Letter to the Editor – Municipal Elections

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Dear Editor,

In her election material Colleen Lynas notes that in 2018 she came  “to live in beautiful North Grenville with this combination of deep rural roots and small-town charm”. I could not find in print when Colleen’s very capable supporter and adviser, Victor Lachance, arrived in Kemptville. However, in a North Grenville Times interview this year with David Shanahan, Victor mentioned that has been living here for about two years.

As for myself, I was born in Kemptville, left for many years, and returned in 1991. I sense that my experience here in Kemptville and North Grenville in the last 30 years has led me to a different perspective on this election than that of Colleen and Victor. I am honestly sympathetic to both these people and others like them who, in their search in the last four or five years for the best place to retire, found our beautiful North Grenville “with its combination of deep rural roots in small-town charm”, only to find that a jail or Detention Centre is to be constructed in this otherwise Shangri-La community. It may well elicit a few snide remarks from old Rosedale friends.

Reluctantly, I have come to suspect that Colleen Lynas’ entry into the competition for Mayor is, at base, an effort to engineer some sort of plebiscite on the building of a Detention Centre in her heretofor beloved North Grenville..

I have come to accept that how long you have lived in North Grenville leads folks to significantly different assessments and criticisms of the Ontario government’s decision to build a Detention Centre here. 

Oh, don’t we all wish jails were not needed at all; but if they are, why must one be located in Kemptville? Why Kemptville, indeed? Why not somewhere else… like anywhere else. 

Those of us who have had the opportunity over the past quarter century to spend time in surrounding communities like Spencerville, North Gower, Ashton, South Mountain, Prescott, or Richmond for example, have come to appreciate how fairly, and even generously, Kemptville and North Grenville have been treated by the Ontario government. There is the Kemptville Agricultural School and  the Ferguson Forest, much of the land of which has been sold to our Municipality. We have the luxury of having a hospital in our home town, only because, years ago, the Ontario government approved its creation and contributed to its construction, and is still, I am told, paying over 90% of the cost of running it. Ontario also contributed substantially to the construction of our new Library. 

How do the other surrounding communities see us? 

I am sure they will say we have been pretty damn well treated by our Provincial government in far off Toronto. With this awareness in mind, how will long-time Kemptville residents react to the Jail issue. 

I cannot say: it’s complicated. In the following I speak only for myself.

I remember reading that in the 1830s, when first visiting North America, the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the people here “a calm and considered feeling, which disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and withdraw into the circle of family and friends: with this little society formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look after itself.” 

This tendency has been greatly enhanced by the rise of the computer and social media.

“In physical communities we are forced to live with people who may differ from us in many ways. But virtual communities offer us the opportunity to construct utopian collectivities, communities of interest, education, tastes, beliefs, and skills. In cyberspace, we can remake the world out of an unsettled landscape.” (Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community by Robert D. Putnam, 2000, pg 174)

So where do I stand on the Detention Centre being built in my backyard? I return to the fact that in the last two generations, I believe my Kemptville has been treated more generously by our Provincial government than neighbouring towns. That being the case, if the Ontario Provincial government has determined that a Detention Centre must be built in Eastern Ontario, then I have decided it is North Grenville’s turn to be of some service to the rest of our broader Eastern Ontario community by accepting the Provincial government’s right to build this Detention Centre on land that it owns in my community.

Wait a minute! What if other towns and cities in Clark’s constituency also share my view? Indeed, what if our MPP Steve Clark is of the same opinion as I am? Just how would this affect Mr. Clark’s response to the harsh criticisms leveled at him by the well organized Kemptville contingent opposing the Jail? What is your conclusion?

I will add my own conviction that our present North Grenville Mayor and Councillors together have handled this jail issue wisely and realistically. They have done the research. They are aware of the history.

Later this month we will be voting for a new Mayor and Councillors. The Jail issue is but one of many challenging issues which confront and challenge our new Mayor and Councillors. To my mind, the present Council members have governed across a wide range of issues intelligently, cooperatively, and creatively. They have served us better than any other Council in my memory.

In the past four years, Nancy Peckford has demonstrated outstanding leadership skills. 

“Governing” is much more complex than just “managing”. Nancy Peckford has proven she excels at both.

Sincerely,
Bill Kilfoyle

 

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