Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller named PC Critic for Aboriginal Affairs; MP Tony Clement expected to make Gas Tax Fund announcement

Updated Oct. 2, 12pm: Tony Clement reviews benefits of Gas Tax Fund for Muskoka

At the District of Muskoka offices today, Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement outlined the benefits Muskoka has received from the federal Gas Tax Fund. Here is the press release from his office:

Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement joined with municipal leaders today to highlight how Canada’s Gas Tax Fund is pumping millions of dollars into infrastructure projects across Muskoka, creating jobs and providing a stable funding source for our communities for the future.

“Canada’s Gas Tax Fund provides predictable, long-term funding to help municipalities build and revitalize our infrastructure, like public roads and water-sewer systems,” said MP Clement. “Improved infrastructure maintains the vibrancy of our communities, sustains and creates good jobs and supplies the solid underpinnings for economic growth.”
As announced in the Harper Government’s Economic Action Plan 2013, the Gas Tax Fund, made permanent in 2011 at $2 billion per year, is now indexed at 2 per cent per year, starting in 2014-15, with increases to be applied in $100-million increments. From 2014-2015 to 2023-24, this represents $21.8 billion in flexible, long term funding for municipal infrastructure. For Muskoka, this has meant over $13 million in infrastructure funding.

Funding is provided up front, twice a year to provincial and territorial governments or to the municipal associations (Association of Municipalities Ontario, AMO) which deliver this funding within a province, as well as to Toronto. Projects are chosen locally and prioritized according to the infrastructure needs of each community. Municipalities can pool, bank and borrow against this funding, providing significant financial flexibility.

“The Federal Gas Tax has been a stable source of funding that allows the District of Muskoka to continue to invest in its water and waste water infrastructure. The District has a complex geography which demands a large number of treatment plants and pumping stations to service relatively smaller urban populations.  However, water quality is paramount for the safety of our citizens, but also as an economic driver for Muskoka’s tourism industry,” said District of Muskoka Chair John Klinck, who joined with mayors, councillors and municipal administrators at the District offices in Bracebridge today to highlight the Gas Tax Fund’s impact.

As at June 30, 2013, over $9 million of Federal Gas Tax funding has been received by the District of Muskoka.

Federal Budget 2013 also allows municipalities greater flexibility to spend federal funding on a broader range of infrastructure priorities. More specifically, the Fund supports municipal infrastructure projects that contribute to cleaner air, water and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and fall into the following categories:

  • Drinking water
  • Wastewater infrastructure
  • Public transit
  • Community energy systems
  • Solid waste management
  • Local roads

“The Federal Gas Tax Fund is designed to respect municipal decision making around infrastructure. No made-in-Ottawa solutions are being imposed. Our councils have the ability to determine local priorities and move forward with implementation on their own timetables” said MP Clement.

SEPT. 30: Aboriginal Affairs Critic became part of MPP Norm Miller’s PC responsibilities today; MP Tony Clement to make Gas Tax Fund announcement on Wednesday at District of Muskoka

Posted Sept. 30, 130pm: As part of a shuffle of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Shadow Cabinet today, Norm Miller, MPP for Parry Sound-Muskoka, has been named Critic for Aboriginal Affairs. In addition, Miller will retain the Northern Development and Mines critic portfolio he has held since 2011.

“I am very pleased to accept my new role as PC Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and look forward to working directly with our First Nations partners” stated Miller in response to the announcement this morning.

Among other critic portfolios, Miller had previously held this position from 2005 to 2009 spanning parts of two successive governments.

In local federal news. a release today says Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement will be extolling the virtues of the federal Gas Tax Fund at 10am on Wednesday at the District Municipality of Muskoka offices in Bracebridge.  The release from Clement’s office says he will be accompanied by municipal leaders from across Muskoka, but it did not state whether Clement will be announcing money for Muskoka as a result of the fund. Infrastructure Canada describes the fund as being designed to provide “predictable, long-term funding for Canadian municipalities to help them build and revitalize public infrastructure that achieves positive environmental results” and money from it is expected to be given out to municipalities each year the fund is in place (to 2014).

Muskoka Lakes hiring new bylaw enforcement officer, present officer passes at chance for the job

Part-time bylaw officer withdrew full-time application, citing interference by Council in the bylaw enforcement process

Posted September 29, 5:15pm: The Township of Muskoka Lakes will soon be appointing a new bylaw and emergency services officer.
The Township recently advertised the position and conducted interviews, and someone has been selected to fill the position, confirmed Fire Chief Richard Hayes on Friday.

Muskoka Lakes, Brooklands, bylaw
Ken Riley of Brooklands Farms tells town hall Aug. 18 that bylaw enforcement puts his farm at risk: at a town hall last summer, attendees overwhelmingly expressed desire for greater bylaw enforcement

The successful candidate is to be appointed in an upcoming Closed session of Council (the next full Councll meeting is October 18).

A former fire fighter and lawyer was the Township’s part-time bylaw officer and property standards officer up until mid-September. Note: The former bylaw officer has asked that his name not appear in this online article as he does not want any continued association with the Township via the Internet.

The former bylaw officer was appointed to the part-time position a year ago (on October 1, 2012). At the time, there was only enough money in the township budget to pay for part-time bylaw enforcement, but the 2013 budget included a salary to provide for a full-time position.

Although he confirmed he had applied for the full-time role, he chose to withdraw his application. He also resigned from his part-time position. He says he had been looking forward to the potential new role, and was eagerly anticipating the opportunity to affect improvements in Bylaw and Fire Prevention services within the Township, and to working more closely with Chief Hayes.

He changed his mind, however, explaining his decision to withdraw his application came after “a number of recent incidents in which Council (individual members and Council as a whole) involved itself in the enforcement process.” He said he preferred not to state specifics.

Last summer, citizens expressed a strong desire for a bylaw officer at a town hall meeting in Port Carling. This summer, many citizens complained about bylaws being enforced.

In fact, some Councillors themselves asked that the bylaws not be followed as they were written until they had a chance to update them. At a Committee of the Whole meeting, Mayor Murphy asked for discretion in the case of a ticket issued in the Jaspen Park parking lot that prompted a complaint call to the Mayor herself*. At that meeting, Chief Administrative Officer Chris Wray explained there was a process that needed to be followed to revise existing bylaws, and that changing them wouldn’t happen quickly.

People inquiring about bylaw enforcement in the township in the interim should continue to contact the emergency services department, says Hayes.

*Note that Muskoka News Watch was told by the former bylaw officer that no tickets he wrote were ever revoked by request of Councillors or staff.

Related Articles:
October 19, 2012: Cottage Country Now: New by-law officer for Township of Muskoka Lakes

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month.

Would you like to comment on this article? Note our comment policy asks for a full first and last name and email (to prove you are ‘human’ and not using aliases) but only your first name will show publicly. P.S. from the Editor: You will notice that this article included a request by the Township’s former bylaw officer to not have his name included so it would not appear online (and thus be easily searchable). While this is an unusual request (and highly unusual for a media outlet to honour), articles do live on via the Internet, recruiters do look up past work history, and MNW asks that you consider respecting his request in your comments as well.

