Today, February 18th (2022), having dedicated the past 10 years of my life to be the MPP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound and with mixed emotions, I am officially announcing that I will not be seeking re-election in the June 2022 Provincial Election.
Serving as the MPP (Member of Provincial Parliament) has truly been an honour for the past decade and I am proud of what my team, and my colleagues have been able to accomplish over this time. I remain a strong supporter of Premier Ford, the Government and their vision for the Province.
It has been the challenge of my life, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges, the achievements and each experience. It has not been without anxiety, turbulent times and stress, especially during the once-in-a-lifetime (hopefully) Covid-19 pandemic. However, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to have served in public service during such critical times and am grateful to have had the opportunity to represent and lead as your elected representative.
Having served for seven years in Opposition learning how government works, holding the government accountable, and trying to find ways to collaborate, negotiate and compromise while building relationships, and move our Province forward. And for the past four years as a member of government trying to make a difference and our communities and province the best they can be, I feel I have made a difference and I am at peace with my decision to retire. Both sides of government have been rewarding and a huge learning opportunity of what it means to be a public servant.
While in Opposition, I was honoured to hold the Critic positions of Social and Community Services, Seniors and Accessibility, Long Term Care, and have been the Caucus Nuclear Chair for my entire tenure.
In Government, I have been humbled to be provided the opportunity to serve as Chief Government Whip, Minister of Government and Consumer Services, Associate Minister of Energy, and recently as Deputy Speaker. All have been rewarding!
Much has been accomplished, both locally and provincially over my tenure. Locally, the Markdale Hospital is finally under construction, and this is a highlight as it had been promised numerous times by the previous government and I vowed when I was elected to make it a reality. Five (5) new long-term care facilities, three (3) new schools, three (3) new daycare centres, and hundreds of millions of dollars for healthcare, social services, sport and community services have been awarded to our area through capital funding programs and the Ontario Trillium Foundation program, of which I am an enthusiastic champion. It is with great pride that I can say over $380 million of funding has been allotted to BGOS over the past four years since we formed government, and every one of those dollars invested will positively impact the lives of residents and guests for many years into the future.
It has been most gratifying and truly the highlight of any effort, when my team and I were able to help someone locally, for example, helping to get a driver’s license re-instated, access to a service or program, or additional funding for those in need. These are programs and services that impact the day-to-day lives of people, and the ‘wins’ that I will always hold dearest in regard to my ability to serve the people.
Provincially, while much work remains to be completed, we have made improvements across most ministries and tried to improve the service levels, capacity and efficiency of programs for the benefit of the people, have initiated historical infrastructure funding in the areas of broadband (cell and internet), transportation (bridges and roads), environment (water and sewer), increased funding in the areas of mental health, hospitals and long-term care, as well social services, seniors and hospice care, and made a number of policy changes to support our agricultural industry. And we did all of this while providing leadership in the worst pandemic in our province’s history.
It has always been my objective to provide a balanced approach to every matter, to listen to people on all sides of each issue and be their collective voice, and to give my full energy to the best of my ability, with the overall goal of making our community and province a better place. I gave it my all, an ‘Energizer Billy’ commitment of my total energy and devotion, and I am proud of what I have been able to help accomplish, with the help and engagement of many people.
As I have always stated, my success has been a result of the support I have received and a team approach, and locally a ‘Team Walker’ effort. I extend appreciation to my constituency and Queen’s Park families and teams; the members of the public service in all capacities and especially those who served with me while I was a Cabinet Minister; the leaders (Tim Hudak, Patrick Brown, Jim Wilson and Vic Fedeli) and colleagues I have served with in Opposition, as well as Premier Ford and my colleagues in Caucus and Cabinet; the MPP’s of other parties and their staff, many of whom I have made friendships with and look forward to continuing in future; the folks that work in all capacities at Queen’s Park, (I always enjoyed my interactions with every person who works in government); and the many individuals – leaders, staff and volunteers of the multitude of stakeholder organizations, charities, non-profits, other levels of government and business who brought their dedication, both in opposition and support of government to Queen’s Park. I am in awe of every single person who participates actively in our democracy and in their respective communities and areas of interest.
I extend a special and heartfelt appreciation to my family (Michaela, Zach and Ben), my extended family of siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles, and my many friends, riding association executive members (and their families for sacrificing their precious family time to allow them to commit to me and the cause) and the volunteers, donors and voters, who have supported me at every step of my journey, and allowed me to devote my energy to this noble profession over the past 10 years.
To the incredible people of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound who have provided me the opportunity to represent you for three terms at Queen’s Park and at home, I offer my sincere appreciation and want you to know I will forever be grateful and humbled. I shall always hold this time dear to me, and hope people will know that I tried my best to earn your trust and respect, and to serve your needs and interests to the best of my ability.
Thank you for the privilege and honour to serve you, and all the best to the next MPP who will be chosen by the people to lead Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound in the future. It is now time for someone else to bring their skills and energy to the role, however, please know I will continue to work hard for my constituents until the end of my term. And, rest assured that I will always do what I can to make our community, province and country the best it can be.
Sincerely and with the greatest appreciation, gratitude and respect,
MPP, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound