Open House information session erupts into shouting match

It was billed as ‘Ontario’s Nuclear Innovation Institute Community Information Open House’, a ‘come and go’ event but almost 200 people came and few left once they arrived at the Plex in Port Elgin. It was an opportunity for citizens of Saugeen Shores to ask questions about the Institute and also to give their opinions through comment forms.  Most of those attending appeared to be from Southampton, the location for the proposed Institute.

                                             Rendered conceptual drawing of Innovation Institute

While many there were in support of the Institute concept itself few appeared to like the rendered drawings presented. During the Open House, pandemonium broke loose when a member of the Heritage Committee, Gabrielle DiFrancesco, began to blow a whistle to draw people’s attention and then proceeded to demand that Frank Saunders, Innovation Institute President, come forward to answer questions.  Saunders stated that he would be happy to attend any organized meeting but that the Open House was neither the “time nor place” and that he wanted the Open House information format to continue.  All the while DiFRancesco blew a shrill whistle and the mood in the room escalated into a shouting match with much profanity by a resident. 


Councilor Neil Menage tells DiFrancesco to stop her unruly behavior

Councilor Neil Menage, Council’s representative on the Municipal Heritage Committee, then told DiFrancesco to stop her behavior. In talking with many of those in attendance from Southampton, the frustration seemed to center around the design that had been presented.  Even traffic concerns that had previously been raised were said by many to be “manageable” and not of a “major consequence” given that the major intersection in question was made up of three churches not used during week days.  In addition, the adjacent elementary school, G.C. Huston, was closed on weekends and during the summer which meant additional parking spaces would be available. Many, if not most in attendance, filled out comment forms that will be compiled and reviewed by the County of Bruce working with Bruce Power to determine the main concerns of residents.  “We can only know what residents think if they tell us,” said Saunders.  According to Saunders, the project is still in the early stages of development.