Woman treated in hospital after small fire at Torrance home

Fire at Southwood Road home kept to kitchen area

Posted September 27, 830am: A woman was treated for smoke inhalation briefly in hospital in Bracebridge last night after a kitchen fire at a Torrance home on Southwood Road. Firefighters from Torrance/Walker’s Point and Bala responded just after 6pm and the fire was contained in the kitchen area.  Damage is estimated at about $1,500. The fire department would like to remind all that when the smoke alarm sounds you have seconds to respond.  Make sure all are safely outside. It is important to get out and stay out.

Close to $8K raised at September 28 fundraiser for Dave and Deb Liles

Update posted Oct. 6: Organizers of the Liles ‘Fun’-draiser in Bracebridge in September say the final tally is in — the day raised $7,882.95 for the Dave and Deb Liles. The couple says they are extremely grateful to everyone who attended, volunteered and donated.

OPP, Court Staff flipping burgers, leading games for LILES FUN-draiser: Justice community throwing community fun day in Bracebridge for local couple struggling with ALS

Posted September 24, 10 am: If you are stricken with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, you quickly discover that OHIP only goes so far and support can be minimal: in fact, there is no support group for ALS in Muskoka.

Fortunately, friends and colleagues are determined to help Dave and Deb Liles of Bracebridge after Dave was diagnosed with debilitating ALS. When lawyer Michael Anne Macdonald and assistant Crown attorney Lyndsay Jeanes learned the Liles would have to leave Muskoka as a result of his diagnosis and deteriorating condition – and that they would have to raise the money themselves for devices to keep Dave mobile, Jeanes and Macdonald flew into action. And they were quickly joined by staff of the Crown attorney’s office, court-house, victim-witness services, probation, and law offices throughout Muskoka who are taking part in, supporting and organizing an event to raise money for the couple. Everyone is invited to take part in Saturday’s ‘FUN’-draiser.


  • When: Saturday, Sept. 28 from 11am-1pm
  • Where: Kerr Park, Bracebridge
  • What: Lunch, Bake Sale, Run/Cycle, Games and Silent Auction
  • Lunch includes burgers/vegan burgers and salads
  • Who: EVERYONE WELCOME. OPP, Crown Attorneys, Defence Lawyer, Probation officers and many more are manning the auction tables and games.
  • Learn more or to volunteer help: Email

What is ALS? Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscles (muscle action we are able to control, such as those in the arms, legs, and face). The March of Dimes, a rehabilitation charity, says there is no financial support for devices to help keep people like Dave Liles mobile for as long as possible. You have to find the money or raise it.

Organizer Michael Anne Macdonald is hoping for a great turnout on Saturday as every person and cent counts.

Related Article: Justice Community Rallies Behind Family

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Timber harvesting and the health of lakes in Muskoka: The calcium story

Muskoka Watershed Council lecture October 10 at Nipissing U

Press Release September 23: Join the Muskoka Watershed Council at Nipissing University in Bracebridge on October 10th at 7 pm for its next environmental lecture: 

Lake Muskoka, Hardy Lake, Calcium Decline, Muskoka Watershed, Environment, Muskoka
Why is lake water calcium falling and why does that matter? Find out October 10.

“Timber harvesting and the health of our lakes: The calcium story” given by Dr. Shaun Watmough, Associate Professor at Trent University in Peterborough.

Decades of acid deposition have depleted the calcium in our soil. When this is combined with timber harvesting, the amount of calcium lost is considerable and may ultimately threaten the health of our forests and lakes.

In this lecture, Dr. Watmough will provide an overview of our current understanding of calcium biogeochemistry and the reasons for the widespread decline in calcium levels in lakes, as well as discuss the implications of calcium losses on soil fertility, forest health and lake ecosystems.

Dr. Watmough is currently conducting research on calcium in the Muskoka River Watershed as part of a grant received from the Canadian Water Network. This lecture will include an update on the progress of that research.

This is the fifth year the Muskoka Watershed Council has played host to a series of environmental lectures designed to stimulate discussion on issues important to watershed health. Each lecture includes a question and answer period. Admittance is by donation and all proceeds support the work of the Muskoka Watershed Council.

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month.

Truck driver suffers serious injuries after roll over on High Falls Road in Bracebridge

UPDATE Sept 20, 10.14am: Driver now in stable but serious condition in Toronto hospital. Still not named, but driver has been identified as a 56-year-old man from Temiskaming Shores.

Sept. 19: Driver of tractor trailer flown to trauma centre in Toronto

Posted 4pm: The driver of a lumber truck is in serious condition after his tractor-trailer tipped over on High Falls Road in Bracebridge. Police say the driver was first taken to Bracebridge hospital and at 4pm was being flown to the trauma centre at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto after his condition was upgraded to serious. One lane is blocked at High Falls while police deal with the rollover. Most of the lumber reportedly ended up in the ditch but there is also some debris on the road. Police have High Falls Road blocked off as they deal with clearing the road of the vehicle and lumber. Making the situation worse for drivers is that High Falls Road was handling some of the overflow from the detour started on Stephenson Road 1 after an accident last night involving a tractor-trailer hauling several heads of cattle (police say up to 74). 52-year-old Ronald Aldcorn died when his rig hit a rock cut. Police officials estimate only a dozen (or fewer) cattle survived.

Huntsville convenience store robbed

Man wielding weapon demands money from clerk; police ask public to be on lookout for suspect

Sept. 19, 10 am: Someone robbed the Mac’s Convenience Store on Minerva Street in Huntsville last night of an undisclosed amount of money. According to Huntsville OPP, the man was carrying a weapon (not identified) when he confronted the store clerk and demanded money.

The male suspect is described as Caucasian, 5’8” tall, early twenties, stocky build, brown shorter length hair, brown eyes, and freckles under the eyes. The suspect was wearing a grey touque, long sleeved dark red shirt and black sweat pants.
Anyone who may have seen anyone matching the description in the area of Minerva St or has any information is asked to contact Huntsville OPP or Crime Stoppers.


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Driver dead after tractor trailer full of cattle crashes on Hwy 11 SB last night

UPDATE as of 7pm: Hwy 11 Southbound at Stephenson Road 1 near Bracebridge now open to traffic. Clean up crew found 61 cows dead; surviving cattle were take to Port Sydney; one cow still accounted for

OPP: Victims was 52-year-old Ronald ALDCORN; Traffic sill being rerouted today on Stephenson Road 1 as Hwy 11 Southbound closed there – as of 4pm OPP saying detour will remain in place for at least another THREE hours

Updated 4pm: A tractor trailer crash into a rock cut last night is still being cleaned up as of 4 pm this afternoon. Police say of the many cattle being transported (about 74), only about a dozen survived. Police also note there was a typographical error in the original name of the deceased driver in the accident. He was first identified by OPP as Ronald AIDCORN. The proper spelling should be Ronald ALDCORN. The OPP wish to apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

NOTE: A driver is in serious condition after a second accident this afternoon at High Falls Road that also has traffic further snarled in the Bracebridge area and OPP say it is also slow going through town. Click here to read that story.

