Esther Wrightman’s legs were shaking, but she stood as tall as her five-foot,100-pound frame allowed as the dark SUV carrying Premier Kathleen Wynne rolled toward her Monday evening (July 15).
Wrightman was one of a half-dozen rural Ontarians who jumped in front of the OPP-propelled truck and made one last stand of it at Ken Coran’s campaign headquarters behind the Bank of Montreal at Wellington and Baseline shortly before 7 p.m.
The Liberal candidate in London West, Coran and the premier were trying to leave a 200-strong rally when the anti-wind farm protesters jumped in front of their imposing SUV.
“My legs were shaking,” Wrightman said. “It’s not something we like to do. It’s not comfortable but you have to know your rights and this is one of them.”
About 20 protesters in total chanted and waved signs outside the whistle stop as the premier spoke to a packed (and sweltering) room inside.
They were drowned out handily by the close to 100, mainly young and energetic sign-carrying Coran supporters outside.
“It’s our last statement to her to make sure she remembers our faces and our issues as she drives away,” Wrightman said. “That’s why we go there. We don’t stand there forever but we just stand there so she just remembers that you know what, they’re serious about this.”
According to farmer Shawn Drennan, rural Ontario wants the same say in power infrastructure site selection as the GTA apparently has.
“Rural Ontario has no say in anything that goes on with wind turbines, but the people in Oakville and Mississauga get a say on the gas plants and that’s where the power is needed,” he said. “The power isn’t needed out here. It’s asinine. The money being spent in rural Ontario on renewables should have been spent in Toronto upgrading the grid there.”
Muriel Allingham said she was grabbed by a police officer soon after she got to the rally and told not to use her megaphone.
“We’re here to let the Liberal government know we don’t want them in power anymore because they’re not listening to rural Ontario,” she said. “Our democratic right has been taken away from us. We’re going to be surrounded by thousands of wind turbines. Our communities say they don’t want them but the Liberal government keeps pushing them on us.”
She said the Green Energy Act “is destroying rural Ontario.”
During the formal portion of the evening, Wynne told the raucous crowd the Ontario Liberals and London West need Coran.
“He’s a bridge-builder,” she said. “He’s somebody who reaches across a divide and says let’s come together and work this out. He doesn’t walk away from the table.”
She said London West had felt the “sting” of the Liberals’ political woes with the gas plant controversy that saw Chris Bentley resign as London West MPP. Bentley was in the crowd.
“We have to look at it and say that wasn’t a very good thing that happened,” Wynne said. “There are things that happened that shouldn’t have happened. We are working so hard to make it right to make sure that never happens again … that we deal with communities differently, that we deal with our politicians differently. I want you to know that has been a primary concern of mine.”
The former president of Ontario’s high school teachers’ union, Coran played a bit with the months of tension between the Ontario Liberals and the province’s teachers during the controversy over Bill 115.
“If I think back, you know, in our past, working sometimes together and sometimes a little bit band and forth, there’s a lot of stories” that end with positive solutions, he said.
“(Wynne is) someone who has the ability to turn situations into positive ones and that’s one thing the Liberal party is all about,” Coran said. “We’re all about looking at issues and we’re all about finding positive results. From positive results come positive things.”
He said the Ontario Liberals would work “very hard” for London.
“I will be that voice that makes sure the concerns of our residents will be heard at Queen’s Park.”
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