Historic week for CK at rural Ontario conference

Dresden Councillor Jamie McGrail. (Photo via Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

A Chatham-Kent councillor has her sights set high after being elected to the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) Board of Directors Zone 1.

Dresden Councillor Jamie McGrail will represent Southwestern Ontario to just east of London and is the first councillor from Chatham-Kent in a long time, if not ever, to be elected to the ROMA Board. McGrail told CK News Today her priorities heading into the first meeting in mid-February are affordable and attainable housing, mental health supports for addiction and other afflictions, expanding rural internet service, and public health funding.

McGrail said this is a big deal and she is very excited to start her four year term.

“Attainable housing for sure and some incentives for municipalities to put towards attainable [housing] would be great,” said McGrail. “I’m all for and always will be for attainable or affordable [housing], whatever housing is going up, not out because we still need to keep a handle on precious farmland and we still need to grow for the world.”

McGrail also sits on the Board of the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT), a non-profit municipally-led broadband expansion project created to improve internet connectivity in under-served communities and rural areas across Southwestern Ontario. She said she wants to keep pushing for better internet service in rural areas.

“I’m very excited about the 5G and the possibilities of maybe going into that for sure. At the very least that everyone has to have coverage. If you’re in trouble in an emergency, at the very least that needs to be covered,” McGrail said.

Wallaceburg Councillor Carmen McGregor also asked the province about more funding for public health units to address the backlog of services caused by COVID-19. Councillor McGrail said the Minister of Health acknowledged that more needs to be done.

McGrail said the conference was the largest it has been for a while with 1, 500 municipal leaders attending and it was worthwhile going.

Wallaceburg Councillor Aaron Hall said McGrail will make an excellent representative for the area. Mayor Darrin Canniff said he’s excited to have local representation at that level.