Farewell to Muskoka: Goodbye from outgoing Muskoka Lakes Township CAO Chris Wray

Loved the region but had to leave: Former CAO writes a Dear John letter of sorts to Muskoka Lakes; notes integrity “should never be sacrificed”

“There came a point where I felt that the model being used in Muskoka Lakes did not fit with my beliefs and a change was necessary.” – Chris Wray

Commentary published May 31, 9:25am: On May 30, the outgoing Chief Administrative Officer of Muskoka Lakes sent a goodbye letter to the media noting his regrets that he felt unable to comment about his departure during his final weeks at the Township. The letter from Chris Wray arrived on the same day as the news that Treasurer Stephen Rettie, one of three key members of the municipality’s senior management team, was leaving the Township for the Town of Bracebridge (Read that article).

It’s a double whammy brain drain for Township staff and Council. It may also lend credibility to the red flag raised back in 2012 by the taxpayer group, the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association. The CAO, Clerk and Treasurer are key senior management positions that can be difficult and costly to replace and this is second time in three-and-a-half years that the Township has had to replace a Treasurer (Julie Stevens) and CAO (Walt Schmid). Fortunately, Clerk Cheryl Mortimer has stayed put through many municipal terms.

Something rotten in the municipality of Muskoka Lakes? Strong municipal talent is bound to be recruited, but in his letter, Chris Wray takes issue with the suggestion that being recruited was his only reason for leaving. Here is that letter:

LETTER FROM CHRIS WRAY TO MEDIA

May 30, 2014

To the Muskoka Media:

In the weeks leading up to my final day at the Township of Muskoka Lakes there was a flurry of activity, and I regret not having time to write a goodbye to the community.

The ratepayers of Muskoka Lakes should know that they are well served by a great staff. There is a real sense of camaraderie and teamwork within all departments with the senior management team consistently working collaboratively and showing the leadership necessary for the betterment of Muskoka Lakes.

Many in the community and in the public sector have asked why I chose to leave Muskoka Lakes. It was even suggested that it was because I was “recruited back to Wawa”. This is not entirely true. I had no intentions of leaving Muskoka Lakes and in fact I would have been ecstatic to have continued my career here. I recognized the many good things that could be accomplished by an excellent management team and staff while being supported by any Council that would be truly interested in fulfilling their true stewardship role.

The municipal level of government can be likened to an hourglass. The top end of the hourglass representing the Council, the bottom end the staff (including consultants, auditors and legal counsel) and the midsection the CAO. Viewing the sand as the work that needsSand Timer on a Sand Dune to be completed it should be noted that all sand flows through the CAO to the staff. When this model is not respected, the hourglass breaks and the sand spills outside of the staff with great regularity and dysfunctionality. Municipal government is also about continuous community improvement. It should never be dominated by one issue or one person. It is also based on the principles of democracy which is about compromise and not at all about capitulating to the agenda of one person or one particular group.

Such compromise is usually not easily achieved and requires hard work, dedication, trust and the ability to always see opposing points of view, particularly from a number of diverse groups. It also requires a high level of integrity and ethical standards that should never be sacrificed through manipulation or the misuse of resources.

Fortunately, I believe highly in the above model. There came a point where I felt that the model being used in Muskoka Lakes did not fit with my beliefs and a change was necessary. While I am not prepared to discuss my actual arrangements with any new employer, I would simply call this serendipitous.

I would like to thank the people that I met and had an opportunity of working with for being so understanding over the course of the past 18 months. I would also like to thank those who provided a depth of information on a number of subjects that assisted me to overcome some of the obstacles that I encountered. Mostly though, I would like to thank my staff and those council members who truly understand what municipal governance is all about.

I leave with my integrity, ethics, and equally important, my health, intact. Lastly I leave you with the following appropriate quote:

“The supreme quality for leadership is unquestionably integrity. Without it, no real success is possible, no matter whether it is on a section gang, a football field, in an army, or in an office.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

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Snatch and run election sign thief caught on security video

Theft of Miller campaign sign caught on tape; Bracebridge OPP investigating; Returning Office calls campaign sign theft the “nature of the beast”

Updated May 30, 8am: Published May 30, 5.20pm: The Bracebridge OPP is investigating a theft of a provincial campaign sign after someone taking a Norm Miller sign from private property was caught on video yesterday. The campaign team for the Parry Sound-Muskoka PC candidate then sent the video to police. Provincial Constable Jessica Drake says an officer is following up.

Feature picture: Still shot from the video sent to media and OPP

Drake says anyone found to be in possession of property obtained by crime can be charged with theft, and that includes campaign signs.

The video submitted by the Miller shows someone rushing from a car onto a lawn, grabbing the sign, and racing back to the car last night. Although the tape does not indicate any opposing party was involved, Miller stated “it is shameful that other political parties have chosen to resort to tactics like this.”

A spokesman for Miller said the campaign team has had many calls from people who’ve had their lawn signs stolen, and they were hearing that only their signs were disappearing. But Miller isn’t the only one. Calls to Liberal Dan Waters and campaign team members for the Green Party’s Matt Richter indicate they’ve had signs disappear as well.

