Wind turbine protestors march through downtown Orangeville

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Industrial wind turbines are putting rural residents at risk, a group of protesters said on Saturday morning (Nov. 27) as they marched through downtown Orangeville.

Carrying placards, handing out flyers and chanting to spread their message, about 65 people marched from Rotary Park to Sylvia Jones’ Broadway constituency office.

“I think it went very well,” David White, a founding member of Whittington Coalition for Our Right to a Healthy Environment, said of raising public awareness about concerns regarding turbines.

“The turnout was a little less than we had anticipated, but I think the weather had a lot to do with it,” he added, referring to the area’s first blast of winter. “A lot of the people impacted are further north and they’re up where (the weather) is considerably worse than it is here.”

Some residents living near existing large wind turbines, including several in Dufferin, have reported health issues such as sleeplessness, high blood pressure, dizziness and more.

People have also raised concerns about the impact on neighbouring property values, the provincial decision to take planning authority for turbines away from municipal councils and, specific to the proposed Whittington Wind Farm project, the impact construction will have on local drinking water.

If ultimately approved, that project would see Mississauga-based wpd Canada Corporation erect three industrial wind turbines on properties bordered by 20th Sideroad to the north, 15th Sideroad to the south, 2nd Line of Amaranth to the west and Mono-Amaranth Townline to the east.

Under the Green Energy Act, turbines are required to have setbacks of at least 550 metres from neighbouring homes. The protesters, however, don’t believe that’s enough.

“When Toronto was faced with wind farms on the waterfront, fearing the loss of votes the Liberals changed the rules and gave Toronto five-kilometre setbacks,” White said in a prepared statement delivered during a stop outside the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health office on Broadway. “Rural Ontario deserves five-kilometre setbacks too.”

Down the road at Jones’ office, protesters again rallied in their opposition to the Liberal government and its energy policy.

“I’m not sure I can give you any more encouraging words than there is a provincial election in October of 2011,” Jones, a Progressive Conservative, told the crowd. “We have to stop dealing with energy policies like they’re social experiments.”

Earlier this year, Jones submitted a private member’s bill that, if approved, would return planning authority for renewable energy projects to municipal councils. It’s unlikely, however, the bill will be debated before next year’s election.

“I’m very pleased to say my leader, Tim Hudak, has endorsed it and … it will be in our platform,” Jones said of her bill. “Allow communities to make decisions about where and what is placed within their community.”

Another protest is planned for today (Nov. 30) at 6 p.m. outside the Drayton constituency office of Environment Minister John Wilkinson.