Barry’s Bay’s Sean Conway receives Ontario’s highest honour

The Honorable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario announced the appointment of 47 outstanding Ontarians to the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honour on January 1, 2021. Of the 47, 22 are for the year 2019 while 25 are for 2020.

Residents of the Madawaska Valley and the riding of Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke, will be particularly interested to learn that Barry’s Bay’s Sean Conway has received this honour. Above: photo supplied

Conway, who was Ontario’s youngest MPP when he was first elected in 1975, served Ontarians and his constituents until 2003 in a variety of ministerial and critic roles, as Government House leader and as Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Since his departure from elected politics, he has continued to offer his talent, knowledge and experience in a variety of roles. In his Order of Ontario profile, Conway is acknowledged as having served Ontario with great distinction as a legislator, public policy expert, advisor, educator and author, and it is noted that his “captivating and legendary oratory” in the legislature earned him the respect of all parties.

When interviewed by The Current, Conway indicated that he had been made aware of his appointment a few days before Christmas when he was contacted by the Lieutenant Governor’s office; the Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Lisa MacLeod; and local MPP and Ministry of Resources and Forestry John Yakabuski:

“I am very honoured to have been selected for this distinction and I want to thank all those who supported my nomination.” 

Characteristically, Conway acknowledged his deep Ottawa and Madawaska Valley roots:

“The citation announcing my selection to the Order made reference to the fact that I seemed to enjoy making speeches. Growing up in Barry’s Bay, I have to admit that I was greatly influenced by the very strong oratorical tradition of the Ottawa Valley. As a youngster, I listened to very accomplished public speakers like Joe Greene, Arthur Maloney, and Paul Martin Sr. who impressed upon me the power of the spoken word. My appointment to the Order of Ontario is a recognition of the rich and colourful oral tradition of the Ottawa Valley and the remarkable men and women who made it.”

Jayne Brophy of Pembroke, who was Liberal riding association president for a number of years and worked on many of Conway’s campaigns, was very pleased to see Conway recognized:

“Sean dedicated everything to working on behalf of the residents of Renfrew County and Ontario. He is an historian who relishes the history of our county and our province, and he uses his talents to make both a better place.”

Sean Conway speaks at Burnstown in May 2018 (photo William Enright)

Barry’s Bay’s former mayor, John Hildebrandt, who has known three generations of Conway’s family, was happy to see another native son recognized for his contributions. Hildebrandt spoke of Conway’s “Valley common-sense,” his encyclopedic knowledge of the area, and the fact that his position “never went to his head.”

“In my mind’s eye, I still see him speaking in the Legislature. Sean often found a way to drop the names of little Valley towns like Barry’s Bay into his eloquent speeches. That made us feel good and helped put us on the map.”

Conway joins an august group of Ontarians, which since its institution in 1986 under Premier David Peterson and Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander, has grown to almost 800 members. Members of the Order of Ontario come from a range of fields including medical professionals, educators, social justice advocates, philanthropists, journalists, business leaders, entertainers and politicians from all levels of government. These Ontarians are recognized for the diverse ways they have contributed to the history and social and cultural fabric of Ontario.

In her announcement, the Lieutenant Governor noted the example these individuals provide for Ontario citizens:

“We have seen the best of Ontarians this year, and many of these new appointees are being honoured for a lifetime of service to this province, laying the groundwork of resilience and community that each one of us was called to act upon in this historic global pandemic. Let these appointees inspire you and encourage you to honour those around you by nominating them to be recognized by the province. We have much to be proud of.”

To learn about Conway’s companions in the 2019 and 2020 Order of Ontario cohorts, follow the following links:

Click HERE for the 2019 appointees

Click HERE for the 2020 appointees


  1. Wm. Dean Davis

    There could not have been a more deserving person! Mr. Conway, I have always been impressed by your professionalism and the fact that you have always strived to meet high standards. It always made me feel proud as I travelled around Renfrew County and heard so many kind comments about you. Thank you for all you have done for our constituents and others. I, for one, will never forget your kindness. Respectfully, Wm. Dean Davis (Retired from OPP Killaloe)

  2. Marie Conway Hawdon

    Dear Sean,this honour is so well deserved. While your accomplishments are many you have always stayed true to your roots and I am so proud of you. You are truly one of a kind. Congratulations and I hope I can see you soon. Marie

  3. John & Beth Hildebrandt

    Congratulations Sean!!!!!! Well deserved. You were, and still are an advocate for us in the “Valley”. And also a great historian!!!!
    Johnnie & Beth

  4. Gilbert J Glofcheskie

    Kudos Mr. Conway. I have known you most of my life .You have had a positive influence on many lives ,from the times you organized our own back yard Olympics ,to your career in Politics and all the effort you have inject into many communities . They say a person should make a positive difference when journeying thru their lives .You certainly have accomplished this feat .
    Congratulations on receiving Order of Ontario and for making a difference in so many lives .

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