Enniskillen Township Mayor Kevin Marriott says he knew getting a moratorium on new wind farms in Ontario was a long-shot when he hand-delivered his request to the Premier Kathleen Wynne.
It was in a letter he gave her when they met up Monday at the Grain Farmers of Ontario March Classic conference in London.
A past-director on the board of the grain farmers commodity group, Marriott was serving as a master of ceremonies at the conference Wynne had agreed to attend.
The opportunity to speak directly to Wynne came along as wind company agents have been knocking on doors in Enniskillen and looking for landowners willing to lease land for wind farms.
“I put some thought into it last weekend when I knew I might have the chance to talk her and give her a letter,” Marriott said.
It says wind energy development is dividing rural communities. It also ties turbines to high electricity prices the mayor says hurt Ontario’s manufacturers and jobs.
Along with asking for a moratorium on new wind projects, while federal health officials study its impact on human health, Marriott’s letter urges Wynn to meet with rural leaders.
He said the premier appeared open and willing to consider the request when he spoke to her Monday, but he added, “She stopped short of promising anything.”
Later in the week, Wynne’s office released a copy of her reply that says she appreciated hearing Marriott’s views. It didn’t mention his request for a moratorium, or a meeting.
Wynne’s letter says Ontario has made progress in protecting its residents’ health, “while building a clean energy future,” but adds there’s more work to do.
It also says the province has already made changes to give more weight to proposed renewable energy projects that have municipal support.
“We have been clear that we need to increase local control with respect to clean energy projects,” her letter says.
Marriott said he wants to look into that more.
“Maybe, just maybe, there is a stiffer requirement now,” he said.
Wynne’s letter also defended the province’s current renewable energy approval process, and Ontario’s 550-metre minimum setback for wind turbines.
“I honestly thought that was a bit of a long-shot,” Marriott said about the moratorium he asked for.
“I thought if she is really worried about support in rural Ontario, maybe she would listen to that.”
While he didn’t get what he asked for, Marriott said he’s not disappointed with what he saw and heard while talking with the premier.
“I really felt like she listened,” he said, adding that was a change from his past conversations with premiers and cabinet ministers.
“When we talk to ministers, as councils, you feel like you’re talking to the wall.”
Marriott’s letter says that while there may be support for wind energy in Ontario’s cities, it’s different in rural communities like Enniskillen.
“I have not seen an issue that threatens the spirit of communities as does this issue,” it says.
Marriott said he thinks more rural municipalities should deliver that message to the new premier.
It’s like planting seeds, he explained.
“If they hear it a few times, maybe they’ll start to care.”
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