Volume 10 Week 23

Wednesday, April 13


 

Updated April 19

Updated Feb. 4


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(Posrted 8:30 a.m., April 13)
Veteran MPP calls it a day after 41 years in politics
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Glegarry-Prescott-Russell MPP Jean-Marc Lalonde gets a hug from his grandson Tristan after announcing that he is retiring from politics after a career stretching back over five decades. Fred Sherwin/Photo


When Jean-Marc Lalonde was first elected to Rockland town council in October 1970, John Robarts was still Premier of Ontario and the NHL only had 12 teams.

Except for a brief period between 1973 and 1976 when he suffered the only loss of his political career, he has been deveoted to public service for the past 41 years. He served as a town councillor from 1971 to 1973 and was elected mayor in 1976, a position which he held until 1991.

After taking a four-year hiatus, he successfully ran for the provincial legislature in 1995 in the former riding of Prescott and Russell.

He was re-elected three times with pluralities that would put most MPPs to shame. In 2003, he received 65 per cent of the ballots cast, and in 2007, he won by 13,500 votes.

He was as close to a shoe-in as you can get in politics, and up until three weeks ago, he was leaning heavily towards giving it one more go at the tender age of 75,

It wasn't until he went on a cruise with his wife Gisele and ended up spending most of his time in their cabin with a sore back and hip that he started to have second thoughts. The final straw came when he visited his doctor and came to the realization that life is finite and if he wanted to make the most of his remaining years with his three young grandchildren he needed to make the most difficult decision of his political career.

On Tuesday night, he announced that the time had finally come to call it a day. Speaking in front of a roomful of supporters, including five local mayors and the entire Glengarry-Prescott-Russell Liberal Riding Association, Lalonde confirmed what many had feared.

"It's very hard for me to say that I cannot continue to work for the beautiful people of this riding which is the best riding in OIntario," Lalonde said with his vocie cracking. "Let me tell you that I wish I was 10 years younger."

Lalonde leaves politics having accomplished a great deal. In fact, in the past five and half years he's secured over $400 million in projects.including eight new schools, two new health centres and numerous road, sewer, water and bridge projects.

An avid hockey player, Lalonde helped establish the Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland and he played an integral role in bringing the Calypso Water Park to Limoges.

In 2001, he brought forward a Private Members’ Bill, entitled the Franco-Ontarian Emblem Act, which recognized the Franco-Ontarian flag as the official emblem of the Franco-Ontarian community.

Lalonde was praised for his years of service at Queen's Park by fellow MPPs Jim Brownell, Madeleine Meilleur and Phil McNeely.

All three MPPs echoed the sentiment that Lalonde was one of the most repected and well-liked MPPs at Queen's Park.

"Thank you for 16 years of service. You are not only one of the most respected MPPs at Queen's Park, you are one of the hardest working MPPs," said McNeely.

Although he's stepping down from the political stage, he doesn't plan to go very far. He's looking forward to hit the campaign hustings with his successor, no matter who it is, and he plans to offer his services to the local community as a volunteer consultant.

Last, but not least, he plans to stay on top of the Hwy. 174 Environmental Assessment, which he believes will pave the way for the future widening of highway from Trim Road to Rockland.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)

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