The Save our Prison Farms activists, a collection of farmers, prison rights activists, and community activists of various sorts from Kingston and the surrounding region, began fighting what looked like a doomed battle when the Federal Conservative government, under Stephen Harper, indicated they were bound and determined to close the prison farms in Kingston and other locations across the country.
It was 2009, and the Conservatives were entrenched in power and unafraid of a bunch of rag tag protesters parading around Kingston with placards, blocking the entrance-way to prisons, and packing meeting halls.
The protesters were doubly angry. They were angry that the farms were being shut down, and they were angry that the government was saying agriculture was a dead industry that had become irrelevant in terms of employment.
A year later the farms were gone, but the protests never stopped. The purchase of 23 cows from the Colllins bay herd seemed at the time like a pipe dream, but the people who donated $300 each to buy the animals were happy to invest, and the farmers who took the animals on were bound and determined to maintain the unique genetics of the Collins Bay animals.
Now, in the words of Jeff Peters, the most stubborn of the Save Our Prison Farm activists (he went to jail 3 times) “the cows are ready to go back to prison”.
Except, instead of 23, there are now 33 animals, ready to be reunited at Collins Bay.
When the Harper government was replaced 2 1/2 years ago, the hope was that the effort would soon be over, but even though the new government made sympathetic noises from the start, and local MP Mark Gerretson had supported the prison farms while he was Mayor of Kingston and made them part of his election campaign, But it wasn’t until this week’s budget that it was confirmed. The money is finally in the budget, the farms will be re-opened, the activists have waited and waited and it is time for the cows to come home.
Mark Gerretson said on Tuesday that the credit for all of this must go to the activists, and for once a politician has done a good job of deflecting credit instead of deflecting blame.
The community effort to bring back the farms was uniformly solid, well planned and unyielding. And it will remain that way. The funding is in place, but the details need to be worked out. And the Save Our Prison Farm folks are determined to make sure the new program is a good one.
The Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), at its annual inaugural meeting held last week in Kingston, elected Warden Robin Jones as the 2018 Chair and Warden Jennifer Murphy as the 2018 Vice-Chair.
Robin Jones is the Warden of the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, and the Mayor of the Village of Westport. Jennifer Murphy is the Warden of the County of Renfrew, and Mayor of the Township of Bonnechere Valley.
The role of the Chair and Vice-Chair, elected on an annual basis, is to provide the main point of focus and contact for the Caucus and ensure that the established key priorities move forward.
“I am honoured to chair the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus in 2018, alongside my colleagues, and to advocate for this year’s priorities in support of the 750,000 property taxpayers across rural Eastern Ontario,” stated Chair Jones, elected as the EOWC’s first female chair since its incorporation in 2008.
“As we are aware, 2018 is a critical year for both the Province of Ontario and the municipal sector, with elections scheduled for both levels of government. That being said, the EOWC has restructured its focus and made its priorities very clear, and intends to send a loud and clear message to its partners at Queen’s Park.”
Two priorities were established for the Caucus in the coming year:
Building the EORN Cellular and Public Safety Broadband Network: The EOWC will continue to support the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) on its $299-million business case to the Provincial and Federal governments, which would close the many cellular network gaps, boost mobile broadband service across Eastern Ontario, and increase public safety for residents and first responders during emergencies.
Implementing the Eastern Ontario Economic Development Strategy: The EOWC will continue to support the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council (EOLC) in its ongoing implementation of the recommendations outlined in the Regional Economic Development Strategy – the first regional plan of its kind across Ontario. By helping securing financial support from the Province, the strategy’s implementation would address Eastern Ontario’s future economic development needs, being a) workforce development and deployment, b) technology integration and innovation, and c) integrated, intelligent transportation systems.
