Windmills, trains and Dalton McGuinty’s tin ear – by Thomas Walkom (Toronto Star – September 5, 2012)

The Toronto Star has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on federal and Ontario politics as well as shaping public opinion.

Ontario outside of Greater Toronto is not universally happy with Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals. This is understatement. In North Bay, there is palpable anger at McGuinty’s decision to shut down the government-owned Ontario Northland Railway, a mainstay of the city since 1902.
 
In an unusually confrontational move, the president of the local chamber of commerce has called on Northern Development Minister Rick Bartolucci to resign over the decision — one expected to affect about 1,000 jobs. Farther north, in Timmins, posters opposing the ONR shutdown dot the city’s main streets.
 
Timmins has relied on the ONR to move semi-processed ore from the area’s mines. But there’s also a sense — even from people who rarely use the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission’s trains or buses — that the Liberal decision is a slap in their collective face.
 
McGuinty strategists may tell themselves that the three northeastern ridings through which the ONR runs don’t vote Liberal anyway — or at least didn’t in the last election. 
If so, theirs is a strikingly blasé attitude.
 
And it’s one echoed in the Liberal government’s casual approach to rural southern Ontario.
 
In the province’s southwest, entire municipalities are up in arms over the McGuinty government’s windmill strategy.
 
Experts can legitimately argue over whether the Liberal decision to force electricity-generating, industrial windmills on unwilling host communities is good for the environment.
 
But politically this has been a disaster. Municipal politicians are furious at being frozen out of the decision-making. Residents themselves may be split. However, opponents — who object to the windmills for health, aesthetic and property-value reasons — are far more vocal and, it seems, far more numerous.
 
Along the highways of Grey, Bruce and Huron counties, anti-windmill signs, some homemade, appear with remarkable regularity.
 
In local weeklies, which at this time of year usually devote themselves to fall festivals, opposition to windmills is front-page news.
 
Not all of rural Ontario is fertile ground for the Liberals. But some parts are. It’s worth noting that in last October’s election, windmills helped to unseat two high-profile Liberal cabinet members — in Huron-Bruce (which includes Goderich) and Perth-Wellington (which includes Stratford).
 
A Liberal win in just one of those ridings would have given McGuinty a majority government from the start.
 
For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1251053–walkom-windmills-trains-and-dalton-mcguinty-s-tin-ear

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