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Windmill foes have a new friend

PICTON – Big Island’s Ian Hanna is pretty sure having both federal and provincial politicians involved will help slow down wind turbine developments in Ontario – at least until more studies are completed.

Bob Runciman, the senator for Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes, presented a motion in Senate earlier this week calling for a moratorium on wind energy projects in the area stretching from Wolfe Island to Prince Edward County.

Thursday, Hanna was at Queen’s Park as Prince Edward-Hastings MPP Todd Smith’s private members bill – the Local Municipality Democracy Act – was read.

While Runiciman’s motion lacks the power to stop wind projects on its own, the Senate did back it unanimously.

“I think it’s just super that he’s gotten involved and I think what it signals is the shift we are seeing right now, calling for the voice of caution,” said Hanna, a director with Wind Concerns Ontario. “I think (Runciman’s) issue is with the danger to birds and while we agree with that, there are certainly more issues of concern than that.”

Runciman said Monday the motion is more of a symbolic gesture than a concrete one.

“If it is passed, it’s just a view of the Senate, really, saying you should do this,” he said.

The 29-year Queen’s Park veteran, however, said he intends to bring the issue to the attention of the federal government.

“This is provincial jurisdiction – there’s no doubt about it – but I think that the federal government can play a role here in terms of expressing concern and making sure that’s out there as well,” he said.

While Smith’s bill did not make it pass the second reading, Hanna was pleased with the rookie MPP’s effort to have it reach the legislature.

“Mr. Smith did an amazing job and I think voters in our riding should be very proud of him,” Hanna said. “It’s too bad it didn’t make it to the committee level because then it would have been debated by all sides, and that’s all we really want to see – is fair debate by all interested parties.”

Thursday, the Ontario government posted the Ostrander Point project by Gilead Power to the Environmental Registry, inviting public comment for the next 60 days.

Construction could begin there later this year with energy production beginning in 2013.

Like Smith, Runciman believes that turbines were a divisive issue in the last election, and one of the reasons Smith defeated former minister Leona Dombrowsky in the fall.

Meanwhile, he hopes his motion will at least spur the provincial government into taking closer look at groups’ concerns.

While he’s “not here to knock wind energy at all,” Runciman is primarily concerned about the placement of turbines in relation to winged creatures’ migratory pathways, not the possible effects of human health.

“It’s a tough thing to get interested in, or aroused about, but I’ve got a soapbox here and I hope to be able to utilize it to help the cause,” he said.

Runciman and his wife, Jeannette, got interested in the issue, he said, after reading reports about the effect the wind turbines on Wolfe Island were having on the bird and bat populations.

“One of the things I’ve been concerned about is the lack of concern being expressed by a lot of environmental groups, wildlife groups, who I think have been very quiet on this because it’s sort of politically correct to support green energy despite whatever the cost might be,” Runciman said.

“I felt that I was going to get engaged and (that) grew out of the concerns of my wife and I.”

Runciman – who served in six different provincial cabinet posts, including solicitor general and minister of correctional services – said that, unbeknownst to many, he is a “nature lover.”

“This has sort of been a lifelong interest of mine, these kinds of issues,” Runciman explained.

“It’s just not something I’ve had the profile with in my years in the Legislature.”

— With QMI Agency files