Editorial – The North Grenville Times http://www.ngtimes.ca The Voice of North Grenville Thu, 11 Jan 2018 14:24:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.1 The Future http://www.ngtimes.ca/the-future/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/the-future/#respond Wed, 10 Jan 2018 19:59:06 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=10467 Lots happening in North Grenville these days. The announcement of a new hotel coming to Kemptville is an exciting development for all sectors of the local economy. For quite a few years now, the need for more hotel accommodation in Kemptville has been clear, and there have been a few entrepreneurs interested in launching a […]

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Lots happening in North Grenville these days. The announcement of a new hotel coming to Kemptville is an exciting development for all sectors of the local economy. For quite a few years now, the need for more hotel accommodation in Kemptville has been clear, and there have been a few entrepreneurs interested in launching a project over those years.

The problem has always been a chicken and egg kind of thing. On the one hand, if we had a large hotel, we could attract conventions, seminars and other gatherings to places like the Municipal Centre and Kemptville College. We could also have even more sporting events, as the North Grenville Curling Club and Little League Baseball have managed to put on. Imagine, it was felt, what more we could do with our facilities here, if more people could only stay the night, instead of having to commute back and forth from Ottawa or Brockville.

There is no doubt that the number of major events which could be held in the municipality would greatly increase with a corresponding increase in accommodation. But, on the other hand, those who researched the economics of opening another hotel here found that, as it stood, there would not be enough business to keep a hotel in profit until more events could be brought in. Weekends would be fine, but the mid-week stays would not meet the minimum required to make a hotel commercially viable.

You will remember that the Holiday Inn chain had announced that they were opening a hotel on the land where Starbucks is now operating, and their sign stood in that empty field for many, many months. But no hotel arrived. So, the news that the Comfort Inn were planning to open a location in Kemptville has been met with a somewhat ambivalent response. The news is great, and the possibilities opened up by the hotel chain announcement are virtually unlimited for North Grenville. We certainly wish the parties involved all the best and would love to see them succeed.

So, also, would those people in the community who have already jumped in with ideas about how the swimming pool in the new hotel could be opened to the public, if the Municipality would get involved in some kind of deal with Comfort Inn and Suites. That, I fear, is hoping beyond what is likely, or even possible, though it would be one way to get a swimming pool in the area – possibly the only way it could happen, given the economics.

The other big news, of course, is the agreement which has, it seems, been finally signed between Ontario and North Grenville regarding the future of the Kemptville College campus. Perhaps now the taxpayers will find out precisely what the financial terms of the deal are, and will be hoping that they are as favourable as we have been led to believe.

Whatever the agreement involves, it will be of genuine importance for the economic development of North Grenville in the coming decades. The College is a prime piece of real estate, and, as with the hotel news, it holds great potential for a wide variety of agricultural, commercial, educational and social initiatives. The deal has taken three years to reach, in which time a lot has changed. The entire campus property is not included in the agreement, and what the future of the excluded property will be is of concern. Will it be sold for development of other kinds?

The farm and arena on the east side of County Road 44 is not part of the municipality’s share of the land, so that valuable asset remains outside municipal control. What the future holds for that parcel will be fascinating to see. In fact, what the Municipality does with the section they are assuming will also be a fascinating conundrum for whatever Board of Directors are appointed to run the not-for-profit body it is intended to establish to administer the property. Who will those Board members be, who will nominate and appoint them, and what role will the Municipality have in the process? What commitments have been made by the CAO and Mayor in reaching this deal with Ontario?

What are the intentions of the two French language School Boards already using buildings and facilities on campus? It is rumoured, at least, that one of them has plans to buy their section of the land and building they occupy. Will the planned school at the corner of County Road 43 and Somerville Road go ahead, or will the College become the new educational centre for french language education in the area?

Yes, there’s a lot happening in North Grenville theses days, as we enter an exciting year of elections and change. To steal and mangle a quote: Though Trump is angered and Putin is vexed, we’ll still stick around to see what happens next!

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Another year over… http://www.ngtimes.ca/another-year-over/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/another-year-over/#respond Fri, 05 Jan 2018 07:07:55 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=10404 Well, that was an interesting year, wasn’t it? No matter where you focus, national, international, provincial or municipal, there was always something interesting happening. Of course, interesting is not always a good thing to be, but that’s the way it is. It was Canada’s 150th, and North Grenville celebrated that in a somewhat restrained way. […]

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Well, that was an interesting year, wasn’t it? No matter where you focus, national, international, provincial or municipal, there was always something interesting happening. Of course, interesting is not always a good thing to be, but that’s the way it is. It was Canada’s 150th, and North Grenville celebrated that in a somewhat restrained way. Unlike Kemptville’s 150th in 2007, there was no concerted effort made to make the year one of celebration by the municipality. They put the emphasis on Canada Day itself, which turned out to be an unusually wet one in 2017.

