Editorial – The North Grenville Times http://www.ngtimes.ca The Voice of North Grenville Thu, 12 Jul 2018 22:33:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.7 The voices of North Grenville http://www.ngtimes.ca/the-voices-of-north-grenville/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/the-voices-of-north-grenville/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 18:43:44 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=13592 Social media is way for people to continue the discussions begun in newspapers, and the readers of the Times are certainly enjoying the opportunity the newspaper’s Facebook page presents. So,this week, the Editorial page is open to those readers who take time to comment and give their opinion (editorial perspective) on life in North Grenville. […]

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Social media is way for people to continue the discussions begun in newspapers, and the readers of the Times are certainly enjoying the opportunity the newspaper’s Facebook page presents. So,this week, the Editorial page is open to those readers who take time to comment and give their opinion (editorial perspective) on life in North Grenville. Here are some of the issues being debated there recently.

The role of the Kemptville BIA, and its relationship with the Municipal Council, continues to be a subject of sometimes heated debate. One poster, Jack Neelin, wanted to know what exactly the BIA had done over the past year to justify its existence. “It certainly isn’t bringing business to downtown”, he claimed.

The BIA were quick to respond and list some of what they had accomplished in that time:

  • Participated in increasing the occupancy of downtown commercial space and supported new business development in the downtown core;
  • Advocated for improved parking and signage for the downtown area;
  • Promoted Kemptville as a good place to invest through implementation of a 2017 Kemptville Pop-Up-Shop Program;
  • Participated as an active member of the North Grenville Economic Development Advisory Committee;
  • Continuously improved its communications with, and marketing for, members and stakeholders through social media and increased its e-newsletter subscriptions;
  • Worked with the Municipality to improve downtown walkability and bikeablility;
  • Made effective use of Eastern Ontario Development Program funding;
  • Achieved improvements to an expanded Community Improvement Program;
  • Supported the local community events, such as Kemptville Live and improved participation in its own family-friendly events such as the Easter Bunny Trail and Kreepy Kemptville.

Christina Charbel was in full support of the BIA. “The BIA has actually successfully organized multiple annual events to draw business to the downtown area. And perhaps you are not aware of the successful pop up shop program? A stroll along Prescott St. will provide further evidence of newer businesses in the area. I suggest you visit a few downtown businesses and ask the owners what the BIA has done to support their businesses.”

One of the major issues facing the BIA in promoting downtown Kemptville was the dilapidated state of the some of the buildings, left to their fate by their owners and making it almost impossible to attract new businesses. Christina commented on the problem: “Unfortunately, many of the available buildings for lease by businesses in downtown are so badly maintained (owner neglect), they are not feasible for the operation of a business and this is a big part of the problem. It is also the main reason my partner and I abandoned our plan to open a small business in the area.”

Another local business owner agreed and reported that she, also, had to look elsewhere for suitable property. “It is really sad that the buildings are not maintained; but how do you enforce that? I looked downtown when I opened my business, but just like you, none of the buildings that were available were maintained. I even had a real estate agent tell me that if I don’t mind the bugs… it’s a great location! It is too bad because downtown has so much potential.”

Some posters put the blame squarely on Council and Municipal staff for not enforcing property bylaws, and not supporting the BIA in their work. Greg King commented: “I’m amazed how many people talk about how tired the downtown looks and with the same breath complain about the BIA. I don’t know of any other group that has done more to help the downtown core, only to have council stick it to them in the last budget. Maybe council is threatened by the fact that they do more for downtown then the current council does.”

Parking downtown is often cited as a problem, but the moves by the Kemptville District Hospital to introduce new parking arrangements there, as reported in the Times, raised some negative reaction. Lisa Brownrigg objected to KDH praising their new system for being efficient and user-friendly. Lisa commented: “Know what’s highly efficient and easy to use? *free* Because when you’re sick and/or injured the last thing you need to worry about is parking.”

Tracii Holtom Reardon also disagreed that the new system was easy to use for patients. “Actually, it makes it more difficult for disabled people and anyone who has difficulty walking. You have to get a ticket and pay for 20 minute increments. Walk back to your vehicle and put it inside. If you think you will only be 20 minutes. And if you are in the building longer, chances are these folks won’t be going back out to the parking lot to buy another ticket. This was the discussion that was going on with the ‘older’ folks while waiting for Bloodwork at Dynacare.”

The recent election, and the upcoming municipal contest, will be a source of comments for some time to come, I think. Last week’s Editorial discussed the possible change in relations between the Municipality and the Province now that Steve Clark is Minister for Municipal Affairs. Shaun Vardon believes things may not be as cosy as some on Council think. “The close partisan ties between the current council and the Ford government will become a problem for them. For years “the province” read Liberals, were to blame for pretty much every problem. Who will council and the mayor blame now when they don’t get what they want?”

A reader who describes themselves as “a stakeholder affiliated with one of the tenants on the campus of Kemptville College, is hoping for a new Council that will be more open and transparent about how they go about municipal business. “I am very concerned about the lack of transparency, honesty and sustainability of that project. As well, the attacks on this newspaper and the BIA have been disappointing and unnecessary. Let’s hope local citizens vote for change!”

As always, the role of the media in all of these issues has been commented on once again. Following the article last week about the role of newspapers at the time of Confederation, André Chagnon commented: “Now if only there were a way to remove bias from the equation, thereby making the media report facts, instead of fabrications and opinions…” Fabrications aside, and you won’t find them in the Times, Willard Irven pointed out that: “There has always been bias in news reporting; it’s our responsibility as readers to filter out the manipulated opinion from honest, fact-supported opinion.”

