Kathleen MacKenzie (right) shows off the power of wind energy at a recent demonstration at the Boys and Girls Club of Thunder Bay.
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The majority of local residents support the proposed Big Thunder Wind Park, a new poll suggests.
The survey, conducted by Toronto-based Pollara, polled more than 600 residents last year in December on how they felt about Horizon Wind Inc.’s proposed wind farm. The results, released Thursday by Horizon, showed 62 per cent of residents supported the idea.
The majority of the opposition was found in the Neebing ward, where the wind turbines would be located.
The report concludes that there was a majority of support in the areas surrounding the city.
But those areas weren’t broken down into specifics nor was Fort William First Nation mentioned, which has strongly voiced its opposition to the project.
The sample size included 82 interviews conducted in each of the city’s seven wards.
Horizon spokeswoman Kathleen MacKenzie said she’s pleased with the results of the latest poll and was encouraged to see that the percentage of “strongly opposed” dropped six per cent to 18 per cent from the last poll conducted.
She said it is a sign that residents are seeing Horizon as a good community partner.
“When the wind farm was first proposed, I don’t think people knew who we were,” MacKenzie said during a phone interview with tbnewswatch.com from Toronto.
“In general, I think almost everyone you talk to in Thunder Bay is in favour of renewable energy. When the lawsuit was filed against the city, a lot of people didn’t like that. Unfortunately, it was necessary but all of us wish it wasn’t necessary. That made people anxious when that happened.”
She said the current judicial review with the Ministry of the Environment is something that isn’t a concern with residents.
The controversial project has met major and vocal opposition in the Neebing ward because of the placement of the turbines. The issues ranged from property value to the endangerment of the nesting peregrine falcons, a species still believed to be in recovery.
MacKenzie said Horizon has done everything they can to try and address these issues including moving the turbines further back so that it doesn’t impact the birds or residential areas.
“We’ve tried to educate people on the reasons for the location of the wind park,” she said.
“We’ve distributed maps for example that show the wind strength and why you locate certain turbines where you do.”
Irene Bond, spokeswoman for Nor'Wester Mountain Escarpment Protection Committee, called the new study another publicity stunt by the company. She said they haven’t seen the poll and for the third time, didn’t know what the questions were.
Depending on the phrasing and the order, the questions could lead to any result that the pollster wanted, she said.
“What’s really interesting is, from our straw polling there’s very few people that knew anything about the Nor’Westers and the history,” Bond said.
“As we’ve been educating people, we find less than 10 per cent know what’s being proposed. Once they start to educate themselves, we’ve almost got 100 per cent of our poll saying people are against it as the location. They’re not against any wind or Horizon Wind. They’re against the location.”
Bond pointed out that the poll numbers for the project is also going down.
She said the first poll had 75 per cent in favour but that has now dropped by 13 per cent in the latest survey.
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