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Local democracy

To the editor:

I was at the last public meeting that Champlain Township organized regarding Colacem’s zoning change application to see a cement plant built on Highway 17.

I was impressed to see the number of citizens in attendance: 350 in the school gymnasium, standing room only and close to 100 outside the building.                                                                                                                                      It was clear to everyone that the majority of the Township’s residents were not in favour of the requested change to the county’s Official Zoning Plan. Not in favour of the proposed Cement Plant.
I was impressed to see our democratic process at work.                                                                                                                       I remember hearing Phil Arber indicate to council that he, who tirelessly worked to build his community, to encourage its sense of community and promote it far and wide, would no longer be able to do so, if Champlain Township was to vote for the zoning change.

I knew Phil as a man of his word and imagine how hard it must have been for him to say as much. Well, I have to say he would have been happy to see the Champlain Council at work on January 24.
I know that what would have impressed him most was the overwhelming decision of all but two councillors to do what good municipal level politicians are meant to do in a well functioning democracy: represent the views, interests and wishes of those who elected them to office. Nothing more, nothing less.

On the morning of the day that followed the Champlain Township’s decision, the Prescott-Russell Counties’ government, in less than ten minutes, and with no debate whatsoever, voted to ignore the decision of the Champlain Township and the clearly expressed wishes of the majority of the Township’s citizens. The one question raised came from Casselman’s mayor who asked if a cedar hedge would be planted on site to improve the curb appeal of the site. No more was asked, no more was said. No debate. Given that the Colacem submission clearly spoke to that matter, he obviously either didn’t read the Colacem submission, didn’t understand what he was reading or simply wanted to hear himself speak at the Counties’ meeting before he voted to dismiss his fellow municipality’s (Champlain) decision and instead support a zoning change.
While the municipalities most affected by the presence of the cement plant clearly stood in solidarity with Champlain, such was not enough to see the least affected of their peers vote to see the Counties accept the requested zoning change.
That said, I have a few concluding remarks.  I hope the decision will be appealed. That the Prescott-Russell Counties’ elected officials stop wasting the time that they do to read the Counties’ Mission statement at the beginning of their meetings when they so blatantly choose to ignore any allegiance to, or consideration of same in the proceedings that follow. This is particularly sad at the local municipal/county level of government where our elected officials are not tied to voting along party lines. Saddest of all, to me, is to see how little the voice of the people most affected means in what is a called democratic process. No wonder people lose faith in their leaders and cease exercising their right to vote. No wonder they believe that the only interests that count are those of large moneyed corporations. No wonder the word community means so little to so many.
Gary Champagne,

L’Orignal


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