This approach was met with some scepticism by André. “The problem is many readers–many would argue a majority–don’t have the ability to filter. People will believe what they want to believe.”  And former Mayor Bill Gooch was even less optimistic about the reading public: “The filtering mechanism does not work. People tend to believe what they see in print, on Facebook and other social media. I don’t think there are very many people who respect or believe mainstream media any longer.”  André had the last word on that subject (so far): “I think you’re giving people too much credit.”

Democracy and free speech in action. Have your say: write a Letter to the Editor, or post a comment on Facebook. If you feel strongly enough about something, write an article and send it to us. You will be published (as long as contains no fabrications!).

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On the road to find out http://www.ngtimes.ca/on-the-road-to-find-out/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/on-the-road-to-find-out/#respond Thu, 05 Jul 2018 19:00:47 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=13444 In this year of political activity, the swearing-in of Doug Ford’s new Ontario Government has added another element to an already fascinating year. With the appointment of local MPP Steve Clark to the Cabinet, the new Premier has caused waves of speculation throughout the region. Will this guarantee the completion of the County Road 43 […]

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In this year of political activity, the swearing-in of Doug Ford’s new Ontario Government has added another element to an already fascinating year. With the appointment of local MPP Steve Clark to the Cabinet, the new Premier has caused waves of speculation throughout the region. Will this guarantee the completion of the County Road 43 expansion project through Kemptville? Will North Grenville now be in a position to get grants which were believed to have been blocked by the previous Liberal government? Steve’s new position as Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing is quite a powerful Cabinet seat and gives him responsibility for dealing with Ontario’s municipalities.

There is no doubt that Steve Clark was a strong proponent of the CR43 project and it is an added advantage that the new Minister for Transport, John Yakabuski, is also an Eastern Ontario MPP, representing Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. Perhaps a regional member will be better able to appreciate the infrastructure needs of rural Ontario.

North Grenville may also benefit from the appointment of another local area MPP, Merrilee Fullerton, as Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. This first-time MPP may be someone willing to work with the municipality in the future educational development of the Kemptville Campus, and any financial support for the new undertaking would be good news for taxpayers, as well as administrators of the Campus.

Although NG Mayor David Gordon seems quite sure the CR43 project will now get the go-ahead funding needed from the Province, his Progressive Conservative Party ties may not be enough on their own to assure a good result. Steve Clark was quite open in his upset, at the very least, that he had been excluded by the mayor and CAO, Brian Carré, during their negotiations over the Kemptville College file. He had been deeply involved in the immediate aftermath of the announcement that Guelph were leaving, and he was unhappy that he was not allowed to be involved later.

There is also the fact that, although he has been a very effective MPP since he was first elected, Steve will now have to pay attention to the other 443 municipalities in Ontario, and not just North Grenville. The Ford Government have a long list of promises made that will require a great deal of money to implement, and there may not be the flow of funds some in this area expect. Steve Clark will, I am sure, do what he can for his constituents.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the new Minister will be dealing with the current mayor and council after October 22. The next stage in our political year will be the Municipal Election, which has really begun already. By July 28, we will know who is running for mayor and council, and that is when it will get really interesting.

The current council have been facing a lot of opposition and anger among various groups in the community recently, and there is the question of litigation still remaining unrevealed too. The municipality has been involved in litigation over the Kemptville Meadows condominium development, taken to the Ontario Municipal Board over a property on Asa Street, rebuked by the provincial BIA organisation for their treatment of the Kemptville BIA, acted precipitously and without any sense against local businesses, informed the taxpayers of the municipality that it is unacceptable for them to criticise or ridicule council members or municipal staff, and, of course, accused the Times of threatening the democratic rights of the people of North Grenville. And that is far from being the full list.

We still don’t know why so many staff members have left, and under what circumstances and financial arrangements, but this is almost certainly something we will never be told about. The administration and governance of North Grenville has been shrouded in mystery, gag orders and arrogance for some time now. After the last municipal election, I wrote about the “Bubble” that elected officials disappear into, usually becoming servants of the bureaucrats. They start to see themselves as “us”, and the people who elected them as “them”. A sense of superiority and entitlement creeps over them and they assume that only they truly understand what’s needed, and they come to see the rest of us as..well, they said it, threats.

Power corrupts, they say, and even friendships and previous commitments get thrown overboard, sometimes without any good reason, and even unknowingly. Individuals who signed the letter containing the “threat to democratic rights” statement assure me they don’t believe that, they just signed an official letter saying it. Reality has faded into the background there, I fear.

So, let’s see what happens next in this wonderful year of politics and entertainment. Is there a difference?

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Standing on guard http://www.ngtimes.ca/standing-on-guard-2/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/standing-on-guard-2/#respond Wed, 27 Jun 2018 19:00:32 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=13294 In late June that year, word got round that there was a young foreign family newly-arrived in town. They were staying in a hotel while they looked for an apartment, and were finding things very confusing indeed. There were three young children involved, one only a few weeks old, and being confined to a hotel […]

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In late June that year, word got round that there was a young foreign family newly-arrived in town. They were staying in a hotel while they looked for an apartment, and were finding things very confusing indeed. There were three young children involved, one only a few weeks old, and being confined to a hotel room in a strange town was difficult. Someone in the office decided to invite them to a Canada Day BBQ as a way of introducing them to some new Canadian friends, and a car was dispatched to pick them up on the day.

