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Prime Minister Harper announces national awards for volunteers during a visit to Welland

(January 7, 2011)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Welland, population 50,000 started with a tour of the Welland Community Wellness Complex.

The complex is scheduled to be completed August 2011. The total cost is $9 million. The governments of Canada and Ontario are contributing $3 million each while the City of Welland is contributing $3 million.

The event was rounded off within few minutes and the PM headed to the major announcement of the day.

The hall of the Lions Club of Welland was packed with political leaders business leaders, volunteers from different not-for -profit organizations and local residents.

After an introduction by Rob Nicholson, Justice Minister and Member of Parliament of Niagara Falls, Prime Minister Harper told the audience he was in their community to inform volunteers across the nation of new awards to recognize their outstanding contributions.

"The place of Niagara peninsula in Canada’s history is worth noting", said the the Prime Minister. The 200th anniversary of the war of 1812 will soon be celebrated. Some of the historical sites of the war are located in the Niagara peninsula.

“In the war of 1812 Canada was saved and its destiny as a country distinct from the United States was secured by a mix of professional regiments, aboriginal peoples and of course local volunteer militias,” he noted.

A total of 17 Prime Minister’s Volunteer Awards will be presented annually. Fifteen regional awards will be presented to volunteers, business leaders and individuals from not-for-profit organizations.

There will also be two national awards, one to recognize lifelong achievement and one for a young adult. Regional award recipients will receive a $5,000 grant for the not-for-profit organization of their choice, while national award recipients will receive $10,000 for their organization of choice.

The first call for nominations will open in April 2011 during National Volunteer Week and the recipients will be announced later in the year.

Minister Finley noted that volunteers contributed over 2 billion hours of their time nationwide. She encouraged all Canadians to celebrate the efforts of volunteers not only during the volunteer week but every day.

Marcel Lauzière, the President and CEO of Imagine Canada, a national umbrella for charities and nonprofits in Canada said “If we were to take out from our communities the work done by volunteers, by charities and not-for-profits, we will face a different form of Canada, one that is diminished and unrecognizable.”

Marcel Lauzière noted that volunteers “are essential to the society we have built but it can be too easy to take all these for granted. That is why these awards are so important. They will act as a reminder to Canadians of the crucial role played by volunteers, charities and non profits in building our existing fabric.”

I saw some protesters as I exited the Lions Club premises. I was given a brochure. They have a gripe with the former top cop Julian Fantino. He was elected recently as a parliamentarian and appointed Minister of State for Seniors. protesters

The Prime Minister's itinerary in Welland ended with a business consultation and luncheon at the Blue Star restaurant located in the rustic downtown a few distance from the Welland canal. Blue Star Welland

Some patrons at the diner prolonged their stay to catch a glimpse of the visiting Prime Minister.

The small town hospitality was accorded Mosaic Edition by co-owner John Plentai who offered me bottled water and snacks. I excused myself from the food as the PM’s entourage could emerge at any moment. co owner

It was interesting meeting life long resident of Welland and owner of Nappers Boxing Club Doug Dobias who was at the restaurant with his daughter Alexis. coach boxingDoug Dobias told me the visit was a boost to the moral of small business owners. Doug Dobias credited one of the achievements of his boxing club to sending Tom Glesby to the Olympics in 1988 and 1992.

The restaurant proudly displays the jerseys of local boys who have moved on to play in the National Hockey League. It has memorable posters including that of boxing great Mohammed Ali in a 1972 fight.

Patrons shook hands and those with cameras posed for photographs with Prime Minister Harper. Some others recorded the event on their cell phone video.

During the business luncheon, Prime Minister Harper said he would need more input from small business owners on how the economy could be improved.

The PM’s entourage included political heavyweights in the Conservative Party. On the tour were Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice, Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Canada, Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, Dean Allison, Member of Parliament, Niagara West –Glenbrook, Phil McColeman Member of Parliament of Brant and Rick Dykstra, Member of Parliament of the City of St Catharines and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism.

(Story and photo by Edward Akinwunmi)

Click to see the mephoto gallery of Prime Minister Harper's visit to Welland

Mosaic Edition Webcast

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Welland, population 50,000 started with a tour of the Welland Community Wellness Complex.