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Wind power crosswinds blast McGuinty government

Hundreds of angry rural residents streamed through Toronto’s financial core Tuesday protesting wind turbine developments in the Ontario countryside.

“What we want to do is put it on the radar for Toronto,” said organizer Lorrie Gillis as she led the protestors who blocked traffic on Front St. W. for a time.

“A number of people don’t understand the issue, and we would like to help educate here.”

(They might have started the education campaign at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, across the street from where the protest started: The centre’s illuminated sign repeatedly flashed a picture of a wind turbine, and proudly stated it was powered by green energy.)

The province also came under attack Tuesday for not pushing ahead fast enough.

A wind development company, Southpoint Wind, filed an action in Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Windsor, Ont., claiming $1 billion in damages for the province’s decision in February, 2011 to halt to off-shore wind development projects.

Southpoint planned to develop wind power projects near Leamington, Union and Kingsville.

It says the government arbitrarily cancelled applications for offshore wind development without notice, and did so with the intent to stop its projects.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Energy Minister Chris Bentley says SouthPoint did not have a contract with the province, and the government intends to defend the lawsuit.

Some protestors said they’re not simply losing money; they’re losing their homes.

Gerry Dentoom carried a sign reading “My property value is now $0.”

Dentoom, who runs a restaurant with his wife, lives in a rural area about 10 kilometres from Listowel. Four turbines are slated to be erected near him; he worries they’ll make his home unsalable.

Tom Melady a farmer in Perth County, also says he won’t live near turbines if a planned development comes to his area.

“As soon as the wind turbines go up, my farm’s for sale,” he said. “I’m not going to live there.

“I’ve got all kinds of lists of people that have had health problems. I’m not going to expose me and my family to that. I can live someplace else.”

Mark Davis, deputy mayor of Arran-Elderslie in Bruce County, told protestors that rural Ontario understands the damage that turbines do to the countryside, and showed it by turfing out Liberal candidates in last fall’s provincial election.

“We have to teach our city friends the reality of the situation,” said Davis.

He criticized the system of payments for wind power as “fluffy-duffy government crap” that pays out millions of dollars to foreign energy companies.

Protestors chanted slogans mocking Premier Dalton McGuinty.

McGuinty acknowledged that some renewable energy projects haven’t had the support of their local communities, and said the province has changed the rules to remedy that.

“We’ve tried to rejig it so that it’s more in keeping with peoples’ views in their community,” he told reporters Tuesday.

“If you haven’t got the support of your community, it’s going to be very, very difficult to get those contracts.”

Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association, said many communities do support wind power projects.

And he said a study conducted for the association shows that if current plans for renewable energy proceed, wind projects will make payments to landowners and municipalities totaling $1.1 billion over the next 20 years.