Offshore wind turbine halt politically motivated?

The Mitchell Advocate

No matter if it’s offshore or on-shore, it’s crystal clear wind turbines will be a major election issue for the remainder of 2011.

Why else would the Dalton McGuinty government send out a press release late on Feb. 11 – a Friday – to announce that Ontario is “not proceeding with proposed offshore wind projects while further scientific research is conducted.”

To be fair, it is common to receive press releases from Perth-Wellington MPP John Wilkinson – the Minister of Environment in McGuinty’s Liberal government – on Friday afternoons, coinciding with the day he is out and about in the riding when Queen’s Park is not in session, and meeting our weekly deadlines.

But it does seem a little odd to receive the announcement just before the weekend, especially in an election year, as the heat intensifies over wind turbines. There was typical cynicism from area opponents to turbines, such as the Huron East Against Turbines (HEAT), who have been vocal on the subject since they first made news headlines in and around St. Columban a couple of years ago.

The turbines continue to be in the news – nary a few weeks go by when we don’t receive a letter to the editor, or a council news story pertaining to them – and they will continue to be front and center in rural Ontario, especially rural southwestern Ontario, for politicians as we move headlong into an election this October.

The Tim Hudak-led Conservatives have long had their eye on this part of the province, a region pivotal for any political party anxious to form the next government.

West Perth’s elected officials have been front and center dealing with the issue within their own council chambers as well as at the county table, seeking answers, after being confronted by constituents belonging or associated to West and East Perth Against Turbines (WEPAT).

And rightly so. Constituents have concerns, so elected officials have to act on their behalf.

According to Wilkinson’s press release, “applications for offshore wind projects in the Feed-In-Tariff program will no longer be accepted and current applications will be suspended.”

Burkhard Metzger, a Central Huron councillor who ran on an anti-wind platform during the last municipal election, told The Huron Expositor in Seaforth he also saw the announcement as “an important first step.”

Let’s hope the steps become multiple.