What a new experience it was for them! To start with, the very idea of a bbq was new: imagine cooking outside in your garden. Hot dogs were something the children had never eaten, and the burgers were like nothing any of them had tasted before. These Canadians were so determined that the newcomers would feel welcome and included, although the constant comments: “You must be so glad to get away from the bombs and violence”, were hard to answer.

Then, with food and beer, sunshine and smiles, the gathering broke into “O Canada”, and the newcomers were deeply moved by it all. At home, there was a lot of politics involved in the national anthem: here it seemed joyful. The words struck home forcefully: this was an anthem you could sing proudly. There was no triumphalism, no arrogance or threats. Going home from the celebration, a foreign family felt they had come to a better place than they had imagined.

That may all seem too sentimental, too much nostalgic memories through rose-coloured glasses. But that was my first experience of Canada Day, and the effects have never really left me. It was years before I could become a citizen, but from that day, because of those people welcoming me and my family into their national birthday party, I felt this was a country I could become part of.

The words stayed with me too. “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee”. I have never felt that this was a militaristic statement, a call to arms. It has always seemed to me to be a promise, a commitment to protect and preserve what it is that makes Canada the country it is. And that is tied up, for me anyway, with the welcoming friendliness I experienced that day in Thunder Bay back in 1982. It is a promise to maintain the character of the country that invented peace-keeping for the United Nations. It tells “foreigners” that they can make a home here, not forsaking their ethnic and cultural roots, but adding them to the mix.

There are some, I know, who find that idea objectionable; who think that everyone should become “Canadian”. But what else is that? Canada has always been a country made up of immigrants, refugees, “foreigners”. The French arrived here, paid for by their Government, given land and supported by the merchants of France. The United Empire Loyalists were refugees, fleeing war and persecution, and dependant on government hand-outs of food, clothes and free land. That began a tradition, a pattern of immigration, from Europe and Asia and the United States, of people looking for something better, freedom and possibilities, a new chance for their children. There is no-one in Canada whose people did not come from somewhere else.

Maybe we sometimes fear that continuing that tradition of welcoming newcomers will somehow water down whatever Canada is, whatever Canadians are. But the fact is that “what Canada is” has been built on those traditions, on those foreigners who arrived here and had to fit into the climate, the harsh environment, the new way of doing things. Perhaps what native-born Canadians forget sometimes, is how grateful newcomers are to be here; how determined they can be to live up to the gift they have received by becoming part of this nation. They, we, after all, are the ones who chose this to be our new homeland.

It may be easy to dismiss all of this as a naive and simplistic view of Canada. Anyone who has lived anywhere else in the world, knows that it is not so. Canada is not perfect; it has faults, it has systemic racism, it has poverty, and it has political corruption. All of this is true. But immigrants and exiles are not looking for perfection: they are looking for better; and, in Canada, they find that better place, that place of possibilities and potential.

Somewhere across the land, a newly-arrived foreign family will be invited to join their new neighbours at a picnic, or party, or bbq, and will be introduced to something quite extraordinary and wonderful. If we can keep our focus on that, we can afford to welcome many newcomers, invite them to add their contribution to our communities, and put down roots for themselves and their children, then we can really sing out: “O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!”.

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I Can See Clearly Now http://www.ngtimes.ca/i-can-see-clearly-now/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/i-can-see-clearly-now/#comments Wed, 20 Jun 2018 18:57:56 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=13172 One of the great buzz words in recent elections at the municipal level has been “transparency”. Every candidate seems to promise that, should they be elected, there would be more transparency on council and in municipal government. After a few elections, it is very hard to see (pun intended) where this new transparency exists. Since […]

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One of the great buzz words in recent elections at the municipal level has been “transparency”. Every candidate seems to promise that, should they be elected, there would be more transparency on council and in municipal government. After a few elections, it is very hard to see (pun intended) where this new transparency exists.

Since the current council came into power four years ago, nothing has actually changed in the way of promoting transparency in how they operate. While we now have the privilege and thrill of being able to actually watch Council meetings on-line, and enjoy each and every exciting moment of drama and the cut and thrust of intelligent debate, the sharing of visionary ideas and plans, one thing is lacking. There is no exciting moment of drama, nor the cut and thrust of intelligent debate, the sharing of visionary ideas and plans.

In fact, there have been more meetings closed to the public than ever before. The number of issues on which meetings can be thus closed has been increased, albeit not at the initiative of this council. Just a thought here: what has been introduced at the initiative of this council? Answers are welcome and deeply longed for.

Well, then, what is meant by transparency in the context of municipal politics? Are we, the residents, voters, citizens of North Grenville more informed about municipal governance, about how decisions are being made, or even about what decisions are being made? There are a number of areas where transparency could be increased, if there was a desire on the part of council and senior staff to do so.

The Municipal Act sets clear limits on what kind of information can be shared with the general public, and most of those limits are understandable. If the municipality is engaged in deciding on which company to award a contract for something, then it makes no business sense to let us all into the deliberations and thereby disarm the bureaucrats in their negotiations. If matters concerning personal matters relating to staff members are being discussed, then they have a certain right to confidentiality.

