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Callers ‘love’ 211 helpline


Media Release – Nov 23, 2011

SD&G – 211, the information helpline for Ontario’s community and social services, won a coveted award for highest customer satisfaction from SQM Group. 

With a 92% satisfaction level, 211 achieved the highest ranking for any call centre in the government industry. SQM benchmarks over 450 leading North American call centres.

“This award represents good news for 211 and our callers,” said Bill Morris, Executive Director, Ontario 211 Services Corporation. 

“We’re proud to have been able to maintain our high standards of quality even as we expanded the reach of 211 province-wide. And, we are very pleased 211 was able to help so many callers address their needs with one call.”

211 is currently available to 94% of Ontarians. The goal of reaching all Ontario residents will be met in the coming weeks through launches in Cochrane, Temiskaming, Nipissing, Sudbury, Lambton, Elgin, Prescott and Russell.

“211 represents an exceptional partnership by Ontario’s United Ways, municipalities, community data contributors, the Government of Ontario and Canada to work together,” said Morris. 

“Recently an agency in London secretly tested 211 on behalf of the London Free Press. I really can’t say it better than to quote the editorial headline, “In helping the public, 211 service hits a home run.”

By connecting callers with the right community and social services, 211 prevents problems from spiralling into a crisis. 211’s information and referral specialists answered more than 560,000 calls in 2010. 

They have access to information on more than 56,000 agencies, programs and services across Ontario. 211’s free, anonymous and confidential helpline is available 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and is available in more than 150 languages. 

In the five months that 211 has launched in SD&G and Cornwall the service has received just over 700 calls says Karen Turchetto, executive director of United Way of S.D. & G.

Ontario 211 Services Corporation is a non-profit supported by the Province of Ontario, individual municipalities, local Ontario United Ways, the Ontario Trillium Foundation and Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Dial 211 or search to find the right community and social services.


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Apprenticeship system issues


Media Release – Nov 30, 2011

QUEEN’S PARK – Ontario is currently facing the paradox of having high unemployment at the same time as a growing shortage of skilled trades workers. 

Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak said today that modernizing Ontario’s apprenticeship system is a practical solution that will help fix both problems by creating 200,000 new skilled trades jobs.

Ontario is losing 100 private-sector jobs every hour, contributing to a jobless rate that has remained above the national average for almost five years. 

At the same time, Ontario’s shortage of skilled trades workers – from ironworkers to electricians to plumbers – is reaching an alarming level, and is expected to top one million vacancies within a decade.

The issue is Dalton McGuinty’s refusal to modernize an outdated apprenticeship system that requires businesses to employ three, four or even five journeymen to train a single apprentice – a more restrictive ratio than almost all other provinces in Canada.

Hudak renewed his call today to reduce the ratio of journeymen to apprentices 1-to-1. Reducing the ratio frees up more journeymen to train more apprentices.  Those apprentices eventually become journeymen themselves and train apprentices of their own – creating a job creation cycle that would see 200,000 new skilled tradesmen on the job in just four years.

“Yesterday, over 50 apprenticeship students attended Queen’s Park, relating their problems in completing their programs, due to the 3:1 ratios.  In fact, during the session, every one of them identified a classmate that had to move to Western Canada to finish their program.  We need action now by this Liberal government to fix this ratio issue, address the huge shortage of trades people that is forecasted over the next 5 years and to create 200,000 new, high paying skilled jobs.”

–Jim McDonell, MPP


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Old Home Week returns in 2015


Almost everyone has heard the famous saying: “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” 

In the case of Morrisburg’s Old Home Week, the organizing committee is hoping the “proverb” is true. The next Old Home Week will be held in 2015.

The organizing committee met on November 21st and unanimously decided, after months of discussion, that the week-long event should run every five years.

The group brought the event back-to-life in 2010 for the town’s 150th Anniversary. Prior to that, Chuck Irvine, a representative for the group, said Old Home Week hadn’t been in existence in Morrisburg for almost 30 years.

Originally the group, which has about 15 active members, hadn’t intended the event to be a yearly undertaking. However, due to the success and the feedback after the 2010 festivities, the group decided to bring it back once again in 2011.

According to Irvine, funding for the event was made simple with the outstanding support of everyone from local businesses, to neighbours, and even to South Dundas council.

“The community support was unbelievable,” he said.

The group will still be holding their popular Jukebox Trivia Event and Motorcycle Rally in 2012. In addition, Irvine says they “hope to participate in the parade again for the Tubies.”

What it comes down to: Old Home Week “would be a better event every five years than it would be every year.”


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Specialized hearing services at WDMH


News Release – Dec 5, 2011

WILLIAMSBURG – Winchester District Memorial Hospital (WDMH) is pleased to welcome Robillard Hearing Centre, as one of our newest healthcare partners providing care close to home.

