LITTLE CURRENT—Roughly 100 people gathered just across the Little Current swing bridge on March 31 to protest the building of wind turbines on McLean’s Mountain.
The protest, held on Goat Island, was very visible due to the parked vehicles and the giant teepee that had been erected in honour of the event.
Ray Beaudry, spokesperson for the Manitoulin Coalition for Safe Energy Alternatives (MCSEA), acted as master of ceremonies at the event.
The day started at 8 am with the lighting of a sacred fire, with speeches beginning around noon and going until roughly 1:30 pm.
“There were two reasons this location was chosen,” Mr. Beaudry told the crowd of gathered protesters. “One, it was a big space to gather.”
The crowd chuckled a bit at this admission, but grew serious as Mr. Beaudry continued.
“And two, where we are standing is where the switching station will be built to take power off the Island,” he said. “I repeat, taking it off the Island, not to the Island.”
As several of the protesters waved signs along the edge of the highway garnering honks of support, the speeches continued. Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, the Progressive Conservative energy critic, was the guest speaker at the rally.
“Ever since I was assigned this portfolio I’ve been investigating the ails of wind energy,” Mr. Fedeli told the Recorder following his speech.
Citing the Auditor General’s report on wind energy, Mr. Fedeli warned the protesters that for every job created in wind energy, two-to-four jobs in other fields are lost due to rising energy prices.
“We pay the United States and Quebec hundreds of millions of dollars to take our excess power,” Mr. Fedeli said. “So energy prices skyrocket and force companies to close or move. The more companies move away, the less demand we have and the more surplus energy we pay to export. And the endless downward spiral continues.”
That downward spiral caused the closure of the Xstrata Kidd Metallurgical site in Timmins a few years ago, Mr. Fedeli noted. Once considered a ‘very secure’ employer, Xstrata shocked the town and its now-unemployed 670 employees when it announced the closure.
The metallurgical centre was moved to Quebec, where hydro prices were roughly half the cost of what Ontario charged.
“Wind turbines aren’t going to fix the problem of high energy costs,” Mr. Fedeli warned. “It’s only going to make them higher.”
Doctor Roy Jeffery stood up to speak, noting that, “they had me up to talk about health aspects, but that’s boring.”
He instead spoke about the changes the wind turbines were making to the Island.
“Imagine what Manitoulin looked like before the arrival of the white man,” he said. “You look at all the garbage they left behind—hydro lines, hydro poles, hydro towers. The Island doesn’t look like it did before.”
As Dr. Jeffery spoke, the crowd broke into applause and cheers as an eagle flew overhead during his speech. According to statistics released by MCSEA, birds like eagles are one of the many creatures negatively impacted by wind turbines.
“Corporate world investors from far away, who take away the money and leave,” don’t care about the state of nature on Manitoulin Island, he told the crowd. “When are we going to recognize the land we live on?”
Hunter Abotossaway, a Grade 6 student at Little Current Public School, also took to the stage to speak. His speech about the wind turbines, written for school, was shared with the protestors.
“Wosh, wosh, wosh,” he said, emulating the sound of the spinning turbine. “How would you like to hear that noise 24 hours a day, seven days a week?”
In his speech, he said that while there has been controversy over the turbines in Northeast Town, for him it is a more direct concern as the turbines are virtually in his back yard
“In the winter months, when there is no wind, ice builds up and with the first wind storm, it (turbines) can shoot ice up to seven kilometres away,” Hunter said.
He also noted the expected life of a wind turbine is 20 years.
“So when I am 31-years-old, what happens to the turbines on McLean’s Mountain?” he asked.
He said the province should look into other options for green energy, such as solar panels or water current turbines, which can use nets to keep fish life away.
“I want a better green future for us all, but the government needs to look at this better so we all benefit,” Hunter finished.
Patrick Corbiere, a resident of Birch Island and a member of Whitefish River First Nations, stood to speak out against the lack of oversight in the process. He cited “back room deals” where the decisions were being made for people, without “the input of the people who put them (council) there.”
Northland Power’s proposition could up to 24 turbines build along McLean’s Mountain.
“Looking up and seeing McLean’s Mountain and knowing it could be covered in turbines makes me feel sick and disgusted,” Mr. Fedeli told the Recorder on Monday. He noted his wife had fond memories of her summers on the Island, staying at Batman’s Cottages and Campground, and noted she is equally horrified by the idea of turbines breaking up the skyline.
Mr. Fedeli said he is taking an Island petition against the project to Queen’s Park and will read it and the signatory names so the other MPPs can understand this project is not welcome or wanted on Manitoulin Island.
“It was a well-organized protest,” he said, encouraging the protesters to keep up their efforts.
Following the speeches, the protesters marched down Highway 6 and across the Little Current swing bridge and into town, to protest the turbines in front of the Northeast Town office, before turning back to head to the initial rally site.