But there were plenty of other activities and events to bring out the crowds and get people involved in marking the national birthday. Kemptville Live was, once again, a huge part of the summer, putting North Grenville on the national festival map for the third year. What better way to mark Canada 150 than to have Gordon Lightfoot, Burton Cummings and Leona Boyd, legends all, on stage in our neighbourhood?

The Annual Sweetheart Brunch in February, raised over $25,000 for local charities. Throughout the Summer, fundraising events continued almost every weekend, as our community continued its fantastic tradition of compassionate fun. Kicking the Summer off, as it were, was the Kemptville Youth Centre Breakfast at the Christian Reformed Church, by which the KYC raised their goal of $4,000, the money going towards providing insurance coverage for the Centre and its many programs.

There was a BBQ in aid of the Jumpstart program at the Canadian Tire the same day, raising money to help local kids get involved in sports, providing equipment, registration and other costs for those who might otherwise lose out on sporting activities. The BBQ raised $880 plus $333 from Canadian Tire staff, making a total of $1,210. Every Dollar raised is matched by Canadian Tire. That same weekend, the Kemptville Rotary held their annual Family Duck Race, BBQ and Decoy Challenge, and there was the Hike for Hospice at the Ferguson Forest Centre, an Open House at Bayfield Manor, and Community Living North Grenville’s 50th Anniversary Gala featuring Bowser & Blue. And that was just a few of the events taking place on the first real weekend of Summer.

A great victory was achieved by this community in February, when the Ontario Government reversed its decision to close the Service Ontario office in Kemptville after a tremendous public campaign produced a petition against the closure signed by more than 10,000 residents and neighbours. The hope now is that the equally crazy decision to close Oxford-on-Rideau Public School can also be reversed.

We could fill this issue, and more, with everything that happened locally in 2017: the South Wind Brigade crisis in June, the Kemptville Legion celebrating 85 years since its charter was issued and the 60th anniversary of their building on Reuben Street; the visit of the Premier to the KYC in August; the renovations to the Armoury Building; not to mention all of the marvellous musical events put on during the year. The Sound of Music, We’ll Meet Again, and all of the Christmas season musical evenings held throughout the region.

We also lost irreplaceable parts of our community in 2017, including Terry Butler, who served on Council from 2003 until 2014 and was instrumental in ensuring the survival of the Ferguson Forest Centre. Speaking of which, news came out in November of a threat to the FFC, one which we hope will be countered in 2018.

What about 2018: is it likely to be an anticlimax after Canada 150? Definitely not. Not only does North Grenville mark its own birthday – twenty years since amalgamation of Oxford-on-Rideau, South Gower and the Town of Kemptville – and all that has led to, but we will be enjoying not one, but two elections in 2018. In June, we’ll have a provincial election, closely followed in October by our own municipal election. There will be no shortage of things to talk, write and think about in the coming year.

The New Year is always a time to reflect on the past, while looking to the future. It’s not just the twenty years of North Grenville that we remember, but also the 227 years since this land was first surveyed for settlement. Lots has happened here, enough to give us a sense of perspective and an awareness that things change, people come and go, no-one and nothing is permanent. But still, we have our part to play in this ongoing saga, our chapter to add to the shared story of what is now called North Grenville, or Merrickville-Wolford, or even Ontario, Canada. May we all play our part in honour and integrity and caring. From everyone at the Times, happy New Year to you all. It should be fun!

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And so this is Christmas… http://www.ngtimes.ca/and-so-this-is-christmas-2/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/and-so-this-is-christmas-2/#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 19:57:32 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=10327 Everyone has a favourite Christmas carol or two. Some are older, religious ones, like “Away in a Manger”, or “Joy to the World”. Others are secular and more recent, like “Silver Bells”, or “White Christmas”. For me, every year, when I think of songs for the season, John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” is […]

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Everyone has a favourite Christmas carol or two. Some are older, religious ones, like “Away in a Manger”, or “Joy to the World”. Others are secular and more recent, like “Silver Bells”, or “White Christmas”. For me, every year, when I think of songs for the season, John Lennon’s “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” is what comes to my mind. I think it’s the question he asks that really speaks to me: “And so this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

I don’t take this as a threat, or a guilt thing: it just makes me think about the year that has passed and wonder what I have done with it. The years are passing more and more quickly now, and there are not as many left to me as there were, so the question becomes ever more relevant. Each of us have to answer it for ourselves, but there is something about this issue of the Times that is so encouraging for me, and, I hope, for you too.

Look at all the reports of people helping people. All of the support being given to the food banks, the service clubs, those working to make sure that as many people (and their pets) as possible have a happy Christmas. In the world in which we live, good news is sometimes hard to find. Cynicism and pessimism often seem the predominant attitudes, and there are too many times when such negativity seems justified.

