TORONTO — Angry residents opposed to wind turbines confronted Premier Dalton McGuinty on Thursday, saying health concerns are being ignored in the province’s push for green energy.
McGuinty, who was set to tour a recreation centre in Lindsay, Ont., came in a back door after about 10 sign-waving protesters parked themselves outside the front entrance.
The group bristled when they realized McGuinty was already inside the complex.
“I think he’s missing parts of his anatomy,” said one man.
After greeting construction workers inside the building, the premier was confronted by the protesters who accused him of foisting wind turbines on rural residents who believe the enormous structures are making people sick.
They demanded that McGuinty stop the proposed installation of about 30 wind turbines in nearby Pontypool, which they say are slated to be built close to schools and homes.
“Have you heard about the children who are getting nosebleeds from these (turbines)?” asked Pontypool resident Mary Cowling.
“Just one child — one child — is one too many to suffer the effects of a wind turbine. One little child. And if it was your child, and your grandchild, you would feel the same way as we do and you would fight like we are.”
Provincial regulations on wind turbines are among the toughest in the world, McGuinty argued, adding that there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that turbines cause health problems.
The province has to move to clean energy sources in order to reduce Ontario’s dependence on polluting, coal-fired generation, he said.
“We’ve made an important choice — we understand that,” McGuinty said. “And we know that not everybody supports it, and that’s the way it is in a democracy. We accept that and we’re trying to listen, particularly to the science when it comes to dealing with alternate sources of energy.”
But the group wasn’t satisfied, accusing McGuinty and local Liberal Rick Johnson of betraying voters and stripping municipalities of their power to block wind turbines.
The discussion, which went on for a quarter of an hour, grew heated at one point with several people, including Johnson, shouting over each other.
“I don’t think we’re going to resolve this here and now,” McGuinty said.
“We could, if you just said, ‘OK, we’ll take the turbines away from here,” said Pontypool resident Cindy Sutch, 45.
Sutch asked McGuinty if he would agree to a roundtable discussion with local residents about their concerns over wind turbines, but the premier declined.
McGuinty later told reporters he was glad the demonstrators “interrupted his regulated day” to help him understand just how passionate they are about the issue.
The group is vowing to make wind turbines a central issue in next year’s provincial election.
Johnson, who won the riding in a byelection last year, isn’t speaking for his community, said Cowling.
Johnson beat then-Conservative leader John Tory in the March 2009 byelection, dashing Tory’s last hope for a seat in the legislature and triggering his resignation.
It was a stunning turn of events for the Conservatives, who’d held the rural riding for years.
Conservative supporters stayed home that day because they were angry that longtime MPP Laurie Scott had given up her seat for Tory, Cowling said.
“(Johnson) won because the Conservatives stayed away,” she said. “I’m not sure that that’s going to happen the next time.”