But this confidentiality has been taken to an alarming length recently, even in the matter of staff. In the recent past, North Grenville has parted company with a number of senior and junior staff, including a Director of Planning and a Treasurer. No explanation was given for these departures, in spite of the fact that serious questions had been raised about the activities and behaviour of the former official. It is unfair, both to the individuals involved, and especially to the citizens who paid their salaries, to refuse to explain the circumstances under which they left.

It is one thing to respect personal privacy and confidentiality: but it is quite another to simply refuse to comment in any way on the departures. Was there reason to dismiss officials, or did they depart on their own accord? If there were reasons, what was the cost to taxpayers, either in their activities leading to dismissal, or in severance payments made when they left? Are there on-going financial implications to their time with the municipality, implications that we taxpayers will be facing in the future?

The on-going experience of this kind of issue in Merrickville-Wolford is a classic example of the matter. A CAO is hired, and then placed on administrative leave within eighteen months. An inquiry is established and reports. At the same time, the CAO announces his resignation, giving as his reason a job offer elsewhere in an unnamed municipality. What are residents to make of this? Rumours surround these sudden departures, rumours which may be unfair to the officials concerned. But to simply ignore these legitimate questions put forward by residents is unfair to everyone. The fact that these are individuals earning over $100,000 per year in taxpayers money is an important factor here. There must be some accountability to residents, some explanation, however brief and without prejudice to all it may be.

When so many senior staffers leave any municipality in a short time, it has to be asked what leads to this exodus. Is it the corporate atmosphere, the unprofessional conduct of those leaving, the lure of a better-paid position elsewhere? In the absence of accountability and explanations, rumours, however unfair or inaccurate, will proliferate. This is not good for any community.

It is totally understandable that privacy is preserved during any investigation or inquiry. It is less understandable that, once decisions are taken and people leave, that no further mention is ever made by municipal officials or councils, no explanation proffered to the community, to explain what has happened. Have people been paid off to prevent litigation? Is there an innocent explanation for their departure? If so, in either case, we have a right to know. Surely this is possible without violating any of the precious clauses of the Municipal Act?

As we head into the next election, watch out for that word “transparency”, and be sure to ask what, precisely and in detail, candidates actually mean by it, and how it will make a difference in the future. Nothing has changed since 2014: no increase in opportunities to ask questions and get answers from council and staff. No increase in the willingness of either to recognise the public’s right to know what’s being done on their behalf and with their taxes in these matters. How many court cases, OMB hearings, or pay-offs have involved this municipality over the past four years? How many are still going on? Now that is an actual threat to the democratic rights of the residents of North Grenville.

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Revolution http://www.ngtimes.ca/revolution/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/revolution/#comments Wed, 13 Jun 2018 18:57:46 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=13064 We do live in interesting times, which, as you may know, is considered a curse in some cultures. In an incredibly fast process, the entire structure of international relations that had been built up since the end of the Second World War is tottering right before our eyes. The latest illustration, the recent G7 conference […]

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We do live in interesting times, which, as you may know, is considered a curse in some cultures. In an incredibly fast process, the entire structure of international relations that had been built up since the end of the Second World War is tottering right before our eyes. The latest illustration, the recent G7 conference in Quebec, underlined the fact that everything we have come to accept as normal in international affairs is rapidly being destroyed.

Historians will tell you that this is not unusual, much less unique: the comparative peace and prosperity which the West, in particular, has been enjoying since 1945 was both novel and illusory. The post-war reorganisation of alliances, through the United Nations and what has become the European Union, as well as the rise of the United States as the world’s superpower, was a remarkable achievement. It led to economic prosperity for the countries involved, a period of economic and social stability in Western Europe, and the growing belief that Democracy was the irresistible wave of the future for the rest of the planet.

Canadians could rest content in the knowledge that they shared the world’s longest undefended border with a close ally and economic partner, and was part of NATO, a strong military bulwark against Soviet and, later, Russian, aggression. Canada’s role in the United Nations, exemplified for many in its development of the concept of Peacekeeping, brought the country into a respected and rather safe position as a middle-power, admired and depended upon by other, smaller nations.

In short, we became quite complacent, believing that this was the norm, the way things were meant to be, and would always be. What we may not have noticed until very recently, is that the very prosperity and security we enjoyed and celebrated was also leading politicians, business people, and most of the population to become more self-centered and arrogant, less and less interested in anything that did not affect us directly. We are still arguing about climate change, refusing to take any serious measures to counter the effects in spite of growing evidence that our children will have to deal with some potentially catastrophic climatic conditions. Instead, we debate how much we really impact the whole climate change thing, and whether we need to actually sacrifice some level of comfort to protect the future.

We have watched the rise of the new Czar in Russia, a man who has grabbed total power, enriched thieves and mobsters in the process, and is determined to restore the glories, and boundaries, of the old USSR and the Empire of the Romanovs. He interferes in elections, encourages Brexit and the rise of Trumpworld, and does whatever it takes to undermine the stability and unity of the West. And he is successful.

We congratulated ourselves, until very recently, that China seemed to have abandoned the old Communism of Chairman Mao, and embraced a more capitalist and almost democratic path. The past months have shown the error of that belief, and we see that an autocratic ruler is slowly coming to dominate world economic systems, with little regard for human and civil rights.

Israel has been forgiven for gross human rights violations against Palestinians because, we are constantly told, it is the only democratic nation in the Middle East. This may be true, but is that an excuse for what has been happening on the West Bank and Gaza for decades? Are we just feeling guilty because we allowed the Holocaust to happen by turning a blind eye (and closed ports) to what was happening to the Jews of Europe?

