I have one burning question about the process of public consultation as it relates to the redevelopment of the Kemptville College Lands (KCL). Is the Government using the Access to Information legislation (ATI) to promote our constitutional right to know, or is the government using it to avoid full disclosure and meaningful public consultation?
I am opposed to the way in which these valuable lands at the KCL are being dispensed with. The lack of transparency and meaningful public consultation about what is going on breeds distrust and doubt about the protection of the public’s right to know and our right to decide how this land will be used before it is gone forever. This is an irreversible step which needs meaningful public consultation and due diligence.
I believe the land should be kept for the town of Kemptville. For the town’s use in future planning and development; perhaps recreation, housing, schools, or a bigger hospital to serve the growing population. Kemptville is a booming town which attracts people because of its good quality of life. Planting a prison in the middle of this town is not good government or city planning, nor is it respectful of the organic way towns grow. This will define a large portion of the town and the lands surrounding this prison forever.
On January 14, I made an ATI request to the Ontario government about the work being done to determine the suitability of the location of this prison. After a delay, which the government unilaterally granted itself, I received my final decision on March 21 at three minutes to five. They were statutorily bound to give it on that day, and I would say they dragged that out to its limit. I was given a big fat “NO”, hidden behind the vague phrase of “protecting third-party rights”.
Our Supreme Court ruled on ATI, and clearly stated that the “purpose of access legislation is to facilitate democracy by helping ensure that citizens have the information they need to participate meaningfully in the democratic process and that politicians and bureaucrats remain accountable to the citizenry”.
With ATI, we have a clearly established right to know, which is balanced against an equally important right of protecting an individual’s private information from prying eyes. But this does not appear to be the case here. I am left to suspect that the unnamed “third party” whose interests are being “protected’ against my right to know is a corporation interested in building on the land.
As taxpayers, we have a right to know whether our public institutions are functioning as they should. I will appeal – at greater cost – but I am doubtful of a better outcome. The process ratchets up, and the individual rights are affected, as people can’t compete against the government and big corporation. This appears to be an absolute frustration of due process and a desire on their part to have me drop it and go away without ever getting the answer I need.