Working behind the scene for nearly three decades in public office, Ovid Jackson was thrust into the limelight last week when he was presented with the province’s highest award – the Order of Ontario – at Queen’s Park.
Jackson, who has spent considerable time addressing the needs of newcomers, youth and persons with disabilities, came to Canada 44 years ago. He worked as a licensed automotive/diesel mechanic prior to obtaining his teaching certificate from the Ontario Teachers College. While teaching at West Hill Secondary School from 1968 to 1993, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Western Ontario.
Jackson served as an alderman in Owen Sound for eight years up until 1982 and as mayor for a decade before being elected to the federal parliament in 1993. The Liberal lost the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound riding to Tory Larry Miller six years ago.
“I was surprised to be appointed to the Order, but I did quite a lot things and put in a lot of hard work during my tenure in public office,” he said.
Jackson, who celebrated his 71st birthday yesterday, played a key role in helping launch the Community Foundation Bruce Grey that manages $2.5 million in assets and in keeping the Billie Bishop and Marine and Rail museums doors open at a time when small volunteer-run organizations were being threatened with closure.
He served with distinction as Chair of the Standing Committee on Transport and Government Operations and the Central Ontario Caucus, and as vice-chair of the Health and Citizenship and Immigration committees.
The respected politician, who was committed to the advancement of the National Children’s Agenda and the Cities caucus, was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Government Renewal in February 1996. He was re-appointed in July 1997.
“I have had a close relationship with my uncle and he fully deserves the honour,” said Che Marville who nominated Jackson for the Order. “He’s very committed, compassionate, inspiring and very humble about the extensive body of work he has done to improve the lives of others.”
Since retiring from politics, the ardent cricket fan regularly travels to Barbados to watch the sport and spends quality time with his wife Verona and their 10 grandchildren. He is also in the process of beginning to write his memoirs.
Jackson is the third Guyanese immigrant to receive the honour after Richmond Hill Vishnu Mandir president Dr. Budhendra Doobay in 1993 and Toronto Police Service Auxiliary Superintendent Frank Fernandes last year.
Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor David Onley made the presentations to Jackson and the other 28 recipients.
“Each appointee has made his or her mark in ways that are a tribute to the diversity of this province,” he said. “You are the ones that build with both hands, your heart, mind and soul and your extraordinary achievements and contributions are a shining example.”
Premier Dalton McGuinty also showered the recipients with praise.
“We recognize and celebrate you, not because you have enriched yourselves, but because you have enriched our lives,” he said. “You represent what we aspire to be as a province.”
This year’s honourees bring to 510 the number of distinguished recipients since 1987 when the Order was first presented.