Ontario’s family physicians and nurses are launching an ad campaign to defend wind and solar power.

The province has pledged to shut coal plants by 2014. But an election is looming in the fall, and doctors and nurses are worried a new government might halt the phaseout.

“We want whoever’s in power to know that doctors and nurses support this,” said Gideon Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

The Conservatives have been highly critical of the province’s Green Energy Act, which seeks to replace coal with renewables and conservation.

The health workers’ ads back renewable power.

“Ontario doctors, nurses and other health professionals support energy conservation combined with wind and solar power, to help us move away from coal,” the ads say.

Critics have said wind turbines can damage the health of those who live nearby. Forman questions the evidence for that. But even if true, he said, pollution from coal plants causes much worse damage, leading to 150,000 illnesses and 300 deaths per year in Ontario.

Wind power critics have also said that gas-fired plants must be built to offset the variability of wind. Forman counters that a mature renewable power sector with solar, wind and geothermal power can provide stability.

The ads are sponsored by the 10,000-member Ontario College of Family Physicians and the 31,000-member Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, and by the Asthma Society of Canada and Ontario Lung Association.

The groups would like to see coal plants phased out even earlier than 2014, Forman said.