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Our communities have been engaged in debate and discourse over the issue of industrial wind turbines for over 3 years. People in our communities have very passionate views and this issue has put a serious strain on our small rural communities. I knew that when I announced I was vying for the Ontario Liberal candidacy in Perth Wellington I would hear the question, ‘where do you stand on wind turbines’. I’d like to take this opportunity to answer that question.

I believe that it would be ill-advised for Ontario to abandon our commitment to renewable energy. The Green Energy Act was a bold attempt to do something modern governments rarely do…govern with the next 100 years in mind, not the next election. Renewable energy needs to be a part of our future as we try to make room on this planet for over 9 billion people. That being said, we have to address the unintended impact that the Green Energy Act, most notably wind turbines, have had on our rural communities.

The health and safety of our rural citizens is the most important issue at hand. To this end, I would advocate for a temporary halt of all new approvals until the findings of the Health Canada study are published in late 2014. You can find the press release announcing the study here, (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/ahc-asc/media/nr-cp/_2012/2012-109-eng.php). If the Health Canada study finds that the Green Energy Act has suitable protection for the health of people living in our rural communities then I will support the continuation of wind development on condition that the following changes are incorporated.

Primary agriculture is the cornerstone of the economy in many of our rural communities. The agri-food industry is the largest employer in the province, providing jobs for 718,000 Ontarians. There are two key areas that must be addressed for the preservation of our agricultural resources.

There is a deficit of credible unbiased research that explores the interaction between livestock farms and wind turbines. This lack of direct knowledge forces us to look at other sources to form opinions. The experiences that Ontario farmers have had with stray voltage have shown that while we do not fully understand how the dirty electricity gets into our barns, it can have an adverse impact on our animals’ overall health and welfare.

To address this issue, I believe that Minimum Distance Setbacks (MDS) between barns and turbines need to be incorporated into the approval process for future projects. MDS protocols will work to preserve farm productivity while we wait for the scientific community to provide more information on the impacts of wind turbines on livestock production.

Lastly, I would call for an amendment to the Green Energy Act that would prohibit any wind development on Class 1 or 2 agricultural land. As a farmer, I am passionate about the protection of soil; we cannot afford to take even one acre of this precious resource out of production unnecessarily. We have been blessed to live in a province that is incredibly fertile with the ability to feed millions of people. We have to do everything in our power to protect our farmland.

If you would like to contact me regarding this or any other issue feel free to email me at stewskinnerpw@gmail.com or call 519-492-2990

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