OPINION: Looking back on 2021

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By Nick Seebruch
OPINION: Looking back on 2021

The year 2021 was quite tumultuous and transformative for Cornwall and the surrounding area, far more so than I think anyone could have expected.

I’m going to use this week’s column to look back on the year that was and highlight some of those transformative changes that took place this past year.

This is list in no particular order of chronology or significance.

Clement to Senate

By far I think one of if not the most important change this past year took place in the realm of local politics, and you will see that most of the items on this list are politics related.

When Cornwall Mayor Bernadette Clement announced in June that she was resigning her position to take a seat in the Senate of Canada the political landscape of the region was dramatically changed.

In her three short years as Mayor, Clement had guided the City of Cornwall through much of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement of the summer of 2020, and the beginning of the turmoil around Indian Residential schools.

She helped to build stronger ties with our neighbouring municipalities, particularly Akwesasne, and lead the charge in tackling the lack of housing in the city.

If she had wanted to, I think Clement could have won another two or three terms as Mayor of Cornwall.

Prior to becoming Mayor, Clement had been a City Councillor for 12 years. Her removal from the local political scene presented a challenge for Council to fill her vacant seat, and while current Mayor Glen Grant is an able caretaker, he is not running for re-election leaving a void that will need to be filled and an opportunity for anyone who thinks they can rise to the challenge.

South Glengarry Mayor’s legal troubles

For the second half of 2021 the Township of South Glengarry and the greater region was rocked by the news that South Glengarry Mayor Frank Prevost was facing criminal charges of Child Luring and Sexual Assault.

I’m not going to rehash here the specifics of that case as they’ve been thoroughly covered in news stories and columns that we’ve done, but I still feel I needed to mention this story as it had a major impact on the local political scene.

Prevost was also Warden of the United Counties of SD&G, and was a representative of all six of its constituent regional municipalities.

He also seemed to be a likely candidate to succeed MPP Jim McDonell, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

Prevost’s removal from the local political scene was very different than the way that Bernadette Clement left local politics, but had an equally great impact, if not greater.

After Prevost resigned earlier this month, Deputy Mayor Lyle Warden stepped up to fill that void. Unlike his counterpart in Cornwall, I wouldn’t be surprised if Warden does run for Mayor in 2022 and I think he stands a good shot of winning. He acquitted himself well in an extreme situation.

COVID-19 still with us

Much like 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic was ever with us over this past year, although I feel like it wasn’t as much at the forefront of every discussion, but instead something that was ever present in the background.

Advances were made in the fight against the virus with vaccines becoming available for all adults, and later children aged five to 11, but there were setbacks as well.

Most recently, a surge in the Omicron variant of the virus has lead to new restrictions being introduced on a weary population.

With third shot boosters now being available, this is still the best way to save our healthcare system. The booster shot will reduce illness in those who do get infected and prevent them from needing in-patient hospital care.

This is still crucial as an overwhelmed hospital system cannot effectively treat patients with heart disease, cancer, and car crash victims if they are dealing with a flood of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients.

As more time passes, I still believe that COVID-19 will fade. It will fade slowly, but fade nonetheless. There will come a time where restrictions on travel, business and event capacity, and proof of vaccination requirements will no longer be necessary, but that time isn’t here just yet.

What do you think of this past year readers? What were some moments that stuck out to you? Email me your Letters to the Editor at nseebruch@seawaynews.media

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