COLUMN: A one-two punch against Eastern Ontario

The provincial government has confirmed that the Service Ontario offices in Morrisburg and Kemptville, along with seven others in Ontario, are going to be closed. Local MPP’s Steve Clark (Leeds-Grenville) and Jim McDonnell(Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry) are appropriately outraged over this. Residents of North Grenville and South Dundas should all be upset with this short-sighted move.

At last count, there are three petitions now floating around to try to stop this move by the Liberals. Given the track record of the Kathleen Wynne government, these efforts and protests will fail as usual. Not because of a lack of effort; but a lack of consideration of the rural portions of Ontario.

Both Kemptville and Morrisburg, and the two vast areas those offices served, will now be served by the office in Winchester. North Grenville has a population of over 15,000 according to the 2011 census; South Dundas has over 10,500. Once the offices close, the residents in those communities will have to drive 20+ kilometers to deal with the province. That doesn’t sound all that bad at first, then consider the demographics of those communities. Older populations which do not use devices like kiosks or online services. Residents who may not want to, or are able to, drive far to an office. There are multiple car dealerships in both municipalities which use the Service Ontario offices on a daily basis. Too bad for them all. Bureaucrats in Toronto have decided what is best for rural Ontario. That less service is better.

Services like licence and plate renewals used to be contracted out to private operators in rural communities. That model was scrapped by the Liberals; opting for a new integrated, full-service one-stop-shop model. Now these areas will have no access.

This is not the first time the Wynne Liberals have shown contempt for rural-Ontario. From forcing communities to take wind turbines, to the closing of Kemptville College, to ham-fisted agriculture policies based on political outcomes.

Wynne’s leadership style is big talk and big action, so long as it is in urban areas of the province. While it is no secret that political parties in power tend to favour the ridings which their own members are sitting. Rural Ontario, which did not support Wynne in the last election, has become nothing more than another revenue tool to fund her party’s agenda.

The chance that this decision will be overturned is slim-to-none. The local MPPs efforts are appreciated. However, until the 2018 election arrives we are stuck with the feckless Liberals in power. The one bright side is, there is little remaining that Toronto can close or take away. Don’t think this government won’t try.