2023-01-29

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SDG Warden Tony Fraser's goals include Highway 138, rural education, & more – Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

The United Counties of SDG’s newest Warden Tony Fraser, who is also mayor of North Dundas, is excited for his new role with the upcoming term of council.

Fraser said that since 2010, when he first joined council in North Dundas, he has looked forward to every meeting, comparing his excitement to that of a young athlete running into a hockey arena, itching to lace up his skates and get on the ice.

“There’s not been a single meeting where I’ve thought, do I have to go to this one? We’ve had challenging meetings, and I see it as a challenge that needs to be met,” he said.

Fraser was officially sworn in as warden on Dec. 2. He thanked SDG staff members for their hard work and everyone who attended to spectate, saying “I thought it went fantastic.”

Looking at his new responsibility, Fraser said he’ll endeavour to conduct SDG meetings in a swift but comprehensive manner while ensuring everyone has an opportunity to speak and be heard.

“There is a method to ensuring a meeting moves ahead. I remember early days with Bill Smirle, as he mentioned (at the inauguration) with fire prevention, I learned a lot from him back at amalgamation time, just by watching him with a group of people who were not always on the same page,” said Fraser. “There’s seven new members on county council… and CAO Maureen Adams is new to us… there’s energy, enthusiasm, and fresh ideas… and I want to be a part of that.”

When thinking about his goals, Fraser said he feels SDG needs to continue challenging the province on ways to improve safety on Highway 138.

“That’s a major thoroughfare, major commercial route, and I feel it (hasn’t been properly addressed),” he said.

SDG council, among other local governing bodies, expressed discontent earlier this year when the highway was excluded from the Connecting the East: draft transportation plan for eastern Ontario. In 2021, MTO announced a Headline Road roundabout could be completed in 2022. This project has been pushed back at least a year. 

In anticipation of the work, SDG created a stakeholder group that began meeting over the summer, which includes SDG representatives, Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry (SDSG) MPP Nolan Quinn, SDSG MP Eric Duncan, SDG OPP, the townships of North and South Stormont, the City of Cornwall, and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne (MCA).

Another goal of Fraser’s includes looking to the province for improved supports for rural education. The rural-education file has roots throughout the region that grew with advocacy groups forming following the the 2016-17 Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) accommodation review. SDG hosted a rural education symposium virtually last year where keynote speaker Paul Bennett urged the upper-tier government to develop a strategic plan with tangible actions. 

“I would like to see that continue and make sure that our voice is still heard that we need to fight for equity in our education system. If we want to create an environment where people want to move to SDG we… can’t be overlooked,” said Fraser.

Supporting aging infrastructure is another goal of Fraser’s, and fostering a team mentality among council on these projects within each of the six lower-tier municipalities.

“The problems we have at the lower tier are shared problems. So I’m looking to increase the dialogue and the team mentality that we to take on these challenges together. Dundas Manor and Maxville Manor are two examples, from one end of SDG to the other.”

When asked about pushing Quinn on the files mentioned, Fraser said in their first meeting he expressed his frustrations and concerns about a number of things.

“But in our initial introduction, that energy was there, and he understood the passion we have at SDG for getting things done, and the need to have bigger support,” he said. “I’m looking forward to… more discussions (with Quinn).”

Finally, Fraser spoke to the development and meetings of a regional waste management working group at the SDG level.

“(North Dundas) is quite comfortable with the working group (framework) because there are good ideas that we could use, and I hope there’s good ideas we have that other’s could use. That is one of the big positives of this working group: the exchange of ideas to find efficiencies,” he said.

Fraser is looking forward to the new term with a rosy outlook. He thanked outgoing CAO Tim Simpson for all of his efforts in the role over the years.

“I thank him for being an example to me as I move through this process, and I wish him the best in his retirement,” he said.

shoneill@postmedia.com

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