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Eric Bunnell's People: A well-deserved honour

Ron Jewell has never hesitated to tell St. Thomas to get a move on. And to look sharp doing it.

Eric Bunnell, Special to Postmedia Network, August 29, 2019, St Thomas Times-Journal


Tory MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London Karen Vecchio presents a commendation from Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay to Ron Jewell for his continuing work on behalf of veterans. (Eric Bunnell/For the Times-Journal) 


But on Thursday, the 84-year-old veteran who is longtime parade marshal for local Remembrance services, was speechless.

“I don’t know what to say,” he announced to a room of family, friends, dignitaries and special guests and local veterans including his two-year-old great grandson.

“But God bless you all for being here!”

On Thursday, Ron was feted at a lunch at Royal Canadian Legion Lord Elgin Branch 41, and presented with a commendation from Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

“He is well deserving of this recognition,” said Elgin-Middlesex-London Tory MP Karen Vecchio, who presented the commendation, as well as a lapel pin.

“I have worked with him for several years as he has tirelessly worked to advocate on behalf of his colleagues and to share our history with young students and the community,” she said in her speaker’s notes.

Dignitaries included EML Tory MPP Jeff Yurek and St. Thomas Mayor Joe Preston, who said, “The city of St. Thomas is a far richer and better place, thanks to citizens like Ron Jewell.”

The commendation recognizes Jewell’s continuing work on behalf of veterans. A Legion life member for his volunteerism, he has held a number of offices in the organization, and currently assists veterans, widows and families with benefit requests. He also works to promote Remembrance among young people.

Much bemedalled, he, himself, was a 28-year member of the Canadian Armed Forces, serving in Korea, Germany and Cyprus.

And as befitting his role as Remembrance parade marshal, he didn’t need a microphone to say thanks.

How sweet it ain’t?

In an Aug. 13 letter to Elizabeth VanHooren, who is GM of Kettle Creek Conservation Authority, EML Tory MPP Jeff Yurek thanks her for congratulations on his appointment as Ontario minister of the environment.

Lauding the Doug Ford government’s environmental record, Yurek continues:

“I welcome the chance to continue to advance our work on these important issues. I also look forward to working with the ministry’s many partners to ensure we pass on a cleaner environment to future generations.”

Just three days later, Yurek puts the brakes on Ontario conservation authorities.

In an Aug. 16 letter addressed “To whom it may concern” and circulated to all 36 of the province’s CAs, he asks them to “begin preparations and planning to wind down those activities that fall outside the scope of your core mandate.”

And all of a sudden – indeed, “completely by surprise,” says Conservation Ontario, the association representing the provinces conservation authorities – and even while the government and CAs are discussing coming changes to the Conservation Authorities Act, the future of many environmental programs administered by CAs is thrown into doubt.

Yurek in his directive says the provincial government seeks “to improve public transparency, consistency, and accountability in conservation authority operations.”

But what’s to become of CA-run campgrounds? What about tree planting on private lands and other partnership environmental initiatives? What about maple syrup festivals, water festivals and other educational programs?

Catfish Creek Conservation Authority, which operates Springwater Conservation Area, a recreational oasis which also is location of a popular late-winter maple syrup festival which attracts hundreds of school children, says revenue from such non-core programming helps the authority pay for mandated programs for which provincial funding covers only a small part.

In a statement, CCCA says of its maple syrup festival, the like of which is specifically targeted by the new minister, “It is unclear why this ministry thinks that this specific program should be cut since they don’t have any role to play in them.”

Kettle Creek Conservation Authority hasn’t directly commented on Yurek’s directive. The authority’s board meets Wednesday in emergency session and Yurek’s letter is included in the agenda.

But already dealing with a $58,000 funding cut in the spring provincial budget which cost the authority a full-time position, KCCA says in a municipal budget submission to the City of London:

“In an effort toward continuous improvement, KCCA will work with member municipalities to accommodate loss of Provincial funding and maintain a consistent level and standard of programs and services with the least impact to municipal levy by pursuing revenue generating opportunities such as Wi-Fi services in campgrounds, expanded rental opportunities and events at conservation areas, etc. as well as cost containment measures including shared services.”

The submission is based on KCCA’s 2019 five-year strategic plan, and also mentions KCCA’s commitment to “environmental education opportunities in the watershed, including the Environmental Youth Corps, Carolinian Forest Festival and the St. Thomas-Elgin Children’s Water Festival.

Yet following Yurek’s directive, who knows where all that is headed?

Andrew Buttigieg, who is Yurek’s press secretary, is quoted:

“The conservation authority shouldn’t be deciding what’s best for the community because they aren’t held accountable to anybody and it’s time they are going to be held accountable.”

Even though conservation authorities are, in fact, governed by municipally-appointed boards.

But there now may be a bit of a backtrack.

Yurek is reported to have suggested that non-core programs which have formal municipal support may continue.

So, maybe, the maple syrup will continue to flow.

Pam Armstrong on Thursday was to be acclaimed Liberal candidate for EML in the coming federal election.

The east Elgin resident is a realtor after a 25-year banking career in the Aylmer area, and says she is proud of her hardworking roots: husband, a career truck driver, father, a retired steelworker, son, Canadian military, and daughter, a tradesperson.

Her bio:

“She realized that her work in the financial industry brought clarity to the programs that the Liberal governments at the time offered to help make the middle class stronger. Pam supports the programs and policies that the Trudeau Liberal government has designed to keep Canadians working, safe, healthy, financially secure and able to build a family.”

Campaign manager Lisa Jibson:

“For us, some local issues are attracting and maintaining jobs and infrastructure, resources and affordable care and housing for seniors, veterans and homeless, ensuring rural issues are brought to the forefront (i.e. Foreign Workers program, rural internet, rural cellphone coverage), and encouraging initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint.”

Armstrong faces EML Tory incumbent Karen Vecchio, seeking re-election to a second term.

You don’t need warnings to watch for schoolchildren next week on their way back to class, to know it truly now is the end of summer.

An unhappy wasp reminded me while I cleaned the eavestrough this week over the front porch. Ouch.

Just along the road, Port Stanley Festival Theatre is staging final performances of its 2019 summer season. It’s Your Funeral, a new farce by Jamie Williams, continues this weekend and next week in an extended run, closing Sept. 7.

The comedy was developed in part through PSFT’s annual September Playwrights’ Festival dedicated to development of new Canadian theatre.

And the festival, which already has shepherded seven new plays to full production in Port, returns with free public readings Sept. 13 and 14 of two more. Click to psft.ca for details.

Meanwhile, there’s just this coming weekend to catch the celebratory, 50th anniversary exhibition at St. Thomas Elgin Public Arts Centre which showcases STEPAC’s permanent collection. The delightful and engaging exhibition closes Aug. 31, to make way for an annual, juried exhibition of creativity, In View of the Artist, beginning Sept. 7 (with an opening 1-3 p.m. Sept. 28).

But do be mindful of those kiddies on Tuesday. And in the meantime, enjoy the Labour Day holiday weekend!