By Mike Beitz, The Beacon Herald
A small group of protesters with “Stop the Turbines” and “Not a Willing Host” signs standing outside of the St. Joseph’s Parish Centre in Listowel Wednesday night foreshadowed a key issue that would be discussed inside. Industrial wind turbine projects were raised several times during a well-attended all-candidates forum hosted by the Perth and Wellington federations of agriculture.
But it wasn’t until well into the evening that the seven participating provincial candidates – Irma DeVries (Family Coalition Party), Matthew Murphy (independent), Romayne Smith Fullerton (NDP), Chris Desjardins (Green Party), Randy Pettapiece (Progressive Conservative Party), Robby Smink (Freedom Party) and Stewart Skinner (Liberal Party), were asked directly if they support them. Predictably, none of them gave an outright yes.
Murphy suggested several times that turbines belong offshore, where their impact on communities would be minimized, and also advocated for more local control over where they’re located. “I think you have a right to say, ‘We don’t want them nearby. We don’t want them here,'” he said.
Smith Fullerton agreed with the need for more local control, and suggested that the issue has been “devastating” for rural Ontario. The NDP would consult with the auditor general to determine if contracts could be opened up again, she added.
Desjardin argued that wind turbine projects should be “community owned,” with the community deciding where they’re placed. When told by someone in the audience that 70 Ontario communities have declared themselves unwilling hosts for wind turbines, he looked shocked. “We do want the community to say where they’re going, and if you’re an unwilling host, I guess they’re not going in your community,” said Desjardins.
Pettapiece said it was unfortunate that wind turbine opponents in rural Ontario are given the NIMBY (not in my backyard) label. “We would cancel the FIT program that deals with these projects,” he said, “and we would certainly investigate the contracts that have been handed out on anything that’s not hooked up to the grid.”
Smink, who prefaced most of his responses with a criticism of government interference, did the same when describing his stance on the “windmill idiocy.” “This is exactly the type of problems that you have when you have big government basically telling you how to run your life,” he said.
DeVries, who repeated a similar “smaller government” mantra throughout the evening, said the Family Coalition Party would introduce legislation to restore the rights of municipalities to refuse turbines.
Even Skinner, whose Liberal Party implemented the Green Energy Act, said that changes are in order, particularly when it comes to protecting fertile soil like those found in Perth-Wellington. “Going forward, I’m going to advocate for protection for prime farmland, that we’re not placing turbines on good Class 1 and Class 2 lands,” he said, adding that he would push for minimum distance separation between turbines and livestock operations. His suggestion that neither he nor any of the other candidates could stop the controversial wind turbine projects planned just outside of Listowel, and that “it’s done,” prompted a sharp response from the crowd. “It’s not done,” several people called out loudly. Read article