Transparency, Innovation and Imagination


by Woody Armour

Transparency: Tickey tacky little boxes and they all look just the same…
So went Pete Seeger’s popular folk (“Little Boxes”)song in the early 60’s which described urban sprawl. This highly popular ditty was a criticism of lack of imagination and of real estate profiteering.

Now, look across the Highway 43, north from McDonalds. There are two housing units which were purported to be representative of the housing units to be built in the Northwest quadrant. The ones now being built are not the same as the ones “on Show”. Do these houses, the ones being built, not have the look and feel of “little boxes … and they all look the same.”

With these ticky tacky units come some other unannounced features. There will be another 200 to 300 automobiles on Highway 43 during the morning and evening rush hour. There will be a large number of young people, 200 to 300 estimated, which will require playgrounds, splash pads, playing fields and ice rinks which Kemptville, (not North Grenville), does not have. So, what we have is noise pollution, light pollution, traffic pollution and probably trash and dog poop problems. The municipal planning department describes this as “Green and Growing”.

A million or more dollars have been spent on the real estate project, with no discernable benefits to anybody, save real estate agents and developers. All that will come out of this construction venture is a definite requirement for more amenities by the new inhabitants, for which they will only pay a small portion.

What is more telling is that the rural component of the municipality, about 60% of residents in North Grenville, those on well and septic, will be expected to pay for many of the supplementary features (recreation facilities) that must be built after the builders are gone.
This construction truly represents, on the part of the municipal planning department, lack of imagination, innovation and transparency, which are features of a modern society, and this will come back to bite. Had there been transparency these units would probably never have been built.

In ancient Greece there were small towns, villages etc., operating independently, but loosely connected by some feature such as trade agreements, or possibly the military protection of a larger city. These were known as city states. This was a common arrangement in the ancient world.

Now let us jump forward 2,500 years. We are now entering an era of trans-world trade agreements. The loosely “connected feature of the ancient world” is, today, these trade agreements. A major problem with these agreements is that the major players are huge, they need to be to span the globe and to handle the amounts of products required to do this type of commerce.

In the process of doing this, their daily business, they squeeze out the smaller operator, and potentially crush the tiny operator. A classic example of this is Walmart: this operator creates retail deserts wherever it goes, only the very large survive. This feature is also common in the chemical industry and others, usually via mergers, as no single entity has the cash, or credit, to pay for the takeover. So, the answer to the tiny operator’s survival lies in the past, we must look back, to go forward. The answer is in the city states, and their local central markets, ”Buy locally” worked then, as it will work today in North Grenville, if the council co-operates. This then is the innovative solution to the possibility of being squashed.

This is the most interesting part, and North Grenville has a unique situation to exploit and prosper. Agriculture was the basis of most city states, and therein lays the solution. Here are the facts. The municipality has a population of approximately 16,000. We know from various creditable sources that the average person spends $50 per week on groceries, and from the ancients we know there are 365 days in a year.

If we multiply these numbers out (16,000x$50×365) we have approximately $39 million per year spent on groceries. If we, as a community of various farmers, could capture only 15% of this market, ($5.85 million) we would, locally, employ about 100 people on about 40 farms. The implication for export and processing is huge, as is the price and quality of “local” food products. Cheese factories, Malting houses and craft breweries are very possible: it happens elsewhere, why not here? This would also partially solve the problem of the dying town centre. We also have what is left of the College to contribute to innovation. The reason this does not happen is the luddites.

It is, sadly, a unique situation we have in North Grenville. We are surrounded by a number of active innovation companies, yet we are stifled by luddites. Our problems of unemployment, underemployment and food insecurity are self- inflicted.


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