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Armstrong's Neill has impressed the goliaths.

Armstrong's Neill has impressed the goliaths

Aside from imitation, the greatest compliment a person can be paid is respect from the opposition.

It says a lot about Joy Neill that she has that respect, and can prove it.

Last year she received a plaque from Ontario Hydro, consisting of a mounted slighshot and inscribed 'To Joy, aka David, from Goliath.'

The hnor was in recognition of her five years of lobbying to have electricity rates reduced in remote Northern Ontario communities which are not on Ontario Hydro's grid.

Those communities included her home of Armstrong, a community of 500 people about 150 miles north of Thunder Bay.

In Armstrong electricity is generated by diesel stations.

"We paid the price for it," Neill says, noting that the cost was five times higher than in other rural areas.

Now the electricity rates are the same as in other rural areas, regardless of the method of generation.

For the past seven years Neill and her husband, Ted, have operated Jellien Nurseries Armstrong Ltd.

She is secretary-treasurer of the business.

The nursery produces 1.25 million seedlings per year for the province and companies with forestry management agreements with the Crown.

Her involvement in the seedling business has led to other involvements.

Neill is president and was a founding members of the Ontario Tree Seedling Growers Association.

She is also a founding director, past-president and now treasurer of the Thunder Bay Tree Seedling Growers Association.

In addition, she is a member of the Thunder Bay Development Council, vice-president (and in-coming president) of the Northwestern Ontario Chambers of Commerce, treasurer of the Armstrong Resource Development Corporation and vice-president of Northcare, among other organizations.

Obviously someone who enjoys challenge, Neill would like to see more unity in the north.

"I would really like to combine the strengths of the major organizations in Northern Ontario," she says, explaining that she is not talking about an amalgamation of the different groups.

A more united approach to northern advocacy would allow organizations to lend or draw support from one another, she explains.

In her contacts with government, Neill has seen the north's MPPs unable to act on issues because they are getting conflicting messages from different northern organizations.

Neill has lived in Armstrong for 12 years since moving north from the Orillia area when her husband was transferred in his work.

She recalls that she really didn't feel good about the transfer. But, she says, she took her time to become adjusted and made a commitment to the area.

"I'd never go back south again, never."


Neill enjoys the people, the opportunities and the freedom of the north.

"When you put those three together, there's not a better place to live, or to raise a family."

In her travels throughout Northern Ontario, she says she has met an astounding array of personalities.

"I think Northern Ontario has an over-abundance of original people."

The people she meets are also her greatest source of inspiration.

"I meet people every day that inspire me," she adds.

Neill says her grandfather used to say that people are made up of everyone that they meet in their lives.

"You can learn something from everybody, every day."

The 35-year-old was actually born in Sudbury, but was raised in the Orillia area. She and her husband have three sons.

Neill says her key to success is persistence. A prime example was the fight to reduce hydro rates.

The reduction was the result of five years of lobbying by herself and others, she recalls.

Neill recalls that the higher rates were very tough on business. For instance, the commercial rate was 28 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to four cents per kilowatt-hour in other rural areas.

"It was a real injustice to businesses in the area," she says.

Neill says getting the rates reduced took a lot of time. It wasn't a full-time occupation, but she says she took every opportunity to make the argument, including busting a few meetings.

"I had fun with it," she adds.

In addition, Neill made a number of friends in the crusade.

"That's where I learned persistence," she says.

The battle started in 1983 and the rates were lowered on April 1 1989.

ANother key to her success is honesty in everything, and not playing games with people, she says.

Despite being busy, Neill still finds time to enjoy music, cooking and sports, particularly swimming and baseball.

She saves a lot of time by almost never watching television, only an occasional movie, and then "very, very rarely."
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Title Annotation:People; Armstrong, Ontario; Joy Neill
Author:Bickford, Paul
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Sep 1, 1990
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