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Sending a message

Opponents of a proposed turbine farm near Thunder Bay have a message for Premier Kathleen Wynne: the Nor’Westers are not a willing host.

Dozens of members of the Nor’Wester Escarpment Protection Committee were out in full force on Friday afternoon, picketing outside the Victoria Inn on Arthur Street, where provincial level politicians, including both opposition leaders, had gathered for Day 2 of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association’s annual general meeting.

Escarpment Protection Committee spokeswoman Irene Bond said Wynne promised upon taking office earlier this year that her government would not force green energy on communities that didn’t want them.

“We also want these Liberal ministers who have flown in here today, and will fly back to Toronto, to take the message with them that if they can cancel gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville because it’s the wrong location, they can certainly cancel a small project like the Horizon Wind (Inc.) park on the Nor’Westers, which is in the wrong location,” Bond said.

Bond said there is plenty of opposition to the project in the Thunder Bay area, and not just from her group.

Fort William First Nation council passed a resolution opposing the development in October 2011, while Neebing did the same five months later.

The Toronto-based company in 2010 sued the city of Thunder Bay for $126 million after council rejected Horizon’s turbine location choices.

Earlier this year the company took legal action against the Ministry of the Environment, forcing them to post their renewable energy application earlier this month and open it to public consultation.

NEPC member John Beals said it’s obvious that the turbines aren’t wanted and have stated so quite clearly.

It’s protected land, he went on to say.

“And we’re not about to have any industrialization up there. The premier of Ontario has said we should not allow the hosting of wind turbines in communities that aren’t willing to host them. And we’re saying loud and clear we’re not wanting to host them,” Beals said.
MPP Bill Mauro (Lib., Thunder Bay-Atikokan), says he thinks it may be too little, too late for the Thunder Bay opposition.

Not knowing exactly what Wynne said or the context in which she said it, Mauro suggested the group might be misinterpreting her words.

“My guess would be that they were language that was focused on a go-forward basis and were probably not speaking to contracts that were already in place. And that’s what we’re faced with here,” Mauro said.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said her party supports green energy, but not when it’s rammed down the throats of residents who don’t want it.

That’s where the Liberals have gone wrong in this case, she said.

“I think most people kind of theoretically support the idea of renewable energy. But they also believe in basic democracy and an ability to have a say and have a voice. We were very critical of the implementation process the government put in.”

Mauro added it’s unlikely the province would step in to arbitrarily cancel the project, citing the fear of another lawsuit.