Wind blew the focus of the Premier’s visit to Clinton away from agriculture.
About 80 anti-wind turbine protestors lined the entrances to the REACH Centre in Clinton on March 26, waiting for Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s arrival at the Huron agri-summit hosted by the Huron Chamber of Commerce.
While outside, protestors were chanting “stop the turbines” and declaring Huron County an unwilling host, inside the Premier was talking about her commitment to change when it comes to wind turbine projects in Ontario.
“I’m just aware that there are people outside who are angry and I want you to know that I did talk to a couple of the folks as I was coming in and I have met with a lot of people who are concerned about wind turbines and the placement of wind turbines. It’s something the Minister of Energy is working on – how we can have a better process and how we can work with willing hosts. I just want to acknowledge that because it’s very much present,” she said.
While addressing the crowd inside the REACH Centre, Wynne said she is committed to taking on her role as Minister of Agriculture and Food and she hopes to shine light on that part of the economy.
“[Agriculture] is critical to the health of the province and that’s why I’m here and that’s why I am the Minister of Agriculture and Food as well as being the Premier. I committed to taking on this role during the leadership because I really believe that it is important for us to shine a light on the importance of this part of the economy,” she said.
“I want everyone in the government, I want everyone across the province to understand that agriculture is not just part of who we are, it’s not just our roots, but it’s also vital to how we build the economy going forward.”
Wynne also highlighted the recent reintroduction of the local food act into the Ontario legislature and the announcement she made that morning about a $10 million partnership to provide risk management solutions to the Ontario beef industry to help stabilize market after the industry is affected by factors that are beyond the control of farmers.
“My approach is to find common ground. It’s to find common purpose, to work in partnership,” said the Premier.
After Wynne’s talk about agriculture, she asked Central Huron’s Mayor Jim Ginn to assemble three representatives from the protestors to sit down during a private meeting to follow the Chamber’s event. When it was announced outside, protestors argued about which three would represent the cause, finally agreeing that President of Bluewater Against Turbines, Dave Griffiths, Huron East Against Turbines member Tom Melady and member of the Ontario Registered Wind Turbine Working Group Lorrie Gillis be the three to engage in the conversation.
Wynne met with the representatives for about half an hour after going table to table to hear about concerns in agriculture from the Huron Chamber members.
What surprised Griffiths most about the meeting was Wynne’s comment that as many people are for turbines as against them. Griffiths said in Huron County, his group’s surveys show up to 90 per cent of people are against industrial wind turbines.
He called her appearance in Clinton a band-aid solution to repair the sea of votes that was lost by the Liberal government during the last election, which ousted Agricultural Minister Carol Mitchell.
“This is the same old government,” said Griffiths adding, “I’m not hopeful at all.”