Like his legendary forefather, Frank Meyers is not afraid of a good fight. Or a long one. For seven years now, he has been battling the federal government, refusing, at every turn, to part with his beloved family land: 90 hectares of prime soil in Quinte West, Ont., directly north of Canadian Forces Base Trenton. “I’ve lived on this farm for 85 years, worked it all my life, and I don’t know why the government wants to throw us out,” Meyers says, standing near his latest crop of corn. “It’s my heritage. Leave me alone.”
Meyers honestly believed that if he kept refusing to sell, Ottawa would do just that: leave him alone. But the master plan was never in doubt. The Meyers land, and 11 other pieces of property, will soon be transformed into a state-of-the-art, 400-hectare headquarters for Joint Task Force 2, the Canadian military’s elite anti-terrorism squad. And after so many years, so many sleepless nights, it appears Frank Meyers has no choice but to finally surrender. A recent letter from the federal justice department says he must be off the property by Sept. 30 because “demolition crews will be attending the site” on Oct. 1.
“It’s an awful stress on me,” he says, dressed in jeans and a blue shirt. “They’re waiting for me to drop dead. That’s what they want.”
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Rick Norlock, the local Conservative MP, says he sympathizes with the family. He understands their connection to the land, and why they didn’t want to sell—at any price. But the base expansion, he says, will inject millions of dollars and thousands of jobs into an economically depressed region that desperately needs it. “Nobody is happy in scenarios like this,” Norlock says, sitting in his Cobourg office, a 40-minute drive from the Meyers farm. “Everybody would like the world to remain the way it is for them and for their families forever, but the reality is there is an Air Force base there. There was a decision to expand it. It is good for the area. It is not good for a couple of people.”
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In fact, Norlock says the government would have expropriated the Meyers land much sooner, had it not been for Stephen Harper. “I was anxious for this to go ahead, and the Prime Minister convinced me that we need to be more conciliatory; we need to try and do this the right way,” he says.
But any patience the Prime Minister had has long expired and, as the final deadline approaches, Frank Meyers doesn’t want to talk about what might happen when the sun rises on Oct. 1. “I have no idea,” he says. “What I do, I’ll never tell, until the day comes.”