Wind protest turns angry
By RANDY RICHMOND, The London Free Press
Last Updated: April 2, 2011 5:11pm
STRATHROY — A peaceful march down a typical smalltown main street erupted into an angry confrontation Saturday that spells continuing trouble over Ontario’s green energy plan.
About 80 protesters, many shouting, some in tears, repeatedly drowned out beleagured Liberal MPP Maria Van Bommel as she tried to defend her government’s wind turbine policy.
No matter what the Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP tried to say, protesters cut her short, demanding she work to stop construction of wind turbines until independent research proves they’re safe.
“I am really pleased to see all of you. I think certainly the sun and weather is helping out a great deal,” Van Bommel said when she saw the crowd.
“The truth brings us out,” another shouted.
Even when Van Bommel engaged protesters one on one, she got an earful.
Stephana Johnston, 81, told Van Bommel she lives on the north shore of Lake Erie and has been forced out of her home because turbulence from dozens of nearby turbines are affecting her sleep and health.
“We are suffering and it is a horror and you are responsible because you agreed to the Green Energy Act,” Johnston said.
The protest started much as most do, with some speeches, then a march down Front Street,
Chanting “McGuinty must go!” and “We’re not your guinea pigs,” protesters marched 550 metres from a plaza to Van Bommel’s office, the closest a wind turbine can be built to a home.
Opponents say turbines emit low-pitched sounds that disrupt the body’s rhythms and cause headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, rapid heart rate irritability and problems with concentration and memory.
“She will have a lot of people affected. There are people already affected from her area.”
After the hour-long, heated debate outside her office, Van Bommel said she undertands the anger.
“It’s a very emotional issue and I think we have to recognize that. But when we look at it terms of the science we see .. there really is a need to do this.”
Van Bommel said she’d keep a promise made to protesters to take their concerns to her Liberal caucus.
With the next Ontario election only five months away, wind energy — opposition by many to the growth of wind farms, vs. proponents who believe it’s a good way to help replace dirty coal-fired power — is on track to become a huge issue.
Wind farms have been proposed in many areas of Southwestern Ontario, a 10-riding region dominated by McGuinty’s Liberals in the last election four years ago.