Letter to the Editor – Correctional Facility

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Dear Editor,

The residents of our corner of Ontario have varying opinions about the projected building of The Greater Ottawa Prison, renamed something like the Eastern Ontario Ottawa prison, in our town. No one seems to know why this Ontario Government proposed Prison project was placed here. Why do we not know?

It seems Ontario owns the land and, under present governance systems, there seems to be NO onus on our central Ontario Government to come to the community before a decision is made. So, under the present system, a sort of bidding is opened to the various Ministries to put “DIBS” on Ontario Lands for needed projects. And, being overwhelmed, Mayor and others speculate: well, let’s see what benefits can accrue? Widening C.R. 43; expanded water and sewage infrastructure; expanded CR 44; transportation into Ottawa (how will day parolees get into Ottawa?); other? But will Ontario be able to commit to such expenditures, given the growing debt in time of COVID? Does anyone have the facts?

Where does future planning come in? Every hamlet, town, city, and township etc. goes through a future planning process. North Grenville had one, which is now obsolete because the Ontario Government has decided to put a prison in our town. Why?

I submit that, if we can build economic development by “shop local”, we should also demand community planning starting from local. Were modern town/community planning tools even considered? Can we see the documents?

Actually, I would submit there is not enough information provided to react other than as we have done. Letters to MPP, Solicitor General, Premier, and Mayor and trying to get feedback.

Finally, “Feedback“ has been scheduled by a virtual meeting in which we are invited to submit questions AHEAD. Is this an open approach? Should we settle for this? Or, is it a box ticked on the To Do list of the Solicitor General and our MPP, who is Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing? Perhaps this is not consultation, because we do not have the details to study ahead.

Building prisons is not an overnight decision! Even in the most dysfunctional administration system, there is normally the sketching out of a plan, budgets and time/ money to be spent, and then a decision on feasibility based on pros and cons. If not, why not? Was it a brain child of some overworked civil servant, and presented to the Ministers who then said yes to the idea?? Perhaps except for Mr. Clark, none of the planners have ever been to our area? Perhaps, as rumoured, Ottawa City said no to this prison?

Our MPP is the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing and did not, according to our Mayor’s article in the newspaper, communicate ahead. But, is that: ‘did not communicate ahead of the announcement’, or, ‘did not communicate about the project at all’? Why would the information to do with this prison project not be released at the first stage to the community to study and consider? Which scenario has unfolded?

We are being treated as collateral, and not as most affected, deserving of real consultation! This is a small town, and this proposed prison would have a disproportionate impact on our “community” life, as compared to larger places. I do not know if my objection, both of intellect and visceral, would, in fact, represent a majority opinion. The point is, those who made the decisions ALSO DO NOT KNOW!!! Is that what we should settle for? Is one virtual question session enough? Or are we as irrelevant as it appears?

The Central Ontario Government holds the purse strings, and jobs and economic benefits have been dangled in news stories. But very arable land and its agricultural possibilities will be ploughed under at a time when food security and climate change are threatening. So, to me, the choice becomes a prison, or an agricultural based future. Think the Manotick endeavour, SUNTECH? Which type of possible development should we strive for?

Oh, but I forget, that is not the question before us! We get to “suggest” some design and placement on lot details? That is the crux of my objection. I do not see the “Local” advantages for COMMUNITY building. Think how the Kemptville Hospital and Library were built. Community involvement was key.

Before proceeding further, how about finding out the majority opinion in our community. Is one virtual session in a pandemic situation adequate? Is it enough to be told other much larger towns, in the end, settled to accept their prison projects? Obviously, I do not accept the method from start to finish.

Best wishes to keep safe and well.
Nadia Gray

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