Local MPP Jim McDonell punted from County education working group

Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell – File photo

CORNWALL – Local member of provincial Parliament Jim McDonell will only be part of SDG Counties’ rural education planning as a liaison from now on. The move was made after a discussion at the May 17 regular County Council meeting.

County CAO T.J. Simpson presented an update to council on the progress of the education consultant and the working group established to create a rural education plan for SDG.

Simpson spoke of the meetings held so far and of McDonell’s involvement in the process, which raised concerns from some members of County Council.

Councillor Allan Armstrong (North Dundas) questioned why McDonell was on the committee.

“Who decided that and what benefit can we have from it,” he asked. “I don’t think he should be there to be honest with you. I think this is something that is done in-house first.”
Simpson explained that the MPP was part of the initial meeting of the working group.

“It just kind of morphed into this,” he said. “[McDonell] has an interest in this. There was some discussion at county council about this.”

Armstrong said he felt it was inappropriate for McDonell to be involved in the planning because “he sits on the other side of the table.”

He said he is concerned about showing the provincial government “all our cards with the people across the table.”

Councillor Steven Byvelds (South Dundas) agreed with Armstrong’s concerns.

“This committee is very important from a county point of view,” Byvelds said. “When I saw the terms of reference for the committee, I did not see the MPP on there, maybe I missed it.”
Councillor Kirsten Gardner (South Dundas) agreed with council as well.

“It’s no disrespect, it’s just this is such an important component and, how we present this [education report] will have a major impact,” she said of the county’s education report.

During the March 15th council meeting when the Request for Proposal was awarded, Councillor Jamie MacDonald (North Glengarry) told County Council that he had spoken to McDonell.

At that time, MacDonald also wanted McDonell to liaise with the Ministry of Education to keep government officials apprised of the County’s progress while it created its education plan.

Simpson asked then if he was to reach out to McDonell and set that up, to which MacDonald agreed. Council did not table any motion to direct staff to include McDonell.

In March, SDG council also did not approve any terms of reference or a list of appointed members of the working group established to support the education consultant.

MacDonald told council on Monday that he had already talked with Simpson about having McDonell act as more of a “direct” liaison with the province and not sit in the working group meetings.

“Maybe he is invited to sit in down the road again to express some issues that are going on at the province,” MacDonald said.

Gardner proposed council pass a resolution to confirm the make up of the working group.

County council approved the members list for the education working group which is comprised of: County Councillor Tony Fraser (North Dundas), Gardner, MacDonald, Councillor Stephanie Jaworski (South Glengarry), Councillor Jennifer MacIsaac (South Stormont), Simpson, North Stormont CAO Craig Calder, South Glengarry CAO Tim Mills, North Glengarry resident David Filion, and South Dundas resident Joyce Latulippe.

The consultant is expected to bring back to council in July the final report on a rural education strategy in time for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario annual conference in August.

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