Whether you are a Christian or not, Christmas is one time of the year when the negativity can be put aside for a few days or weeks. If you can ignore the commercialism and greed, not always easy to do, there is so much positivity around. People smile more, take pleasure in finding the right gifts for loved ones, and look forward to relaxing away from the day-to-day stresses of life. And that can’t be a bad thing, can it?

People like to talk and write about “the true spirit of Christmas”, but I find that not many seem to know what that is. For Christians, it is easier to define, I suppose. It means that God showed his love for us by being born into human nature and sharing our humanity in order to tell us about himself. More than that, he provided a way for each of us to know him and to discover why we are here, and what the meaning of life really is. That is quite a gift. It always amuses me to think that the birthday of Jesus is celebrated every year by other people receiving gifts. But that is God for you: wise men still seek him.

This is our last issue of the Times before the end of the year. No paper next week, I’m afraid, we’re taking a week off. The next copy will be on January 3, and will be our review of the year issue. That will be quite a job: picking out the main events of 2017, because it has been quite a year. To continue the John Lennon quote: “Another year over, and a new one just begun”. What will 2018 bring? Who could possibly guess, given what we’ve already been through? There will be a Provincial election in June and a municipal one on October 22. Campaigning for the municipal competition starts on May 1, and promises to be a fascinating contest.

I suppose we can’t escape politics, even in this Christmas season, as the articles and letters relating to the Kemptville College story in this issue can attest. After the municipality’s rather intemperate press release in response to an article in this paper about the business group interested in the project, we had to attend Council last Monday to ask for a formal apology and retraction. But the story of that fun-filled evening can wait until the new year, I think. Why spoil the holiday mood with that nonsense!

“And what have we done?” A good question. We have been through tumultuous times. Fake news. Auditor General reports. Hydro rates. Minimum wage increases promised/threatened. New schools in North Grenville. New stores in Colonnade. Businesses opening and closing. Buildings built and demolished. All the normal life of a small community going about its daily life. We have fought over issues, grieved over losses, rejoiced over successes, and celebrated festivals and accomplishments. It has ever been thus, and will, no doubt, continue to be so in the year ahead.

I hope and pray that we can continue to do so as a community, caring and compassionate usually, but angry and divided on other things. Because that is what life is, the little, day-by-day triumphs and failures. We sometimes take ourselves too seriously, and take others not seriously enough. Or vice versa, even! But, as year after year, Christmas after Christmas, goes by, maybe we can get some perspective on all of that. One day, we will have forgotten much of what we now find so important. One day, we, too, may be forgotten. So let’s not get too worked up over things and try and relax, at least for a few days over Christmas. You may not believe it, but God loves you, and time passes.

So, on behalf of all of us at the Times, may I wish you all the best and leave you for 2017 with John and Yoko’s words: “And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun. The near and the dear one, the old and the young. A very Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Let’s hope it’s a good one, without any fear”. [lyrics © Peermusic Publishing]

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Losing touch with reality http://www.ngtimes.ca/losing-touch-reality/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/losing-touch-reality/#comments Wed, 06 Dec 2017 19:59:27 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=10099 Something very strange happened at the Municipal Council meeting on November 27. The meeting opened with a statement, read by Mayor David Gordon, in response to an article we had published on November 22, five days earlier. The article reported that a group of local business people had been in touch with the Province with […]

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Something very strange happened at the Municipal Council meeting on November 27. The meeting opened with a statement, read by Mayor David Gordon, in response to an article we had published on November 22, five days earlier. The article reported that a group of local business people had been in touch with the Province with an offer to invest millions of dollars in the Kemptville College property. Although the Mayor’s statement was a response to the article, it seemed that he (or those who actually wrote the statement) had not actually read it.

I have no doubt that David Gordon did not write the statement he put his name to, more likely it was the work of CAO Brian Carré, the person who has been negotiating with the Province for almost three years.

The statement denied the content of the article, claiming “that the author’s inference is out of context and unsubstantiated. I can confirm with you that no attempts were made by the North Grenville Times or the author of the statement to corroborate this presumption, either with the Municipality of North Grenville or the Province, prior to the statement being printed”. Now the article did not infer anything: rather it quoted extensively from a letter sent by the business group to the Province. Hardly unsubstantiated, though what “out of context” means in this regard is unclear.

We did not “attempt…to corroborate this presumption” with the Municipality for two reasons. First of all, it was not an assumption, it was a documented fact. Secondly, the Municipality was not relevant to the article, so why ask them to corroborate something they did not even know was happening? That was a rather arrogant assumption by David Gordon and Brian Carré: that anything to do with the College should be referred to them. They, and whoever else on Council inspired the statement, seemed to be offended that there could be any contact between the Province and anyone other than them.

