What was it you wanted?

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To quote Bob Dylan: “we live in a political world, where mercy walks the plank”.

There are times when it seems that no-one is willing to listen to anyone else, when each side is talking in an echo chamber.

But not in the Times! No, this is where we can talk to each other and know we live in a place where we listen and care and can even, sometimes, give the other person the benefit of the doubt.

This is an issue of the Times with a lot of emphasis on talking to each other, of asking others to listen and believe what we say.

We have given a lot of space to an interview with Mayor Peckford on the subject of the correctional facility, or prison, as many who enjoy precise use of the English language like to call it.

Obviously, people will read what she has to say and choose not to believe her. I would caution against that approach. As someone who was the other party to this conversation, I would say that this is an honest and open account of things.

The problem these days, of course, is that we have learned to be cynical and suspicious, unwilling to believe that anyone is really sincere. Is that what we want for our community?

One of the things said in the interview is something that everyone in North Grenville can certainly agree on: the prison issue has divided a community in a way that we have not often seen before.

Overall, this is a good and decent place, a place where volunteers make things happen, where residents put in the hours and the effort to make North Grenville what it is.

People don’t usually want to know what political leanings others have before they’ll work with them on a fundraising effort for the food banks, or the Hospital, or some other worthy cause.

There’s no party political interview before someone can join a service club, or charitable organisation. And that is how we like it, isn’t it?

It has always been my opinion (I have one or two, sometimes) that the focus of the debate on the prison issue should always have been on the province, on Steve Clark, and the manner in which this entire project was announced and handled.

That is where the decisions were made, and that is where the questions, for and against, need to be directed.

Whether you’re for or against the thing, it is important that we are not distracted from where the focus of discussion should be, if we are to have a proper understanding of what has happened and what is planned.

I believe that Mayor Peckford’s words need to be taken at face value, and that we all begin with the assumption that everyone wants what’s best for North Grenville in general, and Kemptville in particular.

On a more party political story, there is an announcement in this issue that Lorraine Rekmans has been nominated as the Green Party of Canada candidate for the federal election that is expected later this year. The more observant among you will have noticed that her name has not appeared in the Editorial of the Times for the past few weeks.

Now you know why.

With the formal announcement of her nomination, we can speak about her departure from the position of Editor. Party political involvement and being Editor of a newspaper do not sit well together, and Lorraine has returned to a political career that has been at the forefront of her interests and commitment for many years.

We have really appreciated her time with the Times, and she brought a new and welcome perspective to the work here, and to the community. This departure was always in the cards, and we discussed the possibility when we first talked about her assuming the job of Editor.

Personally, I am very grateful indeed for her willingness to take over from me, and there was always a hope, for me, that there would never be an election at all, and Lorraine could continue for a long time.

But, here I am, back again.

To some readers: “hello again!”, and to others: “my deepest apologies. Get over it!”.

I believe someone once complained that “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” Quite.

One other point I was asked to make following a previous editorial. Last week, I referred to the fact that the “last council was dismissed because, in part, they actually told residents that they, the council, were above criticism”. This happened in a letter they rather unwisely published in this newspaper.

However, one member of that council refused to sign that arrogant letter dismissing the public’s right to comment on their political betters, and that was Jim Bertram.

He rejected attempts to get him to sign along with the others, in what was a typically honourable and independent stance by him. Jim did not run in the election to retain his status as Councillor, and was bested in his campaign for Mayor by the current incumbent.

He has, however, been often assumed to have been a signatory to that politically fatal document, and I must apologise for giving the impression in the last editorial that he was one of that previous and unlamented gang.

He doesn’t wish to be associated with his former council colleagues.

Before people learned better, Jim was thought of as a one-issue candidate. That was seen as a bad thing, but he was able to overcome that label.

In the next municipal election, we may well find ourselves faced with other one-issue candidates, and that would be equally unsettling. The prison issue has tended, in the minds of many, to overshadow everything else over the past year, in spite of a pandemic.

Whether you are for or against, or apathetic about, the proposed prison, this community will continue to exist whether it comes or not. The next few years will see us facing very serious challenges as we move away from lockdowns and restrictions.

Local businesses will continue to need support for some time. Housing will continue to be an enormous problem in this municipality, as house prices, rents, and land costs will deny residents, especially young families, any hope of living here.

It will take hard work and cooperation across the length and breadth of this place to accomplish what must be done to ensure a future that we all want.

We cannot afford to be divided, in the long term, by any issue, no matter how the prison turns out.

Let’s debate, discuss, argue, swop surveys and studies, protest for and against, and exercise our democratic rights in all freedom.

But let’s do it the way we usually do things: together, with generosity and fair play. Place blame and praise where it actually belongs.

Because “We live in a political world, where mercy walks the plank.” Let’s not go there.

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