Posted Sept. 19, 8:48am: A 52-year-old Osprey Township man was killed last night when a tractor trailer he was driving crashed into a rock cut on southbound Highway 11 north of Alpine Ranch Road. Dead is Ronald ALDCORN.

Highway 11 southbound is closed as the investigation continues and it’s expected to be closed at Stephenson Road 1 for several hours. A detour’s been set up, re-routing traffic on to Stephenson Road 1 West. The tractor trailer was carrying several cattle at the time of the crash.

Miller defends PC plan for northern Ontario jobs

Miller: Plan Will Create Northern Ontario Jobs; Unlock Potential

Posted Sept. 18, 12:45pm: Ontario Minister of Northern Development Michael Gravelle says PC Party leader Tim Hudak “doesn’t know the facts” when it comes to supporting economic growth in Northern Ontario — but Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller says it’s Gravelle that’s got it all wrong.

Responding to comments made by Gravelle following the release of the Progressive Conservative white paper, Paths to Prosperity: A Champion for Northern Jobs and Resources, in Thunder Bay this week, Miller took the opportunity to emphasize the policies that the discussion paper proposes.

“The facts are that we are putting forward ideas to create jobs and bring investment to the North. This paper is meant to incite positive discussion, and regardless of what the Liberal Ministers may claim, I believe that the discussion of these constructive ideas is welcomed by Northerners,” says Miller, who is also Northern Development and Mines Critic for the PC party.

“Over the past year-and-a-half I have had the opportunity to tour the North and get important feedback from citizens as well as Northern industry. These consultations are reflected in this document, and present how the Ontario Government can unlock the potential in Northern Ontario,” he adds.

Some key proposals in the white paper pertaining to Northern Development and Mines include:

  • Setting a bold target of permitting 10 new mines, and returning Ontario to its place as the #1 mining Jurisdiction worldwide

    Ontario politicis, Muskoka, mining
    Photo from PC Paths to Prosperity white paper
  • Doing away with restrictive legislation such as the Far North Act, which sets over 225,000 square kilometers of Northern Ontario off-limits to development
  • Ensuring greater access to public lands for recreational activities

A PC government would ensure that Northern Ontario is made an absolute priority, and would rein in skyrocketing hydro rates and cut through the excessive red tape,” concludes Miller.

Gravelle, meantime, says the Liberal government is committed to staying the course when it comes to its northern development plans. “We are going to continue to support economic growth by investing in people, infrastructure and by supporting business to help create jobs.”

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month (sometimes more than double that!)

Blockbuster variety show raises thousands for charity

Local talent from across Muskoka raise over $10K for Children’s Foundation 

Submitted by Peter Jennings

It was literally Standing Room Only September 13th for Muskoka Melody’s “Broadway Bravo” event in Bracebridge, resulting in a prolonged standing ovation for the performers and a cheque for $10,400 to The Children’s Foundation of Muskoka.

Muskoka, Arts and Culture
Over $10K raised for Children’s Foundation by cast of Broadway Bravo

“We are really pleased,” said Cassandra Rowswell, one of the Muskoka Melody singers and the individual who organized donations from advertisers and individual supporters.

“Between the actual ticket sales, contributions from businesses and individuals and funds raised through program advertising, we’ve been able to make a significant contribution to the charity.”

In addition, Ms. Rowswell was able to organize a grant from Muskoka Community Services – the Pay It Forward Muskoka 2013 Community Investment Grant – which resulted in extending awareness of the charity throughout the Muskoka Lakes area. Many patrons, business owners and individual sponsors attended the performance from Minett, Port Carling, Milford Bay, Windermere and Bala and learned more about The Children’s Foundation of Muskoka.

“We’d aimed at donating $10,000 and we over-achieved that goal,” she added.

“Broadway Bravo” – a one-night-only evening of entertainment featuring the music of Cole Porter, the Gershwins, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Irving Berlin and many others – presented songs from the best of the Broadway stage performed as solos, duets and ensemble numbers. All the performers donated their time in order to maximize the contribution to the Children’s Foundation of Muskoka. Ticket sales were brisk and the Rene Caisse Theatre was sold out for the event.

“Our board members join me in thanking Muskoka Melody for a marvelous show and a wonderful financial contribution,” said Doug Ingram, President of The Children’s Foundation of Muskoka. “This is a superb example of a great community effort to support a charity like ours and we truly appreciate it.”

The funds raised will help kids in need in many ways, such as providing children with the opportunity to participate in sports – like soccer, hockey, baseball, swimming, etc. – and recreational programs like dance, camps, Guides and Scouts. The charity will also be able to supply more beds, strollers and cribs when needed. (Potential recipients can download applications at and are sometimes referred through service groups, teachers, social workers, churches and people in our community.)

With the success of this event, Muskoka Melody members are considering another fundraiser for next year. The public can visit to vote on the style of music to be presented.

Rash of overnight vandalism in Bracebridge: updated with motorcycle trashed

UPDATE – Bracebridge resident’s motorcycle torched last night; just one example of damage done overnight

Updated Sept. 18, 12.17pm: Stacey Prokopec of Bracebridge was one person victimized by vandals who wreaked havoc for some property owners in her South Wellington Street neighbourhood last night. She says her motorcycle was set on fire and completely destroyed at about 11:30 pm (September 17.). She describes more local damage:

Crime, Bracebridge, Muskoka
Motorcycle torched in Bracebridge Sept. 17

“Six tires on four different vehicles were slashed. the propane tank on the BBQ was opened and the line cut (directly beside my entrance door).” She says there are two other incidents of tire slashing that she knows of that happened last night. Prokopec is sharing her story in hope someone hears something and will come forward. See OPP report on these incidents below. The OPP is looking for witnesses as the investigation continues.

Cars damaged, propane hoses cut, property stolen last night

The Bracebridge Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is asking anyone who may have had property damaged last night to call them. Last night, several vehicles were damaged, propane hoses on BBQs were cut, and property was taken. The rash of vandalism and thefts are believed to be related.

Did you see anything suspicious last night?
Police are asking anyone with information to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or (705) 645-2211. The public is also urged to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222- 8477. You can submit your information online at <>  if you have any information on this crime or any other crime. Crime Stoppers does not subscribe to call display and you will remain anonymous.  Being anonymous, you will not testify in court and your information may lead to a cash reward of up to $2,000.

The investigation is ongoing.

OPP horse spooked at Bracebridge Fall Fair, three people injured

Three people injured as OPP horse tries to bolt

Posted Sept. 17, 33o pm: Three people suffered minor injuries on the last day of the Bracebridge Fall Fair on Sunday after a horse being used by the OPP was startled and tried to leave the fairgrounds.

A police report states the horse, which was being ridden by an OPP officer at the time, came into contact with and knocked over three people attending the event.  The three individuals were subsequently taken to hospital for assessment and treatment for minor injuries.

Sources say a child was one of the injured. All three people were released from hospital later that same day and the officer was not hurt.

The incident is under investigation.

How Tory Spent Her Muskoka Summer: getting us hooked on a logo for a good cause

Teen entrepreneur raised $2,000 for Doctors Without Borders 

Posted September 17, 3pm: At 16, Tory O’Driscoll already has her eyes set on medical school, but it was entrepreneurial fashion smarts that made her fundraising venture a hit in Muskoka this summer.

