Open letter to Steve Clark, MPP

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by Veronique Roy

I am a 42 year-old resident of North Grenville. I am also a homeowner, taxpayer and voter. I will tell you a short story. While you may not care about it personally, you do as politicians who purportedly represent me. A little over a year ago, my dream of home ownership came true. As a single parent to 15 and 5 year old girls, this was the culmination of many years of hoping, trying, planning, sweating and searching. So I found my dream country home, a small, cozy cottage-like house surrounded by land, a small barn and trees, in Oxford Mills. The neighborhood is beautiful, quiet, peaceful, green, the air always smells fresh and my neighbours are friendly, kind and quiet. This is, I hope, my forever home. And I am quite proud that I was able to buy it all by and for myself and my daughters.

Not only that, I was able to register my daughters in French schools (as well as daycare for the little one) on the Kemptville Campus. I could not believe my luck that not only could I get my daughters educated in French here in North Grenville, but that it would be in such pristine, inspiring settings. In fact, my youngest daughter has what the school calls “forest school”, where the class goes to play and learn in the forest on a weekly basis. Needless to say, not every elementary school kid out there gets to experience nature like this. And my eldest daughter’s highschool has some specialized environment-related courses.

After spending years in insipid, grey, unfriendly, devoid of any character and savagely developing/over-crowded Kanata, I thought this is it! We found our place, we found home! Well, while I was busy pinching myself on a daily basis to make sure I was not dreaming, I had not counted on your decision.

A correctional complex, on beautiful farm/forest land right in the middle of Kemptville, in front of my daughters’ schools and daycare. Wait until I tell Dilan and Billie that they will still see natural beauty behind their schools by way of the forest (unless council decides to “develop” that as well…) but that they will be staring at the ugliness of mankind in front.

Well, cutting trees, scrapping fields and laying kilometers of asphalt, high metal fencing and turrets should teach them a lesson on what it means to pave paradise to put up a parking lot. But do not worry, those are not serious offenders, only men who beat their wives and kids, people who sell and/or use drugs and drive while intoxicated. And people who are kept in custody while awaiting trial… which only happens in the worst of circumstances nowadays.

It will bring massive traffic in and around the Campus, or wherever entrances will be located (from visitors to the centre and constant transport of detainees to courthouses, medical specialists, and other criminal justice infrastructure that does not exist locally), which will have a disproportionate effect on the community who lives and drives in the area, and our children who attend school and daycare.

Have you noticed that municipalities who are set up to serve judiciarized clienteles have their own police services? Brockville, Kingston, Ottawa, Toronto for instance? I assume for flexibility, staffing, cost control and other such reasons; but, while I have been working in the public safety portfolio for some years, I do not pretend to be an expert, so I suggest you look into it if this is the direction you are taking. Or, at the very minimum, have regards to the community’s safety and prevent/manage a potential increase in “petty” crimes. And while I do not want to get paranoid about more direct potential public safety risks like escapes from the complex/in transport/at the hospital, I can say based on professional experience that they occur more often than we read about in the media, for obvious reasons. At any rate, speaking as a woman living alone in a rural and largely unpatrolled area with a small child and a teenage girl, the safety and quality of life I enjoy right now is paramount and it has no price.

With respect to the argument brandished about that it will create a few hundred jobs, we know the truth. In practice, it will mean very little for the residents of North Grenville. It would not translate into 500 residents getting jobs. Correctional Services positions being public service jobs, there would be a number of internal transfers and promotions to staff them, as well as qualified people hired from elsewhere in Ontario and Quebec. And, while it may generate some temporary business for local contractors and tradespersons, as with any large-scale government construction project and maintenance, there will be contracts awarded to large companies who will bring in workers from elsewhere, so you should not portray it publicly as manna from heaven for local people.

Some of my fellow North Grenville citizens are concerned about the value of their properties going down. To me, losing money at that point would really just be adding insult to injury. I care about something else. Having to move, uproot my daughters, give up on a beautiful place and community, as well as my first/forever dream home is what is at stake as a result of your decision for the “development” of North Grenville. It is my life and that of my daughters that is affected as a result of your actions.

Maybe I am naive, but this all came as a shock. You are elected by people you do not represent. You decide to use provincial taxes in a way that degrades North Grenville’s environment and quality of life behind closed doors. When you spring it up as a fait accompli by way of the media, and we learn about it at the same time as everyone else, you expect us to embrace your decisions as “development” and “growth”. I do not. And I will keep that in mind when it comes time to exercise the choices I do have.

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