But now, now we are suddenly faced with the unthinkable: our great neighbour and family member turning against Canada, calling us a threat to national security as an excuse for economic isolationism. Trump, that stain on humanity, has had nothing but praise for dictators and autocrats like Putin, and even called Kim Jong-Un “honourable”, while attacking the democratic leaders of the world. Whatever we think of our elected Prime Minister, to hear Trump denounce Trudeau, and by extension, Canada, as somehow an enemy of the US, after all Canadians have done to stand beside Americans in their many wars and conflicts, is so discouraging and indicates a fundamental change in how we live together on this planet. Yeats said it well many years ago:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
[The Second Coming, by W. B. Yeats, 1919]

When ignorance achieves the highest offices, and the evil and dominating ignore accepted norms of behaviour and respect, then a new age has dawned in our time. Mutual respect, honour, integrity and honesty: these are all traits we have gradually abandoned in social and political life. We are about to pay a high price, unless we rethink our ways and demand something better. Think globally and act locally, starting with our own neighbourhood.

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Tomorrow never knows http://www.ngtimes.ca/tomorrow-never-knows/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/tomorrow-never-knows/#comments Wed, 06 Jun 2018 18:45:17 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=12942 To all intents and purposes, one election is over and there’s at least one more to look forward to this year. The meeting of candidates, sponsored by the Times last week, was a fascinating exercise in popular democracy. There were the four individuals, vying for the votes of the audience in front of them. And […]

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To all intents and purposes, one election is over and there’s at least one more to look forward to this year. The meeting of candidates, sponsored by the Times last week, was a fascinating exercise in popular democracy. There were the four individuals, vying for the votes of the audience in front of them. And there were the voters, free and willing to question, assess, and, ultimately, judge the four on what they had to say, how they said it, and what impression they left behind.

The great thing about democratic elections is that it is one moment in time when we, the people, are in the driver’s seat. Once the votes are cast and counted, we usually become spectators, watching the elected act as if we don’t exist, or maybe just don’t matter. They disappear into that famous bubble, a world of their own in which they can easily develop rather undemocratic ideas about their role in society.

This is a pity, because I think the meeting last week worked well for all sides: the dialogue was positive and fruitful, and the candidates could get a feel for the mood of the people. If only the eventual winners in elections would continue that dialogue, instead of thinking they don’t need to listen anymore. Because it was very clear that night who those four people were, and, at times, how they felt about each other.

The municipal election in October will be another opportunity for voters to question, assess and judge, and for candidates to listen, respond and gauge the mood. What is the mood? Well, I think people want to see members of council represent them, not become spokespeople for bureaucrats. The article about the Kemptville College Alumni in this issue does not paint a good picture of our CAO. We need a council that leads and directs staff, and deals with this kind of behaviour; the problem is that there has been a vacuum of leadership that has allowed, or even demanded, that staff take on more responsibility than is good in a democracy.

It was noteworthy that, at the candidates meeting, Steve Clark responded to Anouk Tremblay, Trustee for the French Catholic School Board, by stating clearly that he believes that the Board have been unfairly treated by the municipality by not including them more fully in plans for the Kemptville Campus property.

Councils can also outlive their useful lives and need to be replenished, especially ones that have such a poor record of activity and accomplishment. The beauty of democracy is that this can happen with each election: not necessarily through a change of personnel, but maybe with one or two new faces to introduce new ideas (or any ideas) and vision to a tired and blinkered set-up.

The current council will have a clear advantage over the coming months: they are in place and can use that advantage to raise their profile in the community. Appearances at every public event will become the norm. Awards and celebrations will feature members of council that have not been seen so much since the last campaign. There will be a sudden interest shown in every event, story, presentation, and opening for the next few months, while the challengers work hard at becoming known to the voters.

I understand that there is a candidates’ meeting being planned in October, so the Times may not have one also. We will try and interview all those running for office, as we believe that residents need a chance to get to know the individuals asking for their vote, and to put on record the many promises, plans and predictions that will be made during the campaign.

In this way, the eventual winners in October can be held to answer for their success or failure to follow through on campaign statements.

In the coming months, we will be reviewing the interviews we conducted with current members of council during the last election campaign and reporting on their track record in keeping promises made at that time. Of course, there are always reasons, valid or otherwise, that can be given for not doing what was promised. It is a standard excuse that, once in office, the actual facts of the situation are found to be much worse than expected; or the budget suddenly wouldn’t allow for what was planned. Perhaps councillors came to a sudden and unhappy confrontation with the Municipal Act, which meant that their plans were incapable of fulfilment.

These, and other, statements should be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt, as should extravagant claims by challengers about the wonderful miracles they intend to preform if elected. Really, when you think about it, this whole democracy thing is a lot of hard work! And I don’t mean for the politicians. You just can’t afford to take your eyes off them for a minute. Oh well, roll on October 22!

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For what it’s worth http://www.ngtimes.ca/for-what-its-worth/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/for-what-its-worth/#comments Wed, 30 May 2018 18:57:29 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=12820 Last week’s coverage of the Kemptville BIA Budget issue seems to have generated some heat, as well as some light. It will be remembered that members of Council cut the BIA budget to reduce the Executive Director’s remuneration to a minimum wage level, and did away entirely with the funding for the Pop-Up Shop program. […]

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Last week’s coverage of the Kemptville BIA Budget issue seems to have generated some heat, as well as some light. It will be remembered that members of Council cut the BIA budget to reduce the Executive Director’s remuneration to a minimum wage level, and did away entirely with the funding for the Pop-Up Shop program. The response to this move has been receiving quite a lot of attention on social media sites since last week’s paper.

