SD&G Councillor Armstrong gets in dust-up with MPP McDonell during virtual meeting

The United Counties of SDG building as it appeared in 2017, with stucco-covered Visitor's Centre (former Warden's Residence) visible at the left side of the frame. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

Natascha Wood
Nation Valley News

SD&G — During a meeting of the United Counties of SD&G Council on April 22nd, MPP Jim McDonell found himself on the ropes, facing criticism from SD&G Councillors about multiple problems in Eastern Ontario amidst the third wave.

Those present at the virtual meeting were Warden Frank Prevost, Councillor Armstrong, Councillor Steven Byvelds, Councillor Tony Fraser, Councillor Kirsten Gardener, Councillor Francois Landry, Councillor Bryan McGillis, Councillor Jaime McDonald, Deputy Mayor of South Stormont David Smith, Councillor Lyle Warden, Councillor Jim Wert, and Councillor Carma Williams. They were joined by Medical Officer of Health Dr Paul Roumeliotis, MP Eric Duncan, and MPP Jim McDonell.

In MPP McDonell’s opening statement, he defended the Ford government’s vaccine rollout to only six pharmacies across the EOHU, while pointing towards Prime Minister Trudeau and the federal government’s failure to procure enough vaccines. Councillor Armstrong countered by mentioning that the Ottawa area has upwards of 50 vaccinating pharmacies operating currently. Warden Prevost and Dr Roumeliotis echoed the same frustrations.

“I am extremely upset, and I’m saying this to the camera, at the way that the pharmacy rollout has been done. It’s unacceptable. I had to beg for three pharmacies in the beginning, and we had to beg for the two in Cornwall recently. We were never given a choice of where the pharmacies would be. I’m very upset that Leeds Grenville has many more than we do. Ottawa has ten times more than we do,” Dr Roumeliotis said.

McDonell responded by, again, citing the lack of supply, though he did not address the disparity between Ottawa’s many pharmacies and Eastern Ontario’s six.

Councillor McDonald asked McDonell about the recent protest in Alexandria, wherein approximately one hundred unmasked people gathered to protest against the lockdowns. He inquired as to why five people cannot camp outdoors, but a hundred people can gather to protest. McDonell responded at length without answering the question.

Dr Roumeliotis, instead, stepped in to say that he has been meeting with the appropriate detachments of the OPP to charge the organizers of the protests, including the one in Alexandria. He intends to do the same with protests planned for May.

In the latter half of the meeting, Warden Prevost and Councillor Armstrong highlighted their issues with the closing down of businesses like golf courses and hairdressers. In particular, Prevost pointed out that, if Eastern Ontario is not a hotspot by the provincial government’s definition, then the region is being penalized for no reason. McDonell answered with an anecdote.

“There’s no reason why one person can’t go into a barbershop. There’s no reason why one person can’t go into a hardware store. But I can go into a grocery store with 250 other people. And don’t tell me that they’re only allowed 25 per cent because there’s nobody at the door,” Prevost said.

“I find it a little disturbing that you are choosing to smile through this conversation that the Warden is having with you, and just continue to remind us what it’s like in Peel, or tell us stories that we’re all very well aware of. We aren’t here to get a lesson on COVID-19,” Councillor Armstrong said.

A shouting match began between an impassioned Councillor Armstrong and MPP McDonell. McDonell’s continued references to the situation in Peel caused friction between him and the Council, prompting Armstrong to accuse McDonell of representing Peel instead of his electorate.

Though McDonell received some rather poor reviews during the meeting, his closing statement included optimism and hope for a better summer. Whether or not the Council members share that optimism remains to be seen.

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