Isn’t it fascinating how big of a difference in community quality and spirit a local government can make? This month officially marks one year since new local councils were sworn in across the Province. In North Grenville, the ceremony took place on November 7, 2022. In North Dundas, it happened a little later in the month, on November 15, 2022.
Time flies, doesn’t it? The new Council members in North Dundas are no longer new. The wholly re-elected Council in North Grenville is now a quarter of the way through its second term together. What a great time to evaluate its performance thus far. Shall we?
Firstly, both councils are great at promoting community spirit and inclusion. Even those with conservative views surely feel, in 2023, that the world has a place for everyone. The simple gesture of flying a rainbow coloured flag for one month every year hurts absolutely no one, and reminds historically marginalized and mistreated people that they belong here. Bravo to the councils of both North Grenville and North Dundas for approving this simple gesture for the month of June.
We have recently seen an example of a council having no such grace. In Merrickville-Wolford, a similar motion was defeated by a 3-2 vote in September, as the three men casting “nay” votes smirked with apparent amusement. What an awful message they sent to gay and lesbian youth and adults who pay taxes and contribute to the Merrickville-Wolford community just like everyone else.
A vote in favour of a pride flag does not need to translate into support for the teaching of lewd topics in schools (spoiler alert: no such inappropriate teaching takes place, but that’s a separate article for another day). Support for the pride flag also doesn’t need to mean supporting a person’s right to identify as a potato or a hat (as my 12 year old and his friends love to joke about).
Simply put, the pride flag does not need to be seen as a symbol of liberal extremism. We live in a conservative-minded area, but we can still show the potentially hundreds of gay and lesbian local residents that they have a home here and are safe here, in a world where not every area can boast the same level of inclusion.
Such matters aside, the councils of North Dundas and North Grenville differ in many ways. North Grenville is growing rapidly, now bustling with department stores, eateries, and countless local businesses. Many NG residents feel that this growth is too fast, and that the small-town feel is now a thing of the past. The section of County Road 43 that passes through Kemptville is slated to be widened with extra lanes, and there are talks of a new downtown hotel and even an indoor aquatics centre coming to town. Council is pushing full steam ahead in NG. It does raise the classic “chicken or egg” question: is there an influx of newcomers driving NG growth by necessity, or is NG Council being bold in its expansion of local amenities, thus attracting scores of new residents and turning Kemptville into a “suburb of Ottawa”, as so many locals claim?
In North Dundas, growth is more sustainable, and the status quo is as evident as ever. Residents of ND have much less to fear when it comes to threats against the “small town lifestyle”, although the addition of an A&W in early 2022 – the Township’s first and only drive thru burger chain – definitely struck terror in the hearts of many residents. Never before was anyone so scared of a hamburger-on-the-fly, and probably never since. “They’ll take away customers from our mom and pop restaurants,” residents said. It was only a matter of time, though. I remember being stopped for directions to the local McDonalds location a few years ago while at work in Winchester, and was met with a look of horror and confusion when I told the unsuspecting lady that Winchester did not have a McDonalds or in fact, any drive-thru fast food restaurant at all. Her face was not wrong – Winchester is growing.
The growth in ND is different from the growth in NG. In ND, growth is more natural and reasonably sustainable while Council seems to spend much of its time solving problems. “How do we increase the number of water connections without compromising water quality and quantity in the years ahead?” And then there is, “How can we keep enjoying community events when insurance is getting so darn expensive?” (This one, at least, appeared to get resolved). Oh and my personal favourite, “How do we keep kids entertained without having to actually pay for any recreational amenities, while increasing taxes anyway?”
It wouldn’t be accurate to say that NG and ND are “night and day”. Both councils must necessarily deal with a lot of what I call “routine business” such as zoning and planning matters, a similarity that begs the use of the phrase “night and dusk” instead. In North Dundas, a disproportionate amount of time seems to be spent dealing with internal housekeeping matters, such as Township staff wages and benefits, but that is another “story for another day”.
Being the Editor of the NG Times and the ND Times has its perks. One is that I get to see the same types of the complaints rolling in from both sides of Boundary Road. The most common one is: “I contacted the Township/Municipality weeks ago and never got a response”. It’s true that expert municipal staff on both sides of the border work tirelessly to recommend Council decisions which can’t then be reconsidered solely due to the concerns of one resident, but I must agree that a response to all inquiries should be given. It’s only polite, after all.
So how did our local governments measure up so far this term? You be the judge!