Mayor Doug Struthers holds the suitcase that Minister Lisa McLeod is taking on her cross-province tour, accompanied by MPP Steve Clark and Minister McLeod.

Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, Lisa MacLeod, accompanied by Minister for Municipal Affairs and Housing, and local MPP, Steve Clark, stopped in Merrickville and North Grenville on Friday as part of a cross province tour to promote tourism and shopping local in Ontario.

Minister MacLeod believed it was important for her to visit North Grenville
and Merrickville-Wolford, considering their proximity to Ottawa, which is one of Canada’s preeminent tourism designations. “It’s important that we support them from a tourism perspective; but, just as importantly, on a cultural and heritage perspective as well,” she said during her visit.

The two Ministers’ tour of the riding coincided with an announcement that the provincial government is committing $500,000 in funding to help propel the local arts and tourism sector in Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes through the Celebrate Ontario program. This includes $75,000 to support the Kemptville Live Music Festival in North Grenville.

“Our sectors were hit first, the hardest, and will take the longest to recover,” said Minister McLeod. “As our government moves forward with reopening the province, we are proud to support numerous organizations that build up our unique communities and put our tourism industry on the path to recovery.”

Organizer of the Kemptville Live Music Festival, Karen Bedard, says the $75,000 will help make sure the festival returns to North Grenville in full force next year. “The support of the Celebrate Ontario program will allow the Kemptville Live Festival to remain in ready position for a successful 2021 festival once again,” she said.

Mayor Nancy Peckford acknowledged the fact that Kemptville Live has become a significant event in North Grenville that draws people from all over Eastern Ontario and beyond. “While extraordinary circumstances created by the global pandemic forced the cancellation of the music festival, along with so many other events, I have no doubt that Kemptville Live will come back stronger in 2021,” she said.

Minister McLeod says the goal of her tour is to push Ontarians to start reconnecting in their own backyard. “We have an embarrassment of riches in Eastern Ontario as tourism destinations,” she says. As the province slowly reopens the Ontario economy, she wants to make sure people across the province know that it is safe to go back to so me of their old habits and routines in a safe way. “The Chief Medical Officer of Health would not have cleared them to be open if they didn’t have rigorous protocols in place,” she says.

On the other hand, she also encourages Ontarians to wear a mask, wash their hands, and social distance as they are starting to go out and about again. “As long as we all continue to do our part, which we have done incredibly well over the past four and a half months, then we can continue to support our economy and our fellow neighbours,” she says.

“I want to thank Minister MacLeod for her ongoing commitment and tireless support for the arts and tourism sector in Leeds-Grenville-Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes. She has been a true champion for our region throughout this challenging time and as we begin to re-open,” said Minister Clark. “The funding announced today is critical to helping this invaluable sector of our local economy recover and to ensuring our communities remain great places to visit and call home.”

Mayor Doug Struthers says the Minister’s visit to Merrickville was great timing, because the Village just launched an initiative to promote shopping local in Merrickville-Wolford. This includes the retail shops in Merrickville, but also farmgate businesses and services in the rural area. Signs went up throughout the Municipality on Friday to remind people to support small local businesses, while also staying safe. “We are extremely appreciative of what [Minister McLeod] is doing broadly across Ontario, Eastern Ontario in particular, because we know as a destination the value of that short drive,” Mayor Struthers said. “We have a huge community of interest that does like to shop locally, and we want to pro- mote that we have incredible services and businesses in Merrickville-Wolford.”

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