by MELANIE EPP
Wind Concerns Ontario, a coalition of grassroots groups opposed to wind turbines, has taken over two Wellington County all-candidates meetings that were cancelled Tuesday.
The meetings take place 8 p.m. tonight at the Arthur Community Centre and 8 p.m. on Sept. 20 at the Aboyne Hall in Fergus.
Agricultural organizations in Wellington County called off the original meetings they had scheduled, citing safety concerns.
David Parker, president of the Wellington Federation of Agriculture, says several tips received via email sparked concerns. “Three emails came through from a local source,” he says, “The rhetoric seemed to be getting heavier with each one.”
Although protests in the past have been peaceful and organized, Parker was concerned about the safety of board members and candidates who are untrained in crowd control. “When we were told that these protestors were going to be there, it was obvious that safety could be a factor. And with these protestors, you never know if you’re going to get one, or a hundred.”
Asked if the threat was targeting a specific candidate or party, Parker noted: “Well, they’re not after the Green Party.”
“When you realize that that is North Wellington and who the minister is . . . There is unrest when you’re sitting Minister of the Environment and environmental issues come up,” Parker says.
The local member of provincial parliament seeking re-election is North Wellington MPP and Environment Minister John Wilkinson.
Wind Concerns Ontario expects Perth-Wellington candidates from the Green Party, Freedom Party, New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservatives. As of this morning, there was no word from the Liberal or Family Coalition candidates.
The topic of tonight’s rescheduled all candidates meeting will remain agriculture. It will be co-moderated by WCO’s President, John Laforet, and local businessman Wayne Baker.
Parker regrets the cancellation, but says the safety of the candidates and local federation board members takes precedence. “It’s just not fair to put them between a brick wall of protestors, says Parker. “We’re farmers, trying to do the betterment of agriculture.” BF