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ATWOOD – Speaking as a representative for Wind Concerns Ontario at a meeting here Wednesday, North Perth councillor Warren Howard cited a litany of problems with Ontario’s wind turbine regulations but he said his sense is that “we are making some progress.”
People in the cities are starting to understand the province’s policy is costing money, he said. The key is getting urban people to understand.
The need to bridge the rural-urban divide on wind turbines, a key producer in the province’s Green Energy Act, emerged as an overriding issue at the meeting attended by about 200 people from a broad sweep of southwestern Ontario.
The anger and frustration expressed by many rural residents prior to and during last October’s election was, if anything, heightened at the gathering orchestrated by Perth-Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece.
“We’re tired of being treated as second and third class citizens in this province,” said a man from the Bornholm area who suggested Pettapiece work towards opening the eyes of city folk so they can see what’s going on in the province’s rural areas.
Jean Melady of St. Columban termed the consultation process required for wind turbines under the Green Energy Act “a sham.”
Draft reports companies are required to make available to municipalities and to the public are “overwhelmingly unwieldy, and it’s impossible for communities to read them, she said.
The regulations should be reopened, she added, urging Pettapiece to relay that to Queen’s Park.
Shawn Drennan, a farmer from Ashfield-ColborneWawanosh, waved a map showing how a potential total of more than 200 wind turbines would render an enormous land area in his township unlivable.
“You do not want this to happen,” he said angrily, noting his family has lived in the area for 90 years.
“If you are for agriculture you have to say no to this.” Drennan said 20 turbines are already in the township. Two additional applications could together add about 200 more.
One of Pettapiece’s own comments after citing Premier Dalton McGuinty’s recent statements about respecting municipalities was: “They respect municipalities, in my opinion, that are in the GTA and south of the 401.”
Even so, Pettapiece said he feels opposition to the government’s policy is gaining some ground.
Pettapiece assembled a Tory tag team for the “public meeting” that included Opposition energy critic Vic Fedeli of Nipissing and Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson.
Howard, who was also one of the panelists, was Pettapiece’s campaign manager in the recent provincial election.
Brent Royce, president of the Perth County Federation of Agriculture, weighed in on the turbine issue as well.
“This is new to Perth County,” he said. “We’ve been learning and trying to figure it out.”
Royce cited the federation’s list of 36 things to consider before signing a wind turbine contract.
(The parent Ontario Federation of Agriculture in January called on the government to suspend so-called FIT (Feed-in Tariff ) contracts until a number of issues regarding industrial wind turbines are addressed, including returning some control to municipalities and reconsideration of the required 550- metre set backs.)
No one spoke in favour of turbines which, some said, continue to divide rural communities. An opposing view, expressed by one man, was that widespread opposition to them is in fact uniting his community.
Fedeli laced into the McGuinty government’s green energy policy on a number of levels, speaking at length about how it has been driving up costs to consumers.
The meeting came on the heels of reports that Ontario is about to significantly lower premiums on wind and solar energy and to restore some municipal authority over where wind turbines and solar panels can be located.
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