It is my opinion that the December 15 headline “Island wind power opponents and advocates equally vocal” is highly misleading. Having attended several public meetings concerning this proposed project, and having read many of the letters in this paper, the number of citizens opposing this project far outstrips the few supporters. I will admit that Northland has far more promotional dollars to spend than our local citizens’ group the Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives, but this press space does not reflect the views of the majority of the people.
Let us not forget (as supporters of the wind project might prefer us to do) that the McLean’s Mountain wind project has not been given final government approval to proceed. They were one of many companies whose Renewal Energy Approval (REA) applications were deemed to be incomplete and were thereby denied approval to proceed. Northland has not yet made public the final proposed locations for the turbines. After this happens, we as members of the public will again have opportunity to make comments. Rick Martin notes in his December 15 advertorial, “Many opportunities for community and First Nations input have been an ongoing part of Northland’s obligation to meet government requirements.” A most important question to ask is, how much of the public’s input will actually be incorporated into the final turbine site plan? This is certainly not a done deal; the process could go on for a lengthy and undetermined period of time.
The public gave many comments verbally and in writing during the open house hosted by the company in March of last year. In the December 15 “pro” article concerning the Murdochville project in Quebec, this project is identified as being a successful one in a community similar to Manitoulin. At the March open house I spoke with one of the company officials involved with a so-called successful Northland Quebec project. He said that some turbines were relocated in this project to accommodate the needs and preferences of community members…and he sited two examples. Many people in this community attended a local church, and did not want to see turbines on the horizon when exiting from this church, so the turbines planned for the horizon next to the church entrance were relocated. In another instance, no turbines were located within several kilometres of a wealthy family who did not wish to have these structures anywhere close to their home.
There are many on Manitoulin who also do not wish to have turbines located within 2 kilometres of their homes and communities—many individuals as well as some First Nations. Mr. Martin’s description of the ill health effects experienced by some is dismissive and minimizing. Also in the December 15 article, he says these health impacts are not sicknesses, just “annoyances.” Many people do not want to risk exposure to developing sleep disturbance, high blood pressure and palpitations, chronic stress, and anxiety. Mr. Martin is quoted in the December 15 article stating that it is not the intent of the company to hurt innocent members of society. Will Northland listen to the many voices who do not want themselves, their families, or neighbours to become part of this experiment?
It may not be the intent of this wind project to make some people sick, but as things stand now, there are no protections in place for those who have already experienced adverse health consequences from wind projects happening across this province. Gary Fuhrman suggests in his January 12 letter to the editor that those experiencing adverse health effects do need to be considered—(“Island in good position to study health impacts of turbines”) how “we” can help or perhaps compensate them for their suffering. (Is “we” the company or local health resources?) Until such mechanisms are in place, no further wind turbines should be located close to human communities. The suggestion of a “before and after” study on Manitoulin also proposed by Mr. Fuhrman assumes that this project will be proceeding. I personally do not wish to volunteer to be part of the experiment that is now in process across the province. Further non-industry funded studies should only be conducted where turbines are already operating in close proximity to where people are living—this would be exercising the precautionary principle.
I would encourage anyone who shares these views to continue to make them known—an election is coming and Ontarians need to let this provincial Liberal government know what they think about the current energy policy that is allowing for a few to make huge profits from subsidies that are being paid for by us all, both through rising electricity rates and diminished health for those who happen to be living too close to industrial wind projects.
The health and economic ills of this project are among my main concerns; however, there are also cultural and heritage issues at stake. Although Northland claims that tourists will be positively influenced, I question how the sight of gigantic wind turbines covering the horizon from Little Current to M’Chigeeng will affect those crossing the bridge in hopes of holidaying in a peaceful, natural setting. A decrease in seasonal visitors would negatively impact upon first nations and non-First Nations communities alike. What do we want for our communities?
Right now there is opportunity for the public to comment upon the Natural Heritage Assessment Guide for Renewable Energy Projects. The so-called Green Energy Act overrides 24 other previously existing Environmental Legislative Acts, including the Ontario Heritage Act.
To express your opinion about how the Liberal’s “Green” Energy Act (which is designed to fasttrack projects such at the McLean’s Mountain wind project) will impact upon the cultural and natural heritage features of Manitoulin, visit the Ministry of the Environment’s Bill of Rights web page, www.ebr.gov.on.ca/ERS-WEB-External, and enter the number 011-1845. When this EBR number appears, click on it, and then click on Submit Comment to have your views included in this legislation. The deadline for commenting is Monday, January 24.
Emily Weber, Honora Bay