THUNDER BAY - After a five month leave following a diagnosis of depression, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Michael Gravelle, is making the transition back to work, as well as preparing for a reelection bid in 2018.
“It feels very good to be back,” Gravelle said during an announcement at Mini-Queen’s Park on Monday in Thunder Bay.
“It’s been quite a journey the last five months. I’ve learned a great deal during my time on leave and certainly to have the opportunity to get back to work is the thing I was most hoping for and that is what has happened.”
Gravelle announced in February last year that he would be taking a leave from his cabinet position after being diagnosed with depression the previous year. His portfolio was temporarily taken over by Minister Bill Mauro.
“We are all vulnerable to the pressures of life,” Gravelle said of his diagnosis. “There is no question about that. I must admit I felt this building up, the pressure to take some time and to deal with my depression, to actually acknowledge that I was depressed, was not the easiest thing to do.”
“Mental health and mental illness is something that people don’t talk about a great deal,” Gravelle continued. “I felt it was important for me to be honest as for the reason I was taking leave.”
According to Gravelle, he is not all the way through his struggle and will be transitioning back to work as he continues to work on improving his health. But he said with the support of his healthcare team, friends, and colleagues, he felt he was in a position to return to work.
“I love the work that I do,” he said. “This has been an important part of my life for the past 22 years. One of the things I was able to reflect upon while I was on leave was how much this job means to me and how much it means to me to represent as strongly as I can my constituents. I want to carry on that opportunity.”
First elected in 1995, Gravelle hopes the opportunity to serve the Thunder Bay-Superior North riding continues past the 2018 provincial election, as he prepares to run for reelection.
And while he continues to work on improving his health, Gravelle said he is fully confident that he can continue his role at Queen’s Park and serve the people of his riding.
“I want to see the four-laning of the highway between Thunder Bay and Nipigon completed,” Gravelle said. “That is a project that has been a very important one of mine for a number of years. With the Ring of Fire, we are continuing to work closely with our Matawa First Nation leadership and communities and we are hoping to provide an update on that very soon.”
This week, Gravelle will be heading out on a short tour of the riding, starting in Nipigon Monday afternoon. But Gravelle’s first order of business was announcing an initiative to plant 15,000 eastern white pine seed pods in celebration of Canada and Ontario’s 150th anniversary.
“These can grow into incredible, beautiful trees in our conifer forest and I’m just glad to be able to use this as an opening to me returning to my ministry,” Gravelle said.
Now that Gravelle is making the transition back to serving the people of Northern Ontario, he said he plans to pace himself a little more than before, as he reflects on his journey and just how challenging it can be.
“It is an ongoing journey and one I show great respect for because I have now lived through it and still living through it,” he said. “But I am buoyed up by the tremendous support I have received from so many people.”