The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry United Counties (SDG) met for their monthly Council meeting on May 17.
In response to a presentation by John McAllister, Chair, Upper Canada District School Board regarding remote learning, many of the Councillors had something to say about the unreliability of internet and other challenges to remote learning as experienced by many in SDG.
Lack of access to decent internet is raising questions of equity. In response to John McAllister’s assertion that “education is the great equalizer,” Mayor of North Dundas Tony Fraser emphatically stated that “education should be the great equalizer, but it’s not.”
Mayor Fraser said that it is “unbelievable” that we are considering increasing online learning, when we consider all that our students are missing out on. Students are leaving our area because they cannot get what they need here. Education here is not equitable at all.
Deputy Mayor of North Dundas, Al Armstrong, as well as other councillors, echoed Mayor Fraser’s sentiments. Deputy Mayor Armstrong asserted that anyone thinking that expansion of remote learning is a good idea should try watching the SDG Council meetings for three hours, then imagine trying to use that glitchy service to teach children. The education system is being streamlined to the detriment of our students.
A couple of councillors pointed out that this represents another instance of lack of concern and lack of consideration for us here in Ontario east of Kingston.
Coverage for employees
While extending coverage for full-time employees of the Counties for Covid-19 related reasons, Mayor Fraser raised the point that part-time employees do not get this coverage. Indeed, there are about fifty to sixty part-time employees, mostly in library services.
The new roof for the County Building received only one compliant bid. It will cost $72 750 to replace, using a slate-look shingle. The new heavy truck restrictions on County Road 34, which becomes Main Street, were passed. Signage is being installed, and education was requested by Councillor Williams in hopes of smoothing the implementation of the restrictions.
Howard Mitchell Forest
The tapping of maple trees in the Howard Mitchell Forest will be done by A&B Maple Syrup company. There were a few adjustments made to the 10-year lease agreement after the company stated that they would do the required thinning of the forest, rather than the County, as there were trees that can be productive in the future that should not be removed. They have undertaken to manage the forest to the best practices for the continued production of syrup.
Letter of thanks
As part of the Consent Agenda, the Council accepted a letter of thanks from the River Institute for $10K funding for them to carry out their work on the St Lawrence. The letter included an update of some of the education and research work that the River Institute does. The Great River Rapport – an ecosystem health report for the Upper St Lawrence River is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2021. The project website riverrapport.ca was launched. Check out the River Institute’s website at riverinstitute.ca.
There was discussion of roadwork to be completed this summer. SDG 31 will be Microsurfaced from SDG 13 (Morewood Road) north to the Ottawa boundary, and between Williamsburg and Winchester Springs.
Federal gas tax rebate
In our area, the Patrol Yard in Winchester Springs will be repaired. Councillors and Benjamin de Haan, Director or Transportation and Planning for SDG, discussed the best place to allocate the Federal Gas Tax top-up of $1 992 527. Council noted that it would be wise to use the extra funds, money given by an upper level of government that is intended to help boost the economy, in an expedient manner. There are many roads that need immediate attention. They also discussed the possibility of using the money to help fund the remediation work needed at Martintown to address the hydrocarbon contamination from the old gas station.
The Library Board has started a program whereby each Library Board member will read a children’s story. The reading will be filmed, and made available to families throughout SDG.
The Cornwall and Area Housing Corporation Amalgamation Report was issued on May 11. The Cornwall and Area Housing Corporation will be amalgamated with the City of Cornwall (as Service Manager). There was a question as to why none of the names of the various municipalities represented were included anywhere.
There is an ongoing Education Review intended to make a made-in-SDG advocacy document outlining recommended changes to the education system to ensure that rural children are educated as close to their local communities as possible. A committee meets bi-weekly with a goal of finishing a draft report in July or August. There was quite a bit of discussion surrounding the fact that MPP Jim McDonell sits on the Committee, as he represents the province in this process.
Finally, SDG’s new website went live the morning of the meeting. In 2020, Upanup was hired by SDG to help revamp the United Counties’ website. Incidentally, this is the same company that has redone the North Dundas Website, going live this month.