“Patients told us that we should offer a clinic at WDMH,” explains Sophie Robillard, a board-certified hearing aid specialist who leads the clinic. “Hearing needs are increasing and we’re pleased to be here to respond to local communities.”

“We are happy to have Robillard on-site offering specialized hearing services,” adds Cholly Boland, WDMH CEO. “Our goal is to bring together services that our local communities need and hearing support is definitely one of them.”

Robillard Hearing Centres are family owned and operated and have been serving the Eastern Ontario region for more than 50 years. Qualified hearing healthcare professionals evaluate hearing issues and provide remedial recommendations to family doctors for hearing instruments, assistive hearing devices. They can also fill any hearing instrument prescription.

The clinic is offered on Wednesdays and is located in the Dillabough Building. To make an appointment, please call 1-877-498-3301 or visit

If you would like to provide comments or suggestions about hospital services, contact Cholly Boland, President and CEO, Winchester District Memorial Hospital at 613.774.1049 or by email at


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Byvelds reflects on past year as Warden of SD&G Counties


“I will do my best to be the spokesman for Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry,” said South Dundas Mayor Steven Byvelds on December 10, 2010 when he was officially sworn in as the Warden for the United Counties of SD&G.

Byvelds’s year-long position came to an end on November 21st when he chaired his last Counties council meeting as Warden of SD&G. His replacement, South Glengarry Deputy-Mayor Ian McLeod will be sworn in on December 9th, 2011.

The Warden is the head of council and, as Byvelds explained, “in theory, the CEO of the municipality, in this case, the Counties.”

“You are expected to go to meetings and events to represent the Counties. The Warden puts the Counties first when considering issues. However, all Counties Councillors should do this when performing Counties business,” continued Byvelds.

“We need to be open to new ideas but in the end we need to work to improve and enhance the entire Counties, not just our own little part.”

At last year’s swearing in, Byvelds stated: “Our goal will be to make the United Counties of SD&G the best counties government in Ontario.”

When asked if he was successful in this goal, he said, “I do believe we at the Counties do a good job. We have the best counties road system in Ontario and Council, through the budget, decided to keep our road system well maintained.”

“Staff also do an excellent job in making sure things get done right.”

During the Warden’s Closing Address, Byvelds said, “someone asked me at the banquet what were the high and low point of the past year. The high point was easy as becoming the warden certainly was a peak. The position  is respected by many and the people of South Dundas appreciated having their mayor as warden.”

“The low point was council’s decision not to go to a two year term for warden.”

He later provided further comment on this issue: “I feel strongly that a two year term of warden is the way to go. It takes half a year to build the relationships a warden needs with Cornwall, our local member of parliament and member of provincial parliament, and especially at the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus (EOWC).”

“The EOWC lobbies Provincial and Federal issues and an important issue we worked on was the Farm Tax issue. We met with provincial ministers twice through the year and although things have changed with our new minority government, a warden with a longer term can establish the connections required to get things done.”

It would seem that Byvelds enjoyed his year as Warden for the United Counties of SD&G. He admitted that “if council had agreed in September to go forward with a two year term, I would have allowed myself to continue.”

“I  certainly enjoyed running meetings and making sure things got done at the counties level,” he said. “Counties Councillors worked well with me and I had a sense that the respect was mutual.”

“My advice to Deputy Warden McLeod is to be prepared and represent the Counties well. I have already offered my help and I feel confident that he is ready for the position.”

In the final words of his closing address, Byvelds said, “I believe we live in and operate one of the best county systems in Ontario.”

Byvelds’ promise: “I will resume being the councillor for South Dundas and I will continue to work for what is best for the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.”


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McDonell talks Ontario energy


News Release – Dec 5, 2011

QUEEN’S PARK – “We can no longer afford to ignore the energy crises in Ontario.  This is a self inflicted problem and it is time to listen to the people,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry.

In his report, Auditor General Jim McCarter revealed Dalton McGuinty ignored repeated warnings from his own energy advisors that his approach to renewables – such as the FIT program and Samsung deal – is too expensive and would increase energy bills for job creators and families alike. 

The auditor also confirmed that consumers have paid more than enough to cover the $7.8-billion Debt Retirement Charge (DRC), but the government continues to charge it on hydro bills while keeping the remaining debt a secret. 

Finally, over the last six years, Ontario consumers paid $1.8 billion to New York and Quebec to take away the province’s excess energy. 


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Santa star of Morrisburg Santa Claus Parade


“Well, Santa says he had such a good time during our Morrisburg Santa Claus parade that he promises he’ll be back for sure on December 24,” said George Davies, parade marshal of the 19th annual parade, held on Saturday, December 3. “We had a perfect day for our parade: couldn’t have asked for nicer.”

