As I look back at the highs and lows of 2021, I’m inspired by the tenacity and determination shown consistently by businesses, charities, community groups and individuals in Barrie and Innisfil, as they faced many challenges.

The uncertainty and hardship caused by COVID-related restrictions and labour shortages have made it difficult for small businesses to keep their doors open and our community needs strong local businesses to help us recover from the pandemic. That’s why I have consistently encouraged everyone to shop local and support local – and that must continue in 2022.

It’s been six months since an EF-2 tornado tore through south Barrie and north Innisfil and for many families, the recovery is still ongoing. The immediate emergency response from police, fire, paramedics, city and town staff and utility companies was impressive, and it was heart-warming to see volunteers from across our community and beyond helping those in need. Strangers participated in community clean-ups and donated food, water, clothing and other essentials to families whose homes were lost or damaged.

When disaster struck, Barrie and Innisfil residents stepped up in a big way.

The summer election campaign was an opportunity to talk about the issues that are important to Canadians and I was grateful to be re-elected for my third term as MP and get right back to work.

I delivered my first speech in the 44th Parliament on Dec. 2, noting the challenges that lie ahead including housing affordability and attainability, food and energy security. Also, I was pleased to be named the Opposition Shadow Minister for Ethics and Government Accountability, and to become a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Ethics and the Special Committee on Afghanistan.

Nationally, Canadians from coast to coast marked the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021, honouring the lives of children who died while attending residential schools and the survivors, families and communities that continue to suffer the lasting generational impact. The events of this somber day each year will be important as we seek truth and reconciliation for our Indigenous Canadians.

Locally, numerous community events and ceremonies kept me busy in the fall; from the sod-turning for the new south campus of RVH to Remembrance Day ceremonies and Christmas celebrations, flag-raisings and memorials to honour some of our community leaders.

There was the dedication of a plaque honouring Mary-Jane Brinkos for her lifelong passion and work to protect Lake Simcoe. Her legacy and love for our lake has inspired so many.

It was great fun to congratulate our own “million-dollar man” on his 96th birthday. Will Dwyer, a proud veteran, has raised over $1 million for The Terry Fox Foundation at the annual Terry Fox Run in Barrie.

What a privilege it was to attend a ceremony with Pastor Howard Courtney of Innisfil Community Church when he received the highest honour, “The Order of the Red Cross” for his 57 + years of service.

Also, it was great to see Zoe Bystrov receive the Ernie Crossland Young Conservationist Award at the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority “Watershed Heroes” 2021 Awards, for her leadership with Youth for Lake Simcoe.

And in November, I was honoured and saddened to rise in the House of Commons to pay tribute to the late Elmore Cudanin, a long-time Barrie resident, leader of the Filipino community in Central Ontario and founder of the Bayanihan Club of Simcoe County.

So many wonderful people work hard to make Barrie-Innisfil a great place and I am always happy and proud to recognize their achievements.

I wish everyone great health, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year.