Muskoka, Hardcore Muskoka, brand, T-shirt
Hardcore Muskoka a hit for entrepreneur Tory O’Driscoll

O’Driscoll raised $2,000 for Doctors Without Borders after launching a successful new Muskoka brand: Hardcore Muskoka. That’s how the Walker’s Point cottager spent her summer: building the Hardcore Muskoka brand by selling fun T-shirts depicting golfers and wake boarders (see picture). The Grade 12 student’s favourite summer sport is actually slalom skiing and she skis at Bush’s Sports Center in Bala.

Why Doctors Without Borders? “I would like to be a doctor,” says O’Driscoll, “and I’ve always admired the courageous and important work that Doctors Without Borders does worldwide in very difficult circumstances. I hope one day to take part in their program.” She adds Doctors Without Borders has an excellent record for using their donations efficiently to run their program, with very little going to administration and marketing.

O’Driscoll says she has lots of people to thank who helped her summer enterprise become a success. “I couldn’t have done this without the support of the market managers both in Gravenhurst and Muskoka Lakes. And my younger sister Taylor worked as unpaid labour at the markets. She kept me company and helped me sell. I really appreciated her help!”

The Havergal College student is going into Grade 12 this year and she’s already got the short-term plan in place for Hardcore Muskoka. “I have some ideas for more products with my logo and am looking into expanding into other markets on a consignment basis during the school year,” says O’Driscoll.

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate the news you receive and what you read here about Muskoka, from Muskoka, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month (sometimes more than double that!)


Last days to let Ontario know what you think of nuclear and green energy: Monday is deadline

Green energy? Nuclear energy? An effective mix? Ministry of Energy input deadline Monday, 5 pm ET

Posted Friday, September 13, 8:30am: If you have opinions to share on long-term energy plans for Ontario, you’ve got until Monday to share them with the Ministry of Energy. After that, some environmental groups are saying that nuclear energy, energy these groups say is dirty, dangerous and expensive, will rule the energy plans of the province.

In Muskoka recently, there has been quite a debate going on in local newspapers via letters to the editor about nuclear energy vs. green energy.

Muskoka, Bracebridge, Green Energy, Wilsons Falls
Looking over Wilson Falls hydro station in Bracebridge, a renewable energy option May 3, 2013

Here’s your last chance to tell the Ontario ministry in charge of energy exactly what you think.

To share your opinions now, email your submissions directly to Try to be specific why you support Ontario buying half its electricity from nuclear reactor operators or from renewable energy options.

The Ministry is currently reviewing its Long-Term Energy Plan (LTEP) directive. This political directive is important because it determines the composition of Ontario’s electricity system until the year 2030. It decides whether our homes will be powered by clean, safe, and affordable green energy, or nuclear energy.

Nuclear, green energy, Ontario Ministry of Energy, Muskoka
Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, Ontario: World’s Largest Nuclear Facility

According to a press release from Greenpeace Canada and the Pembina Institute, the existing LTEP is a barrier to green energy and conservation because it mandates that 50% of Ontario’s electricity must be purchased from nuclear reactor operators.

That commits the province to buying nuclear energy first, regardless of the cost or environmental risks. The two organizations (Greenpeace Canada and the Pembina Institute) this week released a report called “Renewable is Doable: Affordable and flexible options for Ontario’s long-term energy plan”. 

It concludes: that investing in green energy is more affordable than spending more money on nuclear power. To download a PDF of that report, click here > Renewable is Doable_Affordable and flexible options for Ontario’s long-term energy plan or click here to read it online.

Michael O’Morrow, nuclear campaign assistant for Greenpeace Canada says “this ‘nuclear first’ approach is both high cost and high risk for Ontario. We need to demand change.”

How to have your opinions heard
The Ministry is accepting public comments and submissions until Monday, September 16.
Here is what O’Morrow recommends:

“Submissions do not need to be long, but they do need to be specific. Letters that simply state, “nuclear energy is bad, green energy is good” won’t resonate with the Ministry the way we need. Letters that state, “nuclear energy is bad, green energy is good, and here’s what I want you to do” will resonate and forces the Ministry to consider the requests formally. Letters that ask for or demand something specific are taken more seriously.”

How to submit your opinions:

  1. Email submissions directly to Again, the deadline is Monday, September 16.  Put them to the attention of Julie Green, Senior Policy Advisor, Ministry of Energy

To learn more, visit  or


There is no doubt I have an opinion: I support green energy. Nuclear energy was supposed to the cheap solution to all our energy problems 50 years ago. Now those generating stations are just as old — and sometimes older — than I am and they need expensive maintenance. They are no longer cheap. Nor are they safe, in my opinion, and I bring maybe a different perspective to the safety issue. On freelance assignment for Canadian Press, I was fortunate to spend several days on the HMCS Cormorant, a navy research and diving vessel. I met archaeologist John Bowlby (also a present director of the Muskoka Lakes Association, by the way) who was studying fault lines under Lake Ontario. His surveys showed fault lines running under the nuclear generating stations east of Toronto. This fact alone adds an element of danger to those stations, much more so, in my opinion than at say, the Bruce Generating Station, which is said to be one of the biggest in the world. Ontario wants to put too many of its eggs in one energy basket when it comes to nuclear and it must move ahead with green energy plans in appropriate places. This commentary is not meant to be a discussion about Bala Falls which has its own set of unique circumstances yet our local controversy cannot be ignored. I still believe it was not an appropriate site for the province to select for re-development but had their been collaboration, we could have found a long-term solution with benefits for all stakeholders. That opportunity has passed for Bala, I think. However, small hydro sites across our province are needed and should be embraced and celebrated and developed in concert with communities, just as solar and wind (again, in municipal areas that make sense) should be. I love solar and envy people with panels on their homes. I think wind has enormous possibilities. Nuclear was never the panacea for solving energy needs; and even its recent history proves it is a risky way forward. Who am I to have any opinion? I’m no scientist. But I’ve rubbed elbows with some of the best — I’ve listened to their learned opinions — and they’ve told me enough to make me a believer. And I’m getting older and want to do may part to ensure others in the future continue to enjoy clean air and water in Muskoka. I’ll be writing to the province today to say please consider flexible options for Ontario’s long-term energy plan that are sensitive to local municipal needs. Maybe the province will still have to force green energy on areas if NIMBYism is as prevalent as headlines would make us think, but for now, let’s get shovels in the ground where people want it and think twice about putting more money into nuclear. That’s just my opinion. I hope you’ll share yours with the province, too.

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate the news you receive and what you read here, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month (sometimes more than double that!)

Have you seen this man? Armed suspects in Tiny Township store robbery still at large

Security camera captures photo of suspect in Tiny Township convenience store robbery

South Georgian Bay OPP, Tiny Township, Georgian Bay, armed robbery, Muskoka
Have You Seen This Man? Sergeant Peter Leon says this picture of the suspect was actually captured by the store’s security camera the day before the robbery. If you can help identify him, call 1-888-310-1122

Update September 12, 7:45 pm: OPP Sergeant Peter Leon says police are “turning corners on the investigation” in to an armed robbery Tuesday at a Tiny Township convenience store, but it would be a great help if someone can identify a picture snapped by the store’s security camera.