“Sadly, it’s just something you have to learn to accept,” said Waters, who noticed one sign he had put up near Mactier vanished within minutes of him installing it.

Returning Officer Michael Greaves says the disappearing candidate sign problem is “the nature of the beast” in every election.

“It’s a lot of work and in my experience, (Greaves has been a returning officer for over 20 years), opposing political parties respect the time and energy of their competitors, so when things like this happen, it’s generally some random act and not related to a candidate. Still, it’s hard to know what any individual supporter might do.”

At the beginning of election campaigns, returning officers sit down with all candidates to review campaign rules. “We specifically address this in our candidates meeting that when this type of thing occurs, it rarely is a result of one of the competing parties.” As well, he says signs that have been placed incorrectly can often be found at the end of an election in a Ministry of Transportation work yard.

As for the Miller sign theft, improper positioning was definitely not the case. The video shows it was a snatch and run by someone moving very quickly. (UPDATED INFO): The sign was stolen from the property of John de Koning of Daleman Drive in Bracebridge. Last year, his surveillance cameras led to a warrant issued for the arrest of an East York man — after someone allegedly tried to break into de Koning’s home and was also caught on tape (Reference: April 2013 Bracebridge Examiner).

Anyone who has a sign stolen can contact the campaign offices of the candidates to ask for a replacement.

 

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Treasurer Stephen Rettie leaving Muskoka Lakes Township: two key manager posts now vacant

MNW Mea Culpa: Make that 11 Staff Members have left since 2010, not 10.

Updated May 30, 7pm: MNW reported today that at least 10 staff members had left (via resignation, retirement or restructuring) during the past three-and-a-half years o the present municipal term.  In fact, there have been at least 11 departures, including Planner Matt Ellis. We regret the omission of Ellis.

Breaking News: Muskoka Lakes Treasurer Stephen Rettie jumping ship for Bracebridge

Updated May 30, 8am with comment from Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith

May 30, 12:30am: Another key manager at the Township of Muskoka Lakes (TML) is making the Town of Bracebridge his next career choice. His departure raises the number of staff members who have resigned, retired or been cut from the Township to at least ten in the past few years. It’s been confirmed the Town of Bracebridge will announce today that it has hired TML Treasurer Stephen Rettie. He joined Muskoka Lakes in August 2011 after Treasurer Julie Stevens left for the District of Muskoka. He’s expected to start his new job with Bracebridge in early July. Rettie lives in the town.

Mayor Smith welcomes Rettie aboard

“Council is very pleased to have Steve join the Town in this senior role,” says Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith. “His combination of private sector and municipal experience enable him to bring a high level of expertise to the finance and treasury operations here at the Town of Bracebridge.” An official release from the Town is expected later today.

There had been rumours Rettie might be recruited (or might put his name forward) for the Bracebridge post soon to be left vacant by Director of Finance/Treasurer Carol MacLellan. In March, Mayor Smith announced MacLellan was retiring after six years of service to the Town. Her last official day is to be June 20.

Muskoka Lakes’ loss is Bracebridge’s gain

This isn’t the first time a key staff member with Muskoka Lakes has jumped to Bracebridge. CAO Walt Schmid made the same move in July 2012 to become Director of Public Works for Bracebridge, a position he says he’s enjoying very much. John Curran stepped into the CAO job in the interim for Muskoka Lakes until Chris Wray took it on in December 2012.

Wray resigned in April of this year: his last day was May 23, 2014. He says he had no intentions of leaving Muskoka Lakes, and although the official reason stated in a Township release was that he was “recruited back to Wawa,” Wray says the opportunity simply came at the right time.

Chris Wray, Photo from LAS Board of Directors
Chris Wray, Photo from LAS Board of Directors

Rettie’s decision, on the heel of Wray’s leaving, is the latest in a string of departures from the Township with most taking different jobs. Three people retired, although only one of those retirements was expected — the other two happened suddenly. One other staff member had their job cut.

Here’s a run down of at least 10 people who moved on during the present Council’s 4-year term.

Who went where and when

  1. Treasurer Julie Stevens > District > Commissioner of Finance and Corporate Services > 2011
  2. Councillor Bob McTavish > Resigned, citing “a sense of personal dissatisfaction” > November 2011
  3. Parks, Recreation and Facility Manager Lise Saumur’s job axed due to restructuring, December 2011
  4. Public Works Superintendent Len Troup > Retired > June 2012
  5. Assistant Fire Chief Jim Schneider > Retired suddenly > June 2012
  6. CAO Walt Schmid > Resigns > Bracebridge > Director of Public Works > July 2012
  7. Planning Director Stephen Fahner > Retired suddenly, now Consulting > July 2012
  8. Bylaw Officer Trevor George > Turns down full time job and leaves, citing interference by Council
  9. CAO Chris Wray > Resigns > Wawa > May 2014
  10. Treasurer Steven Rettie > Resigns > Bracebridge > Director of Finance > May 2014