The last time we all went to the polls was for the Federal election way back in the fall of 2015, when the 10 year old Steven Harper led Conservative government was tossed out in favour of the Liberals under Justin Trudeau. This year the 14.5 year run of the Ontario Liberals, during which time Dalton McGuinty was elected 3 times and current Premier Kathleen Wynne one time, will be on the line on June 7th. Riding redistribution, which came into effect federally in that 2015 election, will be mirrored at Queen’s Park after this coming election. Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington Conservative MPP Randy Hillier will be contesting the new Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding against Amanda Pulker-Mok of the Liberals, Anita Payne of the Green Party, a still un-named NDP candidate, and perhaps other independent or small party candidates who may come out of the woodwork in the run up to the election.
Our readers in Addington Highlands will be part of the new provincial riding of Hastings, Lennox and Addington (HL&A). Former Conservative Federal Member of Parliament Daryl Kramp, who lost the Federal election in the HL&A riding to Mike Bossio in 2015, was chosen last August as the Conservative candidate in the new provincial riding, and has been campaigning ever since. The other parties have not selected candidates as of yet.
While the local election will not heat up until the writ period, which starts in early May, on a provincial level the contest has been under way for at least a year, perhaps longer.
The thinking as recently as 3 months ago was that the Liberals were headed to certain defeat to the Conservatives, but the polls have tightened since then. We will be watching the provincial election over the next few months, reporting as the candidates surface for the various parties, and trying to get a sense of how riding redistribution will affect the local race.
In the 2015 Federal election, The Lanark Frontenac Kingston riding went to Scott Reid, the long serving Conservative Party incumbent from the former Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington riding. While Reid’s margin of victory decreased from earlier elections, that could have been more a reflection of dipping Conservative Party fortunes nationally than the impact of riding redistribution. In Frontenac-Hastings, the riding swung from the Conservative to the Liberals, leading to a surprise victory for Mike Bossio over Daryl Kramp.
We will look at the candidates as they are announced and will provide coverage of the local election in May and early June, when we will publish profiles of the candidates and will hold all candidates meetings at two locations.
The municipal election will be the subject of our attention at the Frontenac News over the summer and into the early fall. There will certainly be a good number of current council members who will be running again, and a smaller number who will be stepping away from municipal politics at the end of the year. The first thing to watch for after May 1st, when the nomination period opens, is whether any current members of council decide to take a run at the incumbent mayors in Frontenac County. If any do it will open up the council vote and create a more competitive race overall. And if the previous election is any indication, running for council as an incumbent can be anything but a sure thing. In Central Frontenac the last time around, only two of the 7 incumbents who sought re-election kept their place. An incumbent lost in each ward, as did the sitting Mayor, Janet Gutowski. The other townships were not as volatile, but there were hard fought races in many wards, and in the mayoralty races. We will also be closely watching Addington Highlands. If Reeve Henry Hogg does indeed step down, the race for Reeve will be pretty wide open, and it will be interesting to see if any of the current members of council decide to step up to the plate.
We began our early coverage of the election this week by polling incumbent heads of council (reeves and mayors) as to their intentions. We will continue to report on the intentions of current members of council and others who are ready to declare their candidacy as they come forward over the winter and early spring. After May first we will report on nominations as they are submitted in the townships, and our coverage will swing into higher gear after nominations close on July 27th. In the run up to the election we are planning to hold all candidates meetings in each ward where our paper is delivered, as we have done in the past, and we will profile the candidates in September and early October. We will also look at the issues that will be contested in the election, from development pressures in South Frontenac, to the septic inspection issue in Central Frontenac, to the fallout from the rebuild of the township office and the onset of the One Small Town initiative in North Frontenac. The underlying issue of taxation and service levels in all townships is another concern will will address in our coverage.
Two Liberal gatherings took place on October 5 in the new federal riding of Lanark Frontenac Kingston to decide which of the two Phils, Phil Somers or Philippe Archambault, would become the new federal Liberal candidate for the riding.
Former House leader, Peter Milliken, chaired both meetings, the first at Sydenham's Grace Centre and the second at the Perth Civitan Hall, where each of the two candidates gave their final speeches leading up the vote. At 5:30pm after the total of 222 ballots had been counted, both candidates were called outside of main hall at the Civitan hall in Perth and minutes later both re-entered, one with both arms raised above his head, celebrating his victory.
