An open letter to MPP Steve Clark

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I want to start by saying “Greetings from beautiful Kemptville, the small town with a big heart in North Grenville”. We decided to move here some five years ago and have had no regrets. This community, with its sense of community spirit and support for fellow residents, is an amazing place to live! We are a growing community, yes, but we are still a small town, and our infrastructure is adequate for what we are at present. Nonetheless, we cope with the growing pains of our town getting bigger.

My point is that we are a small town of approx. 4,000 people. We do not have a public transportation system, no hotels (two small motels), our hospital is adequate for now, and our downtown core can easily get congested when traffic increases, and lacks parking areas. I could go on, suffice it to say there is not room enough to add a 235 bed – to be built to maximum security standards – jail/prison. With its daily strains, it alone will add to the infrastructure for water and sewer and voluminous traffic it will bring.

I listened in on the Zoom presentation given by the Solicitor General’s office on November 26. I was dismayed by their arrogant attitude that this deal is a “fait accomplit” and we have to accept it. Now they want to consult with the residents – not much of a democratic process here. It was apparent there was a lack of preparedness on their part for some of the questions that were brought forward. For the most part, they gave carefully crafted sugar-coated answers and portrayed their new complex to be something that would fit in with the chosen landscape, and be similar in appearance to that of a hospital. They emphasized they did not want to impact negatively on the town’s resources, and that they would fund the necessary upgrades to the infrastructure, roadways, and hospital resources that would be impacted by, and needed for, their facility. All well and good; however, governments lately have developed the habit of saying one thing then finding some hidden way to download costs to municipalities.

When the subject came to jobs and employment, it fell far short of any indication of permanency to any of it. Reality is that some large contractor from outside would get the contract to come in and build and then be gone. Left would be some seasonal work, like snow clearing, grass cutting, and maybe maintenance as well – not much full time employment there! As well, the unit’s employees would be transferred in from other units in the province, but there is no requirement for them to actually live here. While there was a reference made, we were not told what the criteria were for the unit to be located in Kemptville, other than the Province already owned the land in question. There was some suggestion that the SolGen’s office had looked at hundreds of other places in their workup, but no specifics given.

The big question remains. Why does this government want to put half a billion dollars into building a new jail in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, when the health services are screaming for financial assistance, and yet there seems to be no money for them?

Who is the jail for? Currently, we have been told that approx ⅔ of inmates in correctional facilities in Ontario are on some sort of remand and awaiting bail or trial. Again, apparently, a fairly large portion of these have been released during Covid times because of the restrictions imposed on society to help prevent the spread of the virus. I applaud the efforts to reform our broken justice system, it is long overdue. However, I believe that building such a facility, as proposed for Kemptville, is not the way to go. Better to focus on building re-hab centres, where proper treatment can be offered, rather than building more lock-up facilities.

I can only surmise that our current government wants to plant this complex in a small, politically safe, Conservative riding, where there would be little resistance and it could be touted to be a good benefit to the area. Not so Mr Clark, we are seeing a growing awareness that folks here about are starting to realize this is not the right place, nor the right time, let alone the right kind of facility. Representing your constituents is more than appeasing the political agenda of what seems to be a government leaning more and more to a totalitarian process (Bill 222, Schedule 6 is another example). Let us remember that Canada is a democracy. Time to start thinking of a change, particularly in this riding!

Rodger Parnell
Kemptville

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