The Stratford Beacon Herald
By DONAL O’CONNOR STAFF REPORTER
Wind-turbine protesters intend to whip up opposition to Environment Minister John Wilkinson at a rally outside his Erie St. campaign office Wednesday evening.
Spearheading the protest is the provincewide coalition Wind Concerns Ontario, comprising 57 community groups — including those in Perth and Wellington counties — opposed to Liberal policy on wind-power generation.
The coalition supports a moratorium on all wind development in Ontario “until proper health studies have been done,” said organization president John Laforet.
“There hasn’t been a proper third-party epidemial health study done,” said Laforet, adding more than 135 Ontario families have experienced negative health effects from industrial-wind development.
“There’s a shameful lack of science out there, and the government’s in full denial about the need to do a study,” he said, accusing Ontario Medical Officer of Health Dr. Arlene King of failing Ontarians by declaring everyone healthy without meeting any of the affected people.
Based on a review of scientific evidence on wind power and human health, King has concluded “there isn’t any direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.”
Laforet said he is expecting a turnout Wednesday “in the hundreds.”
“We’re expecting a lot of folks from Perth and Wellington to come out and make it quite clear to John Wilkinson he’s not going to be returned in October, because he’s been an utter failure as a protector of the health and well-being of Ontarians as the minister of the environment.”
“This is a terribly unpopular program in rural Ontario,” he said, noting that 80 municipalities support a moratorium.
Wilkinson said in an interview Monday he hadn’t been invited to meet with the demonstrators and plans to be out campaigning, as he has been since the spring.
The MOE relied on 132 peer-reviewed scientific studies when it set provincial-noise regulations, he said, and King drew the same conclusions when she reviewed the material.
The 40-decibel maximum noise level that’s the law in Ontario is based on the World Health Organization, the preeminent health organization in the world, he said, and that regulation has been upheld by the courts.
Reacting to Laforet’s accusation he has failed to protect the health of Ontarians, Wilkinson said he was elected by people in Perth and Wellington in 2003 and 2007 “to clean up the air that we breathe.”
“In 2005, we had 53 smog days. I can tell you that so far this year we’ve had six, despite having some of the hottest days we’ve ever had. People elected me to get results and I believe that is exactly what I and my government have been able to do in regard to cleaning up the air that we breathe.”
Wilkinson said Ontario is the first jurisdiction in North America committed to phase out completely the use of dirty, coal-fired electricity generation.
“And we are well on our way to reaching that important target.”
“Under the Green Energy Act and our regulations, we ensure that we continue to clean up the air we breathe and we also make sure that our stringent regulations are enforced to ensure that wind turbines are good neighbours.”
Laforet, however, insists additional studies are warranted. The noise guidelines were written in 2008 and haven’t changed, he said.
“What we want to see is a study of wind-turbine noise because it’s acknowledged by peer-reviewed articles in Europe the noise from wind turbines is different from any other industrial application.”
The coalition has been targeting Liberal MPP offices. Laforet said the McGuinty government doesn’t believe in “our right of democracy on this issue.”
A lengthy appeal before the Ontario Environmental Tribunal against Suncor’s Kent Breeze Wind Farm wrapped up in July, with the tribunal finding there was no conclusive evidence the project would cause serious harm to human health. The tribunal did, however, say there were “legitimate concerns and uncertainties about the effects of wind turbines on human health” and suggested a need for ongoing studies.