Skepticism is warranted regarding prison promises

Op-ed Section

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by Don Sherritt , Past Chair, North Grenville Police Services Board

In a December 10, 2021 news release from the Municipality of North Grenville regarding the Eastern Ontario Correctional Complex (EOCC), Mayor Peckford is quoted as saying ” the topic of policing costs is still a major concern to members of our community as it has been for Council from the start of these conversations. Our community expressed these concerns loud and clear during the community engagement session hosted by the Ministry of the Solicitor General on November 17.”  The news release was accompanied by the release of a letter to the Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones, in which Mayor Peckford states, “It is critical that we have confidence from the start that any and all costs – including policing costs – will be borne by the Province, as stated from the outset.”

Although Minister Jones’ letter in response has not been made public, Mayor Peckford kindly provided me a copy of the letter dated February 9, 2022. In her email to me, the Mayor noted that the Minister failed to respond to her request regarding policing costs and wrote, “I have expressed my disappointment in the lack of response directly to Minister Jones as well as to Minister Steve Clark.

For reasons only Minister Jones can provide, she chose not to respond directly to the Mayor’s clear request. By refusing to do so, the Minister has for all intents and purposes confirmed that the taxpayers of North Grenville will be on the hook for policing costs.

So, what about the other commitments and promises made?

During the November community engagement session, Minister Clark made a commitment to meet with the residents of North Grenville and yet no meeting has been announced. Minister Clark and provincial staff have repeatedly touted an open and transparent process, an assertion that does not square with people reporting their access to information requests have been refused by the Province. Ministry staff stated numerous times that the taxpayers of North Grenville would not be responsible for any costs associated with the EOCC; considering what we now know about policing costs, this has proven not to be true. I am also very concerned about the Province’s ‘commitment’ to cover the projected $13 million portion of the wastewater treatment plant expansion required solely for the needs of the EOCC. 

Based on the Solicitor General’s dismissive response to our Mayor, I believe it is now time for the Mayor and all Council members, with the support of North Grenville residents, to openly challenge the accuracy of these promises. Further, without true transparency and formal agreements backing up the Province’s loose statements, I would call on Mayor Peckford and her Council colleagues to reconsider their stated support for the EOCC.

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