Philippe Archambault was invited to the podium first to make his victory speech and after first thanking his wife Melanie, his team, supporters and his fellow candidate Phil Somers, he reiterated much from his earlier speeches in the day. Archambault emphasized the need in moving forward to work together to make progress in a number of areas, including increasing employment opportunities, creating more housing and health care initiatives, increasing support for elders living at home, protection of the environment, and creating more opportunities for youth and young adults. He ended by stressing the need for members of the party to come together to create a single united front.
“Scott Reid will not be easy to get out in 2015 and we will need to use the newest technology and to reach out to younger voters. I think it is very feasible that we can win this riding. We have a great leader in Justin (Trudeau). We will build a great team and we will work hard together and I promise that I will do everything I can to beat Scott Reid in the next election,” Archambault said, to much applause.
Phil Somers spoke next and thanked his family, his team and supporters. He congratulated Archambault for conducting such a “strong and positive campaign”. Somers geared his campaign to what he described as the issues that matter most to people in this riding, namely restoring democracy in Ottawa and said he enjoyed his campaign experience. He encouraged all of his volunteers and supporters to “get behind Archambault in order to win the riding in the 2015 election”. He spoke of the importance of signing up new party members as soon as possible and said that he is “so passionate about getting Stephen Harper out of Ottawa that he will continue to work hard to win this riding for the Liberals.”
Following the announcement of his win, Archambault told me he felt that it was a tight race and that the vote could have gone either way. “I definitely know that I came from behind since I entered the race in February whereas Phil Somers had a two-year head start on me. Still, that being said, I had a good feeling from the start and knew that I had support and know that I worked hard for this.” Archambault said he feels confident about winning the riding in the upcoming 2015 federal election. “This is just the beginning. If we work hard and talk to people and put out the Liberal message I think that we will have a good chance to beat Scott Reid, who has been the MP is this riding for the last 14 years.”
As far as celebrating his win, Archambault said that he would heading home, would talk with his wife and would be getting up early to make lunches for his young children. Basically he said he “would be getting back into the family routine and working full time”.
Do you want to know where the local candidates stand on the issues of concern in our corner of the province? The Frontenac News is providing two opportunities for you to find out. On Monday, May 26 at 7 pm, we are teaming up with the Friends of Arden at the Kennebec Community Hall, located on the Arden-Tamworth Road at the junction with Elm Tree Road, a hundred metres or so past the Mill Pond if you are headed south.
The second meeting, co-sponsored by the Verona Lions, will be held on Monday, June 2 at the Verona Lions Hall at 4504 Verona Sand Road, which runs west off of Verona Main Street (Road 38) near the foot of the village.
The candidates (in alphabetical order by last name) are Randy Hillier (incumbent PC) Bill MacDonald (Liberals) Cam Mather (Green) Dave Parkhill (NDP).
The nomination deadline is Thursday, May 22 and this is being written on May 20 so another candidate may still come out of the wood work.
The candidates will each have four minutes for opening remarks at the beginning of the evening, and before taking questions from the floor, this time around there will be a question that we think may frame some of the debate. We will be asking each candidate to explain what their party will be doing for rural Eastern Ontario other than the farming community, in the next four years, if elected.
We are not asking what they will do individually as MPPs, or what their own issues are, and we are not asking what their party has done or advocated for in the past. We want information about the party platforms.
The reason for this question is that thus far the party platforms that have been publicized, as far as rural Ontario is concerned, have been limited to policies regarding farming issues .
The Liberal party is offering subsidies to support farmers. The Conservatives are promising to eliminate or streamline regulations, promote bio-diesel and cut energy costs. The Liberal and Conservative parties also have radically different policies regarding wind and solar power production, which is a rural issue as well as an energy policy issues
As for the NDP – the rural page on their election website says “The page you were looking for was not found” - an indication of the slow roll-out of their election platform.
This question will be sent to the candidates in advance. Once they have a chance to answer, the public will be invited to ask questions for the rest of the evening, followed by a final statement by each candidate. The meeting will last no more than 2 hours.