by Lisette Major
Readers of the Times may have noticed our MPP Steve Clark’s announcement about an “engagement session” sometime in the week of November 17. This is not news: our Mayor has already told us that a future engagement session was in the works for this fall. One has to wonder why, in the wake of recent bad press, Mr. Clark chose to tell us about a so-called engagement session by the Solicitor General, without a specific date and time.
If you’re like me – I’m the administrator of the CAPP website – you were frustrated at the disrespect shown during and after the disastrous and unproductive engagement session a year ago. The Solicitor General’s staff told us they’d get back to everyone about their questions. They never did. They said they’d prepare an FAQ – they never did. Participants who wanted to ask questions or write comments in the chat room were shut out. Now they want to do it again?
Meanwhile, MPP Clark and the Solicitor General seem to believe that Kemptville is populated by a huge number of architects that have been waiting for an opportunity to talk about the design of the prison, or the size of its windows. But even if that were the case, what is stopping Mr. Clark or the Solicitor General from holding a true consultation, where everyone can express their views and, more importantly, get answers to their questions in real time? Unless they do this, is this not just for show, and a waste of residents’ time?
I think we all know by now that residents are not interested in the design of the prison. They’re certainly not interested in a meeting about future meetings. They want to know about the evidence Mr. Clark is using to say that the prison is a good idea. Or the evidence about jobs, or saving the farmland and its buildings, or alternatives to spending a quarter of a billion dollars on a prison, or better ways to stimulate our local economy, or the selection process, or Indigenous rights, or addressing drug use and mental health issues we presently criminalize, or the impact of the proposed prison on our Tourism Strategy, Campus Master Plan, and revitalization of the downtown. That’s the consultation we want and deserve.
What will Mr. Clark do? Will he represent and help his constituents get an opportunity for some true consultation about these questions and concerns? Will he represent them at Queen’s Park?
For example, he could start right away by getting the 135 pages about the selection process that were withheld by the Solicitor General, instead of trying to silence opponents through Elections Ontario. He could help halt the prison process, and enact a moratorium on construction associated with the Solicitor General’s Eastern Region Strategy, including the proposed Kemptville prison. He could hold public consultations on the future of the Kemptville College Farmlands, and how to otherwise spend hundreds of millions to improve community safety and well-being in his riding.
Should SolGen’s engagement session prove to be more of the same, CAPP may consider holding a true consultation in 2022, at which we could invite our MPP to attend. This would give anyone who wishes to attend an opportunity to communicate their frustrations and concerns about the lack of transparency and the process to date, and, once again, list their questions for which they have awaited satisfactory answers.
After his disrespectful statements in the Toronto Star; after trying to use Elections Ontario to silence local opposition to the prison; after the recent Editorial in the North Grenville Times that so masterfully described how this has now become an issue for everyone in Kemptville, whether for or against the prison; after radio and media interviews highlighting the undemocratic process used to impose this prison on Kemptville; after no-one came out to speak to North Grenville residents who protested in front of our MPP’s constituency office in Brockville; after the Citizen front page article about how bad an idea the proposed prison is; after the recent Canadian Civil Liberties Association media event to highlight the vengeful behaviour of the Ford Government; after ignoring the vast majority of questions that have been asked, I know that residents don’t want more disrespect and dismissal. They want the truth, they want answers, and they want Mr. Clark to be the kind of caring and professional representative he was in the past. Is that so much to ask?