02/22/2016 16:07 EST | Updated 02/22/2017 00:12 EST

PC MPP says Liberals risk lives allowing wind turbines near Collingwood airport

TORONTO — A Progressive Conservative member of the Ontario legislature accuses the Liberal government of putting lives at risk by allowing industrial wind turbines near the Collingwood regional airport.

Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson says the eight 152-metre-high turbines will be the tallest structures in all of rural Ontario, and are planned for the community of Stayner, "literally right next door" to the Collingwood airport.

During Monday's question period, Wilson asked why the province "ignored the safety" of the people, pilots and local municipalities by allowing the project to proceed.

Environment Minister Glen Murray says the government extended the consultation period on the wind farm by six months to a total of 30 months, and considered over 350 submissions.

Murray says NAV Canada, the private company that owns and operates Canada's civil air navigation service, found no safety concerns from putting the wind turbines near the runway for the Collingwood airport.

He says if the province had not approved the turbines after the project met federal guidelines, it would have been open to a lawsuit and had no proper defence.

Wilson accused the government of hiding behind NAV Canada.

"NAV CAN told me ... a year and a half ago that they didn't have any rules for this sort of situation because they didn't think that any government would be stupid enough to build eight 500-foot wind turbines close to a regional airport, so they don't have any rules," Wilson told the legislature. "NAV Canada told you: 'Don't put the towers there. We don't have any rules to protect you.'"

A recent study by area municipalities found the wind farm project will have significant negative impacts on the airport and neighbouring lands, added Wilson.

"Let me tell you if one life is lost, I'll personally hold Premier Kathleen Wynne accountable," he said.

Murray said he has asked the federal government to make its guidelines on locating wind turbines near airports into firm regulations.

"The issue is one of federal regulation, not a provincial issue," he said. "Mr. Wilson, as a former environment minister, knows the minister cannot politicize that. This is a director-level decision that I have no ability to interfere with."

The Town of Collingwood has decided to appeal the province's decision to approve the Wpd Canada wind project near the Collingwood airport to the Environmental Review Tribunal, which has the power to confirm, amend or reject the decision.


The Canadian Press