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Muskoka Lakes Library Summer Event Schedule

July through August Kids! Wow your parents and teachers and yourself by keeping track of your reading this summer through the TD Summer Reading Club 2014: Eureka! We are dreamers of dreams, makers of worlds. Get your free log book and stickers at both Muskoka Lakes Public Library locations (Bala and Port Carling)

…or are you more into Lego? July to August 12, 2014 Kids! Pick up your registration form for the Friends of the Library’s annual Lego and Room-in-a-Box contests. Submissions to be dropped off at the Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St. in Port Carling on August 13, 3:30-4:30 with judging and prize presentation to take place August 14 during Family Fun Day. For more information email the Friends at MLPLfriends@gmail.com <mailto:MLPLfriends@gmail.com> .

Fridays, July 4-August 8, 2014 10:15-11:00am  Music Together classes at Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling with Kate Cavan of First Songs of Muskoka. To register for the six session set, contact Kate (705) 637-0358 <tel:7056370758>   <mailto:ac.sgnostsrifnull@ofni>  or info@firstsongs.ca.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 7:00pm Author night.  Marissa Stapley is a Canadian freelance writer and former magazine editor whose articles and book reviews have appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post, Elle, Today’s Parent and many others. Her novel, Mating for Life, with Muskoka references, explores marriage, motherhood, identity, and what it takes to love someone—family members, friends, or spouses—for life. All welcome! Free. Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., PORT CARLING. No registration required.

Tuesday, July 15 – August 15, 2014 Friends of the Muskoka Lakes Public Library’s annual fundraising Silent Auction in both Bala and Port Carling branches. Come out and support this great volunteer organization and scoop yourself great deals on some fantastic items donated by artists, businesses, and individuals from the community. For more information contact the Friends at MLPLfriends@gmail.com

Wednesday, July 17, 2014 7:00pm One night, two authors! Come and hear Canadian authors Kate Hilton (The Hole in the Middle) and Heather A. Clark (Chai Tea Sunday and Elephant in the Sky) talk about their books and the trials and tribulations of getting published in Canada. All welcome! Free. Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling 705-765-5650.

Monday, July 21, 2014 1:00pm LEGO®!  Calling all builders from 6 to 106!  All Inclusive Fee $10.00 (per child, per workshop, cash only at the door)Pre-Register: Include Workshop Date, Child’s Name and Age to  info@quantumv.c​a or TEXT 416-904-4987. Come build with us at the library this summer! Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:45-11:30am Muskoka Reads! Geared for 3-7 year olds, this story time has people from the community as guest readers and presenters. This week enjoy a visit from Geordie Newlands of Summer Water Sports (those folks that have been presenting water ski shows in Muskoka for many years!). Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling 705-765-5650.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014  7-9pm Canvas Café, ladies’ night out with artist Nancy Gray Ogle. After-hours painting sessions at Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling. Try something new! No previous painting skills required. All materials supplied. Pre-register with Nancy at 705-764-0212 or ngrayogle@sympatico.ca

Thursday, July 24, 2014 11:00-12:30pm Art Workshop for Kids with artist Nancy Gray Ogle at Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling. $25 For ages 10+. All materials supplied. Pre-register with Nancy at 705-764-0212 or ngrayogle@sympatico.ca

Monday, July 28, 2014 1:00pm LEGO®!  Calling all builders from 6 to 106!  All Inclusive Fee $10.00 (per child, per workshop, cash only at the door)Pre-Register: Include Workshop Date, Child’s Name and Age to  info@quantumv.c​a or TEXT 416-904-4987. Come build with us at the library this summer! Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 10:45-11:30am Muskoka Reads! Geared for 3-7 year olds, this story time has people from the community as guest readers and presenters. This week enjoy a visit from the exuberant Sandy Inkster, Early Literacy Specialist for Muskoka. Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling 705-765-5650.

Thursday, July 31, 2014 11:00-12:30pm Art Workshop for Kids with artist Nancy Gray Ogle at Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling. $25 For ages 10+. All materials supplied. Pre-register with Nancy at 705-764-0212 or ngrayogle@sympatico.ca

Tuesday, August 5, 2014 10:45-11:30am Muskoka Reads! Geared for 3-7 year olds, this story time has people from the community as guest readers and presenters. This week enjoy a visit from musician and teacher, Rich Howard. Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling 705-765-5650.