Five performing bands, over 50 floats and displays, dancers and beloved Christmas and fantasy figures took part in the parade.Service groups, clubs, businesses, churches and charitable organizations all joined in the celebration.

Large and very enthusiastic crowds filled the streets everywhere. 

“It was just wonderful to see this kind of community support,” said Davies, who put over nine kilometres on his ATV 4-wheeler, courtesy of Jimmy Primrose, as he whipped up and down the route ensuring that everything went well. “We had over 200 people taking part in the 2011 parade. I just can’t say enough about all the effort that went into this event, the hours volunteered by the organizers and participants. It was  cheerful, fantastic work by all.”

This year was the biggest parade yet, with several people coming from outside Morrisburg to enjoy or to take part in the festivities. 

Floats featured everything from Christmas wrapped heavy machinery to Grinchmobiles and  merry Christmas tableaux. “It was incredible to see how creative and interesting all the floats were,” Davies said. “Our mayor, Steven Byvelds and our MP Guy Lauzon and MPP Jim McDonell also came to take part in Morrisburg’s show.”

Davies says that the planning for the 2011 Christmas parade began the day following the 2010 parade. “I’m already at work on 2012,” he laughed.

After hot chocolate and hot dogs with little visitors at the civic centre, Santa and Mrs. Claus caught a Reindeer Express back to the North Pole. 

“I just want to say many, many thanks to everyone who helped along the way,” said George Davies. 


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McDonell speaks out


News Release – Dec 5, 2011

QUEEN’S PARK – Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry MPP, Jim McDonell blasted the McGuinty government for playing politics with the Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF) by linking its future to an unknown program for Southwestern Ontario.

Jim McDonell expressed shock that the government has introduced a bill it knows will put the EODF in jeopardy.

To extend the EODF, the government’s bill forces MPPs to also vote for a new program in Southwestern Ontario that’s surrounded in serious questions – including how it will be funded and what accountability measures it will have.

“We don’t need this bill for the EODF program. The program exists already and it has the support of Ontario PC Leader Tim Hudak and our caucus,” stressed Jim McDonell.  The fund was created to address the unique challenges of Eastern Ontario, challenges that still need to be addressed. 

“However, we won’t support a bill bundling it with a program that has so many unknowns. The McGuinty government is asking for a blank cheque and we all know that would be a costly disaster for taxpayers.”

In fact, Jim McDonell noted that with an estimated $28 million still left in the fund after more than three years, the EODF could be extended through March of 2013 with no new government spending.

Jim McDonell said the government is using the threat of cancelling the EODF as a tactic to force the Legislature into helping Premier McGuinty keep an election promise to establish the Southwestern Ontario fund.

It’s a promise that comes with an $80-million price tag at a time when the province has a deficit of $16 billion.

“Rather than debate the merits of the new Southwestern Ontario program, they’re pitting regions against each other with this bill,” explained Jim McDonell. “It’s unfortunate that, at a time of economic turmoil in this province, the McGuinty government would choose to play political games instead of focusing on job creation.”

Jim McDonell called on Economic Development and Innovation Minister Brad Duguid to do the right thing and separate the two programs and bring together Eastern Ontario MPPs to review the EODF before it expires in March, 2012.

“Let’s stop playing partisan politics and do what Ontarians expect MPPs to do in this minority legislature, which is to work across party lines to fix the serious challenges facing the province today,” urged Jim McDonell.


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Alight at Night lights up Eastern Ontario


The beauty of Christmas came alive at Upper Canada Village, Friday night, as the St. Lawrence Parks Commission opened its new gates in its new Discovery Centre to the 11th annual Alight at Night Festival.

Now recognized as one of the Top 100 events in Ontario by Festivals and Events, Ontario, Alight at Night has grown again with close to 1 million lights now lighting up the Eastern Ontario evening sky.

Visitors were welcomed to the official opening at Crysler Hall by Ron Eamer, Acting Chair of the St. Lawrence Parks Commission, who claimed that snow has been ordered and is on its way.

“We owe a great amount of thanks to the staff,” said Eamer. “Their enthusiasm is what carries it off. This year, they have put up almost 1 million lights.”

Director of Marketing, Bryan Mercer highlighted the various additions to this year’s festival. They include new state-of-the-art LED wall washer lighting that sets the historic buildings aglow in colour, a new and convenient outdoor food court and more streamlined pricing to alleviate lineups and speed entry to the Village.

For one price, visitors now get admission to the festival, including a wagon and train ride.

Admission is $13 for adults (13 years plus), $10 for seniors (65 years plus) and $10 for youth (six to 12 years). Children five years of age and under will be admitted free. All admissions are subject to tax.

