Policy must come ahead of politics when it comes to determining where wind turbines and casinos are built, said Premier Kathleen Wynne.
In Kingston for the first time since becoming premier of Ontario, Wynne admitted the process for placing wind turbines in Ontario needs to be better.
“It really disturbs me when I talk to people who say ‘Our community is divided. I go to church and I can’t talk to my neighbour because we’re on opposite sides of the wind issue.’ That really hurts. It pains me,” she said.
Wynne’s comments came the day after she was confronted by protesters in Belleville opposed to wind turbine projects in Prince Edward County and on Amherst Island.
“I know that there needs to be a better process for siting these wind turbines. I have said all along that we need a better process,” she said.
“I believe, fundamentally, that green, renewable energy is very important and that we need to continue to build our capacity in that area.”
Although she reiterated her support for the Green Energy Act and renewable energy, Wynne said local communities need to have a greater say in where wind turbines go.
Having local communities more involved in the process is the first step toward healing the rifts created by the wind turbine issue, she said.
“It’s not about political support. It’s about getting the policy right,” she said.
While Wynne said local communities need more input about wind turbines, the decision about where casinos are to be located should rest entirely with municipalities, she said.
More than a year into a five-year plan to transform the province’s gaming industry, Wynne said local municipal governments need to consult their residents and decide for themselves if a casino fits with their economic development plans.
Kingston has already expressed an interest in becoming a host for a new casino.
Ganaonque and Thousand Islands Township have expressed interest in retaining the Thousand Islands Casino in its present location.
“The reality is the OLG has to work to make the gaming industry in the province profitable,” Wynne said. “They have to make the business work.
“It would be wonderful if there could be change without any conflict or without ay disgruntlement but the reality is when there is change sometimes there are opposing views.
“Obviously, I would rather not see communities pitted one against the other and my hope that those rifts, whatever they are, can be healed once decisions are made.
“Having said that, it really is up to municipalities to manage those processes and work together if possible.”