Warden’s breakfast features local businesses
The Warden’s Breakfast at the Joel Steele Community Hall on Fri., Nov. 19 featured several speakers. The group talked about how they were affected by the pandemic. The keynote speaker was Jody Mitic who talked about strategies to help people achieve their goals. (L-R) North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser, Jody Mitic, Dan Pettigrew, Deputy Mayor, and SD&G warden Al Armstrong, Owen Shortt and Grand Chief Abram Benedict. Morin Photo

WINCHESTER – The Dundas community enjoyed a pleasant breakfast at the Joel Steele Community Hall on Fri., Nov. 19.

The Warden’s Breakfast came to Winchester as warden Al Armstrong brought some cheer to a community that has not been able to hold these kinds of events because of the pandemic.

Featured at the breakfast were speakers Owen Shortt, owner of Winchester Travel, Dan Pettigrew, owner of Foodland Winchester, Grand Chief Abram Benedict from the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, a virtual visit from the provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs Steve Clark, and keynote speaker for the event Jody Mitic who is a Canadian army veteran.

North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser welcomed the crowd at the breakfast, noting how it had been too long since people have been able to get together as they were doing that day.

He talked about the legacy of the Ault family and the recent mural and naming of the arena as the Sam Ault Arena.

The breakfast got underway with warden Armstrong reading the land acknowledgement.

Armstrong said, as part of the land acknowledgement, “These traditional territories were never wholly surrendered and were only claimed by the French and British Crown. As we move toward healing past injustices, we must acknowledge the wrongs that have been done and work towards a unified path of co-existence and prosperity.”

The head table featured Cornwall Mayor Glen Grant, the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry warden elect Deputy Mayor Carma Williams, MP Eric Duncan and Estella Rose and Jim McDonell.

The breakfast was provided by Simply Baked Catering from Winchester and Loughlins who supplied the butter tarts.

After beginning the breakfast warden Armstrong described his entry into the world of municipal politics in a lighthearted manner.

He said, “Twenty-one years and 100 pounds ago I walked into my very first Council meeting as a Municipal Councillor for the township of North Dundas. I was excited, single, single-minded and fifteen something years younger than anyone else at the table. I was so unbelievably naïve about what this job entailed it embarrasses me to this day to think about it. It has been an incredible journey. It has been exciting and rewarding.”

He pointed out that he was happy to be speaking to everyone at the breakfast 21 years later, having lived in Winchester for almost 30 years, raising his two children here and “surrounded by many of the best friends and colleagues I have ever known.”

The first of the speakers, Owen Shortt talked about how the travel industry had been hit very hard by the pandemic.

He remembered when the pandemic caused his world to be turned upside down.  He reassured his clients that the world would eventually return to normal and that was a priority.

“Our initial focus was getting hundreds of people home from all around the world,” he said.

“Airlines were closing down, countries were closing their borders…a job that was accomplished with the most dedicated staff a business owner could have. “

Dan Pettigrew,  whose Winchester Foodland celebrated five years of operation, described the effect the pandemic has had on him personally and from a business point of view. He considered himself lucky to be able to get out and go to work when so many others were stuck at home.

He said, “I was away when the pandemic started. I got home on March the 2nd, and ten days later the government announced everything was shutting down. I lived and breathed, and almost died in my store for probably 62 days. I was working 15 and 18 hours a day making sure that this community had everything it needed. I am so fortunate that this community ha adopted me the way they have.”

He described how staff shortages affected his store and how fatigue became a real issue for his staff.

“The mental health of the 118 people I had in the store became fragile. I am so fortunate to have the team of people that I have who have led the way throughout all of this,” he said.

Grand Chief Abram Benedict mentioned the warmth and welcome he felt from the people gathered for the breakfast.

He said, “It is beautiful to be able to feel that the community has come together to support one another and to hear the message the local business owners have brought and to share with you.”

“Relationship building is extremely important and we have to be able to work with our partners within the region in Eastern Ontario and the federal and provincial governments to be able to ensure that we are providing for our citizens,” said Benedict.

He stressed the importance of supporting local government, as it was a reflection of the community.

“I can tell you that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected my community in many ways.”

He described how his community exists on both sides of the border between the United States and Canada and as the situation changed his community had to adapt to all those changes.

He said that through all of the challenges his community has faced one thing has become apparent and that is how important family is.

He said, “There is real concern from my perspective and my community’s perspective about sustainability and food security and ensuring that as a community we are able to continue to move forward. The world that we are living in now is changing quickly and we need to work together as partners, as a region, as elected officials, but also as communities, to ensure we can support one another. When things happen in my backyard they are happening in your backyard.

Steve Clark, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing said that he had been able to witness the impact that COVID-19 has had on the region. He said the government was anxious to move forward with its Build Ontario initiative in an effort to deal with the effects of the pandemic.

Jody Mitic served as a Canadian Army sniper in Afghanistan. He lost both of his legs below the knee and came back to Canada served as an Ottawa city councillor. His topic was courage, perseverance, and developing the skills needed to reach your goals.

He said, “Politics is one of the greatest things we have in our democracy and in our system. I joke sometimes that I had my legs blown off so that people could have a terrible attitude. Democracy works because we want it to work. We all agree it is a better system that I have seen and my colleagues have seen.”

He said no matter what is going on around you, working as a team will usually make the difference.

“What is the one thing you would like to accomplish in your life?” He talked about how we can accomplish that particular goal.

“I find personally that life seems more confusing and moving at a pace that even ten years ago, none of us could have imagined.”

He explained that using what time you have wisely and staying focused on your goals is crucial to reaching them.

He described how anyone can do simple things each day to remind them that they are moving toward their goal.

“One grain of sand can tip the scales. Whether it is a millimetereor a mile it is still moving forward.”

He said reaching your goal or failing to, was something that only you could be responsible for.

“You have to look inside yourself and find the reason why you were unsuccessful so that you can be successful next time.

His presentation was in keeping with the theme of how the North Dundas community dealt with the pandemic.