Cornwall Ontario’s Glass is More Than Half Full – Editorial by Jamie Gilcig – November 16, 2010 – Cornwall Ontario

Cornwall ON – Skippy comes home from school.  It was a very busy Grade 1 arts class and Skippy presents his parents with a picture.  They gush, they guffaw; they place it with honour on the fridge and brag about it to all of their friends.

I live in Cornwall Ontario.   I moved here nearly 7 years ago.    I’m originally from Montreal, but would never live there again.   I have lived and worked in Toronto, Ottawa, Iqualiut,  upstate NY, and even Los Angeles.

Recently there was an article in the Globe and Mail about Dreambuilder Studios.   Well it was more about Incubator businesses, but the writer used Dreambuilder in Cornwall as an example of a remote success.

DreambuilderStudios is among a growing number of creative incubators emerging across Canada, as economists espouse the idea that prosperity lies in developing creative economic clusters and rural communities continue to take action against the impacts of manufacturing jobs migrating to lower-cost countries.

I’m not sure if the writer of the story actually visited and verified his statement, but incubators are very very important and a key to development all over the world.

Working together at all levels always gets really good results.   I know we here at the Cornwall Free News and have worked with many companies to help achieve our growth and that of our partners such as KAV Productions.

However what’s most interesting were the comments connected to that story.  LINK

As you can see in the comments we here in Cornwall have a lot of work to do to change the perspective that some seem to have of our city which now boasts cleaner air than in some provincial parks.  Whose beautiful river and waterfront are on the cusp of development, and a city whose management has led to remarkable growth during a world wide recession.

Those are things that we all here in Cornwall can be quite proud of.     Yes, the Globe and Mail story does generate some well placed guffaws.   Dream Builder or any company will have to actually achieve success to be considered “Hollywood North” but they have planted seeds.   They have the opportunity to perhaps grow them, and if one day they do achieve content that people truly enjoy that will attract positive attention and more growth for our industry here in Cornwall.  I know while I was considering working with them I spoke with a few productions companies in the US and Canada as well as an Oscar winning director about considering a shoot here, and the reactions weren’t all negative.

I mean, you have a waterfront city less than 45 minutes from Montreal; less than 90 minutes from Ottawa, a zip down the 401 from Toronto with a US major crossing.   You have low cost power.  You have still ridiculously low cost per square foot for real estate both residential and commercial, and you have a very strong and experienced workforce.  Clearly those factors are leading to booms locally as new businesses flock to the city.

Cornwall also has a strong music scene and a surprisingly strong theatre and arts scene happening which has led to strong discussion about a Cultural centre being created.

For me the glass is a bit more than half full.   As the owner of a small business that has thrived and grown while focusing on the local scene without depending on National ads or randomly placed internet ads I can tell you that magical things can happen in this community.

I know I’d invite any business person to check out our community, and be personally happy to give them a tour of the city where you can still get from on point to another in less than 10 minutes.   Compare that to gridlock during rush hour in any major city.

Choose Cornwall


  1. Our “beautiful river and waterfront are on the cusp of development”? That’s the thinking that explains why our glass is only half full.

    To think of developing our riverfront and heritage canal lands is sheer madness. Groom it if you must, but for crying out loud folks, we just got something back that every other city along the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence lost or is losing.

    I’m not going to get in the way of progress, but if you want to develop, then start with the declining housing stock and filthy lands NEXT to the riverfront. there is more than enough land to REDEVELOP in Cornwall before paving, or brick and mortoring our good greenspace.

    Do you think it would be to the downtown’s advantage to dredge out Lamoureaux Park and bring the water’s edge up First Street? No. I don’t think so. So what makes anyone think that building on top of our parkland down to the riverfront is of any benefit?

    Well of course there would be no benefit to the general population, but it would be a windfall to developers that grab up free and cheap land, and a windfall to their political buddies that make it happen!!

    I have watched and documented the background of our current developers like Paris Holdings backed by Trenholm Healy and Gerrard Rose, and the ReMax operation and the conflict of interests at City hall that see political friends appointed to committees that serve a suspect little few. This past election I compared the political support of candidates against the city contracts awarded them… no surprises there.

    And just look at the public record, (info and links at – there is no slander or libel or unjust accusation, just look at the record, do a little research on your own.

    We owe it to the young people that might choose one day to stay in Cornwall, if only the common good stood a chance at overcoming greed and self service.

    And as for culture… look around. Cornwall has been robbed of it’s history and character by the self serving over the past 30 or so years — burnt, demolished, or insulted by gaudy and cheap renovation. We are now about to lose a chunk of waterfront — the only characteristic piece of the seaway city left — and a huge traffic intersection to be plopped down at Water and Brookdale, and the canal smothered by a cheap and characterless bridge.

    Our kids keep moving on because Cornwall keeps moving backward.

    I’ve signed my name Jamie, and I’ll go toe to toe with anyone that wants to question my information and research (only part of which I have shared here); and I ask that you publish this piece on behalf of those in Cornwall that would like to see a better day.

    Jim Marshall

  2. Author

    Hi Jim,

    The waterfront needs to be developed, but with thought, care, and vision. If done well it can completely change the perception of our city. As for culture I’ve been trying to focus on other cities that thrive because of their culture like Dublin, Austin Texas, and Los Angeles recently.