Thursday, August 7, 2014 11:00-12:30pm Art Workshop for Kids with artist Nancy Gray Ogle at Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling. $25 For ages 10+. All materials supplied Pre-register with Nancy at 705-764-0212 or ngrayogle@sympatico.ca

Monday, August 11, 2014 1:00pm LEGO®!  Calling all builders from 6 to 106!  All Inclusive Fee $10.00 (per child, per workshop, cash only at the door) Pre-Register: Include Workshop Date, Child’s Name and Age to  info@quantumv.c​a or TEXT 416-904-4987. Come build with us at the library this summer! Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 10:45-11:30am Muskoka Reads! Geared for 3-7 year olds, this story time has people from the community as guest readers and presenters. This week enjoy a visit from musicians Richard and Kathy McCarthy of Hatchett’s Rowing Centre in Port Carling. Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling 705-765-5650.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 3:30-4:30 Friends of Muskoka Lakes Public Library’s Room-in-a-Box and/or Lego contest submission drop-off. Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling 705-765-5650. MLPLfriends@gmail.com.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 12:00-3:00pm Family Fun Day presented by Muskoka Lakes Public Library, in partnership with the Friends of the Muskoka Lakes Public Library and Muskoka Chautauqua. An afternoon filled with activities for people of all ages including: Story Telling with Sandy Inkster, Face Painting, Georgian Bay Turtle Hospital, Climb Aboard with police car, fire truck, construction vehicles, and so many more vehicles to explore! The Friends will have used books for sale, refreshments, and will once again host the Lego and Room in a Box contests with the TD Summer Reading Club 2014 theme of Eureka!: We are dreamers of dreams, makers of worlds.   Prizes to be awarded. Everyone welcome!

Monday, August 18, 2014 1:00pm LEGO®!  Calling all builders from 6 to 106!  All Inclusive Fee $10.00 (per child, per workshop, cash only at the door) Pre-Register: Include Workshop Date, Child’s Name and Age to  info@quantumv.c​a or TEXT 416-904-4987. Come build with us at the library this summer! Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 10:45-11:30am Muskoka Reads! Geared for 3-7 year olds, this story time has people from the community as guest readers and presenters. This week enjoy a visit from Linda Longhurst, a local farmer, who will bring one of her pet rabbits. Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling 705-765-5650.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014  7-9pm Canvas Café, ladies’ night out with artist Nancy Gray Ogle. After-hours painting sessions at Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling. Try something new! No previous painting skills required.  All materials supplied. Pre-register with Nancy at 705-764-0212 or ngrayogle@sympatico.ca.

Thursday, August 21, 2014 11:00-12:30pm Art Workshop for Kids with artist Nancy Gray Ogle at Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling. $25. For ages 10+. All materials supplied. Pre-register with Nancy at 705-764-0212 or ngrayogle@sympatico.ca

Monday, August 25, 2014 1:00pm LEGO®!  Calling all builders from 6 to 106!  All Inclusive Fee $10.00 (per child, per workshop, cash only at the door) Pre-Register: Include Workshop Date, Child’s Name and Age to  info@quantumv.c​a or TEXT 416-904-4987. Come build with us at the library this summer! Muskoka Lakes Public Library, 69 Joseph St., Port Carling.

Provincial Election update: All Candidates Meeting Wed Night in Huntsville may be only one in region

Wednesday: All Parry Sound-Muskoka provincial candidates square off in Huntsville

Published May 27: For Parry Sound-Muskoka voters, tomorrow night (Wednesday, May 28), may be the only chance to see all local provincial candidates in action.

No other official All Candidates meetings have been scheduled, and it has been confirmed there won’t be similar All Candidate Meetings in Bracebridge or Parry Sound. It’s not known if Burk’s Falls or Gravenhurst will hold such forums as they have done in past elections.

The Huntsville evening at the Algonquin Theatre starts with a meet and greet from 6-7 pm followed by candidate speeches starting at 7pm followed by a question and answer period. The meeting has been organized by the Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce.

All five local candidates representing the Greens, Progressive Conservatives, Liberals, NDPers and the Freedom Party are expected to attend the Wednesday night event.

To know where the candidates are in the riding and for general voter information such as advance poll locations (we hope to have those soon), keep coming back to the Ontario Votes: Parry Sound Muskoka Election Watch page here on Muskoka News Watch.

 

Friends of Muskoka Watershed announce Robert Bateman raffle winners

Release from Friends of the Muskoka Watershed: Bateman Raffle Supports Graduate Student Environmental Research in Muskoka

Published May 27, 12;15pm: Friends of the Muskoka Watershed raised over $4,000 through a raffle of three signed Robert Bateman prints and the winning names were drawn at the Muskoka Summit on the Environment in Bracebridge on May 9. The raffle was to raise money for the Muskoka Summit on the Environment Research Award, a $7,500 grant to support graduate student environmental research within the Muskoka River Watershed.

The grand prize was Bateman’s “Loon Family” print, publisher’s proof #1 of 20, signed and donated by Bateman himself. The print was framed at Martin’s Framing in Bracebridge and was valued at $2,000. The winner of this stunning piece was Gunars Balodis from Windermere.

Bateman artist, Muskoka Friends of the Watershed
Gunars Balodis of Windermere takes home “Two Loons” by Robert Bateman

Suzanne Rutherford of Bracebridge was the winner of the second prize, a limited edition“Moose Family” print by Robert Bateman, made exclusively for the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s (CWF) 50th anniversary. CWF donated this print, which also came framed and was valued at $500. The third prize was a signed copy of Bateman’s “New Works” hardcover book, valued at $60 and won by Andrew Paterson from Huntsville.
Bateman, a renowned Canadian wildlife artist and conservationist, was the keynote speaker at the 2014 MSE “Environment vs Economy: resolving the dichotomy,” where hundreds of people gathered to discuss how to close the gap between economic and environmental considerations.