The article said that the business group “have made representations to Premier Kathleen Wynne and Minister Jeff Leal to purchase the entire site”. It did not say that they were actively negotiating with the Province. Though this seems to be the misapprehension under which Brian Carré and David Gordon are labouring. And this misunderstanding on their part appears to have hit their egos rather hard. Because, in addition to making the statement at Council that evening, a press release was issued by the Municipality at 7.35, while the Council meeting was taking place, again declaring that the article was wrong.

This release was sent to JuiceFM and the Advance, and was designed “to caution readers of the North Grenville Times”. The Advance immediately posted the release on the on-line platform, while JuiceFM had the good manners to also refer to my response to it. I believe the article in this issue, “Facts are Facts” explains the background to the story and what I want to focus on here is the role played by David Gordon and Brian Carré in this mess.

We are condemned for not referring the article to them before publication, even though it had nothing to do with their talks with the Province, yet they sat on the article for five days before issuing their statement and press release without ever contacting us to get the “context”. The release was drawn and ready to go once the Mayor had read it out in Council. This was premeditated and completely inaccurate in its accusations. I understand that the Mayor had received a copy of the letter from the business group to the Province before he read out the statement: meaning he and the CAO must have known what the facts were.

This paper has only ever said positive things about David Gordon and Brian Carré individually, whatever we may think of the policies and actions of municipal council and staff, so this statement came as an unpleasant betrayal. To add insult to injury, the statement actually contains this preposterous claim: “Council and our CAO have been clear, transparent and on the record when providing details of the negotiations with the Province of Ontario”. Neither Council nor the CAO have provided the people of North Grenville with any information whatsoever, before the recent incomplete and preliminary announcement that a deal was being reached. Instead, we were told of gag orders and the Municipality not being allowed to say anything about how negotiations were going. Instead, after three years of “negotiations”, the CAO managed to get the Province to tell us how much of the College lands we could have, but not the purchase price. The Mayor’s promise that no taxpayers dollars would be used to buy the land remains unfulfilled. In addition, Brian Carré managed to get the Province to delay any final announcement until a few months before a provincial election: a wonderful achievement.

It doesn’t really matter what they may have been told by the Minister and his staff: the documents are there to be read. The group of businessmen did contact the Province. They did offer to invest millions of dollars in the College. They did assure the province that, if the deal with the municipality fell through for any reason, they were still willing to go ahead themselves. No inference there. No “unsubstantiated and out of context” claims. No false news, as the Mayor and CAO have claimed. Just the facts. Now they should apologise and issue a press release acknowledging their error. If you’re going to attack the integrity and credibility of the NG Times, at least criticise us for what we actually write. It is not our integrity that is in question here.

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Time to talk http://www.ngtimes.ca/time-to-talk/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/time-to-talk/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2017 19:57:14 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=9956 As readers will note this week, there has been some confusion in Council about a number of issues and Mayor Nash has been somewhat under attack for his role in a meeting held with the Times a few weeks ago. I feel, as Editor of the Times and one of the participants in that meeting, […]

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As readers will note this week, there has been some confusion in Council about a number of issues and Mayor Nash has been somewhat under attack for his role in a meeting held with the Times a few weeks ago. I feel, as Editor of the Times and one of the participants in that meeting, I should clarify some things.

First of all, this was not a press conference, as some members of Council have suggested. The only media present were myself and our Merrickville-Wolford reporter, Hilary Thomson. I had asked for a meeting with the Mayor and Karl Feige, Chair of the Chamber of Commerce, in order to discuss the on-going issues which seem to surround the relationship between Merrickville-Wolford and the Chamber. The Times has had similar meetings in the past, for example with Mayor Nash and CAO John Regan, the aim of which was to learn about matters relative to the municipality. This is a normal part of the media’s role in the community.

This, I repeat, was my initiative, not that of Mayor Nash, and there was no need for anyone to ask permission of Council before having that discussion. I cannot imagine that any member of Council believes they would have to ask permission of their colleagues before being interviewed on any topic.

Mayor Nash has pointed out that any suggestion that he apologised for attending the meeting is incorrect, and I must add that his stated aim, expressed at that meeting, was to bring Council together with the Chamber so as to hear the views of the local business community, as represented by the Chamber. I appreciate both Mayor Nash and Mr. Feige’s willingness to talk to the Times so that we could inform the community of this important issue.

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True lies http://www.ngtimes.ca/true-lies/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/true-lies/#respond Wed, 29 Nov 2017 19:54:29 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=9935 “What is Truth?” That question is probably the most repeated biblical quote around these days. The phrase “fake news” has entered into our dictionaries and minds and represents a genuine threat to the future of democracy. Does that sound extreme? It is a fact (?) that somewhere between half and three-quarters of Americans get their […]

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“What is Truth?” That question is probably the most repeated biblical quote around these days. The phrase “fake news” has entered into our dictionaries and minds and represents a genuine threat to the future of democracy. Does that sound extreme? It is a fact (?) that somewhere between half and three-quarters of Americans get their news from Facebook. The figures for Canada are less drastic. A Public Policy Forum survey earlier this year showed that 75% of Canadians still get their news from traditional media sources, such as TV and newspapers. But more than half also looked for information from social media sites like Facebook, and that trend will likely continue.

