September 26, 2016 3:39 pm

Ontario Liberals deny tampering with witnesses at hearing into wind turbines near airport

A wind farm near Shelburne, Ont.

Nicole Mortillaro / Global News
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TORONTO – Ontario’s Liberal government denies Opposition charges that it interfered with the witness list for a hearing into a plan to install at least six, 152-metre-high wind turbines near the Collingwood airport.

Progressive Conservative house leader Jim Wilson says the province decided at the last minute to call a witness from NAVCanada instead of an expert from Transport Canada at an Environmental Review Tribunal hearing.

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NAVCanada is a private corporation that owns and operates the country’s civil air navigation service, while Transport Canada is the federal government department responsible for transportation policies and programs.

READ MORE: Ontario residents fight wind turbines planned near Collingwood airport

Wilson says the witnesses were changed because Transport Canada has concerns about putting industrial wind turbines between the Collingwood Regional Airport and the Stayner aerodrome.

He says the Ontario government refuses to acknowledge that putting giant turbines so close to the small airports pose a hazard to aircraft operations.

But Environment Minister Glen Murray says it would be against the law for him to play any role in determining witnesses or influencing the environmental tribunal.

READ MORE: Liberals risk lives allowing wind turbines near Collingwood airport: Conservative MPP

“I will keep it as a non-political process and let the experts choose the witnesses,” Murray told the legislature.

“I wish the member opposite would not be politicizing it in the way he’s trying to, because neither he nor I should be involved in this process.”

Wilson said a witness from Transport Canada “would have made much more sense” since it is the agency tasked with ensuring aviation safety.

READ MORE: Ontario court slashes $340K legal bill for wind farm opponents to $67K

“Minister, you can spin this all you want, but my people believe, and we have reason to believe – good reason to believe – that somebody in your ministry tampered with the witnesses,” he said.

Wilson said the Liberal government has agreed it could no longer support two of the eight proposed turbine locations near the airport because they pose a serious safety risk, and asked why officials “refuse to act on the serious risk posed by the other six turbines” when experts say they are also dangerous.

But again, Murray said he would stay out of the process.

“I had nothing to do with the decision to change the configuration of turbines,” he said. “Experts did that. I had no role, nor did any politician on this side or any other influencer, in who witnesses are.”

© 2016 The Canadian Press

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