“Participating in fundraisers like this are simple ways the community can give back to their environment,” said Dr. Norman Yan, Chair of Friends of the Muskoka Watershed.

Robert Batemen print raffle winner
Judi Brouse, Director of Watershed Programs (left) with Bateman print winner Suzanne Rutherford

The money raised will contribute to ongoing research in the Muskoka River Watershed in fields related to environmental science, resource studies and/or policy.

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Two moose, two crashes last night on Highway 11 and Muskoka Road 117

Crash with moose sends two to hospital on Hwy 11 near High Falls

Published May 27, 10 am:  At about 10pm last night, officers from the Bracebridge Detachment of the OPP, Muskoka EMS and the Bracebridge Fire Department were on the scene of a single car rollover on Highway 11.

The OPP says a northbound Ford Focus was travelling on the inside lane north of High Falls road when a moose stepped out onto the roadway. The driver of the Ford struck the moose head-on causing the vehicle to roll over on to the median. The highway was closed for a short time while emergency crews responded to the collision.

The male driver and female passenger were transported to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital (SMMH) for medical treatment.

Single car crash with moose on 117

A short time earlier Huntsville OPP also responded to a similar call on Muskoka Road 117 involving a Moose and single car.

Provincial Constable Jessica Drake says both moose in both crashes died upon impact. She reminds drivers there is lot of wildlife around our roadways and to slow down and be alert while driving, especially at night when visibility is reduced.

Guelph pilot dies in crash on Taylor Lake north of Parry Sound

Pilot in tragic crash yesterday still to be identified

Published May 25, 830pm: A 77-year-old man from Guelph is dead after a plane crashed yesterday on Taylor Lake in the Parry Sound municipality Whitestone.

Officers from the West Parry Sound OPP responded to the crash of the 185 Cessna just before 8 am yesterday (May 24). They say it appears the pilot tried to land on Taylor Lake, and the plane flipped over, trapping him underwater.

It’s believed the pilot was the only person in the plane when it crashed. His name has not yet been released and the investigation is ongoing. Whitestone is about 50 kilometres north of Parry Sound.

Longtime Bracebridge art supply store now doubles as gallery for Muskoka artists, too

Martins on Manitoba Street in Bracebridge offers new Artists’ Corner

Published May 24; 12.30pm: Artists in Muskoka have a new spot to hang their hats, and more importantly, their creative work, in Bracebridge.

Martins at 158 Manitoba Street in Bracebridge have added an Artists’ Corner to its fine arts store. With the loss of two art galleries in town, Jim Burns recognized the need for local artists to have a space to exhibit and sell their work. The current show includes art by Helene Adamson, Bev Clark, Wendie Donabie, Janice Feist, Tammy Gravina, Lynda Lynn, Eleanor Thorel and Carole Ann Thur.

Growing beyond framing and art supplies, Martins also recently expanded its line of artist materials and art instruction books, and Burns says special orders are always welcome.

Adds Wendy Donabie, one of the artists who will showcase her work there, “This is  a new and exciting venue for artists to market their paintings.” Presently, Donabie and Janice Feist also have their “Firmly Rooted” exhibit featured at the Chapel Gallery in Bracebridge all May.

Artists interested in seeing their works hung at Martins are asked to drop by the store for more information. Everyone is welcome to drop in and browse. Hours are Monday to Friday 10-5 and Saturdays 10-4.

Muskoka-Parry Sound-Almaguin Mayors seal power merger deal for Lakeland Holding-Parry Sound Hydro

A signing ceremony today in Burk’s Falls makes hydro merger official

Published May 23, 2:20pm: The ink has dried on the merger documents signed today by six Mayors representing shareholders of Lakeland Holding Ltd. (Lakeland) and Parry Sound Hydro Corporation (Parry Sound).

Today’s signing ceremony at the Young at Heart Senior Centre in Burk’s Falls makes a two-year deal in the making official. It paves the way for Lakeland and Parry Sound to complete the merger of their electricity distribution, generation and energy operations.

Lakeland Holding Ltd. (Lakeland) CEO Chris Litschko today said the merger “furthers our long-term plan of continued company growth for the benefit of our customers and to increase shareholder value.” He added since deregulation in 2000, Lakeland has been one of the most progressive and diversified companies in Ontario (there are 68 hydro distribution companies in the province).

Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith was at the signing today, representing the largest Lakeland shareholder, the Town of Bracebridge. As such, he said he “was exceptionally pleased to participate in today’s signing ceremony.”

