by Mayor Nancy Peckford
It’s been a busy summer for North Grenville’s recently elected municipal Council. Apart from participating in some wonderful community events, we secured provincial funding for County Road 43 (we now await federal sign off), tackled how to ensure that existing and new cannabis businesses are operating in ways that are respectful of rural residents, and met frequently about the renewal of North Grenville’s Development Charges by law. We have also prepared for an exciting event celebrating 100 years of education at Kemptville College (now Kemptville Campus) on Saturday, September 28.
In late August, Council also made a strong showing at the annual conference of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. Given the election of an entirely new Council, all five North Grenville Councillors opted to attend the annual conference. The Association convenes representatives of over 400 municipalities each year to provide knowledge building and networking opportunities to Mayors, Councillors and administrators.
Notably, the ‘bear pit session’, which is an annual tradition that gives municipal Councillors a chance to ask unscripted questions to Cabinet Ministers, is always a packed house. At this year’s session, every provincial cabinet Minister was in attendance and the question period lasted over an hour.
For a vibrant municipality such as North Grenville, the real mission at this conference, however, is to get on the radar of not just Ministers, but political staff and public servants who support the work of key departments each and every day. With assistance from the municipality’s Chief Administrative Officer, Brian Carré, North Grenville was granted a hearing with the offices of the provincial Ministers of Infrastructure, Tourism, and Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Delegations were comprised of myself as Mayor, relevant Councillors, as well as municipal staff. The challenge in these meetings is to seize the attention of Ministry officials who meet approximately 25 delegations a day. Meetings are just 15 minutes and the goal is to make an impact.
In North Grenville’s case, the expansion of our local waste water treatment facility (sewage plant) was a key discussion item for the Ministry of Infrastructure. With smart planning, and diligence on the part of our Public Works staff, our plant is in good shape, but capacity issues loom large. In short, it means that growth in urban areas may be stalled in future years without a crucial investment in the plant’s expansion soon.
Given that North Grenville is just one of a few high growth communities in eastern Ontario, we made our pitch to officials at the Ministry of Infrastructure for provincial investment in this expansion. Otherwise, much of this growth could go elsewhere. With a potential price tag of up to $31 million to accommodate projected growth until 2031, this one item, which services North Grenville’s urban population, and much of the commercial development, is a primary reason for our current tax rates, and development charges.
During our meeting with the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, our focus was on highlighting North Grenville’s potential to be a prime destination for day tourism. With a million people from Ottawa on our doorstep, treasures like the Ferguson Forest, our six rural hamlets, quaint downtown, and waterways should be much better known.
This won’t happen without a well-developed tourism strategy, trail connectivity, and more tourist friendly attractions and amenities. In 2021, North Grenville will mark the 230th anniversary of the first survey of what would become the Oxford-on-Rideau Township, and we shared some ideas about how we could do that. The Ministry was enthused.
Finally, we met with Randy Pettapiece, Parliamentary Assistant to Agriculture, and several Ministerial officials. We provided an update on developments at the Kemptville Campus, and also spoke to the potential for the Campus to fill some key skills and training gaps for agricultural and related industries in eastern Ontario. MPP Pettapiece wholeheartedly agreed.
The loss of some of Kemptville College’s key programs has not gone unnoticed in the region, and many young people are having to travel too far to acquire or enhance their farm management or technological skills. With three school boards on the campus, and the capacity for powerful collaboration among them, the potential for apprenticeship, cooperative and adult education programs at Kemptville Campus is huge, and needs to be tapped.
While I led these meetings in my capacity as Mayor, all Council members participated in at least one delegation, and Deputy Mayor Jim McManaman joined two.
Council also participated in workshops on innovations in road maintenance and rehabilitation, affordable housing, fast tracking public planning processes, traffic calming, waste management, enhanced safety for school bus crossings, environmental strategies, municipal approaches to accessibility protocols for those with mobility issues, among many others. It was 48 hours well spent and we look forward to building on the headway we made in the months ahead.