Is this a problem? It is, if the discovery that Russia and other countries and intelligence agencies have been busy posting false reports on these sites in order to influence, not just elections, but public attitudes too. It was bad enough when con artists and hoaxers were doing this, their “news” items were usually obvious. But the statistics from the United States, in particular, makes one wonder about what’s happening on this side of the border. An Ipsos Reid survey found that three-quarters of those surveyed believed a fake news story was either somewhat, or very accurate 75% of the time. It also showed that 86% of Trump supporters believed false headline stories to be true.

That is the basic situation in our world today: there is an enormous rise in the number of false stories going the rounds on social media sites. Fake accounts are being set up on Facebook, Twitter and Google simply to distribute untrue stories, and it doesn’t take a lot of money or time to do so.

In the past, media outlets depended on their reputations as accurate purveyors of news. There was a clearly understood difference between, say, the Globe and Mail and the National Enquirer. Of course, even then, there was a huge market for the kind of fictional and dramatic nonsense published by the Enquirer and other supermarket tabloids. The frightening thing is that this kind of misinformation has now spread to platforms that are read and trusted by millions more than would ever be seen reading the Enquirer. But today it is much more difficult to be sure of the truth and accuracy of what we find on-line, where there are no footnotes, no sources, no reliable way to discriminate between the solid facts and the deliberate fiction.

Forbes magazine recently stated that: “‘Active misinformation’ is a threat to democratic systems. This is because democracy depends on people voting in an informed way, weighing the pros and cons of policies, candidates and parties. But if they are misinformed, believing things about the “other” that are completely untrue, the informed voter ceases to exist and democracy is reduced to whoever can tell the most believable lie. Nazis brought that to a high level of professionalism, and we are now seeing it in our own part of the world.

False news distorts and corrupts the body politic. It encourages division, hatred even, and an inability and unwillingness to compromise. Yet compromise is at the heart of all democratic systems: it is how we avoid going to war over issues that may be serious, but can also be trivial.

The world, and that includes Canada, Ontario, even down to our municipal level, is being assaulted via the internet, an invention that is otherwise one of the greatest achievements of modern society. Liars and frauds get away with so much more than they could in the past, simply because of technology. I watched one man recently being faced with lies and false claims he had posted on his web site. It seemed, as it were, black and white. But he blustered and claimed that someone had hacked his site, that the false statements had been deliberately placed there by his enemies. That photographs and video of him had been Photoshopped and altered. All of this may be possible, and is certainly another sad fact of modern on-line life. The point is that it is becoming ridiculously easy for people to deny what is there on the written and visual record, and people believe them.

This puts a responsibility on all of us. We have to pay more attention to what we read and see and hear. We have to make sure, as far as we can, that we are believing the truth, the reality, not what some want us to think and believe. As an historian, I believe in sources, footnotes: show me where you got that piece of information. Verify that statement or document. These days, it seems, we all have to be detectives, sorting out the facts from the red herrings, trying to discern truth from lies. Democracy has never been the easy option: it is often far easier to let someone else tell us what to think, what to do, how to act. But today, more than ever in history, we as democratic people, have the responsibility to choose who rules. Think for yourself. Ask questions. What is true will come through.

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Happy Birthday to the North Grenville Times http://www.ngtimes.ca/happy-birthday-north-grenville-times/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/happy-birthday-north-grenville-times/#respond Wed, 22 Nov 2017 19:58:12 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=9781 Last week, The North Grenville Times celebrated its fifth year as a weekly newspaper in North Grenville. At a party surrounded by friends, advertisers, and local dignitaries, they thanked the community for their support over the past five years. “From the beginning, we wanted to be the voice of North Grenville,” David says. “This is […]

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Last week, The North Grenville Times celebrated its fifth year as a weekly newspaper in North Grenville. At a party surrounded by friends, advertisers, and local dignitaries, they thanked the community for their support over the past five years. “From the beginning, we wanted to be the voice of North Grenville,” David says. “This is your newspaper.”

Marguerite (Maggie) Boyer and David Shanahan

It is clear that Marguerite Boyer and David Shanahan are humbled by the support they have received from the community, without whom there would arguably be no North Grenville Times. They are quick to pass the credit on to those who work behind the scenes of the paper (sales, accounting, writers and editorial staff) for making it a success. “Each person who works for the paper brings something different,” David says. “That’s what makes it work.”