Mayors sign hydro merger agreement in Burk's Falls
Six Mayors: One Historic Hydro Merger (from left to right): Elgin Schneider, Mayor of Sundridge, Cathy Still, Reeve of Burk’s Falls, Graydon Smith, Mayor of Bracebridge, Claude Doughty, Mayor of Huntsville, Sam Dunnett, Mayor of Magnetawan and Jamie McGarvey, Mayor of Parry Sound

The Towns of Bracebridge, Huntsville, Burk’s Falls, Sundridge and Magnetawan hold the shares of Lakeland Holding Ltd. The Town of Parry Sound, in turn, wholly owns Parry Sound Hydro Corporation.

“Lakeland has been a tremendous asset for the Town for many years,” continued Smith, “and we are confident that the Board and staff of Lakeland and the subsidiary companies will be able to move the larger merged company forward to the benefit of Bracebridge, Parry Sound and all of the shareholder municipalities.

Parry Sound Mayor Jamie McGarvey spoke about the benefits for his community. “This merger with Lakeland will provide for multi-million dollar upgrades to Parry Sound’s Cascade Generation station capacity. For over 13 years, Lakeland and Parry Sound have worked with almost identical structures and operations,” explained McGarvey, “and the merger will provide new opportunities to enhance shareholder value and improve the efficiency of our companies.”

Shareholders approved the merger of the two corporations in December 2013. After amalgamation on July 1st, six municipalities will hold shares of Lakeland as follows:

  • Town of Bracebridge  54.97%
  • Town of Huntsville     21.22%
  • Town of Parry Sound  15.57%
  • Town of Sundridge       3.66%
  • Village of Burk’s Falls   3.34%
  • Municipality of Magnetawan  1.24%

Lakeland is looking forward to a smooth transition as the two companies become one. Lakeland Holding Logo 2011Litschko said there is no plan to cut any jobs, for example. With such a merger, he said all staff would be needed to help the companies through the transition. Moving forward, Litschko said some people are expected to retire over the next five years, which would reduce the present workforce. Each Parry Sound customer will also be sent a letter about the merger, he said.

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green energy, hydro, natural resources, Swift River, Bala, Muskoka, Save the Bala Falls, Bala, NIMBY, NIMBYS, protestors, Bracebridge Generation, Muskoka, waterpower, Save the Bala Falls
Bracebridge Generation, a subsidiary of Lakeland Holding, wins Stewardship award at Ontario Waterpower Annual meeting October 21, 2013. From left to right: Vince Kulchycki, Paul Norris (OWA), Chris Litschko, and Bryan Ingram

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Municipal Election 2014 News: Greg Knight enters Township of Muskoka Lakes election race in Ward A

Knight has sights on Ward A Township and District Council seat

Published May 22, 5pm: Greg Knight is the newest contender in the municipal election in the Township of Muskoka Lakes — and the first to announce his plans to represent Ward A (including Walker’s Point, Torrance, and Bala).

Featured picture (top left): Democracy in action: Township Clerk Cheryl Mortimer congratulates Greg Knight on his decision to stand for Township and District Council.

Knight filed his nomination papers this morning to run for the District seat now held by Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa (As a District Councillor, a Councillor has a vote at both Township and at District Council).

With his Muskoka-wide contacts and experience, the Torrance resident believes he is well positioned to represent the Township’s interests at District.

He adds he sent Nishikawa a note last night to let her know he was filing his nomination papers today. Nishikawa has not said whether she’ll seek re-election.

For several years, Knight has been working on socially and environmentally responsible development projects in and around Muskoka, such as Seguin Place in Humphrey, just north of Muskoka Lakes, and a development in Huntsville.

“I’ve had the privilege of working closely with a number of municipalities to create thoughtful development plans to achieve environmental conservation, heritage preservation, and affordable housing initiatives,” says Knight. “This unique exposure to so many different Councils and senior staff has provided experience that I look forward to bringing to the Township and District Council tables.”

Greg Knight Signs Up Muskoka Lakes-20140522-00899
Greg Knight signs in at Township office this morning before filing nomination papers to run in October municipal election

In November 2012, his efforts were applauded by Nishikawa and others (see Related Articles) when he managed to do something no one else in Township was able to do before: to get a grant for the Township of $100,000 to be used for affordable housing. But the plan to build in Bala went bust because of what he called the Mayor’s “approach” in an early meeting about the proposed project. The Mayor later explained that she was “supportive of attainable housing but not supportive of housing, other than ancillary, in the core commercial corridors of our urban communities.” In December 2012, District Councillors voted to shift the grant money from Bala to Huntsville.

Today Knight is still a volunteer member of the Muskoka Attainable Housing Advisory Table, and he says he welcomes the chance to work for the residents of Muskoka Lakes as “we plan for the Muskoka our children will know and love.” Like many people, Knight fell in love with Muskoka Lakes as a child when visiting friends. He now gets to share that experience with his daughter in Torrance at the resort village he owns on Clear Lake.

In his professional life, Knight established Knight Developments in 2004. He holds an M.B.A in Entrepreneurial Studies, a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, and he completed his undergraduate degree in Geography.

