I think this week we could have published an issue with nothing but articles, letters and posts about the proposed jail in “Greater Ottawa”. It is a subject that will be around for quite some time I think. But in the midst of all the angst, trauma, concern, hope and expectation, all of it quite legitimate, the fact is that we don’t really know enough of what’s being proposed. How can we decide what’s good and bad, when the main questions are yet to be answered?
Well, whatever the Province thinks the public consultation will be like, it seems very clear that the people of North Grenville will have quite a lot to say to whoever is given the unenviable job of coming here to ask our opinions. Most of the responses we have received here at The Times, both in Letters to the Editor, articles, and social media posts, have been negative. However, I am told by those who know that the members of Council have found their correspondents to be fairly equally divided on the subject and this would appear to be confirmed by the survey results detailed in a letter to the editor published this week.
Until we get some official information about what kind of correctional facility is being planned, who the inmates will be, what level of security is involved, it is difficult to discuss those aspects in any meaningful way. But there are certainly questions that might be asked now about the “Greater Ottawa Correctional Complex”.
For example, that name: Greater Ottawa Correctional Complex? This is one of the aspects of the story that has upset people here. Is Kemptville suddenly part of a Greater Ottawa Area, a GOA?
When did that happen? Is the jail the first step in a new move towards amalgamation? It was after all another Conservative government in Queen’s Park that was inspired to deliver the last round of municipal amalgamations in 1997-98. If that is not the plan, why not call it the North Grenville Correctional Complex, and make sure visitors and potential residents know where they’re coming to?
From my point of view, an even more fascinating question is: why here? The Province owns land all over the map, and a location adjacent to schools, daycare centres, a hospital and a small town seems a rather odd choice. The thought occurs to me that the Ford regime believes that this is such a safe Tory seat that it can get away with imposing a jail here, a potentially damaging move to its support base, and still retain the loyalty of enough voters to hold onto the seat. Perhaps it is depending on the personal popularity of Steve Clark to overcome whatever anger or disillusion might be experienced by residents.
But we will have to wait to get some answers to these questions. We hope to have some input from Steve Clark in next week’s issue, and it wil be interesting to hear from him about how and why Kemptville was chosen for this distinction and where the Greater Ottawa tag came from. Because Steve Clark knows this municipality very well indeed. He is well-liked (or has been up to now) and understands how important the Kemptville Campus project is to this community. It would be amazing if he did anything that would compromise the success of that facility or the recent efforts to promote tourism in North Grenville.
Over and over again, it has been emphasised that this is a great place to live. Our friends and neighbours care about the place, they get involved in community events and voluntary organisations and support each other in so many initiatives and causes. In this very issue of the Times, we see reports about the fundraising success to support Ursa Meyer after her stroke. We see a young entrepreneur creating a local business in the middle of a pandemic. There’s a story about a couple from Egypt who chose Kemptville as a place to open a pharmacy and lay down roots for a new life as members of this community. We see Cancer Kicking Cousins, other Neon Night activities, businesses raising funds for local food banks, as well as the Limerick Forest Pandemic Ride. And there’s so much more that we report week after week that shows how much the people of North Grenville care about their community and its future.
This is a community that treasures what has been built up over many generations. I sincerely hope that Doug Ford, Steve Clark, and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones have taken this into account when they decided to build their jail here without even the decency to inform our local representatives on Council about what was heading this way. I imagine that when they do decide to consult us some time in the fall, that they are prepared to face serious interrogation and well-researched arguments because that is what we do. It’s not enough to tell us what you’re going to do here. You’d better have a really good argument to back it up. We’ll be waiting.