteers angry at the Liberal government’s embrace of wind power.
“The Ontario Liberals have spent the last two years denying science, refusing to accept local democracy, and tonight they paid a price,” John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, said in a news release.
“The Liberals have an opportunity to change their course during this minority parliament, act on our concerns and put the interests of people ahead of the special interests behind the industrial wind lobby that cost them their majority,” Laforet said.
Jane Wilson, chair of the North Gower Wind Action Group, which is fighting a proposed eight-to-10 turbine development near their community, said the election results show “the tide has turned.
“If the Liberal government wants to have good government for all Ontario, they’re going to have to look at the concerns of rural communities,” Wilson said.
She credited Wind Concerns Ontario with connecting concerned residents with other communities already living with wind turbines. “It gave them a kind of cohesion and more information than they would have had just acting on their own.”
The proposed turbine development near North Gower came up repeatedly during the campaign, according to Conservative MPP Lisa MacLeod, who represents the area and opposes the project.
Wilson said the project is still awaiting a contract under the province’s Feed-In Tariff program. “I gather that’s connected to whether there’s transmission capacity,” she said, adding: “We don’t believe there is.”
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