Overall, the public response has been sharply critical of Council and their unprecedented changes in the BIA budget. There has also been a lot of requests for clarification concerning the nature of the funding that the BIA receives through the Municipality, with some people upset at the idea that taxpayer money is being used to pay a contractor in a not-for-profit organisation.

The truth is that the BIA receives no taxpayer money whatsoever. Its budget comes from a levy on building owners and some businesses within the BIA area of downtown Kemptville. The Municipality collects and passes on this funding to the BIA Board of Management, who are all volunteers, voted into position by members. It is, or should be, the members decision as to how that money is to be spent, and if they think they need a part-time contractor to operate as Executive Director, it has been the norm that they are free to decide that. The Municipality does not provide grants to the BIA. No taxes are used to fund the BIA.

Having members of Council arbitrarily change the submitted budget is unheard of, however legal it may be technically. Barb Tobin posted a very lengthy justification of council’s actions on a Facebook page last week, in which she pointed out that the budget in previous years had given an unclear idea of what the management fee was for, and she complained that the fee took up an unacceptable percentage of the total BIA budget.

That is not her business, and if a minimum wage position eats up most, almost all, of the budget, then it is clear that the BIA is underfunded, not that the ED is overpaid. It would be impossible to imagine getting a qualified person to work for less than minimum wage, considering the hours worked, and the effort expended on the position. It is not up to council to decide how the funds are to be used, in any case. That is one of the problems the BIA found with council’s interference.

The other main objection to council’s arbitrary action was that they did not see fit to consult with the BIA Board before making the cuts. No-one from council, including their representative on the BIA Board, Donovan Arnaud, warned the BIA that there was an issue with the budget. This could have prevented the ambush at council and the resulting strained relations. Council do not come out of this looking either fair, competent, or informed.

Another outcome of last week’s coverage was a renewal of the on-going debate about objectivity versus subjectivity in reporting in the media, with some posters objecting to editorials (like this one) which take a position on issues. What do people mean by “objectivity”, exactly? Should we simply (as other media outlets do) report “he said…then she said…then he said…”? I agree with the poster who suggested that people look at the video of those council meetings: I disagree that what I wrote misrepresents what was said and done there. What a newspaper has to do is give a context, a sense of what things mean. It would be easy to simply repeat whatever is said by any party, without having to point out that what they said was inaccurate, incorrect, or a plain lie. Should we do that, to preserve our “objectivity”?

I believe the media have a duty to inform, not just print reports without analysis. As a working historian, I have a deep respect for sources, footnotes, context. I hope we are past the days in this community when a reporter will be called to the mayor or councillor’s office after a meeting and be told what should be written.

Everyone, and that does mean everyone, is perfectly welcome to write articles, letters or Facebook posts on whatever they see fit to discuss, and we will print them. But remember this, please: we are privy to a lot of information that we do not print, for various reasons. We are also in a position to know more of what is going on behind the scenes than is obvious in the choreographed performances in the Municipal Centre Theatre. Disagree as much as you want with the opinions expressed in these Op-Ed (Opinion-Editorial) pieces. In fact, I’m sure if some people paid closer attention to the titles used in Editorials, they might get even more out of them! At least there is a forum in which residents can agree or disagree, can debate and be informed by various shades of opinion. That is the role of a free press. Instead of objecting, get involved and write. As our critics have found in the past, in these pages and on our social media platforms, you will be allowed to speak your mind, without fear or favour. That is what a free press means in a free democracy.

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Municipality ambushes BIA http://www.ngtimes.ca/municipality-ambushes-bia/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/municipality-ambushes-bia/#comments Thu, 24 May 2018 19:00:58 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=12703 You may have read elsewhere about the changes made by the Municipal Council to the proposed annual budget for the Kemptville Business Improvement Area [BIA]. Unfortunately, these reports have failed to disclose the actual context and content of the situation. In effect, an attack was launched by members of council on the BIA Board, and, […]

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You may have read elsewhere about the changes made by the Municipal Council to the proposed annual budget for the Kemptville Business Improvement Area [BIA].

Unfortunately, these reports have failed to disclose the actual context and content of the situation. In effect, an attack was launched by members of council on the BIA Board, and, in particular, on John Barclay, their Executive Director. In what has been called an “unprecedented” move, council cut the BIA budget, ending a successful business attraction project, the Pop-up Shops, and reducing the Executive Director’s salary to a minimum wage position.

This attack on the BIA and its reputation was both unwarranted and politically-motivated, as the focus on John Barclay cannot be separated from the knowledge that he is due to run for a position on Council in October’s election. The insinuations put forward by Barb Tobin, Frank Onasanya and David Gordon, that somehow John Barclay’s company had been improperly taking an unfair share of the BIA budget was both crass and inaccurate, and only served to make them look petty and vindictive.

