What are we voting for in this election? Is it just to pick five people to carry on the same as before? If so, does it really matter who gets in and who loses? I honestly think we can’t simply go on as we have been doing. There is so much happening behind the scenes, behind the gag orders, closed council meetings and sudden departures of senior staff. North Grenville is at a pivotal point in its history. For many years now, we’ve been concentrating on development: Green and Growing, and Where Lifestyle Grows Good Business. These are the official mottos municipal and county government has adopted, but they are far from the real world of residents, taxpayers and business people.
Behind the scenes there is a great deal of anger, fear and frustration among people doing business with the Municipality. The Planning Department are throwing out arbitrary demands on new development, new businesses, people trying to create work and economic growth in the community. Rules and red tape are hampering growth, unnecessarily and with a dreadful lack of professional competence. The problem is that those affected by this are afraid to speak out in public for fear of retribution in future. If they speak, then perhaps the next time they need planning permission, or a zoning application, they will face even more obstruction.
An organisation like the Kemptville BIA were treated like irresponsible children by the current council. Programs like the Pop-Up Shop, which had helped establish award-winning businesses in downtown Kemptville, had their budget abolished, and were expected to hire someone to direct their operations on minimum wages. The precise financial situation in which the municipality finds itself is a matter of confusion and uncertainty. Taxes have to go up by a minimum of 2% a year, we’re told, yet we have new positions created on the municipal staff which will alone use up that 2%.
Houses are being crammed into Kemptville in ways that were not approved in original planning applications, and no green spaces or affordable housing is being included in these projects, in spite of the Official Plan requirements. Imagine: perhaps as many as 2,000 new homes have been approved for the North West Quadrant before County Road 43 is expanded. Imagine, too, what it will be like when 43 is dug up and construction makes travelling to and from the 416 even more difficult than it is now. We need leaders who think ahead, who know what they’re doing. Some are describing the atmosphere in the Municipal Centre as toxic, and the fear is that good people there will leave if things don’t change.
There are so many other things that need to be addressed, but aren’t. So much that is not being communicated to the people of the community that they need to know. This paper cannot print much of it, because few people will speak on the record. But we know.
The change that’s needed is not just about members of Council: there is need of a change in culture, in the way things are done and organised in North Grenville. It is long past time when candidates should get away with promising more transparency and consultation with residents: once elected, they carry on as usual. Nothing significant has changed in our political life as a community for more than a decade. The saddest part is that most have given up expecting change. Most have stopped even paying attention. This has to change.
It is clear, only too clear, that change will not take place if the current council is returned. Aside from Jim Bertram, who has tried new things, and succeeded in part in spite of opposition from his colleagues, no-one now serving on the municipal council deserves to remain. They cannot continue to claim credit for progress that others have made possible. They cannot continue to rule over their citizens with an arrogance and condescension that says we have no right to criticise them, or question their competency.
North Grenville needs a new start, representatives who know what Green means, as well as Growing, and can keep a balance between them. People who know that lifestyle is about more than just business. People who think, who care, who take the trouble to find out what our concerns are, what we want to see happen in our community. Current members of council may be nice people, but they have failed the people who elected them. After four, eight, or even longer on council, they have proved themselves incapable of the change that we need to see. We have a choice on October 22. We have to think carefully about our future and who is capable of bringing us there. We are working hard towards making this place even better than it already is (and it really is a great place), but we are being let down by those who should be looking after our interests. We need a change. North Grenville deserves better.