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Politicians walk out on McGuinty

About 80 municipal politicians walked out on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty Monday to protest his Liberal government’s wind turbine policies.

“It felt good. It was empowering to leave the room,” said Arran-Elderslie Deputy-mayor Mark Davis, whose motion sparked the boycott of McGuinty’s keynote address at the Ontario Good Roads Association/ Rural Ontario Municipal Association conference in Toronto.

“It’s another step of escalation of trying to make them aware that these things (turbines) are not working. They’re trouble. They’re making people sick.”

The walkout was a protest of the province’s refusal to enact a one-year moratorium on wind turbine developments until health and environmental impacts are properly studied.

McGuinty did not address the moratorium calls at the conference, but did suggest that municipalities could soon have more of a say on wind turbine projects – something many communities have been pushing for for years – under the province’s Feed-in Tariff program.

“We will be adopting some recommendations for rural Ontario so that we can, I think, achieve a better balance,” the premier told reporters after his speech.

“I’m not going to speak to the specifics. I’ll let the minister (of energy) do that in due course but I can say that we’ve listened very carefully to those concerns and incorporated those into changes we’re making.”

Huron-Bruce Progressive Conservative MPP Lisa Thompson, who took part in the walkout, said she is “cautiously optimistic” that municipalities will soon have more power over wind projects.

“It sounds like we’ve got their attention now and we have to make sure that we keep the pressure on them to make sure they take the proper next steps,” she said.

That means not only reviewing and making changes to the FIT program, but also “hitting the pause button” on wind turbine developments until environmental and human health impacts are properly studied, she said.

Thompson has tabled a private member’s bill in the Ontario legislature that calls for that kind of moratorium. It is scheduled to be debated and voted on March 8.

“We all know they’re working through a FIT (Feed-in Tariff ) review right now and it better not just start and stop with the FIT review. To do justice and to take proper steps forward, we really do need to take a look at the environmental impacts as well as a three-pronged approach to health studies,” she said.

Prior to Monday’s conference, Arran-Elderslie council circulated and asked Ontario municipalities to support its motion for an “immediate” one-year moratorium, with yearly extensions if required, on all wind turbine construction until health impacts are properly studied.

The motion encourages municipal officials to walk out on McGuinty’s keynote address “in a show of solidarity” and to demonstrate “our frustration, anger and disappointment over their complete and total mishandling of the Green Energy Act and industrial wind turbines in particular,” if a moratorium has not been announced before the conference.

Davis said he was happy with the number of people who walked out.

He said the dozens of mayors and councillors left “quietly” as McGuinty approached the microphone.

“There was a little talk about respect this morning, but respect is a two-way street. I don’t think rural Ontario has been shown a lot of respect in the last three years,” he said.

Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound PC MPP Bill Walker said the walkout was an act of “desperation” and “frustration” after failed attempts by municipal politicians to get the Liberal government to listen to rural Ontario.

He said he “certainly” hopes McGuinty will pay attention.

Grey Highlands Deputymayor Paul McQueen said the people who walked out were not trying to be “defiant,” but simply wanted to get the premier’s attention.

“We’re just frustrated that they took our say (over wind turbines) away,” he said.