It was a bumpy bus ride along the 401 near Cobourg when your humble scribe (Two months into his journalism career) managed to gather the courage to sit down with a very notable County resident.
A collection of Prince Edward County farmers were en route to Queen’s Park to attend a protest by provincial producers who were trying to hold the Ontario government’s feet under then-Premier Dalton McGuinty to the fire on a Risk Management Plan for the hurting grain and oilseeds sector.
Bottomed out prices on a ton of harvested corn or soybeans had dipped below the cost of input and farmers were seeking the assurance a proposed joint provincial-federal program would provide should McGuinty’s desired rural carbon sinks wind up not breaking even due to depressed global market prices. Joining in with the busload of farmers that March day back in 2005 was James Taylor.
Prince Edward County’s first mayor and former MPP for the region rarely turned down an opportunity to see, hear, smell and experience grass roots democratic protest in his retired life-particulary when it was the Tory’s opposition in the cross hairs of an angry mob armed with tractors and work boots.
Prior to arriving at the protest, however, I was encouraged by my editor at the time Ross Lees to carve out a few minutes on the way to the Big Smoke to ask Taylor his views on the plight facing farmers and what the current provincial government could do to ensure Ontario’s agriculture industry didn’t tank if a ton of corn was too expensive to harvest in the fall.
Taylor immediately sized up this cub reporter and started waxing poetic about the days of Premier Bill Davis, “a true friend of the farmer”if I recall correctly and how McGuinty and his ‘Komissars’ of Agriculture (and any other ministry for that matter) would almost certainly bungle any type of RMP with miles of red tape and legions of bureaucracy.
This corner thought about Taylor this month, just two years after his death, when recalling previous incarnations of county council.
Taylor served as a cabinet minister under Davis and was one of the more dependable legislators in the late 1970’s Ontario PC government but to many local residents, he was the steady hand needed in the post-amalgamation chaos that enveloped Prince Edward County in the late 90’s.
Taylor was a big picture thinker throughout his political career but among his most ambitious plans as Mayor was to create a regional drinking water intake system in Wellington that would pull cold aqua from the deep waters of Lake Ontario and deliver it to Quinte West and Brighton. With the eastern Bay of Quinte in danger of becoming too foul to source water from due phosphates and other pollution, there was a potential gold mine sitting off Loyalist Parkway by way of a proposed water pumping station and a series of pipes heading northwards.
Imagine the very different situation water and wastewater users would find ourselves in today if the County of Prince Edward was the facilitator (read gatekeeper) to the region’s drinking water supply.
Ultimately, Taylor couldn’t quite connect the dots. The town of Brighton decided to go another way. The Bay of Quinte Remedial Action Plan helped clarify the drinking water situation in Belleville and Trenton. Without partners, the proposal was dead in the water (pardon the pun).
But a person like Taylor and some big picture ideas are what’s needed in the coming years for Prince Edward County. Developing a genesis concept, capitalizing on our strengths, putting in the hard work and, yes, taking a few calculated risks, could be the difference between feast and famine for local residents-municipally speaking.
In what feels like a post-COVID wasteland where the political slop gets deeper by the minute at the federal and provincial levels, we encourage those that will top the municipal poll Oct. 24 to come to Shire Hall in 2023 with big dreams. Collaborate and develop big plans for Prince Edward County.
Do it because we need you to.
Do it to honour Jim Taylor and the community he loved.
Picturing Our Community