TORONTO - The wind woes of the minority Liberals seemed far from dying down Tuesday as anti-turbine protesters upped the pressure in Toronto and the government was hit with a new lawsuit.
A few hundred protesters — with signs decrying the health, financial and community impact of industrial wind power — called for the ouster of Premier Dalton McGuinty because of his green-energy policies, and urged cities to join their fight against wind turbines.
"I'm hoping we can bring it to the people of Toronto to realize that it's not an economical way to produce electricity, and they should help us stop them," said dairy farmer Ralph Coneybeare of Listowell, Ont.
"Hopefully the people in Toronto will realize that, and maybe we can have a change of government and we can solve some of our problems."
The protest came as the government found itself facing a $1-billion lawsuit over its moratorium on offshore wind farms.
SouthPoint Wind is seeking damages for confiscation of its property and assets, and accuses the province and several agencies of failing to negotiate in good faith.
SouthPoint tried to develop industrial wind-power projects near the Lake Erie communities of Leamington, Union and Kingsville before the government announced a moratorium on offshore wind farms in February 2011.
The claims have not been proven in court.
Opposition to wind farms isn't new, and anti-turbine groups have long called for a moratorium on the projects until their full health effects can be determined.
The government recently made changes it says will lower premiums paid for future wind and solar energy projects.
But Sherri Lange, of the group North American Platform Against Windpower, said the changes will do little to lower electricity bills or offset the health impact to people who live near the giant windmills.
"People are being chased out of their homes, they can't live beside them," she said.
"It's internationally known, recognized by very world-class doctors, that these people have wind-turbine syndrome, a collection of medical symptoms that are very serious. There have been suicides around the world."
Several lawsuits have also been launched against wind farms, attributing health issues such as sleep disturbances, headaches and memory problems to the turbines.
The government argues the research shows the giant windmills are safe, and notes it's continually looking at the issue.
Premier Dalton McGuinty defended his approach earlier Tuesday, arguing the recent changes to Ontario's clean-energy plans should appease the critics.
"We have driven those costs down, we intend to drive them down further and further every year," McGuinty said.
He also noted the province will favour projects proposed in communities that support turbines, although the government has stopped short of giving municipalities a veto over new installations.
"We've tried to rejig it so that it's more in keeping with people's views in their community about whether or not they want these things there," he said.
But to people like Coneybeare, who live in the affected communities, the changes aren't enough, and do nothing to ease tensions between neighbours who want turbines and those who don't.
"If you have a wind turbine next to you, even though you don't like it, there's nothing you can do about it, but you can be affected by it," he said.