Blowing in the wind, rural residents take their fight to Toronto
By Lynda Hillman-Rapley Lakeshore Advance
Keep up the fight says wind farm protesters
Hundreds of rural residents, including many from Lambton and Huron counties, brought their impassioned fight against industrial wind turbines to Canada’s most populous city last Tuesday.
The anti-turbine troops arrived by the busload at their latest battleground, Simcoe Park on Front St., outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the third annual Ontario Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) Forum.
Their ammunition: large placards that decry what they say are the Liberal government steamrolling a green energy agenda over rural Ontario.
Their mission, said Dave Griffith, the chair of Bluewater Against Turbines (BAT) was to educate urban residents about the “problems” of wind turbines and the province’s FIT program and make a unified stand against further developments. On one of the ten busses that traveled from all areas of southwestern Ontario, Patti Keller handed out reading material regarding health, tourism, costs and home values.
After the trip Griffith said, “For those of you who still feel this may be too little, too late, let me assure you this first wave of 110 turbines (along our west coast) is just that, the first wave in a series – we must keep up the fight and we will, trust me, I am like the dog with a rag doll and I am not about to let go.”
The battle, they say, has pitted the province’s Liberal government and massive energy corporations against the livelihood and health of people who live on farms, down rural concessions and in tiny country villages.
At the rally, Lorrie Gillis, one of the events organizers said, “We’re not going away. We’re not going to stop fighting.”
Between 700 and 1,000 people attended the rally and walked around the block in downtown Toronto.
Mark Davis, Deputy Mayor of Arran-Elderslie, noted in his address at the downtown event that this protest was a first for many people, but they felt they had to do it. He characterized the group as “dignified” which is the way we rural people live.
Jane Wilson of Wind Concerns Ontario said Circulating through the crowd myself (along with six other WCO Board members) I was happy to meet with people from Nor’ Western (Thunder Bay), Amherst Island, Prince Edward County, Wolfe Island, Haldimand-Norfolk, Middlesex-Lambton, Grand Valley, Huron, Bruce, Bluewater and more. In all, there were more than 40 communities represented. She said, “To start the day off, Wind Concerns Ontario held a news conference at the Queen’s Park media centre, sponsored by Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod, and attended by PC MPPs Monte McNaughton, Bob Bailey, Toby Barrett and Lisa Thompson. Several other MPPs sent staffers to take notes at the event. Lisa Thompson, who is Deputy Energy Critic, addressed the press and had many very important comments to make—key was her answer to the Toronto Star reporter who asked, why cancel FIT and essentially “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Thompson said that the PCs have assessed the situation and determined that the cost of FIT to Ontario is so high; that penalties paid for getting out of some contracts will be worth it.
“We’re not anti-green; we’re anti-nonsense,” she said.
They chanted slogans, sang songs, blew whistles and rang bells as business people, tourists and Torontonians looked on. Susan Muller, from Crediton with other local protesters engaged the crowd with the chant she had created. James Virgin from Belwood, a communications person with OBWF handed out what he called “Fity Doliars” slamming the Feed in Tariff (FIT) program.
They carried brightly coloured placards that read “sWINDled,” “McGuinty Unfit for Duty” and “Give Our Rights Back.” Some held onto green balloons, a few wore hats with pig faces on them and a handful handed out fake paper money. Children from Lambton Shores waved signs to depict birds.
“My main objective is the cost,” said Griffith, one of the many protesters who have lakefront homes in Bluewater.
Green energy developers, manufacturers and financiers, along with government and policy experts, are meeting this week in Toronto to network and discuss the impacts of a recent FIT review and long-term outlook for renewable energy in Ontario.
Ontario’s FIT program, a product of the 2009 Green Energy Act, offers stable, guaranteed prices under long-term contracts for energy generated from renewable sources.
The province says it plans to implement all the recommendations of the FIT review, including reducing prices for new wind projects by about 15% and creating a “priority point system” for new approvals that prioritizes projects with municipal support.
However, critics say the point system will do nothing to stop wind turbines from being erected in their communities.
They say the FIT program is responsible for unbridled wind farm developments, which are delivering “huge profits” for wind power developers while making people sick and causing energy prices to soar and property values to plummet.
The protesters say rural Ontario is the true casualty of the FIT program and the Liberal government’s green energy policies.
The province is defending its position, saying wind energy is safe at Ontario’s regulated setback distance of 550 metres and turbine sound presents no direct health risk to people.
They cite a report by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, which analyzed “available scientific evidence,” along with a report by Howe Gastmeier Chapnik Ltd., a member of the Canadian Wind Energy Association that analyzed the latest findings on low frequency noise and infrasound from wind turbines.
The province denies claims that wind power is not needed and ineffective.
Ministry of Energy spokesman Paul Gerard said the province’s plan is to have a “balanced energy mix including nuclear, renewables and natural gas” and shutter “dirty coal-fired generation plants.”
He said Ontario now has enough power to meet the province’s needs on the hottest and coldest days.
“It is important to plan our system for the long term. The excess power that exists now will be crucial to system reliability as we take our last nine coal units off line by the end of 2014 and begin refurbishing nuclear units at Darlington later this decade,” he said.
More than 1,000 wind turbines are now on the rural landscape and are expected to produce enough energy each year to power more than 500,000 homes, he said.
Bill Palmer, an electrical engineer who lives near Paisley, said he has studied wind turbine noise and power production for six years and has presented his findings in several countries around the world.
He said off-peak electricity rates have skyrocketed by 80% over the last three years and on-peak rates are expected to follow suit.
Although he’s a “numbers guy,” he said it’s the toll on a person that live near wind turbines that “bothers him most.”
Turbines create a “swooshing” sound that people cannot adapt to, he said.
“These people are hurting.”
Progressive Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli, the official opposition’s energy critic, said Ontario paid $420 million in 2011 to the United States and Quebec to take the province’s excess power.
He said to accommodate wind and solar, the province is allowing water to spill over Niagara Falls without capturing its power and nuclear plants to vent steam instead of powering a turbine.
“So we’re spilling water. We’re venting steam. And we’re draining jobs,” he told the crowd.
Arran-Elderslie Deputy-mayor Mark Davis, who spoke at the protest, said taxpayers are subsidizing turbines in the amount of about $500,000 per turbine per year, over and above the value of electricity generated by the machines.
He said he met people from Toronto Tuesday that didn’t know Ontario had wind farms.
That will only change, he said, when the national media starts reporting on the impact.
“We need to educate the urbanites,” he said during the rally.
Dave Griffith, BAT president said in May he will be giving a speech at a Service Club in London in order to help the people in the city understand what is about to happen:
• to their holiday get away at the beach (we have one of the best sunsets in the world on Lake Huron and I don’t know about you but viewing it through a TURBINE placed off-shore will hardly qualify as one of the best)
• to the value of the property they own along or near Lake Huron
• to the Tundra swans which fly just 50 feet over our place as they come off the lake each spring
• to the bats – one bat eliminates up to 5,000 bugs each night
• to their personal health and/or the health of someone they know visiting or living near these monsters
• to their ELECTRICITY bill over the next three or four years and beyond
• to their job when the company they work for, like so many others have already done, pack-up and leave Ontario due to the high cost of electricity in a province which McGuinty is systematically dismantling.
With files from DENIS LANGLOIS, QMI Agency