On May 7, during the Committee of the Whole meeting, the Chair and Treasurer of the BIA presented their annual budget to Council. Because of municipal timing, an audited copy of the budget was only available that day, and the named councillors jumped on what they claimed were inaccuracies and suspicious data in the submission, arguing that the BIA had been irresponsible in their finances. In fact, much of what they were asserting was itself inaccurate and rather self-serving. For example, they claimed that the management fees, paid to John Barclay’s company, had risen between 2016 and 2017 from $15,000 to $21,866. In fact, the rise was much less than that, as the 2016 amount was for 9 months and that of 2017 was for 12 months. This fact was ignored by Tobin, Gordon and Onasanya. The budget for 2018 allowed for Management fees of $20,500.

This did not stop Tobin from commenting on the fees paid to Triune (John Barclay’s company), which she described as “quite hefty”, and went on to say: “There’s not a member of council sitting here at this table that makes that money, so it’s just interesting”. What does she mean, “interesting”? That’s quite the innuendo. Note that Tobin was paid $20,655.83 as a Councillor in 2017, and that is also “interesting”, as she says. It is highly unprofessional, unethical and lacking in character to throw those innuendos into an official meeting, specially when they are based on, let’s say, inaccuracies.

Behind all of their claims against the BIA, council refused to make the point that paying an Executive Director, who is responsible for promoting the economic development of the downtown area, at the rate of $20 an hour was hardly a competitive wage. Deciding to reduce the position to a minimum wage job is not going to help in that work, or to attract more qualified people to the position. It seemed that they were saying that the economic future of downtown Kemptville was not worth a proper salary for a well-qualified and hard-working Director.

The cancellation of the Pop-up program was also unexpected, as it had seemed from their personal participation in opening these stores that David Gordon and members of Council fully appreciated what they meant to the economic life of Kemptville. Cutting the funding of this program was a complete surprise to the BIA Board, as it was one of the more successful projects that had been undertaken under the direction of John Barclay, and the sudden change in the budget leaves the entire project without life support.

Council, on May 7, instructed municipal staff to prepare an administrative report on the BIA, which certainly seemed to be an unwelcome and vague directive, given the response of CAO, Brian Carré. He asked for clarification of what, precisely, council were asking from staff. The resulting report, prepared by Director of Planning Phil Gerard, was clearly a rushed job, as it contained a number of inaccuracies and incorrect statistics, which the BIA Board attempted to correct before the Council meeting on May 14. However, in a surprising and unprecedented move, Council voted through the changes to the BIA budget.

The BIA Board have been stunned, and quite insulted, by the clear attack on their professionalism and management of BIA funds, and John Barclay has been tainted with a clearly unfair insinuation that he is has been improperly profiting from his work with the BIA, something which the Board has been very quick to deny.

The basic fact is that the BIA is not sufficiently supported by the municipality to do the kind of work expected of them. In order to have a proper level of expertise in the position of Executive Director, too much of their meagre funding has to be used to fund that position. Council’s decision to cut their budget even further only makes their situation worse, and undermines all the good work they have been doing to promote the commercial future of downtown Kemptville. The reverberations of these actions will be felt for a long time. North Grenville deserves better than this.

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Please please me http://www.ngtimes.ca/please-please-me/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/please-please-me/#comments Wed, 16 May 2018 18:57:04 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=12537 We are now officially launched into the Year of Elections. Provincially, this riding now has a full slate of candidates nominated by their respective parties and election signs have already started to sprout all over the place. Details on these brave souls and the all candidates meeting being held on May 31 will be found […]

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We are now officially launched into the Year of Elections. Provincially, this riding now has a full slate of candidates nominated by their respective parties and election signs have already started to sprout all over the place. Details on these brave souls and the all candidates meeting being held on May 31 will be found elsewhere in this issue, and we will continue to update you on the list of municipal candidates as they sign up over the next few months.

The sad and shocking death of Gord Brown underlines the commitment being made by these men and women, who seek our vote. But Gord said something that I think needs to be kept in the forefront of our thinking as we review the candidates between now and the end of October. “You know, there’s people who want to be in politics because they want to be somebody. And there’s people who want to get into politics because they want to do something.”

Our job, as citizens, is to try and discover which is which, among those who seek our endorsement: who wants to do something, and who wants to be somebody? It is far too easy to underestimate the importance of the franchise – the right to cast a ballot and help choose those who represent us as a people and a community. In this country, and in this very region, there was a time, and not so long ago, when most of us would not have been allowed to vote in this way. It was a privilege reserved for those who were considered to have a stake in the country, the rich and powerful, the property owners with enough acreage or town lands to be worth entrusting with such a valuable power.

Even when their “inferiors” were granted a vote, there was no secret ballot: they had to stand up in front of their employers, their landlords, their neighbours and “betters”, and declare out loud who they were voting for. This public declaration took place at a meeting that too often involved violence and widespread intimidation, so that the choice of representative was not really theirs at all.

Much struggle and sacrifice by our forefathers and mothers was required before we reached the freedom to vote our conscience that we enjoy now. It is remarkable to remember that, on May 24 this year, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Canadian women getting the right to vote in federal elections. Women were not considered “persons” under the British North America Act until 1929. Women in Quebec could not vote in provincial elections until 1940! Indigenous Canadians didn’t get the right to vote until the 1950’s!

This is not something we should ever take for granted. Nor should we think that one vote doesn’t matter: it does, because it is yours, and no-one can choose for you. It is not so much that your choice of candidate is elected, it is that you made your choice known, and had a say in who governs in your name. If you don’t like the choice, you can vote again in a few years time. Think about this: the majority of people in the world today have no such power or right as you do. That is worth something.

