In this year of political activity, the swearing-in of Doug Ford’s new Ontario Government has added another element to an already fascinating year. With the appointment of local MPP Steve Clark to the Cabinet, the new Premier has caused waves of speculation throughout the region. Will this guarantee the completion of the County Road 43 expansion project through Kemptville? Will North Grenville now be in a position to get grants which were believed to have been blocked by the previous Liberal government? Steve’s new position as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is quite a powerful Cabinet seat and gives him responsibility for dealing with Ontario’s municipalities.
There is no doubt that Steve Clark was a strong proponent of the CR43 project and it is an added advantage that the new Minister for Transport, John Yakabuski, is also an Eastern Ontario MPP, representing Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. Perhaps a regional member will be better able to appreciate the infrastructure needs of rural Ontario.
North Grenville may also benefit from the appointment of another local area MPP, Merrilee Fullerton, as Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. This first-time MPP may be someone willing to work with the municipality in the future educational development of the Kemptville Campus, and any financial support for the new undertaking would be good news for taxpayers, as well as administrators of the Campus.
Although NG Mayor David Gordon seems quite sure the CR43 project will now get the go-ahead funding needed from the Province, his Progressive Conservative Party ties may not be enough on their own to assure a good result. Steve Clark was quite open in his upset, at the very least, that he had been excluded by the mayor and CAO, Brian Carré, during their negotiations over the Kemptville College file. He had been deeply involved in the immediate aftermath of the announcement that Guelph were leaving, and he was unhappy that he was not allowed to be involved later.
There is also the fact that, although he has been a very effective MPP since he was first elected, Steve will now have to pay attention to the other 443 municipalities in Ontario, and not just North Grenville. The Ford Government have a long list of promises made that will require a great deal of money to implement, and there may not be the flow of funds some in this area expect. Steve Clark will, I am sure, do what he can for his constituents.
Of course, there is no guarantee that the new Minister will be dealing with the current mayor and council after October 22. The next stage in our political year will be the Municipal Election, which has really begun already. By July 28, we will know who is running for mayor and council, and that is when it will get really interesting.
The current council have been facing a lot of opposition and anger among various groups in the community recently, and there is the question of litigation still remaining unrevealed too. The municipality has been involved in litigation over the Kemptville Meadows condominium development, taken to the Ontario Municipal Board over a property on Asa Street, rebuked by the provincial BIA organisation for their treatment of the Kemptville BIA, acted precipitously and without any sense against local businesses, informed the taxpayers of the municipality that it is unacceptable for them to criticise or ridicule council members or municipal staff, and, of course, accused the Times of threatening the democratic rights of the people of North Grenville. And that is far from being the full list.
We still don’t know why so many staff members have left, and under what circumstances and financial arrangements, but this is almost certainly something we will never be told about. The administration and governance of North Grenville has been shrouded in mystery, gag orders and arrogance for some time now. After the last municipal election, I wrote about the “Bubble” that elected officials disappear into, usually becoming servants of the bureaucrats. They start to see themselves as “us”, and the people who elected them as “them”. A sense of superiority and entitlement creeps over them and they assume that only they truly understand what’s needed, and they come to see the rest of us as..well, they said it, threats.
Power corrupts, they say, and even friendships and previous commitments get thrown overboard, sometimes without any good reason, and even unknowingly. Individuals who signed the letter containing the “threat to democratic rights” statement assure me they don’t believe that, they just signed an official letter saying it. Reality has faded into the background there, I fear.
So, let’s see what happens next in this wonderful year of politics and entertainment. Is there a difference?