In a second public attempt to have their voices heard, concerned residents of Saugeen Shores and the surrounding area took part in a two hour protest outside of the CAW Family Education Centre Saturday morning. The group rallied together to show its disapproval for the wind turbine currently being constructed on the property.
Between 200 and 300 people marched from the Saugeen Shores Public Works building, down County Road 25 in the cold weather to the education centre’s entrance. While the majority of protesters were from Saugeen Shores, bus loads of people travelled to Port Elgin from neighbouring municipalities in support.
The first protest planned by the advocacy group, Stop Turbine Operation Policy (STOP) saw approximately 50 people turn out Nov. 18 to rally outside the facility. Saturday morning, with evidence of broken ground, signicantly more protesters picketed signs, carried banners and chanted “Shame on You CAW,” in unison. Their voices may have been loud and clear, but were only to be heard among one another as there was no representation present at the rally from the union owned and operated facility.
Before STOP and its supporters hit the pavement, they were fuelled by Saugeen Shores deputy mayor Luke Charbonneau who spoke to the crowd over a Saugeen Shores Police cruiser radio.
“I am so glad to see such a large number of people here today united in opposition to this irresponsible wind turbine that is currently under construction,” he said.
However, Charbonneau’s words came with a warning as he told the crowd that the CAW turbine is just the tip of the iceberg.
“There are going to be applications for the provincial government to construct 30 more industrial wind turbines in the town of Saugeen Shores,” he warned, “And just like this turbine.. each and every one of those turbines will be located too close to people’s homes.
“We are gathered here in solidarity, if I can borrow that phrase used by the union, with the people of southern Port Elgin who are soon going to be living under the CAW turbine, and we are gathering in support of everybody in the town of Saugeen Shores and in rural Ontario who are soon going to be living in the uncertainty and shadow of a windmill.”
Charbonneau said the residents of Saugeen Shores are not going to be ignored anymore or have their health and safety trampled
“If it means they have to take to the streets in order for them to listen to us, that’s what we are going to do,” he said.
Norma Barber, who lives on Stickel Street and will have the turbine in clear sight from her property said she wants the CAW to realize the construction of the turbine has to stop.
“Prior to (construction) it was so sneaky, people didn’t even know, people weren’t aware,” she stressed.
“A lot of the population here are property owners that are not here in December,” added Anne McNeilly, who lives on Saugeen Beach Road. “This is one of the reasons (the CAW) are sneaking in now and working at night trying to get it in fast.
“Similarly, they held the OMB hearing in April when there were no property owners here either. No one knew this was happening until the shovels started moving in.”
Despite the fact that construction is already underway, STOP and its supporters is showing no indication that they will back down. Highway 21 was closed for the group and they marched down County Road 25 in their peaceful protest. In addition to Charbonneau, the group had the support of other local politicians including Saugeen Shores mayor Mike Smith, Huron Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson, Huron Bruce MP Ben Lobb and Arran Elderslie deputy Mayor Mark Davis.
“If you think about it, what (the CAW) are doing doesn’t make sense,” said Huron Bruce MP Ben Lobb. “It’s not good for the community, they are trying to offset the cost of their facility by putting up a wind turbine, when in fact the logical thing to do would be to look at their facility, make it more energy effcient.”
The very first thing most people look at when they are talking about being green is to reduce, reuse and recycle, he continued. The first principle the CAW needs to look at, he argued, is to reduce the impact that this building is having, whether it is their electrical consumption or any other consumption they might have.
“Maybe if they reduce their needs for electricity, maybe alternatives like solar panels will offset it, but it needs to be opened up to the community,” he said. “(CAW) has been a part of this community for decades, they have been good corporate partners and I think all that the community is asking for is for them to be good corporate partners again.”
Huron Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson said rural Ontario needs to get its voice back. If this was one manner that the PC caucus feels very strongly about, Thompson said it is bringing autonomy back to the municipalities and working with them to move forward. Municipalities have that right to decide what’s best for their community as opposed to be told, she continued.
“We want to go back and revisit why the NDP, why the Liberals could not support the municipal democracy act and we are going to go back to the drawing board until we bring back a Bill that will win majority favour,” she said. “We have to encourage CAW to do what’s right for the community.
They need to listen and understand the impact that this turbine will have on the community.
Thompson hopes common sense prevails, and Saturday’s rally will show Saugeen Shores does not favour this turbine and that they will be listened to.
“As the Green Energy Act stands today that voice has been stripped away, and I congratulate the people for making an effort to have their voices heard today,” she said.
Greg Schmalz, a Saugeen Shores resident who lives across the road from the education centre, and a member of STOP said the group, despite the fact the turbine has broken ground, are not going to give up and are going to explore every single opportunity available to them at law.
“We have a legal team in place for the long run and we will work diligently on everybody’s behalf in this community and not stop until the turbine is not there anymore,” he said to the crowd outside the gates of the education centre. “There is one thing the CAW has not taken into consideration about our neighbourhood.
“Unlike rural communities where they can bully and push their way through with very few people, we have a tremendous talent pool in this concentrated neighbourhood.”
Schmalz said STOP has a team of available lawyers who are going forward, and with the support of residents and business people, they are going to drive this to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“We are going to get the law changed and enacted so that there is regulations against infra sound, the sound that makes people sick,” he said. “I don’t think there is any doubt in any rational person’s mind that the manner in which the CAW has been given grand fathered approval on a 2005 application, and takes out a building permit in 2011, that there isn’t collusion.”
As for the turnout at Saturday morning’s protest, Schmalz said he was very gratified that STOP’s efforts to rally people in three or four days has paid off.
“Its gratifying to our group working day in and day out on this project that they are supporting us,” he said.
For STOP, it’s all about location. Approximately 60 to 100 houses lie within 250 metres of where the turbine is being constructed at the edge of the visitor parking lot, near the soccer pitches. Under current Ontario guidelines, set out in 2009’s Green Energy Act, no noise receptor can be within 550 metres of a wind turbine.
~With files from Patrick Bales
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