It was a standing room only crowd at Lakeshore Recreation in Saugeen Shores last Monday night as more than 150 concerned residents packed in to take part in the CAW Wind Turbine information night.
The event was hosted by STOP (Saugeen Turbine Operation Policy) which gave a panel of speakers, some of who travelled a fair distance, a chance to speak to the large crowd on the “serious health and safety implications of wind turbines.”
” STOP wants you to understand why it is critical that we stop the CAW wind turbine,” said moderator Karen Hunter.
Background information, safety issues, stories from other advocacy groups as well as impact stories were shared by the speakers.
Included, was Huron-Bruce MP, Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson and Saugeen Shores deputy mayor Luke Charbonneau, all of whom have been supportive in STOP’S efforts.
Huron-bruce MP Ben Lobb said it was unfortunate, that so close to Christmas the crowds had to meet due to the dire circumstances. He said one of the things he was most concerned about was the lack of public consultation from the union.
“In the year 2011, with what we know today, why not?” he questioned.” Why have the CAW not had their own public meeting where you folks can ask questions?
“If it is such a terriffic thing that they think it is, they can defend it amongst the community.”
Lobb said the right thing for the CAW to do would be to reconsider and adhere to what the community is asking them to do.
MPP Lisa Thompson also alluded to the holidays and said she was happy for STOP that such a big crowd turned demonstrating they are not alone in the fight.
Thompson said turbines are an important issue not only in Port Elgin, but all over the province.
“I’m really proud of the PC caucus, we’ve stood together unified on this issue and we have tried our (best) to date in terms of making the provincial government accountable for their decisions, actions and their total disregard to municipal democracy,” she said. ” Even though Queen’s Park is recessed until late February, we are working locally in the constituency every day,” she said.
There are gaps here, and a provincial government needs to be held accountable and we need to find those answers, she continued.
Following Thompson, deputy mayor Luke Charbonneau made it very clear that he did not want a fight with the CAW.
Rather than marching in protest, he said he wants to stand with members of the union in solidarity when they march on Labour Day.
Further, Charbonneau wants the community to continue to be friends with the CAW union as they always have been but question how that was possible?
“How can we continue in friendship with the CAW when they seem content in playing a part in jeopardizing our way of life?” he questioned. ” They seem not to respect the unified voice of the Saugeen Shores community telling them this is wrong; begging them to stop.”
The community’s lives should not be at risk on the altar of green energy, he continued.
Charbonneau said the CAW has a history of working against the government and industries that put the health and well being of ordinary working citizens at risk; the working community needs the stature of the CAW to stand up and join the fight to protect the community.
STOP spokesman Greg Schmalz encouraged residents to keep up the fight, and reassured them that STOP has a legal progress in place that they will see it through. He offered three pieces of advice to those in attendance and who will be directly affected within the 550 metre circle of the turbine: First, to get their homes appraised, and second, to get baseline medicals done.
“This isn’t a scare tactic,” he explained to the crowd. “If you are going to attempt to claim harm in the future that they have to show that you are okay right now.”
Third, Schmaltz encouraged residents to fundraise, and spread the word to friends and neighbours.
Former MP Bill Murdoch was also on the panel of speakers. He too offered some words of advice to the concerned residents.
“There is only one person that runs the province, and that’s the premier of the day,” he said.
According to Murdoch, petitions may help, however it’s the individual letters that will make the difference. He encouraged the crowd to include in their letters to the premier their concerns and ask where democracy has gone.
Murdoch said it was really hard for him to believe the CAW has not admitted that they have made a mistake and offered to relocate to a place that wont pose harm to anyone.
Southampton resident Norm Gurr concurred.
“We need to stand up for ourselves and demand for the principles from the liberal government,” he said.
In order to be listened to, as a community, residents need to not only write letters to the premier, but to the national media so they can help to change the provinces practices, Gurr insisted.
MPP Bill Walker, who was in attendance said he was perplexed by the national media has not jumped on this issue more than they have.
He said in his humble opinion only a few people in government are on the right track.
” We are losing the public sentiment argument, because the people south of here don’t have (turbines) in their backyard,” he said. “They are not suffering any of the impacts… they don’t really care; they hear only one thing… green energy is a wonderful thing.”
Walker said he too is a supporter of green energy, but only when it makes sense, and agreed with former Saugeen Township reeve and Bruce County warden Harry Thede, who suggested that residents should no longer buy union made cars.
“Let’s go to the CAW and say all of our North American made cars won’t be bought the next time around and put it back to them,” he said, noting he was not anti-union. “I would certainly go to the CAW with your letter campaign and every single one of you write and say ‘if you put (a turbine) in, next car I buy wont be built by the CAW.'”
Other concerned residents in attendance had questions for members of the panel including whether there was any chance at all of stopping the turbine at this point; wondering if there is a legal injunction they can use; whether the public can do anything; whether the public can challenge the CAW to have the turbine moved to another union owned property; and if there is anything the municipal government can do to persuade or put pressure on the CAW?
Deputy Mayor Luk e Charbonneau said while he could not speak on behalf of council at the meeting, what he could say was that he was confident that council and the municipality will consider, and has been considering every option, have listened and have taken opportunities to assist in opposing the turbine.
Upset resident Paul Krane, wanted to see the words put into actions.
“I think we need to bring this fight right to their door step,” he said. “Lets use the tactics they use, let’s boycott that place.”
According to Krane, the success of CAW events depends on people showing up.
“Let’s get in there and let them know what they are doing to us.
“If everyone here does that, maybe that will get through to them.”
Summer resident and moderator for the evening, Karen Hunter officially invited representatives from the CAW to the event, all of which declined.
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