“When the people speak, it’s not with corporate lies, it’s not with indecision, or academic bows and ties. When the people speak, it thunders through these hills. It’s not a thing that’s mild and meek, when the people speak”. Dougie MacLean got it right, and he would have responded to the gathering outside the Canadian Tire store in Kemptville last Sunday with a fervent “That’s what I mean!”
Over the last three weeks or so, petitions have been available through many stores and other venues here and in surrounding municipalities, calling on the Ontario Government to reverse their decision to close the Service Ontario centre in Kemptville. Spearheaded by Sam and Amanda LeGoueff, and strongly supported by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union [OPSEU] Local 434, the petition was sponsored by local MPP Steve Clark. At the Jumpstart BBQ on Sunday, the completed petitions were officially presented to Steve by Sam and Amanda in a ceremony that was both powerful and inspiring.
The full video of the event is posted on our website at ngtimes.ca, and it contains some of the most impressive words I have ever heard uttered by Steve Clark and Mayor David Gordon. The extent of the anger felt by the people of North Grenville at such a ludicrous decision by the Ontario Government is seen in the fact that the signatures on the petition totalled 8,600, which amounts to more than half the total population of North Grenville. It was an amazing achievement for a grassroots initiative.
Steve Clark emphasised that the presentation of the petition to the legislature will only be the beginning of the fight to retain the Service Ontario facility. It has to be a fight we, as a community, will win. Joe Massey, owner of Kemptville Auto Sales, made the point in his talk that businesses like his use the office every single day, and the expense of having to send someone to another location is one that could easily drive him and others out of business completely.
Frank Hoffman, owner of the Canadian Tire store, and the one who made the location available for the meeting and the Jumpstart BBQ, noted that the presence of a Motor Vehicle Licensing office, as well as the Ministry of Natural Resources office, in this community, was essential. Frank also pointed out that to get the support of half the people of North Grenville was “outstanding”.
David Gordon said that the events of the past few weeks had made him both angry and proud: angry at the stupidity of the decision to close the office for no rational reason, and proud of the way the community had banded together to oppose the closure. Pointing out that one of the reasons given for the Government’s decision was a lack of washrooms at the office, David promised that he and CAO Brian Carré would bring a toilet seat to the Minister’s office and commit to providing the rest in order to keep the office open. On Tuesday morning, OPSEU and Mayor Gordon delivered something more substantial. A complete PortaPotty was brought to the Service Ontario office at Kemptville College.
To underline the stupidity of the government’s decision, it is only necessary to review the letter sent by a previous Minister in response to a petition submitted at the time the Licensing office was removed from a local family and the Service Ontario office was opened instead. At that time, the Minister of Government Services stated that: “the ability to get both health card and driver and vehicle licensing services in one place within your community is an obvious benefit in terms of travel time and costs for clients and improves the cost-effectiveness of the network”. To that end, he noted that the goal of the Government was “that close to 95% of all Ontarians will be within 10 kilometres of an integrated ServiceOntario centre…We are committed to ensuring convenient service to the public”.
The people will continue to speak until the Government reverses its decision and retains the level of service that it committed to in 2009. It’s not a thing that’s mild and meek, when the people speak.