A look back at The Leader’s top 10 online stories of 2021

·4 min read

SOUTH DUNDAS – It is undeniable that the top news story of 2021 continues to be the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an effort to be as timely as possible with reporting the latest on the pandemic, most of those stories have been published on The Leader’s website at morrisburgleader.ca. But that hasn’t been all the news reported on our website.

In an effort to report on the non-pandemic-related news of the year, these are the top non-COVID stories as viewed by readers of The Leader online in 2021.

Tenth on that list is the only sports story to crack the top-10 list. In August, South Dundas Soccer goalies had the opportunity to work with Canadian Premier League professional goalkeeper Dylon Powley. Powley is the starting keeper for Atlético Ottawa.

The Leader’s ninth-most popular story line was about Rijke Produce Farm, a new venture on County Road 2 just west of Morrisburg. Owned by Brian and Jenny Rijke, the family-owned farm was in its second year of operation in 2021 and growing.

Another new business in the area that made the top-10 list was South Mountain-resident Ben Macpherson’s gourmet barbecue sauce start-up. The eighth-most viewed story described Macpherson’s saucy start-up, Ben’s Quality BS (BS for barbecue sauce, of course). The company took off quickly and its products are available in many stores in the Seaway and Ottawa Valleys.

A letter from Akwesasne Mohawk Council Grand Chief Abraham Benedict to South Dundas council supporting an earlier decision to remove the Indigenous symbol from the Iroquois water tower was the seventh-most viewed story in 2021 online. Benedict said the MCA supported removing the symbol from the water tower during its summer renovation.

In February 2021, The Leader told the story about then-newborn Kaeden McKendry and his medical issues surrounding a rare and serious congenital heart defect. McKendry was born with a transposition of the great arteries and underwent surgery shortly after his birth at Toronto Sick Kids hospital. His story was the sixth-most read story online in 2021.

Fifth on the list was our story on the November release of the SDG Counties report on rural education. That report, commissioned by the Counties earlier in the year, offered 10 recommendations including improving transportation and Internet access, and ending competition between school systems by merging boards based on language.

A contentious issue for nearly three years finally got the green light late in 2021, and that resolution was the fourth-most viewed story on morrisburgleader.ca this year. The Friends of Grand Trunk 1008 finalized and signed its agreement with the St. Lawrence Parks Commission to transfer ownership of the historic train display at Crysler Park to the non-profit group. Now the Friends group can begin the process of stabilization and rehabilitation for the display, much of which is over 100 years old.

Third-most read online this year is the arrest of Iroquois-resident Edouard Bonamie. Earlier in December, the Ottawa Police Service charged Bonamie after a joint OPS/OPP/FBI international investigation relating to alleged fraudulent yacht sales. Bonamie, faces eight charges resulting from that investigation. OPS say that Bonamie also goes by multiple aliases and that the South Dundas Waterfront Development Corporation is a company he is involved with. Bonamie’s charges are still before the courts.

The arrest of then-current SDG Counties Warden and South Glengarry Mayor Frank Prevost is the second-most viewed story on The Leader’s website. Prevost was arrested on June 8 for three counts of child luring online and one count of sexual assault. The sexual assault charge is unrelated to the luring charges. Subsequently, Prevost was removed as warden after a six-month unpaid leave-of-absence from his mayors position was approved. He resigned as mayor in December. The charges against Prevost are still before the courts.

Our number one story online is the in-depth investigative story on South Dundas councillor Lloyd Wells and his active lobbying efforts for a project that he is an investor in. The Leader reported in May 2021 following a three-month investigation that while Wells had declared conflict at the council table, he had also lobbied two members of council for the apartment/commercial project. Wells defended his actions saying he was contacting to give his view of the project and that it was “good for the community.” The rezoning for the apartment/commercial development was denied, but a subsequent hotel/commercial development rezoning application was approved later in 2021.

Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Morrisburg Leader

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