SDG council takes office, schools are top priority

New SDG warden – Director of corporate services/clerk Helen Thomson (left) oversees as councillor Carma Williams (centre) places the chain of office for the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry on Jamie MacDonald (right). MacDonald was acclaimed as warden for 2019 and sworn-in at the inauguration of the 2018-22 term of county council on December 14th. (The Leader/Blancher photo)

CORNWALL – In his inaugural address to County Council, newly-acclaimed warden Jamie MacDonald said the future of schools and the appeal of the official plan are the top issues facing the Counties.

MacDonald made the statements in his inaugural address as the 12 county councillors for the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry, took office in a ceremony held December 14th.

“School closures will continue to be an issue,” MacDonald said.

“They are a vital part of our communities and we need to fight for our children to be educated in the communities they live in.”

He said that change needs to happen, and that four school boards spending tax dollars advertising and competing for children to “come to several half empty schools” often in the same community is not sustainable or a financially sensible use of resources.

MacDonald said the Counties are in the middle of appealing changes by the province to the official plan.

“Years of work and consultation have been cast aside by Toronto bureaucrats who believe they know what’s best for our local residents, farmers, and businesses,” he said. “We are fighting these unwarranted changes with all the resources we can bring to bear.” He said that with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing led by Steve Clark and with local MPP Jim McDonell being the parliamentary assistant for Clark in municipal affairs, they hope for a positive outcome from that appeal.

MacDonald said there were a lot of positives to look forward to including the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus’ rural broadband project, the regional incentive program, natural gas expansion in areas of the county, and a new commitment for better communication between the Counties and the City of Cornwall.

“It is essential in regards to our shared services and many other issues,” he said.

“Both sides need to work together. I am confident that under the leadership of Mayor [Bernadette] Clement this is achievable. We are stronger together.”

This is MacDonald’s second term as warden. He previously was warden in 2016. MacDonald is mayor of North Glengarry.

County council is comprised of 12 councillors, the mayor and deputy mayor of each of the six lower-tier municipalities that make up the Counties.

Before taking their seats, each member of council was introduced by a speaker selected by that councillor. Morrisburg resident Peter McCooeye introduced councillor Steven Byvelds (South Dundas).

“I’ve known Steven for over 30 years,” said McCooeye. “Steven is tough. He is dedicated. He is focused. He is competitive. And he plays within the rules.”

Councillor Kirsten Gardner (South Dundas) was introduced to council by her son, Gardner Sage.

“Growing up I watched my mother Kirsten dedicate much of her time towards improving the local community we all know and love,” said Sage. “She brings to the county council table honesty, integrity, a strong voice, and a willingness to listen and understand. She is a straight shooter who doesn’t step away from challenges.”

Also seated around the council table were Carma Williams (North Glengarry), Bryan McGillis (South Stormont), David Smith (South Stormont), Tony Fraser (North Dundas), Al Armstrong (North Dundas), Jim Wert (North Stormont), François Landry (North Stormont), Frank Prevost (South Glengarry), and Lyle Warden (South Glengarry).