Pretzel truth



by Victor Lachance

In the last column, I covered some of the odd ways that the Province has a problem with logic when it comes to responding to the question of whether or not it abided by the Planning Act when it selected the former Kemptville Agricultural land for a prison.

But there’s also a problem with the truth. The most recent step in the Judicial Review (JR) process is a motion that Kirk Albert and I made to compel the Province to provide a complete record to the court on what led the Province to select Kemptville.

In responding to this motion, the Province chose the following approach. First, they said we should use the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) to get the information on the site selection process, ignoring the fact that residents of Kemptville have filed 22 FIPPA applications and that the Province has fought these applications at every turn – in other words, stonewalling.  Next, they said that what happened on August 2020 was just a press release announcing a plan that might or might not go anywhere. This would be like saying that if there was a press release from Premier Ford saying he was resigning, well we could just ignore what a “press release” says. Then they said that the JR was about determining whether the proposed site is farmland when they know it’s about whether the Province abided by the Planning Act when they decided to select Kemptville.

And finally, as they say in the media, they used a falsehood – what you and I might call a lie. In the hearing, the government argued that the words “site selection” was something that Kirk Albert and I made up to describe the decision to build in Kemptville, and that it was some kind of umbrella word that was too broad for the court to consider.  So where did the term “site selection” actually come from? You guessed it, the Province. That’s right, it’s exactly how they described the process. Anyone who attended the Province’s by-invitation-only stakeholder session in October 2020, or the two public engagement sessions (one in 2020, the other in 2021) would have seen a slide presentation talking about, among other things, site selection. In the October 2020 slides, there is an Agenda slide that leads off with the words “site selection”. The next slide introduces the topic: Site Selection. The next slide describes the “site selection” criteria that the Province used to look at, according to them, over 100 properties. You get the picture. It’s what they themselves call the process. But no, in the hearing before a judge of the Ontario Superior Court, they said we “coined” the words site selection.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t see why they are trying so hard to do everything and anything other than to answer the question we’ve asked the court to look at: did the decision to build in Kemptville – that is, the site selection process – abide by the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statements? Why stoop to saying that there was and that there wasn’t a decision in August 2020? Why lie and say we coined the words “site selection” when in fact it’s how they define the process? Could it be because it forces us to show the court that those are not our words, they are theirs, and that when you do anything in court, it costs money? Instead of answering the question, could they be using an unlimited amount of your tax dollars against two residents of North Grenville, hoping that they’ll have no money to force them to tell the truth and answer the JR application?

And yes, I coined the term pretzel truth.



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