After robbing the Wymbolwood Beach Store clerk of cash at gunpoint, two men left the store in a blue Dodge that was reported stolen from Leamington, Ontario. A short time later the suspects fled on foot after their stolen car collided with a police cruiser that was trying to stop the Dodge in the southbound lanes of Highway 93 (just north of Side Road 20/21 in Oro-Medonte Township). The officer was taken to Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, mostly as a precautionary measure. Leon says the officer was treated and released quickly.

While the suspects evaded capture Tuesday night and are still at large, Leon says containment in Oro-Medonte was set up fast, and all resources went right into play, including an air search. He adds the focus yesterday was on the stolen car from which police were able to extract forensic evidence.  It’s unknown if the alleged robbers are still hiding in the same area or on the run but “if somebody sees this picture and recalls anything,” says Leon, “it would improve our opportunity.”

Anyone who may be able to identify the male suspect in the photo or may know of his whereabouts is asked to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

Original Post and Update: Tiny Township story robbery

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Update: Suspect photos released after armed robbery at Tiny Township store: OPP asking witness to come forward

Update September 12, 6:30pm: Tiny Township store robbers still at large: suspect photo released

From South Georgian Bay OPP:

South Georgian Bay OPP, Tiny Township, Georgian Bay, armed robbery, Muskoka
Armed Robbery Suspect Photo

The photo at left taken by the store security camera has been provided in an attempt to identify the suspect. Anyone who may be able to identify the male suspect in the photo or may know of his whereabouts is asked to contact the OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

Two suspects sought in armed robbery at a Tiny Townships store; witness at the scene being asked to call OPP

Posted Sept. 10, 10pm: Members of the Southern Georgian Bay Detachment of the OPP are asking a witness to come forward as they continue hunting for two suspects who flashed a handgun while robbing a convenience store near the 5th Concession of Tiny Township today.

The police report states two men entered the store just before two pm and robbed the clerk of cash after producing a handgun. They fled the scene in a blue Dodge Caravan which later turned out to be stolen. At the same time another man entered the store to make a purchase and helped the clerk in describing the suspect vehicle. Investigators would very much like to speak with this male witness who is asked to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

The suspect vehicle was later spotted by an OPP officer on patrol near Orr Lake. Police say the vehicles came into contact in the southbound lanes of Highway 93 just north of Side Road 20/21 in Oro-Medonte Township after a spike belt was deployed. The males fled the scene on foot. They are described as being

  • 1) Male white, 5’5″ thin build, short strawberry blond hair, approx 18-21 years of age.
  • 2) Male white, 5’8″ medium build, short brown hair, 18-21 years of age.

Neither man was wearing a shirt at the time they fled from police and it’s unknown if either suspect is injured. The involved vehicle is a light blue Dodge which was stolen from Leamington, Ontario overnight.

Investigators are being assisted by members of the Central Region Crime Unit, OPP Central Region Emergency Response Team (ERT), OPP Tactics and Rescue Unit (TRU), OPP Central Region K-9 and the Durham Region Helicopter Unit.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact the OPP at (705) 526-3761 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

About Crime Stoppers: You can submit your information online at or if you have any information on this crime or any other crime. Crime Stoppers does not subscribe to call display and you will remain anonymous. Being anonymous, you will not testify in court and your information may lead to a cash reward of up to $2,000.00

Environmental groups sue Ontario government; say province has gutted species at risk legislation

Some – and/or many – species at risk that could be affected by legislative change are found in Muskoka (article includes full Muskoka list); enviro groups say new regulation lets industry ignore Act’s main purposes to protect such species

Skink, Muskoka, Joe Crowley, Ontario Nature
Five-lined Skink calls Torrance Barrens home. Photo by Joe Crowley c/o Ontario Nature


Rattlesnake, Muskoka, Massasauga
Massasauga Rattlesnake can be found in Muskoka. Photo Credit: Joe Crowley c/o Ontario Nature

Posted Sept 10, 3:50pm: Environmental groups are suing the Ontario government for its decision to exempt major threats to species at risk from the province’s Endangered Species Act (ESA).

In a press release today Ecojustice lawyers, acting on behalf of Ontario Nature and Wildlands League, announced they have filed a lawsuit in Divisional Court alleging that the Ontario government acted unlawfully by making a regulation that undermines the ESA.

FIve-llined Skink. Photo by Joe Crowley c/o Ontario Nature
FIve-llined Skink. Photo by Joe Crowley c/o Ontario Nature

NOTE:  Changes to Act could affect species found in Muskoka that are considered threatened, at risk or of special concern, including the Massasauga Rattlesnake, Blanding’s Turtle, and Five-lined Skink. Click here to see full list of species at risk in Muskoka (Source: MNR)

Here is the full press statement sent to MNW today by the conservation organization, the Wildlands League.

Ontario Regulation 176/13, which came into force under the ESA on July 1,2013, is a tremendous blow to species protection. The new regulatory changes harm species by allowing major industries — including forestry, energy transmission, housing, oil and gas pipelines, mineral exploration and mine development, transit, wastewater management companies — to avoid strict standards intended to protect at-risk species and their habitats.

Blanding's Turtle, species at risk, Wildlands, muskoka
Blanding’s Turtle. Photo credit: Robert McCaw courtesy of Wildlands League

“With this regulation, the Ontario government has failed to deliver on its promise to defend endangered species and undermined the role of the legislature by amending the Act through regulation,” said Anastasia Lintner, staff lawyer for Ecojustice. “The best way to safeguard at-risk species is to enforce the ESA as intended.”

The lawsuit is based on two main grounds:

rattlesnake, Muskoka
Photo Credit: Joe Crowley

1.  The regulatory exemptions undermine the ESA’s very purposes, which are “to protect species that are at risk and their habitats, and to promote the recovery of species at risk.”

 2. The Minister of Natural Resources, David Orazietti, failed to consider the impacts of the regulations on each of the 155 species listed under the Act as either endangered or threatened before recommending that the regulations be made by Cabinet.

“The government has abandoned Ontario’s most imperiled wildlife, reneging on its promise to give these species the protection they desperately need,” said Caroline Schultz, executive director at Ontario Nature. “Our once gold-standard law has been tarnished beyond recognition.”

Sections 9 and 10 of the ESA prohibit harm to species at risk and their habitat without Ministry approval or specific exemption. This new regulation circumvents the approval process and allows large industrial sectors to act without Ministry oversight and to focus on mitigating harm instead of protecting at-risk species.

“This is an act of desperation, changing the law so that it protects industry instead of at-risk animals and plants,” said Anna Baggio, Director Conservation Planning for Wildlands League. “I thought we had moved past the old Joni Mitchell song. We can’t support a government that would pave paradise to put up a parking lot,” Baggio added.

Some of Ontario’s 155 at-risk species threatened by the regulation include the American Eel, Blanding’s Turtle (another Muskoka resident), Lakeside Daisy, Eastern Hog-nosed Snake, Acadian Flycatcher and the iconic Woodland Caribou.

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you like what you read, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month (sometimes more than double that!)

