Will the great outdoors still be so great when the landscape is dotted with wind turbines?
That was one of the questions on many of the minds of about 100 people who attended a public information session hosted last night by Save Ontario Algoma Region (SOAR) and Sault MP Tony Martin.
One man speaking at the meeting at Alexander Henry High School said he goes to Lake Superior Provincial Park for the pristine wilderness, not to look at a horizon industrialized by wind turbines.
One of SOAR's founders, Gillan Richards, said that support for the organization is coming from far afield as cabin owners in Michigan and other parts of Ontario contact the group to voice concerns and support.
Theses supporters are saying the wild vistas are a vital part of their experience at their camps and it just won't be the same with wind towers dotting the horizon.
Some say it won't even be worth coming up here.
But the Ontario government is sticking to its guns and plowing ahead with Bill 150, the Green Energy and Green Economy Act, which Richards says is badly flawed.
Sault MP Tony Martin (shown with Joanie McGuffin) agrees with Richards because the act doesn't allow for sufficient input from people affected by the developments.
"It doesn't mean we're against renewable energy or in favour of nuclear power," Martin said. "It just means we want to make sure the democratic process is followed."
The Sault MP said it's important that people's health, the environment, economic and social factors be considered as well as the merit of each of the projects.
Most importantly, the cumulative impacts of these developments must be considered before any more of them are allowed to go ahead, he said.
But some SOAR members feel they won't see any support from their MPPs.
Richards said that area MPPs David Orazietti and Mike Brown are finding it very difficult to represent their constituents in this because they are members of the Liberal Party of Ontario - the party that that created the Green Energy and Green Economy Act and refuses to recognize that the legislation is flawed.
The act allows large-scale industrial alternative energy developers to bypass environmental assessments and other requirements for permits to develop and operate their wind energy projects.
The government is subsidizing developers, said SOAR member and environmentalist Joanie McGuffin.
The Ontario government has entered into agreements to buy power from these developers for the next 10 to 20 years.
People at last night's meeting said that these factors are going to push up the cost of electricity for people in Ontario.
"Ontario is producing more electricity than it uses and is having to sell it to the U.S. and Quebec at a loss," said Martin.
He also said that provincial and federal energy plans that focus on encouraging conservation are needed more than subsidies and tax breaks for foreign-owned companies that stand to profit hugely from the generation of electricity from wind in Northern Ontario.
"Should we not be more careful? Should we not learn from what we did in the Alberta tar sands?" asked SOAR member Rob North. "Who are the winners going to be and who will be the losers?"
North said companies like DP, an Ireland-based company wanting to develop a wind farm in Goulais River, will win a lot.
McGuffin pointed out that we in Northern Ontario stand to lose the vistas made world-famous by Group of Seven artists and the tourism associated with those vistas.
She said we stand to lose the heritage coastline and all that it means to us.
"These could so easily be lost by simply doing nothing," added Richards.
Martin and members of SOAR encouraged people at the information session to attend two open houses planned for the proposed Bow Lake wind farm and to ask informed, thoughtful questions.
"They will be counting heads and they are required to write down all the questions asked and responses given," Richards said. "So will we."
She said there was no opportunity for input like this before the Prince Wind Farm went up and it's important to show the premier that people are concerned about these developments and their cumulative impact.
"Don't be afraid to go to both meetings and bring other people with you," she said. "Even ask the same questions at both meetings."
The first open house is scheduled for Monday, April 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Mountain View Public School on Mahler Road in the community of Goulais River.
The second is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Water Tower Inn, 360 Great Northern Road in Sault Ste. Marie.
For more information on the Bow Lake project visit the DP Energy project website.
To learn more about SOAR, visit the group's website. //