There are only two places in Ontario where the province’s three political leaders are sure to meet on a given day. The first is at Queen’s Park; the second is at the International Plowing Match.
Provincial politicians who wouldn’t know a heifer from a steer pull on their blue jeans and make an appearance on the first day of the match, always the third Tuesday of September. They shake hands, wave at visitors, drive a tractor, and try to blend in with the mostly rural crowd.
This year, in Mitchell, Ont., where the match is being held this week, Premier Kathleen Wynne, Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath were confronted by a small group of anti-wind-turbine activists.
They wanted the trio to understand that more than 60 rural municipalities have signalled their official unhappiness with being forced to accommodate wind turbine developments, all of which earn site approval in Toronto, not in the municipality in which they’re located.
Remarkably, all three leaders expressed some measure of sympathy for the anti-turbine group, although Wynne’s was somewhat guarded.
After all, she was a cabinet minister in the former Dalton McGuinty Liberal government that introduced the Green Energy Act in 2009.
“I understand that there are challenges and there are places where we may disagree,” Wynne said.
“We recognize that there wasn’t a good enough opportunity for municipalities to take part in the siting of wind turbines. We’ve acknowledged that.”
Hudak and Horwath were more blunt.
“Respect for rural Ontario means stopping the wind turbines, plain and simple,” said Hudak.
Said Horwath: “We said all along that the way the government implemented the Green Energy Act was wrong-headed. They shut people out of the process, which created anger, frustration and a backlash against something that I think people would regularly think is a good thing.”
And with that, the three leaders went their separate ways.
It was as close to a public debate with this trio as you’ll find outside of Queen’s Park, and if all three are still leaders a year from now, you’ll find them again at the International Plowing Match, on the third Tuesday of September.
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