Vocal opposition to industrial wind turbines in rural areas may have helped to sweep John Wilkinson and several other high-profile Liberals out of their seats in last week’s provincial election.
“I think rural Ontario sent a message loud and clear to Dalton McGuinty’s government,” said John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO), a coalition of turbine opponents from across the province. “The reason he doesn’t have a majority government is opposition to the Green Energy Act.”
That was echoed by Dean Trentowsky, a member of the local anti-wind turbine group West and East Perth Against Turbines (WEPAT).
“In some ways, John Wilkinson was the author of his own demise,” he said, suggesting that the environment minister failed to take the concerns of WEPAT and other similar groups seriously enough when it came to the “hot-button issue” of wind turbines.
“I think the election results in the rural ridings are a reflection of what not only our group thinks but what rural Ontario thinks about the different policies and programs the McGuinty government has been trying to put into effect,” said Trentowsky.
Wilkinson was ousted by Progressive Conservative candidate Randy Pettapiece in a race that was decided by about 200 votes.
Agriculture Minister Carol Mitchell also lost her bid for reelection in nearby Huron-Bruce, and Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky went down to defeat in Price Edward-Hastings.
All three ridings are rural. All three were targeted for wind-turbine projects. All three went to Progressive Conservative candidates.
It’s no coincidence, said Laforet.
“It says something when three of four cabinet ministers that lost their seats did so directly because of Ontario’s anti-democratic and anti-science green-energy schemes,” he said.
And WCO was a factor in those races, he said, noting that hundreds of members visited those three ridings to campaign actively for Progressive Conservative candidates “for the express purpose of defeating the Liberals.”
In fact, the group had its fingerprints on as many as 11 ridings in the province that shifted, he said.
“We’re quite pleased that we were able to send such a strong message.”
Trentowsky said WEPAT, too, is encouraged by the election results.
“As a group, we feel we’re on the right track towards getting changes put in place regarding the Green Energy Act,” he said.
And those changes have nothing to do with politics, he added.
“We want safe wind everywhere, for all residents, regardless of which political party might hold the controls at Queen’s Park,” said Trentowsky.
With the election over and the Liberals left with a slightly weaker government, both Trentowsky and Laforet said their groups will continue to push for changes to the legislation, including a moratorium on new industrial wind-turbine projects until a comprehensive, evidence-based study can be done on their health effects.
“We’re still going to be requesting more accountability from the minister of the environment, from the companies that are proposing these projects and from local governments as well,” said Trentowsky.
With an industrial wind-farm project proposed for the Sebringville area, the group cannot afford to be complacent, he added, and will advocate for those who have concerns about turbines.
“WEPAT’s work still continues,” said Trentowsky.