Lightning strike blamed for garage fire on Roberts Bay Road

Neighbour’s alarm brought fire crews to scene during thunderstorm this morning

Posted Sept. 10. 230pm: A lightning strike set a garage on fire early this morning on Roberts Bay Road property in Muskoka Lakes township – and a neighboring cottager’s alarm system may have helped save the property owner from experiencing more damage.

Muskoka Lakes Fire Chief Richard Hayes says Fire Department Station 1 (Foot’s Bay/Glen Orchard) was dispatched at 3.19am to respond to a monitored alarm at 1149 Roberts Bay Road (a property described as being in the area behind Bass Lake Restaurant). On arrival, firefighters didn’t find any fire at that cottage, but discovered a garage on fire on the neighbouring property at 1145 Roberts Bay Road. Additional fire crews were called in from Bala as standard back up process, and the fire was contained within the garage. Hayes estimates damage to the single storey, one-car garage at $50,000.

Take cover when you hear thunder, says Chief Hayes

Hayes reminds residents how unpredictable lightning can be and cautions that when you hear thunder, or see approaching weather systems, you should take cover and not stay outside.

Scarborough man killed while felling tree near Utterson

72-year-old Guodong Dong died from his injuries after tree fell this morning

Posted Sept. 8, 7 pm: A 72-year-old Scarborough man is dead after the tree he was cutting with his son-in-law today fell on him on a property near Utterson.

Dead is Guodong Dong. 42-year-old Law Yan Jia, also of Scarborough, suffered serious injuries and was taken by air ambulance to a Toronto hospital.

Police say they responded to the emergency call just after 11am today. Family members had removed the tree from on top of the two men and called 911 immediately.

Had a call from MPAC about your property? Likely a fraud, say police

Police warn about fraudulent calls from property assessment company

Posted Sept. 6, 2pm: If you’ve had a call from someone claiming to represent the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC), don’t talk to them. Instead, the OPP is suggesting you call the real MPAC to report the call.

MPAC is the Ontario government service provider agency that determines the assessed values of property – an issue of great interest to Muskoka homeowners, especially those on waterfront, who generally pay the highest amounts of property tax.

Officials with the OPP are warning residents to be wary of callers claiming to represent the agency.
 In recent weeks, MPAC  has become aware that a person or persons is placing phone calls to property owners claiming to represent MPAC and asking for personal information. MPAC has reported these incidents to the OPP.

MPAC does not make calls to collect personal information. If you receive a phone call from anyone claiming to represent MPAC and requesting personal information, police say please do not provide it.

What to do if you get a call: If you have any questions or receive such calls, please call MPAC’s Customer Contact Centre toll-free at 1-877-635-6722.

 Alternatively, if you suspect you or someone you know has been affected by this scam, contact your local police service or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).


About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate the news you receive and what you read here, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month (sometimes more than double that!)

Councillor sounds alarm to other municipalities: “Divisional court made this a municipal fight”

It’s not about Bala Falls, it’s about too much power for MNR in public lands act, says Councillor. Meantime, Counsel for Muskoka Lakes Township this morning filed officially the notice of motion for leave to appeal Divisional Court decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal

Posted September 5, 12pm:  Councillor Phil Harding was one of five Muskoka Lakes Councillors who voted Tuesday to go to the next court level in Township’s bid to protect portage rights and to stop development at Bala Falls – but Harding is very clear that going to the Ontario Court of Appeal is about something more that should concern all municipalities.

Meantime, Muskoka News Watch was told by the Court’s Deputy Registrar that counsel for the Township of Muskoka Lakes was at the Ontario Court of Appeal just before noon today to officially file the notice of motion for leave to appeal the Judicial Review application that was dismissed. That notice filed today with the Court was filed with the defendants on Tuesday afternoon, shortly after Council voted to proceed with its appeal application. 

In Harding’s opinion, the decision to appeal a Divisional Court ruling dismissing the Township’s Judicial Review application has nothing to do with Bala Falls, and everything to do with provincial powers over municipalities. In fact, he wants Muskoka Lakes to call on other municipalities to join the fight for more control of what happens on public lands. He believes it’s wrong that one section of the Public Lands Act trumps all others as suggested by the Divisional Court decision in August that sided with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).

Read previous article: Exclusive: Superior Court says public safety trumps other parts of Public Lands Act

He says that’s a dangerous precedent that gives the province too much power to decide what can happen where on Crown land across Ontario.

“The Divisional Court has made this a municipal fight,” says Harding, “and all municipalities should get on this bandwagon. If we have competing legislation, we should have a court decide what legislation wins.”

He continues, “Basically the Divisional Court said the MNR, through Section 28, has unilateral power.”

Harding says all municipalities need to consider the consequences of that decision. For example, he says if, for the safety of the great lakes and navigation of the water, the MNR with this power could lower all smaller lakes upstream. “Based on this decision, my understanding is that they would have the unilateral power to do that,” says Harding.

When pointed out the original Township ask was to protect portage rights and gain a permanent injunction against a hydro plant at Bala Falls, Harding says he feels those items are now “irrelevant at this point and that he’s looking purely at the decision as precedent setting. Divisional Court has ruled that MNR rules and they can trump any other rule. I don’t want that precedent out there right now and I don’t think any other municipality would want it out there, either.”

“This could be about Huckleberry Rock or anywhere,” he continues. Referring to a range of potential future possibilities, Harding warned the decision could pave the way for a variety of “hot button issues we wouldn’t want in our community, from African Lion Safari type housing of exotic pets to maximum security prisons. The legislation is there,” he says.

Councillors say beyond the Court decision, they have not been provided the entire transcript of their entire day in Divisional Court on August 19. Harding says his decision to vote to go to the Ontario Court of Appeal was based on solicitor conversations about what transpired that day and the reading of the final decision statement.

“I’m happy to let the chips play where they may as to whether it’s a portage route but there wasn’t even a decision on that by Divisional Court,” says Harding who looks forward to the issue being moved up Appeals court for the municipality’s concerns to be heard. “My perspective is that, at the end of the day, the financial cost to appeal is a smart investment, in my opinion, and I hope the media gets all over this.”

Other Councillors who voted yes to proceed to the Ontario Court of Appeal, namely Councillors Burgess, Edwards and Kruckel, were contacted for comment, but at press time, only Edwards had responded. As he voted based on information he received at an in-camera (closed) meeting, Edwards said he was not at liberty to discuss the matter. Councillor Ruth Nishikawa says she is also unable to comment as she was not present at the Special Closed Council Meeting and resulting public vote on Tuesday.

On August 19, Divisional Court requested the Township and the MNR work out court costs and the MNR received $17,000 from the Township.

What happens next according to Ontario Court of Appeal Officials: The Township has 30 days to perfect its motion. The defendants have 25 days and then the Court has 36 days to review all material. Normally, the Court will render its decision in writing only – along with any determination about awarding costs, if deemed necessary — but in unusual cases, officials say the notice proceedings can be heard in open court.

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate the news you receive and what you read here, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month (sometimes more than double that!)