Related Articles

Bracebridge Examiner, November 2012: Affordable Housing Units Proposed for Bala

Bracebridge Examiner, December 2012: First Affordable Housing Quashed Before it Begins in MuskokaLakes/Bala 

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Meet your local provincial election candidates: Today, meet Norm Miller

May 20, 2014: Muskoka News Watch is sharing information about each provincial candidate running in Parry Sound-Muskoka. So far, we’ve published submitted bios from the NDP’s Clyde Mobbley and of Green Party of Ontario candidate Matt Richter. Now it’s Norm Miller’s turn and next up will be Liberal candidate Dan Waters. To keep up to date on where candidates are; when all candidates meetings are scheduled; where advance polls are and more, visit our dedicated Parry Sound-Muskoka Election Watch page under Ontario Votes on the MNW Home Page.

About Norm Miller, Ontario Progressive Conservative candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka

Norm Miller was first elected to represent the riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka in a by-election on March 22, 2001, and re-elected in general elections in October 2003, October 2007 and October 2011.

Norm has served as the Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Northern Development and Mines, Commissioner of the Red Tape Secretariat, member of the Estimates Committee, and sat on the Cabinet Committee for Economic and Resource Policy.

Norm Miller - Campaign VanWhile in opposition Norm has been the PC Critic for a variety of portfolios including Natural Resources, Aboriginal Affairs and Research and Innovation, and Finance. He also served as Chief Opposition Whip for 6 years and sat on the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs.

Most recently, he was re-appointed as the PC Critic for Northern Development and Mines. Norm was also appointed to the PC Job Creation Task Force.

He is currently Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

For 25 years, together with his wife, Christine and their four children, owned and operated a lodge on Lake Muskoka.

Norm is also past President of Muskoka Tourism, past Director and Treasurer of Resorts Ontario and is a strong advocate for economic growth and tourism in the Parry Sound-Muskoka area.

To know more about Norm Miller and his party policies, visit his campaign website: http://www.psm.ontariopc.com/Homepage/Landing

 

District of Muskoka Councillor Mike Kennedy of Georgian Bay passed away Friday

Colleagues, friends and family mourn sudden passing of Michael Kennedy

Published May 20, 10am: Georgian Bay Councillor Michael Kennedy passed away suddenly on Friday. The District of Muskoka issued a press release today to express condolences to the family and friends of Kennedy, who was a Muskoka District Councillor for Georgian Bay. Kennedy served the people of Muskoka, on behalf of Georgian Bay Township, for the better part of the last two decades – four terms as concurrent Mayor of Georgian Bay Township and the current term as District Councillor. He also served as principal in Honey Harbour (Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School) for a number of years. (Corrects reference to ‘public’ school).

“Michael served the people of Georgian Bay and Muskoka with class, determination and dignity,” said District Chair John Klinck. “No matter the subject, from students to seniors, Michael advocated from a unique perspective of common sense and community understanding. Michael’s colleagues and I have lost a dear friend.”

In a release, Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith expressed his sadness at learning of Kennedy’s death. “His exceptional efforts as both Mayor and Councillor made a lasting impact on Georgian Bay Township and the District of Muskoka”, said Mayor Smith. “On behalf of the Council of the Town of Bracebridge I offer condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”

The family welcomes visitation and viewing at:

  • Nicholls Funeral Home
  • 330 Midland Avenue
  • Friday May 23 from 6-9p.m.

A Mass will be held Saturday May 24 at 10:30a.m at Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church. 2740 Honey Harbour Road, Honey Harbour, Ontario.

No cause of death has been given.

 

 

Mayor Rob Ford cleans up in cottage country – out and about in Muskoka on his crack scandal anniversary date

Where does a Mayor go to get dry? The dry cleaners, of course

Commentary by Norah Fountain

Published May 16, 11:50pm:  Last week I turned down a reader suggestion to go stake out the Muskoka cottage of Toronto ‘in Rehab’ Mayor Rob Ford. No rehab journalism or stalking for me, I said (on Twitter).

But when pictures of him running errands in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst came to light earlier today — I just couldn’t resist Tweeting a photo (a picture of this same group was posted earlier today by CTV), Rob Ford in Muskokaand now I’m posting this additional photo for MNW readers. Who knows? Maybe someone in Muskoka still hasn’t heard that Ford was spotted in various places in Bracebridge and Gravenhurst today. I admit I feel a bit shameful about getting sucked in to the Ford frenzy by putting up this picture — shame you would think the fellow supposed to be in rehab might feel — yet it seems he just can’t stop ‘photo bombing’ selfies of happy workers like these great people at Fabricare in Gravenhurst.

It seems Ford just had to get back in the public eye a year to the very day that his crack scandal first broke (late on May 16, 2013).

After all, what better way to prove you’re getting clean than to get photographed at a dry cleaners? On a serious note, I hope he soon begins more rigorous self reflection and rehabilitation. If there’s any chance of that happening at all. It’s hard to swallow the claims that he can be in a strict rehabilitation program and still be a man about the town. But as Ford has said, he’s far from perfect. Which brings me back to Twitter.

Judge not, lest ye be judged?