I believe, however, a huge thank you needs to go out to the two of them. From the moment they stepped foot in North Grenville, they have been a part of the community. Even before the paper started, Maggie was involved with her art and David was playing his music in coffee houses in North Grenville and the surrounding area. Maggie was on the committee of the original Dandelion Festival and has always been quick to help a neighbour in need.

When the Kemptville Advance was sold to a corporation, and they were noticing less and less coverage of local events and issues, Maggie and David rose to the challenge. With the backing of their friends and family, they began a newsletter, which ran for eight years before becoming the weekly paper it is today. “We got to the point where the monthly wasn’t doing what we wanted it to do,” David said. “It was either stop or expand.”

Through their hard work and dedication to the community, the paper has grown into an engaging newspaper with its own unique style that reaches over 9,500 people in two municipalities. It is not just a paper that reports bland news, but one that isn’t afraid to shake things up with controversial editorials and different viewpoints. “By taking the approach that we do, it encourages a response,” David says. “It engages people to think,” Maggie adds.

David says the most rewarding part about the past five years has been watching the way the community has embraced it. “I love it when people say they read it cover to cover”.

Covering issues that affect the community is also very important to Maggie and David, which is clear from their fulsome coverage of Featherstone Park in 2015, when residents were served an eviction notice because of a failing septic system. “It’s the causes we take on,” David says. “Featherstone Park was almost worth it in itself.”

It is impossible for me to write an article about The Times without adding something on a more personal note. For me, the paper is much more than a job. When I moved here after journalism school, I had no job, and knew no one except my husband’s family in Kemptville. On a whim, I contacted David, who was happy to meet with me and offered me a job on the spot. From the very beginning, he encouraged me to find my voice as a writer and explore issues and stories that I was interested in. Now, just under three years later, I feel connected to the community and know more about North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford than my husband does, who has lived here for 32 years.

The North Grenville Times has become a staple in the community, and there is no doubt that North Grenville would be a different place without it. With Maggie’s keen eye for design and David’s knack for writing (and stirring up trouble), they have created a paper which many people have told me they look forward to every week. I know that many people’s lives have been touched by the Times, and I am not the only one who feels connected to the community because of it.

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Who owns Heritage? http://www.ngtimes.ca/who-owns-heritage/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/who-owns-heritage/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 19:50:35 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=9662 There’s been some hard thinking done recently on the subject of heritage. This week, we have learned about the draft agreement between Ontario and North Grenville concerning the future of Kemptville College. The statement released by the two governments can be read in this issue of the Times. The College has been part of the […]

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There’s been some hard thinking done recently on the subject of heritage. This week, we have learned about the draft agreement between Ontario and North Grenville concerning the future of Kemptville College. The statement released by the two governments can be read in this issue of the Times. The College has been part of the community for almost a century, and is most certainly a part of our heritage, so it was important that we maintained some control over what happens to the land and the buildings. The Statement does not, by any means, answer all the questions we may have about the plans for the College that have been agreed upon, but there is, at least, a sense that things are moving forward. Though, as the story by Deron Johnston points out, there are some troubling parts of the Statement that will be watched with concern until all the details of the deal are revealed.

Another recent controversy over heritage came with the decision by Council to approve a resolution which effectively means that Leslie Hall will be demolished. This is another century-old part of our heritage that will be sorely missed by the community. In fact, even now, the loss of a practical, efficient and conveniently-sited meeting hall is making itself felt. There is simply nowhere else in Kemptville that can adequately replace Leslie Hall.

But the controversy involved serious issues that are not easy to decide. The Municipal Heritage Advisory Committee did their job in bringing forward resolutions in an attempt to save this piece of our heritage. Those who voted against the resolutions, thereby condemning the Hall to destruction, did so, primarily, because the owners, the people of St. James’ Anglican Church responsible for the Hall, did not want it designated as a heritage structure because they simply could not afford the huge sum of money that would be needed to renovate the Hall and make it safe and useable again.

So, who owns heritage: the owners of a building, or the community? Who gets to decide which parts of our built heritage are protected, and which are left to be demolished? This is not an easy question, and perhaps there is no single answer. Every case needs to be addressed individually, taking into account the rights of the property owners, the rights of the community, and the state of the building in question. Where the municipality is the owner, as it was with Acton’s Corners School, there is a responsibility, I believe, to act on the wishes and consent of the community, and not to make a quick cash grab by disposing of the asset for a low gain.

The article in the Merrickville-Wolford section on the Carriage Factory in Eastons Corners is another example. It is up for a tax sale, unless the taxes are paid by the end of this month. But, rather than gain around $15,000 for the municipal coffers, wouldn’t it be better for the Municipality to take over the property as part of a heritage development project for Eastons Corners as a whole?

The Village of Merrickville has gained a great deal from its heritage character, and is a living proof of the potential for heritage tourism which exists in our region. We live on a World Heritage site, and, to date, nothing has been done in North Grenville to take advantage of that fact. New tourist facilities are coming in next year with the start of the Le Boat operations, and that indicates quite clearly that a European company sees the value of investing in this region as a draw for international tourist traffic. Where is our vision?

