The lazy, hazy, days of summer seem to be over. Lazy, sometimes; hazy, thanks to all the wildfires burning up the countryside, but nevertheless, still summer. Now we face autumn (or fall) for those who like watching leaves, and serious issues are coming back to the fore in North Grenville. Our Local Hero, Steve Clark, has blotted his copybook and will be keeping a much lower profile than he’s been used to over the last few years. Maybe we’ll see more of him as our MPP now.
And the whole Kemptville Prison issue is raising its head again, though in an unusual manner. CAPP, the Coalition Against the Proposed Prison, is holding a fund-raising concert to fill the coffers as they continue with their campaign. The Judicial Review they initiated last year is an expensive thing and will cost ever more money as it drags on. Strange though it may seem, the concert that they hope will bring in much-needed funds is not taking place in North Grenville, rather it is being staged in Ottawa, using artists and an MC from outside the community. Concerned local residents will have to find a way to attend the event as well as paying their $54.58 per ticket. But CAPP will try and find a seat in a car for anyone not wanting to make the trip to the Carleton Dominion‑Chalmers Centre (the old church on Lisgar Street) on a cold and dark November night.
Two aspects of this initiative have intrigued me. The first is the apparent unanimity with which the performing artists have expressed their commitment to the CAPP cause. Both have used the phrase, “That’s why I’m joining forces with CAPP to stop Ford’s Kemptville prison”, although their actual reasons are different. Logan Staats, a Mohawk, is joining forces because “We don’t need another prison on stolen Indigenous land”, while Trevor Alguire thinks that “Paving over farmland to build that prison is simply irresponsible when our province is losing more than 300 acres of farmland a day”.
Good for them, although the old question as to whether the proposed prison is on actual farmland is unsettled. Many of those who know say the land is not at all agriculturally viable. But, while that may be irrelevant, it’s certainly unhelpful to the cause.
The other intriguing aspect to this new departure by CAPP is their focus on Indigenous concerns. The advertising for the concert deals almost entirely with the fact that the prison would be “dramatically expanding the number of prison cells on unceded and surrendered Algonquin Anishinaabe Territory in the Ottawa region”. Perhaps that will help sell tickets to people outside this community, though CAPP’s public opposition, locally, is to the impact it would have on North Grenville. But Indigenous matters are, perhaps, more useful in gaining support.
One local shift in emphasis will, however, please our local Mayor and Council. After loud and angry claims by CAPP ever since the prison was announced that Council knew all about the plan and were parties to the project, Colleen Lynas of CAPP has now admitted that they were, in fact, kept in the dark about it all. The big villain was Steve Clark. “He failed to ensure that his government met its obligations to both consult with the Municipality and abide by its own planning laws and policies.” In their publicity, CAPP then links his role in the prison plan with his recent forced resignation from Cabinet. “A key supporter and player in pushing the prison plan through was area MPP and former Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark, who has since been forced to resign for his violations of the Members’ Integrity Act in relation to a similar process of removal of Greenbelt lands for development”. Nice touch, bringing in integrity like that, while ignoring the very different contexts between Greenbelt and prison lands.
CAPP wants the Municipality to share the costs of the Judicial Review, but that may not be the right role for Council. Quite a number of taxpayers would object to their money being used in that way, as they don’t share CAPP’s attitude to the prison project.
And, after all of the activity, activism, and campaigning, it may well be that the Ford Government will still walk away from the prison project, regardless of whatever CAPP, or anyone else, may do. They have been slowly following the usual steps of preparing for the building of the facility, but time and costs are catching up with them. The pandemic showed that there may not be a need for so many more remand cells, and their share of infrastructure costs in North Grenville is climbing rapidly. It may not be worth their while to continue with the prison project. Who knows? Time will tell.