Why did Ontario Liberals lose so many rural seats in the recent election? The answer may be blowing in the wind.
Opponents of wind farms key to the Liberals’ Green Energy policy have been celebrating the beating Premier Dalton McGuinty’s party took at the polls – including the loss of several rural MPPs, including Maria Van Bommel in Lambton-Kent-Middlesex and three sitting cabinet ministers elsewhere.
The Liberals came within a hair of another majority government, making the rural losses even more painful for the party.
Anti-turbine groups targeted Liberals in the vote in an effort to halt the growth of wind projects in rural communities.
“I think it was very clear how we feel about the turbines and the lack of local control over their placement and development,” said Marcelle Brooks, a turbine opponent in Lambton Shores.
“Whether or not this will influence Mr. McGuinty’s decisions, we have no idea.”
She added that wind companies “are proceeding full blast” with plans to set up large numbers of turbines in Lambton and neighbouring Middlesex County.
Nextera Energy is holding a public open house Nov. 10 in Ailsa Craig about its plans for three large projects, including the 96-turbine Jericho Wind Energy Centre in and around Lambton Shores.
Brooks’ group and another in Middlesex joined forces recently to form Middlesex-Lambton Wind Concerns.
“We are more determined than ever to continue the fight to protect our homes and our way of life,” Brooks said.
Esther Wrightman, a member of the group in Middlesex, said the Conservatives who gained rural seats at the expense of the Liberals have said “they’re going to really fight for us.”
But she’s worried wind projects already on the books in southwestern Ontario “are just going to steam roll ahead” anyway.
Anti-wind groups, and many municipalities, have complained that Ontario’s Green Energy Act took away local control over planning decisions on wind and solar projects.
Now, they’re waiting to see how the Liberal minority government responds to what happened in those rural ridings.
“They need to be engaging the rural community and listening to the rural community, on issue that are close to them,” said Steve Arnold, mayor of St. Clair Township and warden of Lambton County.
The Green Energy Act is one of those issues, he added.
Don McGugan, mayor of Brooke-Alvinston Township, said he supports renewable energy but believes the Green Energy Act needs changes – which could happen with a minority government at Queen’s Park
“I could see, perhaps, some compromises being made and maybe some of the planning will come back to the local municipalities,” McGugan said.
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