08/01/2012 12:14 EDT | Updated 10/01/2012 05:12 EDT

Don't Bring a Gun to a Wind Energy Debate


I was saddened to read that Jeff Damen, a father of two and employee of a wind developer in rural Ontario, reported receiving a death threat while conducting field work on a project site in West Grey.

According to the CBC, Damen had "a shotgun pulled on him while working on a wind turbine site northeast of London, Ont." Police are also investigating threatening phone calls made against Damen.

While I am not known for expressing opinions remotely sympathetic to that of the wind industry or its employees, and certainly oppose the development of the project in question, I believe there is an important point that needs to be stated and ideally shared by all Ontarians.

Guns and threats of violence have no place in any debate in our province. I suspect for most freedom-loving Ontarians this is something we all believe, and certainly during my time as President of Wind Concerns Ontario it was a concept I don't believe was ever questioned or debated.

It is important for everyone in Ontario to be able to participate in a civil discourse with the confidence that their participation on either side will not present a threat of physical harm to them.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and that fervent belief in core democratic principles has always been at the heart of wind energy opponents core arguments against the process put in place by the Green Energy Act.

Passage of council motions endorsing local planning and decision making, election-based organizing designed to defeat uncooperative politicians, mass petition drives, write-in campaigns and reliance on earned media and grassroots lobbying strategies all require a strong, free democratic state to be successful.

It is my hope that the police in West Grey take their investigation of Damen's claims very seriously and that anyone out there who believes their gun can serve a political or policy purpose, will reflect on the truly destructive and democratically corrosive nature of their ways.

I want to live in an Ontario where people can have a say in the kinds of projects their community will host, where we know with certainty what risks come with those installations and local planners in local municipalities can work with council and the community to make decisions that are best for residents. That vision is shared by tens of thousands of Ontarians and the vast majority of wind energy opponents. We cannot allow the prospect of individuals using threats of violence to deprive us all of that.

This is not a time for opponents of wind energy to try to justify the actions of one individual or to point out that opponents too have been on the receiving end of threats or violent acts themselves. This is a moment for every reasonable Ontarian to agree certain actions are never okay, under any circumstances.

Guns and threats of violence cannot play any part in any decision that is going to have any legitimacy.