North Grenville has lost too much of its built heritage already. Not everything can be saved, but what can be, should be. Individual property owners may have rights, and those rights should be respected. But the community as a whole also has a right to preserve and protect our shared heritage. If that means compensating owners, then let’s at least look into devising a plan for the future use and preservation of our heritage. This is not a sop to elites, nor is it a waste of taxpayers’ money. The new Official Plan should take seriously the economic potential of heritage, instead of seeing “old buildings” as a drain on our taxes.

I know the municipality and some members of Council feel somewhat burned by reaction to the Acton’s Corners debacle. And so they should. But a realistic, practical and comprehensive heritage policy for North Grenville (and Merrickville-Wolford), based on active and serious participation by heritage groups, will make it a great deal easier for everyone to make good decisions in future. And good decisions on heritage matters would be a really welcome change of approach.

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A year of death and division http://www.ngtimes.ca/year-death-division/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/year-death-division/#respond Wed, 08 Nov 2017 19:57:36 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=9518 This is our annual Remembrance Day issue, and we have, naturally, concentrated on the year of 1917, one hundred years ago, and a pivotal year in world history. The United States became involved in the affairs of the Old World for the first (but not the last) time. The Russian Empire collapsed and the Romanov […]

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This is our annual Remembrance Day issue, and we have, naturally, concentrated on the year of 1917, one hundred years ago, and a pivotal year in world history. The United States became involved in the affairs of the Old World for the first (but not the last) time. The Russian Empire collapsed and the Romanov regime ended in slaughter and Bolshevism. But this issue was much harder to put together than others, I found, because it simply made me angry, frustrated and deeply sad, as I learned about the ten men from North Grenville, including two brothers, and the fourteen men from Merrickville-Wolford, including two sets of brothers, who were killed in 1917.

How, I have to ask, did these farmers, blacksmiths and clerks from Asa Street, Merrickville, and Oxford Mills come to die in the obscene mud and slaughter of World War One? What had they to do with the quarrels of Empires, and the family rivalries of the cousins who ruled Germany, Russia and Britain? Canada did not even choose to enter the war, as colonies of the British Empire, they were involved as soon as the Empire declared war in 1914. By the end of 1918, more than 60,000 Canadians, more farmers, clerks blacksmiths and labourers, had been lost to their families and communities.

Why? What was the reason they left their homes and fought and died in the horror of Passchendaele, Vimy, Hill 70 and Lens in that dreadful year of 1917? For King and Empire? That was why the Germans died too, and the Russians, and the Turks. The French had no Empire by then, their soldiers died to resist invasion.

A Prince was murdered in 1914. His Empire, the Austro-Hungarian one, declared war on Serbia. Russia then declared war on Austria-Hungary. The German Empire then declared war on Russia. France had a treaty with Russia, so they declared war on Germany. Germany’s war plan required them to invade France through Belgium. Britain had a treaty with Belgium, so the British Empire declared war on the German Empire. The Ottoman Empire got involved on the side of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Simple, isn’t it?

What had all this to do with a blacksmith on Asa Street in Kemptville, or a clerk in the Percival Plow Company in Merrickville? At Vimy Ridge, in just three days in April, at Hill 70, 3,600 Canadians were killed and another 7,000 wounded taking a piece of land. In August, in another three days of fighting, about 9,000 Canadians were killed or wounded in the overall battle, while an estimated 25,000 Germans were killed or wounded. The Canadian commander, Arthur Currie, was delighted and called it “a great and wonderful victory. G.H.Q. regard it as one of the finest performances of the war..” That same month, Canadians were ordered to take the town of Lens. This battle lasted four days, and the official history of the war recorded: “In all the Canadians had suffered almost 4,000 casualties from 21-25 August. The corps had not achieved any of its initial objectives and had finally withdrawn from the city”.

Then came Passchendaele. British, Australian and new Zealand armies had been fighting for three months when the Canadians got involved in October and November. The horrors there were unprecedented, even in that obscene war. 15,654 Canadians were killed or wounded.

The British suffered 300,000 casualties, and inflicted around 260,000 on the Germans. The British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, later admitted: “Passchendaele was indeed one of the greatest disasters of the war… No soldier of any intelligence now defends this senseless campaign.” To add greater insult to overwhelming injury, all the ground taken in that battle was later abandoned, without a fight, in 1918.

