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Premier Kathleen Wynne had people lined up to raise their own issues with her when she visited Chatham on Thursday.
The premier stopped to speak briefly with two representatives of different protest groups when she arrived at the Chatham Museum for a tour.
Kevin Jakubec, spokesperson for Water Wells First had a container of sediment-filled water to show Wynne while telling her the Ministry of Environment and Climate Control has refused to take a sample of sediments found in area water wells to do an analysis.
The citizen group has spent the past year sounding the alarm that vibrations from the construction and operation of wind farms is damaging water wells in north Chatham-Kent, located in an area where heavy metal-laden Kettle Point black shale exists.
Jakubec said, “you can see the fear in the community that we have a heavy metals contamination happening.”
He said the ministry has guidelines for assessing sediments.
“I have to make the assumption that they are following those guidelines and that they will use those guidelines as they check the samples,” Wynne said.
“I will absolutely take this up with the Ministry of the Environment as soon as I get back,” she added.
Jakubec said he is hopeful the premier is actually going to hold the MOECC accountable.
Wynne then spoke with Jordan McGrail, OPSEU Region 1 mobilizer for the We Own It campaign opposing the sale of Hydro One.
McGrail asked why the province is selling off an asset that puts money into the provincial coffers.
Wynne responded Ontarians are retaining more than a 40 per cent ownership of the utility.
“We are building assets with all of the money that came in from the broadening of the ownership of Hydro One,” she said, adding it is also being made a better company.
Aaron Neaves, a national rep for Unifor, told the premier that in light of what’s happening with Sears Canada employees as the retail giant prepares to close several stores, “we need a workers first legislation in this province.”
He cited the fact Sears executives are receiving $9.7 million in retention bonuses while employees are not going to get severance.
“Those workers at Sears . . . have absolutely no third party to speak for them,” Neaves said. “They’re being left behind and it’s disgusting.”
Wynne agreed with Neaves that workers need to have some security “so let’s keeping working together.”
She said, “Ontario’s economy is growing, but not everybody’s sharing equally in that, I get that, and so we need to continue to work to ensure that.”
The topic of discussion was the future hike in the minimum wage to $15 per our when Wynne visited the Truly Green greenhouse operation in Chatham.
After a tour of the facility, the premier had a private meeting greenhouse representatives as well as some processing vegetable growers.
“It was a candid discussion about the impact of minimum wage on our industry and the premier illustrated some flexibility, looking at some options not previously discussed, to help the industry get through that,” said Greg Devries, a co-owner of Truly Green.
Wynne told reporters she knows there’s a transition that businesses are going to go through.
But, she added: “I made it clear the $15 minimum wage and the changes we’re making to the labour laws are about helping people to look after their families and be able to look after themselves.”
The premier said it is also known there are certain businesses and sectors that are “particularly challenged and we need to find way to support them.”
Devries said from an industry perspective, he is confident some solutions will be found.
Members of the Vegetable Growers Alliance, which formed after the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission disbanded the former Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers, also showed up to get the ear of the premier.
Leamington tomato grower David Epp said the 10 minutes they got with Wynne provided the opportunity to express the urgency of the situation and the ramifications of a proposal that will see a greatly reduced representation by growers with a chair being appointed.
“We had the opportunity to explain to (the premier) the lack of trust that will result in the grower community, and that will simply not work in a negotiating board context,” Epp said.
Wallaceburg grower Francis Dobbelaar said, “we got her to maybe have a look at the file again, and based on the evidence that’s there, we should have a election of our grower group again.”
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