CAW wind turbine sparks Port Elgin protest

Ken Lewenza, President of CAW

by Chantaie Allick and John Spears, Toronto Star
Plans by the Canadian Auto Workers to erect a 76-metre wind turbine in their community have residents of Port Elgin threatening to greet construction crews with a picket line.  “The neighbourhood is in an uproar,” said John Mann a resident who plans on participating in Friday’s peaceful protest.  “There’s a lot of opposition to it,” agrees Mayor Mike Smith. “There’s a lot of people upset.”

But Ken Lewenza, national president of the CAW, says the $2 million project has come too far to stop: Shovels could go in the ground as early as Friday.

“We’re moving ahead,” he said in an interview.

The turbine is being built on the grounds of the CAW Family Education Centre in Port Elgin, a 47-acre property that prides itself on being environmentally responsible.

But the turbine is being built under planning rules that have now been superseded.

Current rules require turbines to be at least 550 metres from a dwelling; in Port Elgin, some homes will be less than half that distance.

There are 60 to 100 homes within the 550-metre radius, according to officials in the town of Saugeen Shores, which includes Port Elgin.

While the town has no legal tools at its disposal to stop the project, the town council voted on Monday to ask the ministry of the environment to withdraw the certificate of approval for the turbine.

Lewenza said in an interview the union’s national executive board re-affirmed its commitment to proceed this week.

The project has been in the works for seven years, Lewenza said.

Union activists pushed for the centre to be as green as possible, he said. That included a desire to generate its own green energy.

Town council turned down the project initially, but the union appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, which gave the turbine the go-ahead.

Lewenza said the union would delay the project if further information comes to light, but he’s seen nothing to change his mind so far, “and the municipality would have to absorb the cost of the delay.”

“For us to bail out now – I would use the correlation (if) you build three-quarters of your house, and then you quit building it,” he said. “It’s a significant investment over the last seven years.”

“I recognize the anxieties,” he said. “I’m getting e-mails from residents raising objections from everything from property value to unsafe conditions.”

The union hired the best experts it could find to advise it, he said, and is satisfied that it doesn’t pose a threat to residents, or to its own staff who work in the centre.

That doesn’t satisfy Mann.

“Ontario is bigger than most countries with fewer people than most countries. That’s where I just don’t get it; there are other places to put wind turbines,” said Mann.

Paul Krane, another resident, is also dumfounded.

“Residents and seniors are going to lose the values of their homes,” he said they’re scared to death for their health. People are going out and getting baseline medical checks.”

Mann said the CAW has been a wonderful neighbour until now.

“We as a community can’t understand why the CAW ignores issues related to our health and well-being.”

As mayor, Smith says the town isn’t opposed to wind turbines, but feels this one is too close to the urban fabric.

He’d like to see the CAW relocate it to property farther from the centre of population – or lease land from a willing landowner outside town.

Lewenza insists the union has no alternative sites available on its property.

15 thoughts on “CAW wind turbine sparks Port Elgin protest

  1. Who were the experts the CAW consulted with? Did the $2 M come out of union dues? Has the CAW pension fund been checked for renewable energy investments?

    • Interesting questions indeed, Barbara. Could the current financial status of the C.A.W . be a reason behind this more than strange & puzzling decision to have a wind turbine installed on C.A W property in Port Elgin, Ontario?

      • Yes, as the industrial unions have been led to believe that the shift to the new “green” energy economy will replace the jobs that have been lost in the old “carbon” based economy and that these new jobs will increase union membership to previous levels.
        But the the objective of the “green” energy economy to is to reduce both the supply and demand for electric power which leaves little room for industrial/manufacturing jobs. Objective is to make planet earth sustainable by reducing products/goods availavble to people.

      • The US economic policies in regards to energy supply helped to bust up the UAW and this spilled over onto the CAW.

  2. There’s no Wall St. or Bay St. here in rural Ontario, but we
    know who the one-percenters are. It’s the wind companies
    that come to town and divide our communities all for a lie
    and government hand-outs.

    You can blanket all of Ontario with wind turbines, but not
    one of them can be used without storing the energy or
    pairing them with something that can sychronize the
    variations in wind speed with the ups and downs of the grid.
    There are no plans to store the power, so gas turbines are
    being built instead – much to the chagrin of city dwellers,
    yet they don’t realize the connection. This negates any

    To add insult to injury, especially here in Bruce County,
    this wind and gas pairing gets grid priority, so nuclear
    will take a hit; which in turn will increase carbon dioxide
    emissions – quite the opposite of what they are supposed to

    I’m reluctant to protest the CAW. As a New Democrat and union activist I’ve spent alot of time at the Centre in various courses from human rights to producing programs for cable TV. But I’m getting a little tired of the Tories using the wind issue for their recruitment drives.

  3. Ontario energy policy is directed at reducing the consumption of electricity. This is known as demand-side-management. The use of nuclear power increases the supply of electricity which in turn allows for more production of goods. Increasing the supply of energy will not make planet earth more sustainable according to the crowd now running Ontario.Increasing the supply of energy from conventional sources is also a no-no. The idea is to reduce energy consumption and not to increase energy consumption in Ontario.
    The NDP has in its platform support for IWTs. The Liberal Party indeed supports IWTs so the only party left in the CP which does not push for IWTs. This is why people are moving towards the CP party.

    • I just bought a rototiller made new in China for a 50hp tractor made in Japan. Manufacturers do not need any energy from Ontario. All they are looking for is consumers and taxpayers.

      • But China and Japan sure do need Canadain sources of energy like coal and oil to manufacture.And from anywhere else in the world they can get energy raw materials.
        But Ontario has a policy that restricts the use of power and thus restricts manufacturing due to surging energy bills imposed on both consumers and businesses.

      • The Aussies likely supply a lot of the coal China needs.
        Quite a bit of the Oil sands have China investment.
        We are becoming a resource economy..short sighted when you stop and consider what happens when those are depleted , and long gone for the next generation.
        Any smart country , as China is , would keep much of their resources and use up yours….

  4. Liberals and NDP don’t care about human health first. They have made this abundantly clear. They care about image more than people. They also don’t seem to realize that their image is now horribly tarnished supporting the GEA.

  5. The CAW should take themselves off the grid when they get their turbine running and see how long they can operate without any hydro when the wind doesn’t blow. I bet they won’t be happy with $2 million “GREEN” investment then!!

  6. they have a feed in tariff and the turbine does not need to be located there at all. It could be located anywhere and they get the benefit of the tariff. As with all these green initiatives and feed in tariff, no one is going off the grid, just getting paid from the taxpayer for the electricity they generate.

  7. Funny how it starts some attention from the city folk when they are planning on putting IWT in towns and close to populated areas. This issue really comes to light when it has a personal effect on you. I live in a rural area and believe that whole turbine issue is a complete joke! They are planning a wind farm in my area and most city folk dont really care that the issue is being shoved down our throats. Its not until it effects you that you really take notice. Big division between rural and urban. I feel for the people of Port Elgin. It s a beautiful town and they dont all the issues associated with these turbines.

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