by Jim Bertram
After several years of lobbying county and provincial officials by local Council members, the upgrade of Highway 43 has finally been approved by the provincial government. Following years of neglect of the North Grenville area by the previous provincial government, including the years-long refusal to approve the Highway 43 project and the closing of Kemptville College, a breath of fresh air has swept the corridors of Queen’s Park, symbolised by the announcement by Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, of the provincial approval of the Highway 43 project.
Of course, the provincial approval of this project did not suddenly appear out of thin air. Work by local Council members to get the upgrading of Highway 43 on the table has been under way since before my time on Council from 2014 -2018. I recall noting much work done by Mayor Gooch and Councillors Sutton and Finnerty in this regard, as well as the later work done by the Council of which I was a member and the work of municipal staff, in particular CAO Brian Carré. Since no mention of these people has been made in the press thus far, I believe that I will have to be the one who, ever so briefly, underlines their important role in preparing the ground for this project.
In particular, I would focus my attention on the significant preparatory work of three people, in addition to those mentioned above. First and foremost, I would draw the reader’s attention to David Gordon, Mayor of the Council of which I was a member, and Warden at the County level for much of my time on Council. Mr. Gordon spent countless hours at meetings with key political actors to push for the funding necessary to make the Highway 43 project a reality. I remember talking with him and being impressed with his willingness to carry on in what appeared to be bleak and discouraging circumstances. The CAO of our municipality was another key figure, lending his encyclopedic technical knowledge to the building of our municipality’s arguments presented to County and provincial officials. The advancement of our municipality’s case could not have been completed without his participation. Last, and supremely important, was, and still is, the role of the Hon. Steve Clark, provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Mr. Clark is always a strong supporter of a good cause, and his support for the Highway 43 project was a sine qua non for the approval of this project at the provincial level. Without his work and support, the project would still be nothing but a worthy idea.
As well, according to the current leader of County Council, Pat Sayeau: “This has been the high priority Number One Project for the United Counties for more than five years, and we are relieved to see that it has been funded by Ontario and nominated UP to the Federal government for review and funding.” Thanks to Mr. Sayeau and the County for continuing strong support of this project. Let’s hope the federal government approves this project.
Of course, the current North Grenville Council must continue the hard work done in the past, by ensuring that the project eventually unfolds as it should when (if?) finally approved by the federal government. I am confident they will do so if the remaining steps are taken at the federal level. To help Council in that regard, I hope that local taxpayers and residents will not be shy about offering their suggestions by various means. An especially good way to do so would be to become familiar with, and attend, Committee of the Whole meetings, where concerns may be brought forward.
I conclude by saying “well done” to all of the people who have helped over the years to bring the realisation of this project closer to reality. Many hands make a task lighter. That is most certainly the case with the Highway 43 project. Let’s hope it clears the remaining hurdle without impediment.