One of the issues that will come up during this municipal election campaign is the future of County Road 43 as it passes through Kemptville. It seems like years, and it has been years, since the plans for expanding the road were revealed with a flourish of publicity. The plans and sketches were impressive: roundabouts, four lanes, a new bridge (or two) over the South Branch, and facilities for pedestrians trying to cross an already-busy stretch of highway.
The Municipality of North Grenville has applied for funding from the Province at least three times in the time since those plans were first displayed, and, each time, they have been turned down. Reasons given were that North Grenville was doing so well financially that we didn’t need the financial assistance as much as some other communities around the province. Evidence for our prosperity was found in the fact that the Council had not increased our taxes in most years, and had, in fact, reduced them in some others.
This was before the new Councillors elected in 2014 discovered that we were in a precarious state, budget-wise, and forced through a 6.13% tax increase. But that didn’t lead to buckets of money being released by the province to pay for the new four-lane 43 project. There were those who believed that the traditional Conservative-leaning North Grenville was being punished by the Liberal Government at Queen’s Park, and there may have been some truth in that, who knows? But then came the recent election and not only was a Conservative Government installed, but our own M.P.P., Steve Clark, was named Minister of Municipal Affairs.
It didn’t take long for some to declare that funds for 43 would soon be flowing, as Minister Clark was very aware of the growing urgency of the 43 expansion project, and had referred to it during the election. Others were not so sure that Minister Clark was keen to provide the current Mayor and friends with a pre-election gift of their own. One experienced local resident and one-time municipal politician took the obvious step of contacting Mr. Clark’s office to find out directly what the hopes were of a start to the expansion work.
He had heard candidates claim that Steve Clark had guaranteed millions of dollars for North Grenville, and he posed a few questions as a result:
At this time is there money set aside in the provincial budget for the United Counties to proceed immediately with this project? How much? Will the province require Federal contribution to this project? Are you prepared to announce to the press and residents that money is committed by the province to go forward. Have you approved a timetable for, land acquisition, utility enhancement and relocation, bridge widening etc? Will new Environmental Assessments have to be done if existing ones are no longer valid?
Mr. Clark’s office responded with a dash of cold water. “The commitment MPP Clark made during the recent campaign was to work during this term to ensure the County Road 43 project is completed. Certainly, federal funding would be key to move forward…In terms of your questions about the project itself, I can tell you it has been described to MPP Clark as shovel ready by the United Counties. However, you would need to direct specific questions to them as they are overseeing it.”
Our correspondent sums up the situation simply: Basically it boils down to Mr. Clark agreeing that he will continue to work towards a start for this project during his four year term. He also confirms that funds will be required for this project from the federal government and that is certainly two or three years out. County council has not established a reserve for this project and I doubt that a majority of council members will agree to such a commitment. Describing the project as shovel ready is a joke, just think of the property that has to be purchased for road widening and sidewalks etc. Should any candidate be proclaiming that he/or she has a guarantee that this project will go ahead then such a claim is a gross exaggeration.”