To The Editor,

A municipal election is coming up in Champlain Township. The 22nd of October, I believe. Now, while I myself always vote, I know there are some who don’t. Can’t be bothered. Makes no difference. Politicians, they’re all the same, some would say. While I don’t agree (at least, not completely), this time around you might want to re-think that opinion.

A quick look at a map might help. Champlain Township, and a couple of our sister municipalities, lie almost exactly mid-way between Ottawa and Montreal. With each year that passes, these two cities grow. The suburbs expand, new bedroom communities are built, new commercial  sectors laid out and the cities creep closer. And so, the land in between  these cities (that’s us) becomes more likely for development. In fact, it’s inevitable. Development is coming, and fairly soon, to our beautiful green and blue countryside, like it or not.

Now, there is nothing we can do about that. Geography is geography. Its just a fact of life. And not necessarily a bad fact of life either. Development could bring jobs for our young people, money spent in and around our communities and, of course, tax dollars. And, again with a quick look at that map, you can see why land developers, especially if they were vigorously helped and encouraged by our politicians, might be interested in our corner of the world. We sit within an hour’s drive of two of Canada’s richest cities, which each year generate thousands of fairly well off retirees. People who no longer have to live and work in the cities but want to be able to easily visit them for family, friends or entertainment. So where might they like to live?  Its green out here, it’s peaceful, our air is clean, the river and the mountains are gorgeous, it’s an easy drive to either Ottawa or Montreal, we sit right on the border with the rich culture of Quebec (but not in Quebec so our taxes are lower), our population is fluently bilingual so your preferred language doesn’t matter, we are close to the 401, the US border, two international airports, golf, boating, swimming, fishing, biking or just strolling along the beautiful Prescott Russell Trail. We have it all.

Our township in particular and the whole area in general, as a result of all the above attractions, has got retirement condos and retirement villages written all over it. We are ideally located for such things. Perhaps even, given our excellent transportation links, commuter villages are a possibility. And if retirement communities were attracted to our area, those retirees would want other things like golf courses, marinas, health care facilities, parks, professional services, good shopping, etc. And having moved out here and set up a home, they don’t change their minds and move out at the drop of a hat. Retirement (or commuter) communities would bring long-term commercial money, long-term tax dollars, stability and hundreds and hundreds of good-paying long term jobs.

The end game? Yes, we are going to be developed, like it or not. But we could keep our beautiful countryside, our clean air and river. You would still be able to stand on Vankleek Hill and see much the same beautiful view as you can see right now.So what did the last batch of politicians come up with? A cement plant.

They went for a cement plant? The biggest, ugliest, dirtiest industrial dinosaur around? A polluter of epic proportions that routinely trashes environments as a normal business practice? Why not just opt for a nuclear waste dump and finish us off altogether?

A cement plant? Forget green and beautiful. Forget clean air and water. Forget happy, prosperous communities and above all, forget hundreds of well-paying, long-term jobs in construction, service industries, tourism, professional offices and the like. Nothing develops anywhere within eye sight (or smell) of a cement plant. In fact, just the opposite happens. And when, several years back, a cement plant company showed up with a bag full of promises, some local mayors voted in favour of a needed zoning change to see the project move forward.

Is that the best our politicians can do? Is that the best we can do? I hope not. I think not. Every candidate for the Champlain Township council, whether for mayor or councillor (and remembering our new mayor will sit on the UCPR council) should be asked point-blank where they stand on development and in particular on this cement plant. No waffling accepted. Either they are just like some of the last bunch or they actually love our township and want it to both grow economically AND stay a healthy, beautiful place for us and our children to live.

So should you bother to vote on October the 22nd? Yes, you should and tell your friends and neighbours to get out and vote as well. It has never been more important than now. Ready or not, development is coming and coming soon. And the people we choose in this election are the ones who will guide and direct the kind of development we get. So this time, we better get it right.

Colin Affleck,
Citizen of Champlain Township

Editor’s Note:

Municipal elections are taking place across Ontario. Election Day is officially October 22, but locally, electronic (by internet) and telephone voting will begin on Wednesday, October 17, 2018 at 9:00 a.m. and will continue up to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, October 22, 2018 (Voting Day).

Champlain Township councillors did not approve zoning changes needed for the Colacem cement plant to move to the next steps. At the United Counties of Prescott-Russell meeting in June 2017, Champlain Mayor Gary Barton, Hawkesbury Mayor Jeanne Charlebois, and East Hawkesbury Robert Kirby voted against Colacem’s requested change, and every other member of council (five other mayors) voted in favour. Because recorded votes at the United Counties are weighted based on population, Colacem’s requested amendment was approved 19-7.

Colacem is appealing Champlain Township’s decision and Action Champlain (a citizens’ group against the proposed plant) is appealing the United Counties of Prescott-Russell decision. Both appeals will be heard at an Ontario Municipal Board appeal set for September 2018.

Read the June 2017 story from the United Counties of Prescott-Russell meeting here.