Tess Ryan (left) and April Mercier (right) hold up signs at the Nor’Wester Hotel on May 16, 2011.
Opponents of Horizon Wind Inc.’s wind farm plans have a message for Ontario’s premier and the area’s two MPPs – no Liberals, no turbines.
More than 200 people attended a Wind Concerns Ontario rally at the Nor’Wester Hotel Monday night. Rally organizers used the demonstration as a chance to give area residents more information on Horizon’s planned development.
The rally was held a day before Horizon is scheduled to hold a pair of open houses on May 17 and 18, as required under the REA application process.
John Laforet, president of Wind Concerns Ontario, encouraged those in attendance to fight against the company’s plans . He then led the crowd in a chant against Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty.
"Why don’t we send Dalton McGuinty a message – no Liberals, no turbines," Laforet said. "We want to send a message to the MPPs that they will be accountable in the fall if this project is still on the table when the ballots are passed around on election day.
“I think what they will have to decide is, do they like being members of provincial parliament or are they going to toe the party line."
If renewable energy becomes a major ballot box issue during the upcoming provincial campaign, protesters speculate that Thunder Bay’s two Liberal MPPs will fail in their re-election bids. Because of that, Laforet said he believes Liberal MPPs need to distance themselves from their party’s position.
"Those lands have a legacy of being protected," he said. “There’s a hundred years of water shed protection and there’s very strict rules about tree cutting. These guys have been given a free pass to clear cut and blast 150 acres of land up there."
Mike Payne, co-chairman of the Nor’Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee, said he wanted to ensure the public was informed if they attended the public consultations held by Horizon Wind.
"Chances are you aren’t going to get any answers (at the open house)," Payne said. "None of the open houses (Horizon Wind) has had so far have answered any questions that we have had. They have dodged around the answers. Hopefully, this will give people some ideas on what’s going on."
City council voted 8-4 in favour of an amended agreement with Horizon Wind in April. It was a deal that saw two turbines moved farther away from residential areas. Payne said the approval is only one of many steps before the project is approved.
The group’s next big fight is with the province, he added.
Until then, the group will continue to lobby to have more of the proposed turbines moved to different areas.
"They moved some of them back but those were just the ones closest to the ski hills," he said. "They moved them back and put them in environmentally sensitive areas."
Mike Parisien has lived in the Neebing area for five years and he said what concerned him the most was the potential health issues.
"I’m concerned about the location being so close to the school," Parisien said. "There’s been worldwide studies done over the last 20 years, in terms of high power lines and the exposure to children and it doubles the rates of cancers, brain tumours, lymphomas and leukemia."
Gary Armstrong moved into the Neebing area 30 years ago for the scenic view. The retired AbitibiBowater employee said if the province approved the wind farm, it would mean that he and his wife would probably leave the city.
"The city has handled this poorly. We never really had any input into this until after the fact," Armstrong said. "I’m retired so if I can’t sleep at night because of the noise or the vibrations or I don’t want to look at them then I’ll move out of Thunder Bay."
The first Horizon Wind open house will start at 6 p.m. at the Blake Community Hall. The second will be at Fort William Country Club.
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