Locked gate blocks some family members in, others out at Weir Lake Trail

Wedding SurpriseGate: Groom locked out of own property, vows legal action

Update September 5 with Signage wording and Township response: Originally Posted September 4, 11pm: A Weir Lake resident says his family will take legal action if needed to continue reaching their properties via the old Parry Sound Colonization road – as well as getting a gate put up today across the road taken down.

Muskoka Lakes, Murphy, Weir Lake, planning, municipality, Muskoka, Muskoka lakes lawsuits
Property owners surprised to find colonization road blocked today: they use road to access their properties Sign reads: This gate not to be opened or removed without the consent of the municipality. No alterations of the right of way are to occur without the consent of the municipality.

Ahren Langschmidt of Weir Lake says the Township of Muskoka Lakes must have put the gate up today, effectively blocking access in and out of his family properties alongside Weir Lake Trail. He claims the gate came as a complete surprise and that there was no prior notice about it going up. When contacted, the Township’s response was “no comment.”

Langschmidt says the gate was there this evening when he returned from his wedding weekend to drop off a few things before leaving on his honeymoon tomorrow. His brother’s car was blocked in and he was blocked out. Since it was after five pm and he couldn’t reach Township, he phoned the OPP. A constable there suggested Langschmidt should do what he needed to do to get his brother out and himself back in to his property. So he removed a hinge on the gate to let vehicles through again.

Langschmidt’s family owns four properties in the area of the trail and they’ve been back and forth with Township for over a year regarding issues related to road maintenance. The Langschmidts had believed it was their responsibility to maintain the road financially as well as physically; the Township has since advised them that they did not want them to do any improvements. Township staff also told the Langschmidts the improvements they had undertaken have damaged the roadway. The bylaw officer also spoke to the Langschmidts this summer after they left a vehicle out near the trailhead — a temporary measure, claims Langschmidt, as it turned out the vehicle delivering a pontoon boat couldn’t make it down the road.

The road in question is the old Parry Sound colonization road off Highway 141.

Muskoka Lakes, Murphy, Weir Lake, planning, municipality, Muskoka, Muskoka lakes lawsuits
Weir Lake Trail location

Part of the road travels over Crown land and also makes up part of the Weir Lake Trail maintained by Township. The Langschmidts presented a proposal in April 2012 that would see them maintain and improve the road, which is deeply rutted and often muddy. Before them, two previous families had maintained the road into their properties (with Township permission to do so) before the properties were sold to the Langschmidts. Langschmidt says there is also a Township resolution dating back to 1990 recognizing traditional road access (that reportedly may extend beyond the colonization road into the properties). According to sources, more recent discussion this summer about what to do about the road has likely occurred in a Closed Session meeting.

“This is one of the oldest colonization roads in Muskoka,” says Langschmidt, “and I’m bewildered that Township would erect a gate on a traditional access road without any formal or public notice.”


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Muskoka Lakes Councillor: “I don’t think taxpayers are ready to pay to set Ontario case law”

Updated September 4 (adds Councillor McTaggart’s comments)

The Nay Votes Weigh In: Why some councillors voted against Ontario Court of Appeal action

Posted Sept 3, 9:45pm: Township of Muskoka Lakes Council voted narrowly today (5 yeas to 4 nays) to appeal Council’s dismissed Judicial Review application versus the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). When asked why they voted against taking a second stab at the province, this time in the Court of Appeal of Ontario, three councillors responded they’re concerned about the money being spent and potential liability.

Ward B Councillor Gault McTaggart said in the event the Township should succeed in its appeal, the result could be “a portage deemed unsafe. If the Township promotes it and someone comes to grief, I fully expect we will get sued and have a potentially huge liability. There are other ways to get from one body of water to the other and they can be made safe with some planning.” His other objections to the appeal which five other councillors approved to allow it to move forward? “The judicial review, a panel of three highly regarded superior court judges, dismissed the case. There was no dissenting judge.
I am OK with their ruling. It’s time to deal responsibly with SREL [hydro plant proponent[, and work with them to get the best end result, including timing, design aesthetics, alternate portage, and minimized disruption to Bala, etc.”

Money spent is also a concern for McTaggart. “I believe the Township has spent at least $200k+ to date.” Ward C Councillor Ron Brent has said he believes the total spend, when all things considered, could be much higher.

“I think the taxpayers will be shocked when they see the total cost being spent directly and indirectly to fund the Bala Falls fight,” said Brent. The Judicial Review application by the Township sought to protect portage rights and get a permanent injunction against the building of a proposed hydro plant at North Bala Falls. The Divisional Court dismissed the application.

MLA, Muskoka Lakes Association, ratepayers, Bala, Port Carling, Muskoka, Bala Falls, Ontario Court
Bala Falls from the North Side

Ward B Councillor Don Furniss responded, “I don’t believe taxpayers are prepared to pay hard-earned tax dollars to establish case law in Ontario. He said in this particular case, that’s essentially what the Township is doing.

“The court was quite specific and the ruling that came down – whether correct or not – and it was clear that the province had a much stronger case than we did,” said Furniss.”It said that public safety prevails over peoples’ right to cross public land – especially when there’s another route they can use to portage canoes.”

“I also think there could be liability issues as far as we are concerned,” he continued. “If the MNR is successful in determining that area is a hazard, we might have issues of potential liability if someone is injured.” He worried it could be seen that the Township is being negligent in going against the recommendations of the MNR.

Furniss said he felt it was important to call for a recorded vote today as “it’s in the public interest for people to know how various councilors are voting on issues,” especially ones that have garnered so much public attention.

He added the motion to appeal had to come today as time was running out to file to the higher court (The Rules of Civil Procedure provide that you must commence such a motion within 15 days after an appeal is dismissed which would have given the Township only until Monday or Tuesday of next week. As a result the matter could not have waited for the regular Council meeting of September 13 with all Council present to make the appeal decision).

Today’s Council session wrapped up around 12:30pm. By two pm, defendants involved in the original Judicial Review (the MNR and Swift River Energy Limited, the proposed hydro plant developer) had received a lengthy notice of motion document from Township lawyer Harold Elston. Muskoka News Watch also spoke briefly with Ward A Councillor Ruth Nishikawa who said she could not comment as she was unable to attend the additional Special Closed Council Meeting. She was the only Councillor who did not cast a vote on whether or not to appeal the Divisional Court (a branch of the Superior Court) ruling against the Township that resulted in $17,000 in court costs being paid to the MNR.

Councillor Phil Harding did vote in favour of appeal and responded that he would be available for comment tomorrow.


Related Stories:



Breaking: It’s back to court for Township of Muskoka Lakes – Council votes 5/4 in Bala Falls Appeal

Five councillors voted for appeal; four against; one not at special council meeting. Result: Township takes its legal battle up a notch versus MNR in fight to stop hydro plant at Bala Falls

Posted September 3, 3.50pm: Township of Muskoka Lakes Council has voted to appeal a Divisional Court decision that would allow the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) to issue a lease for a planned hydro plant at North Bala Falls. First, the Township will need to get permission granted by the Ontario Court of Appeal to appeal. The decision Township is questioning was by the Divisional Court, a branch of the Superior Court, came August 19 after three justices rejected the Township argument to protect portage rights and stop the MNR from deeming the site below the existing dam as unsafe for public access.  Township had only 30 days to appeal and as a result, a special Closed Meeting of Council was called for today. That meeting was followed by a Public motion to ratify the Closed decision.

