As Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Doug Ford came off his campaign bus on Friday afternoon in Wallaceburg, the first thing he saw was the grim faces of about a dozen members of Water Wells First. And they wanted some answers and guarantees.
The grassroots environmental group is frustrated by water wells polluted with black shale sediments that they say comes from wind farm construction in Chatham-Kent. They had a tense five-minute conversation with Ford soon after he stopped off his campaign bus.
Water Wells First spokesperson Kevin Jakubec said Ford didn’t give him any assurances during a stop in Wallaceburg at Country Style coffee shop that he or his party were gong to help. Jakubec said Premier Wynne and her Liberals have ignored their concerns and Doug Ford is not offering anything different.
Ford told Jakubec that it’s a serious issue.
“We’re going to address it,” Ford said, noting no one has been more vocal about wind turbines than himself.
“I can’t stand wind turbines. I can’t stand how they’re destroying areas and communities and I am going to do everything I can to make sure we halt any other wind turbine farms and I’m going to address the ones that are going in.”
Jakubec said Ford’s remarks that he will look into the issue, is not a good answer.
“How are they going to take care of the problem, but how are they going to take care of the problem given that they’ve failed to take care of the program over the past six years,” Jakubec said.
If Ford leads the PC party to a win in the provincial election in June, Jakubec said he gets a sense that they are not going to do anything different. He notes that he feels that both local PC MPPs Rick Nicholls and Monte McNaughton have not been effective in addressing the water well issue.
Jakubec said he was hoping for some answers from Ford before the votes are cast instead of after they are possibly elected.
“Tell us now, before the election, concrete terms,” Jakubec said. “What are you going to do.”
Members of Water Wells First brought eggs prepared in homes with water well issues. The eggs were coated in a black dirt that they say is black shale. Water Wells First has said that acid in the stomach can bring out the heavy metals that are found in the black shale sediment.
Lucy DeFraeye lives by the North Kent wind farm. She said her water well is now unusable since the wind turbine construction that occurred near her Chatham Township home.
She heard Ford say he would direct his energy towards the issue.
“We looked each other in the eye and I said, ‘I’ll be watching you,’” DeFraeye said. “And I’m going to deliver.”
Jakubec said Water Wells First has been seeking help from local MPPs Rick Nicholls and Monte McNaughton for a number of years, but with little to show for their efforts.
McNaughton said he wasn’t taken aback about Jakubec’s claim that he has been ineffective in addressing the concern, as he said he has brought the issue to light a number of times at Queen’s Park for a number of years.
“The problem is that the Liberals and the NDP, every time we brought forward legislation to scrap the Green Energy Act, restore local municipal control and put a moratorium on further wind development, the Liberals and NDP always voted together to continue to build wind turbines. We need a change in government. That’s the only way that’s going to stop more wind turbines from being built.”
Ford said when a party is not in power their hands are tied. He said if the party is elected in June, the wind turbine issue will be taken care of.
McNaughton also noted the PCs are the only party that is proposing to scrap the Green Energy Act, do a full investigation into the water well situation at the recently built North Kent wind farm, as well as stop other wind turbine projects from being built in Ontario.
McNaughton said if the PC government is elected, the Otter Creek wind farm project that is proposed for north of Wallaceburg will be dead.
“Absolutely. Doug was clear today when he went around (Country Style) that we were going to halt wind turbine development in the province of Ontario,” McNaughton said.
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