WILLIAMSTOWN – The spirit of community and how it came together was a highlight of 2020 for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell.
McDonell said in his year-end interview with The Leader that how the communities in SDSG came together to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic locally was a positive to start 2021 with.
“There were a lot of sacrifices made,” he said. “And there was a lot of concern about the local businesses and people wanted to make sure those businesses survived.”
McDonell said that while there are infection numbers in the riding, this area fared better than many parts of the province.
“There have been low numbers overall across the province, but especially here in our own area,” he said. “That took a lot of effort by people in the region.
Dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a priority of McDonell and his office he said. Part of that was ensuring that businesses and vulnerable groups that needed to access government supports knew where to go and what to apply for. Connecting with residents was a challenge though.
“It’s easier to do this in person,” McDonell said. “But we adapted and were there to help those in our riding.”
He said that of the help from upper levels of government, two-thirds of that came from the province with it being directed to community groups. That included seeing money flow from the provincial government to municipal governments to support additional needs in social services.
“You need the lower levels of government to get that money as they are the ones that deliver those services where they are most needed,” McDonell explained.
McDonell said that the level of cooperation between the provincial and federal levels of government has been another positive.
“Even when we didn’t necessarily agree with the way a program is rolled out, we realized that there were other ways of doing it and we went along with it,” he said. “There is no perfect solution, but things got done and that was the main requirement.”
While he optimistic about 2021 in that COVID-19 vaccines are beginning to reach arms across Canada, he warned that this winter will still be difficult.
“The winter time is extremely difficult with this virus,” McDonell said of the second wave of the pandemic. With the cold months ahead, he is concerned about the isolating effects of restrictions and how it will impact residents.
“If we can get through the next three months, it’s very hopeful,” McDonell said. “The benefits of the vaccine will take care of the most vulnerable, and we can start reopening again.”
The recovery of the tourism sector McDonell said was a priority for the riding.
“With the current schedule we have for vaccinations, I am hopeful that most of our summer festivals and events that happen from June and beyond will be able to start to get back to normal,” he said adding that without these, it’s difficult to attract people.
Looking forward to 2021, McDonell said that he felt there was an attitude change because of the pandemic.
“Our attitudes have changed, and people are willing to adapt to these new changes like adopting technology and working from home,” he said pointing to spending by the government to improve internet service for rural areas. “These changes are going to stay I feel.”
Lastly, more than half way through his third-term as MPP for the riding, McDonell said he planned on running for another term at the next provincial election in 2022.
“That’s the plan,” McDonell said. “I’m looking forward to continuing on. There is the recovery to look forward to and the province and region had made gains before the pandemic hit. There are a lot of positives coming in 2021.”
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader