Dippys, Dukes, Greavettes, oh my! Spring Boat Tour A Hit

Between answering questions about whether it’s safe to put boats in given still chilly water temperatures (the answer by the way is as long as they stay in they should be fine) and restoring a number of boats back to their original brilliance, the boat builder crew at Stan Hunter’s boat shop has been busy – and certainly many came through the doors during the Antique and Classic Boat Society Spring Boat tour. It's always fun to elbows with people who love classic Muskoka as much as you do.

For more info on the annual Spring Tour and a list of all the stops boat lovers docked at, please visit http://www.acbs.ca/Shows/Springtour/

Hunting for a classic of your own? Stan Hunter has these treasures for sale:

1951 Dispro, $15,000

18’ Greavette Sunflash (1973) formerly owned by late Tim Chisholm

20’ Duke, “Mentor”

Stan Hunter Original Travelling Canoe Reproduction, "Nelson Brown" $4500

There are also some affordable starter boats, too, for extra family fun or runaround use, including a Fibreglass Lightning Sailboat (just sold), a Grew and others..

Stan and his trusty apprentice, James Osler, wish you a happy and safe boating season. See you at the ACBS show in July!

District Budget ‘Amendments’ : Are they cause for alarm?

Here is the exact wording of a District of Muskoka amendment package that has been added on to the District of Muskoka Council meeting package for discussion April 11:

Net Levy Savings

  • Gapping provision increase and management staff complement through vacancies & staffing requisitions (targeted savings $201,983) $172,783
  • Eliminate provision for Civilian Data Entry implementation $120,000
  • Reduce OPP Services Budget $60,000
  • Reduce JEPP [Joint Emergency Preparedness Program] submission by 50% $10,000 
  • Eliminate Forest Health Budget $12,750

Total $375,533

These proposed budget cuts are perplexing. First of all, can we have a plain English translation of that first sentence? It appears Councillors have scrutinized what may happen this year in the way of staff reductions, possibly through people leaving (planned for attrition), and 'staffing requisitions' can control risk and costs and that could be quite benign. Or not. 'Requisitioning' can be applied in a myriad of ways that can bog down hiring. Can any of these items be connected in any way to statements like those recently by Lake of Bays Mayor Bob Young who has said he'd like to see his township split from District? His township recently hired away a planner from District. Could Young and Mayors who think like him want more local direct control over planning? Certainly, the Township of Muskoka Lakes has been spending a great deal of time over what I personally consider to be rather cut and dry planning-related items (such as spending an hour muddling over one individual's request for an exemption from a non existent sewer line and not granting it or potentially setting new precedents for set back rules). Doing away with centralized planning would fly in the face of One Muskoka's assertion that there is duplication of services and we need to think of the common good for all Muskoka. What happens if suddenly planning became fragmented? Already people complain about different sets of rules for different locales. Personnel is a Closed Session item and let's hope the standing committees at least have one staff member recording what goes on in those sessions while they dismiss all other staff. There's no way there's any truth to a rumor that ALL staff were asked to leave a recent Closed Session as it is normal for the Clerk or CAO to remain to record proceedings. That would have been a meeting to call into question. So what will we hear on April 11 when it's a closed session item? Probably little and we're forced to read between lines. That covers the first line that could use some clarity: what about the next few items in this amendment to the budget? District Council voted for the Citizen Data Entry project but now they want to eliminate funding for it? The saving they hope to get from Citizen Data Entry — is that why the Police Service budget can be reduced? As for the Forest Health Budget, I'll try and get some answers on that for the Economy column of MNW – it's a small line item of just under $13,000 but those who care about the health of our forests should ask why a budget is no longer required. Especially as District has heard from biologists about the calcium decline in our lakes and how that is connected to healthy forests. Will the Watershed Council's work be deemed not fund worthy next? These are all questions we should be asking and hopefully we will get direct and perfectly sensible answers. One source asked to be not quoted on their concerns — there seems to be fear out there that if you state the fear out loud, it could very well be enacted. As if some Councillors would move even harder to do something that could potentially be bad for the common good out of spite. Even in a small District like ours, we need to trust our politicians are bigger people. But staying silent, just in case? That's not fair too anyone, including the Councillors. Do you deserve the right to complain if a budget item worried you and you stayed silent? I don't think so. Better you ask the questions and express your concerns before a budget is passed — and if this is the first we're hearing about these amended cost saving measures, we better pay attention and fast.

Community Access Program (CAP) sites at risk in Muskoka?

Harper Government Deletes Community Access Program: Late evening on April 5th Community Access Program (CAP) sites across Canada received a letter from Industry Canada Director General Lisa Setlakwe that the Program “has achieved its objectives” and funding has been terminated, effective immediately. The letter goes on to say the Federal Government is committed to “prioritizing expenditures”. It does, however, suggest that youth employment money may be available for internet access sites that continue to exist after the cuts. How a CAP site can hire and supervise youth when it has no funding to operate is not explained in the letter.

I am a member of Telecommunities Canada which has been fighting to preserve CAP. In Muskoka, MCAP, Muskoka CAP, is run by administrators Phyllis Ingram Winnington and Lynda Rickard. As a volunteer, i helped them get CAP stations in community centres around Muskoka Lakes and in the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. More on how these cuts may affect the future of those sites will come in a later post.

Fellow Telecommunities Canada member Eric Stackhouse, Nova Scotia CAP Association Chair, asks: “How can we have accomplished the objective of connecting Canadians to the Internet when all our usage numbers are the same as they always were, or increasing? We send these numbers to them yearly, so they know that”. Stackhouse explains that officials at Industry Canada don’t seem to understand what the objectives were. “I know, I was there when the Program was first started. It was to connect Canadians to the Internet and technology but also to train them in its use so they could benefit from it. The access is still needed, the numbers show that, and as anyone knows, technology is constantly changing and you need new skills each and every day.” He points to such groups as seniors and older workers as particularly vulnerable and who need skills to do everything from day to day banking, contacting the Federal Government, finding the right tax forms, or learning how to connect with their families.
“As far as prioritizing expenditures” Stackhouse continues, “the Federal Government saved billions in civil service salaries when it transferred almost all of its services from in-person to online; this was successful due in no small part to the minor amount of money provided to CAP. We act as the local access point where people can get help. Government web sites still say, if you need access or assistance, go to a CAP site. Now Government want others to cover that cost.” $650,000 is received from Industry Canada each year, far less than was originally received back in the 1990’s.
The Association is particularly disappointed in the way the Federal Government chose to make this announcement. Volunteers, community members, and staff, who have worked hard over 17 years to help fellow citizens were informed by form letter, late in the evening before Good Friday, their efforts were not needed. The Association has asked numerous times in the past two years to speak with Industry Canada representatives about the future of CAP but no replies were received.
How might this affect Muskoka? MCAP operates sites around Muskoka. One is at the Torrance Community Center where you can see young people surfing the Internet on mobile devices outside when the center is closed and using the computer station provided inside when the center is open. CAP equipment was also provided to the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce. With caps on data usage and the risk of wireless hotspots ending or only available at significant user cost, this is a blow to Muskoka, socially, economically and environmentally. Many questions remain unanswered, such as 'will the government remove the equipment?'.  This may not happen but if you are like me, and you have loaned equipment to CAP sites, better make sure you can reclaim it should this happen. Meantime, we have to keep sites like the one in Torrance open as there are still few affordable Internet choices, if any, available for users. Seasonal residents also depend on this site.