Returning to this year’s Alight at Night Festival is the very popular Sound and Light Spectacular which runs every half hour outside Crysler Hall. This year’s show is sponsored by Cruickshank Construction.

The third running of the Annual Canadian Gingerbread Competition was judged this past Saturday and the entries are on display at Crysler Hall and the carolling at nearby Christ Church has been expanded.

Mercer pointed out that the festival opened a few days later (than in the past) on Friday, December 2 but will operate through to January 7 this year.

Alight at Night is now open Thursday to Sunday until December 18 (closed Mondays to Wednesdays). From December 19 to January 7 it will be open nightly except for its closure on December 24 and 25.

“It’s our 11th year and Alight at Night has become the signature event for Eastern Ontario,” said Mercer. “It keeps growing and growing and getting better. Anyone who has been involved in it should congratulate yourself.”


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Upper Canada Playhouse announces blockbuster season of laughter and music


MORRISBURG – An hilarious golf show in late winter, a live country concert in the spring, a series of hysterical comedies in the summer, a fabulous Elvis concert in the fall and a wonderful holiday family show at Christmas, all beginning with CBC’s The Vinyl Café with Stuart McLean in January! 

It’s four seasons of great entertainment in 2012 at Upper Canada Playhouse.  People from far and wide have already tapped into the excitement with a flurry of activity at the theatre’s new box office, which has been filled with patrons booking their tickets for the longest season in memory. 

“Our audience has been booking their Flex Passes for the summer season as well as purchasing seats for our added shows in the spring and fall,” remarks Artistic Director Donnie Bowes. 

“We’ve already added another week of shows for Blue Suede Shoes, our Elvis show, in the Fall. Folks are really looking forward to coming to The Playhouse not only in the summer but all year. It’s great for them, great for us and great for our community,” he adds. In fact, some groups are purchasing whole performances for office parties and other functions.

 Bowes and staff laugh when they realize that there is really no such time as ‘off-season’ anymore when marketing and planning usually takes place at The Playhouse. “It’s go, go, go now,” he laughs. 

To kick off the Season, CBC and Stuart McLean are taping two episodes of The Vinyl Café on January 28 and 29. Tickets have been going quickly and there are only tickets left for the January 29 show. 

Starting off the regular Season will be Norm Foster’s popular golf comedy The Foursome, probably one of the comic playwright’s most popular shows ever. It’s about four pals who re-unite to catch up on their lives by playing a round of golf. Their hilarious stories, antics and surprises have been entertaining audiences for years now. The comedy runs March 16 to April 1 and is in response to audience requests for a show at this time of year to chase away the winter blues. 

The spring brings Country Jukebox, from May 2 to 13, a brand new country concert from popular singer Leisa Way and her Wayward Wind Band whose hit shows Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton were featured at The Playhouse in recent seasons. The show will showcase hit songs from the famous singing partners of country music from Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty to Tammy Wynette and George Jones and many more. 

Next up is the popular comedy series starting with Hotbed Hotel, running June 7 to July 1 and written by Michael Parker, the creator of last season’s hit The Sensuous Senator. It’s about a couple trying to sell their run-down hotel. 

Up next is Norm Foster’s comedy Here on the Flight Path playing from July 5 through 29. It’s set on two balconies of an apartment building where writer John Cummings deals with the hilarious antics caused by new ladies constantly moving in next door. 

The comedy Wife Begins at Forty by Arne Sultan, Earl Barret and Ray Cooney is next at bat from August 2 to 26. Friends, neighbours  and the family dog deal with the hilarious consequences of a couple trying to re-kindle their romance.  

The summer series finishes September 6 to 30 with A Nice Family Gathering by Phil Olson. It’s the first family reunion since Dad died, and the tension and hilarity increase when his ghost appears to one of the sons with a special favour. It all breaks lose when Mom’s date shows up for dinner. This show has it all—conflict, comedy and characters we all recognize. 

The fall will rock The Playhouse with a two-week run of Blue Suede Shoes, A Tribute to Elvis Presley. It plays October 10 to 21 and is an explosive, 45-song journey through the life of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

The Playhouse season wraps up with a brand new holiday family show, Everything I Always Loved About Christmas by Robert More and playing November 22 to December 16. It’s a wholesome, down-home story, told through the comical eyes of a granddad, about a family preparing for Christmas while their daughter is stranded in a bus stop far away. A joyous and entertaining Yuletide story filled with magic, music and the wonder of the season. 

The box office is open year round and, although tickets can be purchased anytime throughout the year, Flex Passes are only available until June 7. The Playhouse also has popular group and senior rates available. Sales have been brisk for this 2012 season and patrons are advised as usual to book early to get the dates, time and specific seats they want.