The resolution reads: Be it resolved that Harold Elston, Solicitor for the Township of Muskoka Lakes, be directed to proceed with the filing of notice of motion for leave to appeal the dismissal of the Judicial Review Application regarding Township Muskoka Lakes vs. Ministry of Natural Resources, Divisional Court File No. 202/13.

Councillor Don Furniss requested a recorded vote. Five Councillors voted in favour of moving forward for another kick at the legal can. They were Mayor Alice Murphy and Councillors Brad Burgess, Allen Edwards, Donelda Kruckel and Phil Harding. Voting against the motion were Councillors Don Furniss, Ron Brent, Gault McTaggart and Jean Ann Baranik. Councillor Ruth Nishikawa had sent her regrets and was not present at the meeting.

According to the Ontario Attorney General’s office, at press time the province had not been served with a notice of motion seeking leave to appeal the decision of August 19, 2013. However, that statement was later clarified as they had received notice that afternoon. The lawyers for the township filed the notice of motion officially with the Ontario Court of Appeal just before noon on September 5.

Muskoka, Bala Falls, Murphy, Superior Court of Appeals, Ontario, ontario polictics
Close call – 5/4 – on motion to go back to court

Related Articles: Exclusive: Superior Court says public safety trumps other parts of Public Lands Act


Post Labour Day News Bites

One highway fatality to the south of us, several impaired charges in north Muskoka, boat and bicycling accidents to the west of Bala….politicians in the thick of it: time for a long weekend wrap up

Posted Sept 3, 8.35am: Muskoka News Watch took a brief holiday in late August and we owe you some news bites! Here, then, is a taste of what happened over the last week of August and over the Labour Day weekend – along with a hint of opinion thrown in here and there…

From the OPP, tales of wobbling trucks, motorcycles, cars and ATVs…

From Friday to Sunday on the long weekend, Huntsville OPP charged four people with impaired driving, and all of the suspects were between 47 and 53 years of age. Is this a pattern? Does turning 50 make people feel invulnerable to the affects of alcohol and/or RIDE stops? If there is any thing to learn, maybe it shows that young people ‘get it’ while their elders don’t? Then again, a 39-year-old on an ATV in Lake of Bays also had his licence suspended, so maybe there’s no pattern: there’s just plain old alleged drinking and driving.

Tragedy at 400 and 11: On Sunday, a fatal accident occurred on Hwy 400 at the Hwy 11 split. One person died and two others were taken to hospital. Police say the accident happened when one car went off the road southbound and crossed into the northbound lanes.

… and narrow escapes from serious injuries: Cyclist clipped on 38, boat onto rocks on Moon River

As our children head back to school, open those driving eyes a little brighter to watch for tiny ones waiting for buses and crossing to school. A driver on Highway 38 on the weekend may have wished for keener eye sight – police say a bicyclist got clipped by a passing car which stayed at the scene. Fortunately, the cyclist was not badly hurt. No charges were laid.

There was also a report of a boat up on the rocks at the Chutes on Moon River just before the long weekend. Marine officers who attended the scene say two people suffered minor injuries in the crash. They told MNW alcohol was not a factor.

From our Politicians; federal money to spur employment; more legal wrangling in Muskoka Lakes

On Monday, August 26 and Wednesday, August 28 in Huntsville and Parry Sound respectively, Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Tony Clement announced more funding to help get youth jobs in our region. While he no longer has responsibility for FedNor, he made the announcement on behalf of the Harper government that funding of $181,500 has been earmarked to help create six youth employment opportunities in our region. The Muskoka announcement was made at the Art Space gallery across from River Mill Park and Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty was on hand. He noted, “Youth out-migration is a serious issue facing our region and I am extremely pleased that the Government of Canada is helping to create local employment that will encourage youth to build their futures in Northern Ontario.”

The Township of Muskoka Lakes goes back to work in a Special Closed Session today. The agenda package mentions matters of “potential litigation” being up for discussion. What could be coming up for Council? They have 30 days from August 19 to file an appeal of the Superior Court Divisional Court branch decision against Council’s Judicial Review application. That legal move was an attempt to stop a planned hydro plant from being built at North Bala Falls and to protect portage rights. The three justices heard only the Township’s argument and decided they didn’t need to hear any more. During the hearing, MNW counted the word ‘disingenuous’ used at least five times in reference to the township’s case. Now Council must decide whether the Ontario Court of Appeal will find its arguments more believable. One Councillor asked for an opinion on appeal opted not to comment, explaining, “as this issue is subject to appeal it will need be discussed in Closed Session.”

Another closed session topic soon will likely be needed to talk strategy heading into the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeal by Hanna’s Landing over the Council’s ongoing deferral of a zoning amendment application that includes a Circulation Statement – a notice that ratepayer groups like the Muskoka Lakes Association say they want to have happen – even if they do not support the rest of the zoning application. Since Hanna’s Landing has been an issue of concern, particularly for Port Carling residents, the opportunity to talk about would likely be a welcome move – and even though the issue will go to the OMB again, Council could decide to allow the Circulation Statement to go out. Certainly in the past the Mayor has trumpeted the need for community involvement, but only time will tell if this even gets discussed in public. It likely should. While legal discussions are a Closed Session item, an OMB hearing is open to the public. Whatever the Council decides in regard to the OMB (apart from defence strategy), it would be smart to share whatever information it can with constituents. Mind you, Council has had the zoning amendment to kick around since March with no forward movement: it will be interesting to see if a date is announced soon for the next Committee of the Whole meeting at which the Mayor reportedly suggested the Council should go line-by-line over the zoning package that Township staff tweaked and vetted and recommended be approved.

Saving the best for last; Good News From a Young Entrepreneur

A 16-year-old girl is sending about $2,000 to Doctors Without Borders after running with a fundraising idea at local Muskoka farmers’ markets this summer. Tory O’Driscoll’s ‘Extreme Muskoka’ T-shirts depicting wakeboarders and golfers were a big hit.

The Walker’s Point cottager decided to print up a hundred T-shirts with her Extreme Muskoka design. They sold out fast, and so she ordered a few hundred more. Her proud Mom said she liked seeing the confidence Tory gained by getting out of her comfort zone, adding, “she personally didn’t make any money but the experience was worth its weight in gold.”

Tory wasn’t available for an interview as she was heading back to high school at Havergal College but her equally proud Grandfather tipped MNW to the good news story of youth entrepreneurship for a good cause.

And that’s what’s been happening around Muskoka these past few days. As for the weather? Fortunately we were spared really bad weather yesterday — residents of Lake Couchiching reported a water spout on the lake in the morning and rains were extremely heavy from Orillia up to Gravenhurst. Environment Canada issued tornado warnings to the areas south and east of Muskoka, and heavy rain warnings for Muskoka were lifted by one pm. We should see sunnier skies again on Wednesday and through the rest of the week.

 Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you like what you read, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell advertisers that want to target Muskoka that Muskoka News Watch regularly attracts over 10,000 visitors each month (sometimes double that!)