Almost every year from July to October, Canadian music legend Anne Murray returns to picturesque Pugwash, N.S., where she spent her summers as a child. She practises her swing at the local first-class golf course and marvels at the way the little place she’d visit to attend church on Sundays has blossomed into a tourist destination – a jewel along the Northumberland Strait.
Nearby is Fox Harb’r, the luxury golf course and resort owned by Tim Hortons’ magnate Ron Joyce, another kid from Nova Scotia’s northwestern shore made good.
Now, the area’s two most celebrated icons are publicly disagreeing over wind turbine construction in the area after the Snowbird singer publicly spoke out against a 12-turbine wind farm proposed for two kilometres outside Pugwash.
“Pugwash is my favourite place in the whole world…. It’s more important to me than any other place,” the celebrated singer said by phone from Jupiter, Fla. “I just think it’s the wrong place [to erect a wind farm]. The government would be shooting themselves in the foot to take a community that’s growing and thriving and put a stop to it.”
Ms. Murray worries the whirring and thumping of wind turbines, which can stand up to 40 storeys high, will repel people from the area, turn tourists away, claw back property values and damage animal habitats.
On Monday, she sent a letter to Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter warning that a wind farm would have a “catastrophic impact” on the economy and environment in the area.
Though the singer and golf enthusiast says she has not spoken with neighbour Mr. Joyce about the project and doubts it would affect his business, she said a wind farm at Pugwash would “just be the beginning, because it will go all the way down the coast. That’s what the fear is.”
Mr. Joyce, who was born in nearby Tatamagouche, N.S., and invested in the first Tim Hortons doughnut shop in 1964 and built it into an international chain, said he’s unfazed by wind farm concerns in a province that already has 26 wind farm projects, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
“I am aware of Anne’s ongoing negative comments on wind farms,” he said in an email to the National Post. “I personally am not a supporter of her argument. [T]he world is moving forward for a better source than fossil fuels…. I see no major negatives in countries that have them.”
Her letter comes just weeks after the province registered an assessment of the Pugwash Wind Farm, to be developed by North Cumberland Wind Farm LP. Ms. Murray and the Gulf Shore Preservation Association, a local citizens’ group, are worried the province accepted an incomplete environmental assessment that failed to carry out archeological, bat and migratory bird studies and first nations consultations. They say five of the turbines will be built in wetlands – a “clear contravention” of the province’s environmental laws, Ms. Murray said.
The Gulf Shore Preservation Association has called for Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau to suspend the 30-day public comment period, which opened the day the assessment was registered, Feb. 6, based on 17 “deficiencies” they identified. After 30 days of public input, Mr. Belliveau will decide whether to approve the environmental assessment, deny it or ask for further study, ministry spokesperson Lori Errington said.
“Nothing’s written in stone at this point,” she said. “Certainly we’ll be considering all the aspects the wind farm would involve.”
She confirmed Mr. Dexter received Ms. Murray’s letter and his office will respond. The singer’s letter will also be included in the public consultation dossier, Ms. Errington said.
Richard Gray, treasurer of the Gulf Shore Preservation Association, said he hopes Ms. Murray’s public objections will turn the tide in their favour. She’s been speaking out against the project since 2007 when the proposal was first made – Ms. Murray said that she was at first supportive of the wind farms because she favours alternative sources of power, but soon learned it is important they be placed far from communities.
The last time Ms. Murray spoke out, her comments were “distorted” to read like “‘It’s too bad wealthy Anne Murray won’t be able to play golf anymore,’” Mr. Gray said. “That’s not her position. I know Anne well … this goes back to her childhood. She’s very sensitive to fragile economies being destroyed.”
Ms. Murray grew up in the nearby coal mining town of Springhill, N.S. which suffered three mining disasters before that resource could no longer fuel the local economy.
Even now, the singer isn’t sure her activism will make any difference. But she swears she’ll do anything to protect her community (she rejects accusations of NIMBYism because her home is too far away from the proposed wind farm site to suffer any personal impact).
“If this doesn’t work, I certainly will have done everything I can to help the process along,” she said. “It could be falling on deaf ears everywhere, I don’t know. But I had to do something.”
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