Cows at dawn in mist walking in golden light

The majority of the people who live in North Grenville reside in the rural parts of the municipality. In the past, there was an Agricultural Committee of Council in place to handle issues of a rural character, but the ex-Councillor, Tim Sutton, decided that rural affairs should be handled by the Economic Development Committee, which subsequently ignored rural issues completely. That is why, when the Kemptville College closure hit, there was no committee in place to respond to the crisis.

Last year, Councillor Jim Bertram moved a resolution to hold a Rural Summit, something that was included in the Official Plan of the municipality. His idea was that the gathering would be an opportunity for rural residents, those involved in agriculture, local food production, and others to meet and discuss approaches to issues such as rural isolation, transportation, lack of markets for small land holders, etc. It would also, he hoped, lead to the re-establishment of a Rural Affairs Committee of Council, to provide a permanent forum for such discussions and policy-making.

To that end, he began a series of discussions with individuals around the municipality who, he felt, would have something to contribute to the summit. Based on those talks, it was thought that an agenda for the summit could be developed that would reflect the realities of life in rural parts of North Grenville. It was a great idea: and then the bureaucrats got involved.

Now, bureaucrats do what bureaucrats do, and in North Grenville the bureaucrats have evolved a philosophy of their own which holds that they, and only they, can organise anything properly.

To that end, they have arranged an Agenda for the upcoming Rural Summit which reflects that philosophy and which practically guarantees that nothing positive or innovative will come of the exercise. The Summit will be opened with opening remarks from the CAO, the Mayor and Council. Following that will be presentations by Katie Nolan of OMAFRA and the Corporate Services officials from the Municipality. Then there will be break-out sessions led by, guess who? Senior Management, Department Heads of the Municipality. So far, no sign of any non-bureaucrat or politician having any influence on the event.

The break-out sessions, according to the Agenda, “will be broken down by department with each Senior Manager/Staff facilitating and presenting based on results of survey and priorities identified”. Identified by who? By the bureaucrats. Which survey is referred to? The one they have posted on-line for public input. Is this survey asking about detailed rural issues we feel should be part of the summit? Not really. It basically asks the public how important, or otherwise, are the services they already receive from the bureaucrats.
There is simply no effective input into the agenda from those who have been living the issues, talking, writing and researching the real issues, of concern to rural residents. Then, to top it off with the most surreal part of the Agenda, they are planning an afternoon field trip for those attending the summit. There will be a “Familiarization/bus tour” of the rural areas. Not all the rural areas, this will focus on municipal infrastructures (the rural fill site in Oxford Station, and the Oxford Mills Municipal Garage.

I have this image that won’t go away. A bus of bureaucrats and urban residents driving around in a bus, with a Senior Manager pointing out objects of interest by the wayside. “If you look to your left, you will see a cow. That is the large animal standing in the middle of what we like to call a ‘field’. To your right, you will see some examples of the various trees we have growing in North Grenville”. I believe rural residents are already “familiar” with the countryside, and don’t need a bus tour to bring them up to speed on what rural North Grenville looks like.

I don’t mean to be dismissive (well, not really..), but this draft agenda, the accompanying survey, and the distortion of Jim Bertram’s original concept is simply insulting to the people of this municipality.

They don’t need the bureaucrats to tell them what the issues are: quite the opposite. The people who drafted this agenda, and planned this summit, need to be told one thing, and pardon me if I shout: IT IS NOT ALL ABOUT YOU! For once, please acknowledge that there are people around here who know more about some things than you do, who are more than capable of discussing matters in an informed and intelligent manner. Please, sit back for once, and let the people speak for themselves.

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