By Paul Morden, The Sarnia Observer
Why did Ontario Liberals lose so many rural seats in therecent election? The answer may be blowing in the wind. Opponents of wind farms key to the Liberals’ Green Energy policy have been celebratingthe beating Premier Dalton McGuinty’s party took at the polls — includingthe loss of several rural MPPs, including Maria Van Bommel inLambton-Kent-Middlesex and three sitting cabinet ministers elsewhere.
TheLiberals came within a hair of another majority government, making the rurallosses even more painful for the party.
Anti-turbinegroups targeted Liberals in the vote in an effort to halt the growth of windprojects in rural communities.
“Ithink it was very clear how we feel about the turbines and the lack of localcontrol over their placement and development,” said Marcelle Brooks, aturbine opponent in LambtonShores.
“Whetheror not this will influence Mr. McGuinty’s decisions, we have no idea.”
Sheadded that wind companies “are proceeding full blast” with plans toset up large numbers of turbines in Lambton and neighbouring Middlesex County.
NexteraEnergy is holding a public open house Nov. 10 in Ailsa Craig about its plansfor three large projects, including the 96-turbine Jericho Wind Energy Centrein and around LambtonShores.
Brooks’group and another in Middlesex joined forces recently to form Middlesex-LambtonWind Concerns.
“Weare more determined than ever to continue the fight to protect our homes andour way of life,” Brooks said.
EstherWrightman, a member of the group in Middlesex, said the Conservatives whogained rural seats at the expense of the Liberals have said “they’re goingto really fight for us.”
But she’s worried wind projects already on the books insouthwestern Ontario”are just going to steam roll ahead” anyway.
Anti-windgroups, and many municipalities, have complained that Ontario’s Green Energy Act took away localcontrol over planning decisions on wind and solar projects.
Now,they’re waiting to see how the Liberal minority government responds to whathappened in those rural ridings.
“Theyneed to be engaging the rural community and listening to the rural community,on issue that are close to them,” said Steve Arnold, mayor of St. ClairTownship and warden of LambtonCounty.
TheGreen Energy Act is one of those issues, he added.
DonMcGugan, mayor of Brooke-AlvinstonTownship, said hesupports renewable energy but believes the Green Energy Act needs changes— which could happen with a minority government at Queen’s Park
“Icould see, perhaps, some compromises being made and maybe some of the planningwill come back to the local municipalities,” McGugan said.