New SD&G warden has school boards’ future in focus

SD&G Warden Jamie MacDonald makes his inaugural address on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018 at the United Counties of SD&G building on Pitt Street in Cornwall, Ont. MacDonald's speech focused on education -- conceding a future fight to save schools is coming and that the current model of four school boards is not sustainable long term. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

SD&G – The new warden of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry is signalling that “change needs to happen” to the current makeup of four school boards in Eastern Ontario.

In his inaugural address Friday morning, Jamie MacDonald said “spending tax dollars advertising and competing for children to come to several half empty schools in the same community” is not “sustainable or a financially sensible use” of tax dollars.

Though his seven minute speech didn’t touch on exactly how that will happen.

The four boards divide the region’s student body along religious and language lines.

MacDonald, who’s serving for a second time as warden (he was warden in 2016), conceded that school closures will “continue to be an issue” but that the upper-tier government needs to “fight for our children to be educated in the community they live in.”

The inauguration saw the mayors and deputy mayors from the six lower-tier municipalities take their seats at the Pitt Street county building. All but two, MacDonald and Frank Prevost, are newcomers. “We will be fine, change is good, with change comes new ideas. Every four years council gets to do a reset, and start to plan this term of office and beyond,” MacDonald said of the largely novice council.

His speech also talked about cooperation with municipal neighbours, singling out the City of Cornwall. “Better communication with our neighbour, the City of Cornwall, is essential in regards to our shared services, both sides need to work together,” he said.

Getting new shared service agreements between the United Counties of SD&G and the City of Cornwall has been a drawn out affair, which saw the relationship between the last administrations escalate to public letter writing and finger-pointing.

MacDonald’s address also sprinkled in his usual brand of goodhearted jabs at some of his political friends.

He thanked Warden Ian McLeod for his service the past year. “See how much I have grown up? Very few sarcastic comments about people. Like Mayor (Steven) Byvelds, who is Steve 2.0, I am Jamie 3.0. Younger, stronger, faster, less sarcastic. The old Jamie would have said thanks Ian for your service and setting the bar so low that I am going to look great!”

The new council is having its first meeting today (Monday) at 9 a.m.