    We can build and promote culture here in Cornwall.


  3. While there may be advantages for developing our waterfront, there is no immediate “need”. The city won’t stop, nobody will lose a meal… that little word “need” is a falsehood that triggers rushed and shortsighted action.

    Of course we can still look at the possibilities of a waterfront that is changed for the betterment of the community. But the possibility of it being spoiled or taken away again, by opportunists lining their pockets is the more likely outcome if we go into this as though there is urgency or need.

    Cornwall’s lesser cockamamy projects should make us wary.

    – Back in the 70’s a fake lock entrance was erected at some cost in Lamoureaux to sport a plaque, although vestiges of the canal lay buried all around (a small portion of the lock has since been excavated and exposed).

    – Then Cornwall paved over Pitt Street for a pedestrian mall on a hurried and expensive whim, only to begin the destruction of downtown business (a cobble stoned street area that could have been opened and closed seasonally or for events would have been mopre practical) of course the mall was then torn up at another outragious espense.

    – We had the shortsighted lilac planting (and festival?) only to be left with a weed-like mess that harboured syringes, glue tubes, and poopy condoms.

    – The Big Ben dump built with city fathers’ blessing and overflowing with pulp waste, asbestos, creosote and fecal matter.

    – We have a shining umpteen million dollar Benson Centre sitting over top of a leachate pooling point point from that city dump.

    No point in going on…

    Let’s just avoid a headlong rush into disaster; do a proper inventory of cultural and heritage assets, pro-actively survey residents on what would be suitable, develop an open-ended approach that is flexible and incorporates human needs above all and is inclusive of the whole community.

    And foremost, prevent corrupt exploitation (commercial or political) from getting any more a hold of our public property than has already occurred.

  4. This will be a fun project, JG. Frank Armstrong did make some strong points about Eastern Ontario. As for the comments some are funny, some are venom filled. Clearly, Cornwall poses an actual threat to Toronto and other communities who desire what we attract. The air and seaway in Cornwall is so clean that geese come from all over the world to visit. Bus drivers know your name and the way it’s going, there will shortly be more jobs than people. The Lt. Gov. General didn’t come here for no reason last year. Political stability does have its rewards. You can do business in this riding. You can get a lovely home here for a five hundred dollar a month mortgage. The commute to work will hardly ever be beyond fifteen minutes. The greater joy is seeing how one person, one artist, one business can make such a difference in this, a big country city.

    I realize that Toronto has cheaper housing because about a million people are sleeping for free under their bridges and in their alleys and on their downtown sidewalks. I think it’s also the case where a bus pass in Toronto is the same as rent in Cornwall. Check us out. The legendary artist’s colony of Cornwall, Ontario where the palm trees bloom in the winter and a cool breeze blows in the summer.

  5. Wow Mr. Berger, I think someone needs some light therapy. Do you always get cranky at this time of year?

  6. Author

    Hi Roy,

    I think the lesson to learn from this piece and the challenge to those of us in Cornwall Ontario is to change the publics perception of our city. Obviously by the large amount of negative comments we have a lot of work cut out for us.

    The good news is that we have a lot to work with and that the city is an amazing place full of opportunity.

  7. I think riverfront development done properly is a great idea. Many places nationally and internationally have made amazing economic growth bettering the waterfronts.

    Mr Marshall has some very valid points.

    I am not really sure what you are trying to say. The public are the people of the city, if we consider only about 48% of the people voted here it shows we have some problems. It sounds like 50% just do not care anymore

  8. Like Fishermans Wharf in San Fran

  9. Both sides have some points here.

    Jamie you’re right about the apathy, but we can’t allow a minority to triumph as a result. That has been a great problem here, where an old political/business network operates unhindered by political or social activism.

    The community needs to be consulted proactively — door to dor if need be. The underadvertised and underattended open house shams and such (that the city passes off as public consultation) are used to trump the best practices for future development, and future residents.

    And I don’t think it pertinent to compare our green open spaces with the industrial muck and mortar that other cities are recovering from — that makes anything look better than it was before.

    And comparing us to cities that are steeped in culture and have thoughtfully worked from that base is not realistic; Cornwall has relentlessly erased it’s heritage and seems content with chintzy memorials to the past.

    And it can’t be about money always; heritage, quality of life, our roots and our children to come that’s what sustains a community. Growth and prosperity will follow and draw the like minded to our city in due time.

  10. Author

    Jim I think any city needs vision. I’m not so sure Cornwall is where it needs to be, but I’m not going to cast stones at this point either. I think the world is changing; media is changing and while the vote count this year didn’t show it, I think many people are near their tipping point when it comes to accountability in the system whether it be at Federal, Provincial, or Municipal levels of government.

  11. Reg, I was just being a little tongue and cheek there. I think there’s only a few hundred thousand sleeping under the Danforth Bridge. I only stepped over three guys in front of the Toronto Stock Exchange. Just having a little fun. Every city has an up and down side. When taking stock or buying stock it’s useful to look at the overall trend. It looks up from here. I looked at Stats Canada. Half of Montreal lives on minimum wage or less. It’s about the same for most cities. The foot prints we lay down now, are all exciting ones.

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