“Two words,” he said, during a recent phone interview. “COVID-19.”
When the pandemic broke in spring and public health states of emergency were declared throughout Ontario and the rest of Canada, seniors were declared as one of the most vulnerable age groups for the new and unknown virus. Public health authorities urged seniors to self-isolate, to reduce their risk of exposure to the contagion.
Mayor Desjardins is a senior, and though hale and hearty and always at work with his greenhouse farming operation, followed the advice of the experts and for the rest of 2020 stayed at home. He carried out his mayoral duties through virtual meetings City council and also the United Counties of Prescott-Russell council, and, like many other people, used email, teleconference, and social media for any other business or personal matters.
“This is the year when it seems things have thrown the whole world into a whirl,” Desjardins said, regarding all the changes forced on everyone by the pandemic. “For us, though, there’s been quite a bit accomplished, despite COVID.”
He cited completion of the new fire station in Rockland, at a cost of $21 million, as one accomplishment. “That’s something that should have been done 20 years ago,” he said. “Also, we’ve seen a lot of new houses going up.”
He acknowledges that the pandemic has been a punch in the financial stomach to the community’s business sector. “For many restaurants, it’s been a hard year,” he said, adding that many restaurant owners, along with other business people, learned to adapt to the situation with take-out or pick-up and delivery services.
But, the mayor also noted, a few businesses, like Top Mode in the Rockland Plaza, ended up closing their doors for good. “It was a crunch for them, I guess,” he said. “They consolidated with their Orléans outlet. But there is a new business that will be going in where they were.”
Looking ahead, Mayor Desjardins is confident that 2021 will be far better than 2020. “We have some big infrastructure projects coming up,” he said, adding that news of the vaccines is also cause for hope. “Seeing an end to COVID, that’s the first item on my (New Year’s) list,” he said.