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Niagara townships part of wind fight

Niagara’s two smallest municipalities can boast of dozens of allies in declaring enough is enough in their wind turbine war.

Wainfleet and West Lincoln are among a growing crop of municipalities province-wide which have declared themselves unwilling hosts to wind turbines. They’ve earned backing from Niagara Region – though that’s due to be revisited – as more municipalities come down against wind turbines.

“There’s force in numbers. There’s solidarity,” said West Lincoln Mayor Doug Joyner, who has sharply criticized the Ontario government for stripping municipalities of planning authority over turbines.

Since Premier Kathleen Wynne’s vow not to impose turbines on places unwilling to take them, the list of municipalities saying no has climbed. Currently, 61 of 444 Ontario municipalities have declared themselves unwilling hosts.

The number, Joyner said, “just shows to the provincial government we’re trying to keep the premier at her word. She said municipalities that don’t want them won’t get them.”

But though regional council backed Wainfleet and West Lincoln’s no-turbine wish, councillors will give their support a second look in September. Notice of the vote’s return came the same day they received a tongue-lashing from Rankin Construction CEO Tom Rankin, who is involved in wind turbine projects in west Niagara.

Rankin said becoming an unwilling host sends a bad signal to wind companies interested in Niagara. He said the region should be looking to attract wind jobs to help step a sky-high youth unemployment rate.

“When they first built the railway in England in the 1800s, everyone was up in arms,” he said. “… Now we have railways all over the world.

“I’m sure if the automobile was invented today, there’d be opposition to the automobile.”

Rankin said he visited five countries to study their reactions to wind turbines before getting into the wind business.

“I think there’s misinformation,” he said of Ontarians’ pushback. “What do people want? Do they want more global warming?”

Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs said several municipalities held a symposium about wind turbines in February. She said they plan to rally at the upcoming Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference against the turbines.

“I think it shows that the rural municipalities, especially, are fed up with this,” she said.

She said she feels there has been a shift in the province’s approach to wind since Wynne took office.

Joyner praised the sense of solidary among rural municipalities.

“What I see is I see rural Ontario standing shoulder to shoulder, arm-in-arm in this. What I don’t see is the big cities coming to play,” he said.

“When they start putting wind turbines in downtown Toronto, then people will start to understand what we’re going through in rural Ontario.”