It is equally important that we choose wisely, and in an informed way. Blind adherence to party is often a cop-out. General party policies are important considerations, of course; but we want representatives at all levels who will, as Gord said, actually do something, not just warm a seat and bask in the glory of their position. Will they speak out on behalf of those who elected them? Do they have the vision and imagination to initiate and follow through on election promises? Elections are the only time when politicians have to answer to us for what they’ve done, if incumbents, or what they promise to do, if elected. Face them with past promises, or practical questions about their plans.

Nor should we simply vote for whoever says things to please us at the time. It’s easy for candidates to say all the right things in order to gain our vote. There’s a warning about a time when, “to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear”. That famous quote from the questionable democrat, Winston Churchill, holds true for us today: “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

This will be an interesting year of elections. The make-up of our population is changing rapidly, and older traditions and patterns of voting are changing. There is a possibility that this campaign could throw up some fascinating debates and ideas. Be sure to come out to the all candidates meeting on May 31 and play your part, if only by listening carefully to what’s being said. To cast an informed vote, we need to be informed. That is our privilege and duty. Once past the provincial contest, we have a whole other period of electioneering for the municipal vote on October 22. Now, that should be really interesting.

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Gord Brown – a last few words http://www.ngtimes.ca/gord-brown-a-last-few-words/ http://www.ngtimes.ca/gord-brown-a-last-few-words/#comments Wed, 09 May 2018 19:00:11 +0000 http://www.ngtimes.ca/?p=12414 Gord Brown served this riding as a Member of Parliament for almost fourteen years. He was a member of the Committee on Canadian Heritage from 2004, and was Chair from 2013-2015. He also sat as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. No matter what political party you support, every […]

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Gord Brown served this riding as a Member of Parliament for almost fourteen years. He was a member of the Committee on Canadian Heritage from 2004, and was Chair from 2013-2015. He also sat as a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. No matter what political party you support, every resident of the riding has to acknowledge the tremendous contribution this man made to our common society. Gord would have been just 58 years old at the end of August, but he died on May 2 in his office on Parliament Hill of a heart attack.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Gord during the last federal election campaign in 2015. We sat in the North Grenville Archives and I asked him why, after serving at that point for eleven years, he wanted to continue as an M.P. My question was: What do you want to accomplish and why do you want to go on? His answer, in part, was: “That’s a very good question. I served in municipal politics for two terms before I was elected to the House of Commons. In the interim, I served as the Chair of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, which runs Fort Henry and Upper Canada Village. So, I’ve effectively been in politics for more than 22 years. One of the things that I enjoy is serving. You know, there are people who want to be in politics because they want to be somebody. And there are people who want to get into politics because they want to do something. I’m one of those who want to do something: I don’t want to stop doing things. I’m proud of my record. There’s a lot more to do. I still have the passion for the job, I’m still enthused about it and I still like serving. I want to continue to do that”.

His workload was significant, especially for a man with a wife and two young sons. The work took so much of his time, I asked him if it was difficult to represent a riding that is geographically diverse.

“It is a challenge and it is a lot of work to be out and about all the time. I go to Ottawa and I’m there from Monday to Thursday or Friday, depending on how many days the House is sitting that week. And then I come home and get on the road for most of the weekend. I have a young family and I try to bring them with me as much as I can. My 3-year old, especially, likes getting out and about. He likes meeting people, so maybe there’s a future for him in politics.”

Gord’s passions included the history and heritage of Canada, and of this region in particular. He spoke about that, too: “In terms of historic sites, [the riding] has what I think is the largest concentration of national historic sites and parks in Canada, if you look at the Rideau Canal, Fort Wellington in Prescott, the Battle of the Windmill site, the Mill in Delta. Education is so important for young people to understand where our country was. For me, it’s something I am very passionate about.” Gord was proud of the fact that he was part of the initiative that provided funding for renovating the Rideau Canal and the Battle of the Windmill site.

He was also very involved in promoting agricultural issues and the issue of local food was high on his list of concerns. He spoke of one of his projects as an M.P.: “In terms of agriculture, I regularly meet with our federations of agriculture in both Leeds and in Grenville. Yearly, I’ve co-hosted Farmers Day on the Hill, because members like myself, who come from an agricultural community, understand the issues of agriculture and the challenges they face. But many of the Members of Parliament come from urban centres, and don’t know the first thing about farming and the challenges farmers have in producing the food for all of Canada. The slogan is: “Farmers feed cities”, and that’s true, but the members from cities often don’t know the issues, so I’m happy to take those to Ottawa.”

I wondered if there was a danger of complacency, running in a riding that was so strongly Conservative. His answer was definite: “I never take it for granted. In my first federal election, I lost by 55 votes. Every election is different, the issues are always different: it’s unpredictable. I’ve never taken the people of Leeds & Grenville for granted. And after the election, I won’t take them for granted if I am, once again, successful to be able to serve. I can tell you: I will work hard as I have every day during the election and as I will for the remainder of the term.”

Sadly, that term was never completed, and we lost a good friend and neighbour. We will now have to deal with a by-election, possibly around the same time the municipal election will be taking place. As we consider the candidates who will be standing in those, and in the provincial election next month, it would be good to remember Gord Brown, and what a decision to serve the community in politics means for the men and women who take on that role.

Thank you to Gord’s wife, Claudine, and his two sons Chance, and Tristan, for sharing him with us at such a high cost.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

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