Meanwhile, back at home, the country was being deeply divided on the issue of Conscription. Volunteers were not coming forward as quickly as in 1914-16, and the promise not to introduce Conscription was broken, as was the social fabric of the nation. Vicious ethnic insults were being thrown around between French and English Canadians, usually unmerited, as loyalty to the Empire was threatening to overwhelm loyalty to Canada in its 50th year of Confederation. The twenty-four local men who were killed in France and Belgium in 1917 may seem unimportant, compared to the hundreds of thousands killed there that year, or to the 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded in World War I. But they were from here, they were men who fought and died with incredible bravery and honour, not to mention the many others who returned, perhaps unwounded, but certainly not unaffected.

And what was the result of it all? The German, Austrian, Ottoman and Russian Empires were gone. The British Empire was almost reduced to bankruptcy and only lasted another twenty-five years. It was already breaking up with the departure of most of Ireland in 1921: the rights of one small nation finally winning out. France and Belgium were devastated. Towns like Vimy, Lens and Passchendaele had been wiped off the map by British and Canadian artillery. Germany was in turmoil, leading to the rise of Hitler. Russia was in turmoil, leading to the rise of Stalin.

We must remember all of this on Remembrance Day, and vow it will never happen again. But it did, over and over. Remembering may not be enough.

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Think for yourself http://www.ngtimes.ca/think-for-yourself/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/think-for-yourself/#respond Thu, 02 Nov 2017 18:47:40 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=9331 Democracy: the worst possible system, except for all the others. What a good definition that is. One of the benefits of the internet has been the freedom people have to express their opinions and points of view to, literally, millions of people. Even in the more confined area of North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford, I have […]

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Democracy: the worst possible system, except for all the others. What a good definition that is. One of the benefits of the internet has been the freedom people have to express their opinions and points of view to, literally, millions of people. Even in the more confined area of North Grenville and Merrickville-Wolford, I have been really amazed at how many people post on the Times’ Facebook page and web site. It certainly confirms something I have always believed, and which lies at the heart of this project: people, given the opportunity, really want to get involved in their local community.

Every day, in almost every post, thousands of people check in, read, and often write a comment, criticism, or add some further piece of information. We have seen how even national leaders can rule unimpeded simply by using Twitter to share their well-considered and intelligent thoughts on life, the universe, and everything. And so does Donald Trump. There are so many opportunities for involvement than any previous generation ever imagined, and this has got to be a good thing.

But there are unexpected consequences to this wider conversation that is taking place in our community and around the world. Aside altogether from the numerous nasty phenomena like hacking, identity theft, spam, etc., there are unpleasant surprises arising from the free flow of ideas and thoughts we enjoy via Facebook, Twitter, and the comments sections of websites. One of these surprises comes when we realise that there are people out there who sincerely hold views which we personally find repulsive. Nor are they in any way slow or ashamed to put their views out there: unashamed, because they honestly believe that their views are sensible, reasonable, and truly worth defending.

Sometimes, those views are upsetting to us, simply because we don’t agree with them. And that is fair enough. Democracy is based on the coming together of differing ideas and ideologies, and finding ways to work together, in spite of, sometimes even because of them. Any brief browse through the NG Times Facebook page or web site will show how divergent the views of local residents can be on issues. The more we get to talk to each other in a respectful and meaningful manner, the better our society will be able to tackle the issues that concern us.

So far, so good. But what this interchange of ideas sometimes reveals is that many viewpoints or attitudes are based on misunderstandings, even ignorance of the facts upon which we come to conclusions. I don’t mean differing views on the facts, but an actual misunderstanding of what the facts are. For example, a recent story in this paper about a local business has led to a very high number of posts and comments on our social media platforms. This has been a very positive thing, as the community have the opportunity of discussing the issue, and directing much of their ire at our municipal council. No problem there, in my opinion. Except that there is a tendency to condemn council as a whole, without noticing differences in the role and attitude that exists within council as a whole.

It is easy to skate over these details, and simply accept statements by fellow posters and commentators, without looking for further evidence. I am, by profession, an historian, and we historians like footnotes (or endnotes, we are quite liberal in that regard), we want to know where information comes from. Is it accurate, can it be supported by reputable sources, etc.? A well-known Canadian historian published a book a few years ago, called “Being Had”, in which he showed that some works of history contained footnotes that were made up by the writer. Not very ethical. But we are more and more aware in recent months (hi again, Donald) that people on Twitter and Facebook and other platforms simply make up facts to suit their argument, or to rationalise what they think and believe.

What all this means for us every day, given the importance of social media, is that we have a responsibility to think about what we read, to ask questions of it, to ensure that the source of what is said is reliable, ethically sound (not making things up), and worth basing our own thoughts on. Next year we’ll be electing a government for Ontario and a Municipal Council for our communities. Now is the time to start asking questions, making distinctions between individuals, and getting into the habit of looking beyond rhetoric, blanket statements made without supporting facts, and remembering that each one, each event, has a history. Social media sites can encourage immediate, short term thinking: beware of that. Don’t allow anyone to fool you into forgetting what has been said and done in the past.

Isn’t life becoming really complicated?

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