A group of Amherst Island residents, determined to express their dismay at Queen’s Park, did so quietly but boldly late last week.
The legislature’s gallery, filled to capacity, including 20 island residents who rode the bus to Toronto to hear the outcome of a vote of a private-member’s bill on wind turbines.
When the bill was defeated, the spectators quietly rose to their feet and turned their backs on the government.
“They’ve turned their backs on us, so we turned our backs on them,” said Janet Grace, president of the Association to Protect Amherst Island.
“It was really a poignant move.”
Those in the gallery silently filed out as applause erupted from the Conservatives on the floor, Grace said.
“It was a bit of a defiant move because … sitting in the gallery at Queen’s Park, you’re not allowed to blow your nose, let alone make a hand gesture or stick your tongue out or anything like that,” Grace said of the strict protocols in the legislature’s gallery.
Grace’s father, Syl Apps, once represented Kingston and the Islands in the legislature.
The bill in question, brought forward by Conservative MPP Lisa Thompson, called for a moratorium on wind turbine development pending the completion of third party studies on the social, physical and economic health effects of wind turbines.
It was defeated 45-28.
The group from Amherst Island, though disappointed, was not surprised with the result of the vote, Grace said. They joined about 100 other Ontarians who went to Queen’s Park to show support for Thompson and her bill.
“We were under no illusions as to whether this private member’s bill would pass. We knew that it would not pass,” Grace said.
“Basically, we were there … to let (the government) know how dissatisfied we are with their performance and their actions.”
Grace, whose association totals about 150 members, said she and others are constantly in contact with the politicians of Ontario. She writes letters to MPPs daily, she said, and her group will never miss an opportunity to stand up for what they believe in.
“We will always be at Queen’s Park, we will always be marching with our signs if there’s any motion on the floor that will help us in some way, or that will address the problems that we’re having,” said Grace.
“We’re fighting for our lives here.”
Grace’s association has a number of objections to the pending 75-megawatt wind turbine project planned for the island by Algonquin Power.
The first issue is the lack of knowledge of potential adverse health effects of living near wind turbines, Grace explained. The proper studies on health effects and noise have never been conducted, she said.
“Anything that the government has brought forward has been a very biased report, and we know that because we delve into these things, we find out the background, we find out the history of them, and they just hold no water at all,” Grace said.
Of major concern is the government’s position on setbacks – the regulated distance between turbines and dwellings.
“The Liberal government keeps telling us that 550-metre setbacks in Ontario are the best in the country,” Grace said.
“Well, they’re not.”
Grace said Saskatchewan and Quebec require greater setbacks. In Nova Scotia, she said, the minimum setback is 1,000 metres.
“If you extend that, and look in the States, and look in Australia, the setbacks are up to 5,000 metres,” Grace said.
“(The set backs) are there to protect their people, and the McGuinty government has said it’s not an issue.”
In addition, Grace said the bird kills caused by turbines is of great concern to many residents of Amherst Island, which is situated along a major migration route, and has traditionally remained a safe haven for a few endangered bird species.
The bird and bat kill numbers due to turbines reported from Wolfe Island, Grace said, are “extortionate.”
“Bats are highly responsible for controlling insects, and if you get rid of the bats, you’re going to lose your crops,” said Grace, noting that interference with ecosystems can have devastating effects.
Grace said her association has a lot of work ahead, with council meetings to attend in different municipalities, and the pending release of reports from Algonquin Power to Loyalist Township. After the township receives the reports, the second public meeting with Algonquin Power is on the horizon, Grace said, most likely in June.
The report from Algonquin Power will give a better understanding of just how many turbines the company intends to install, and where. But Grace said the number the company wants on the island – approximately 35 turbines – is not plausible.
“I’m not sure where they’re going to put them, but they’ve got these turbines right up beside the Owl Woods,” Grace said, referring to the draft plan released early this year.
“There’s just no room on this island for this kind of industrial complex,” she said,.
“It takes up the whole island and the fall out will be spectacular.”
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