Some people on Twitter have criticized the people who decided to pose for pictures with Ford today suggesting it shows they approve of Ford’s racist, heterosexist ways. I hardly think that’s the case. If Canada’s most infamous Mayor walked into your shop, would you stop your employees from grabbing a few minutes of fame as well? Was Jimmy Kimmel asked to resign when he somehow got the Mayor across borders and into L.A? Kimmel’s a famous, wealthy, late night talk show host; Ford’s a wealthy, infamous Mayor. Their celebrity makes them targets, and Ford hunting has become the Where’s Waldo game of the month. Then there are the good, hard-working, well-meaning people at Fabricare; they’re not leading the city of Toronto; and they aren’t the ones who caused ‘Fordpocalypse’. So how about we give them a break?

P.S. I get awesome service from Erin and others at Fabricare.

Photo submitted by Erin Strength

Protest continues in Wahta at admin offices just off Highway 400 on 38

‘Community Fire’ protest still blocking people from entering Wahta administrative office, police say traffic could be held up on 38 just east of Hwy 400

Published May 16: 3:30pm: The OPP is warning drivers to be aware of potential traffic delays during their travels today at the west end of the Wahta Mohawk Territory on Highway 38, just east of the 400.

To know more about the protest in Wahta ongoing since May 6, read this article from Bracebridge Examiner: Battle continuing in Wahta

Police say there may be traffic delays, however the road will not be closed, adding protest activities may periodically delay or interrupt the normal flow of traffic on area highways and arterial roads. The OPP’s objective is to maintain the safe flow of traffic and, when delays occur, restore traffic flow in the safest manner possible. The OPP is also working with those who may organize protest events to provide a safe and peaceful opportunity to exercise their lawful rights while minimizing the impact on the traveling public, where possible.

Drivers should check in advance for road advisory information and monitor local media for the latest updates. The OPP says it appreciates everyone’s cooperation and patience during this time.

Meet your local provincial candidates: Today, meet Matt Richter

May 16, 2014: Muskoka News Watch is sharing information about each provincial candidate running in Parry Sound-Muskoka. Last week we shared a submitted bio from Clyde Mobbley, candidate for the NDP. Next up will be Dan Waters of the Liberals. To keep up to date on where candidates are and when all candidates meetings are scheduled and more, visit our dedicated Parry Sound-Muskoka Election Watch page under Ontario Votes on the MNW Home Page.

About Matt Richter, Green Party of Ontario Candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka

Matt Richter is committed to returning integrity and honesty to Queen’s Park. This is his third election as candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka. Matt is focused strongly on supporting local businesses, and helping families find ways to reduce their energy bills, and achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Advocating for local food and farming is a priority for Matt. He has spearheaded a Green Tour to raise awareness for the residents of Parry Sound-Muskoka of the successful efforts and accomplishments being made by local businesses and volunteer initiatives. Matt is an inaugural board member of the Muskoka North Good Food Co-op.

Within the Green Party of Ontario, Matt proudly holds the position of Green AdEducation Critic.  Richter has been advocating the forward thinking educational policies of the GPO with parents, staff, unions and boards of education, to demonstrate the Green Party of Ontario is the most logical choice to restore peace and fairness within the system.

A teacher and coach, Matt has taught for 15 years at the Junior/Intermediate level in Muskoka, and sits as acting Principal when needed. During the school year, he volunteers his time coaching volleyball, basketball and track and field. He also coordinates the mountain bike and cross-country running clubs, and is often called upon to speak to students across the Trillium Lakelands school board on topics of energy, environment, health, and youth goal setting.

Mike&MattMay14inHuntsville
Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, with Matt Richter at The Mill on Main St in Huntsville, May 13

Throughout the summer, Matt enjoys spending time camping with his family at North Tea Lake in South River, Spider Lake in Parry Sound, and Arrowhead Provincial Park in Huntsville. He is an avid runner, loves gardening, and appreciates local food.

Matt lives in Port Sydney, Ontario with his wife and three children. A lifelong cottager, he made Parry Sound-Muskoka his permanent home in 1998. Matt can be reached via email at mattrichter@gpo.ca or by Twitter @MattRichterGPO.

To read the Green Party of Ontario platform, “Honesty. Integrity. Good Public Policy”, please click here.

Know more at: http://www.gpo.ca/agm11/nominations/matt-richter#sthash.mMe9Dg1k.dpuf

 

Mock crash in Bracebridge today drives home need for better driving habits

Fake crash surprises, shocks and teaches important lesson

Article by Amanda Spilker, Photography by Laurie Fountain

Published May 15, 12:30pm: That horrific scene you might have seen at St. Dominic’s High School this morning in Bracebridge was not the real thing, thankfully. Instead, the OPP staged a Mock Crash in a dramatic display of what can happen as a result of impaired and distracted driving.

Students were not told ahead of time about the crash that occurred at 9:30am in the parking lot outside the school. It was meant as a learning experience. The spontaneity of the mock accident was meant to look realistic and to mirror an actual car crash.

WARNING: While not ‘real’, some of these photos from this morning may be difficult for some to view.

The fire department, OPP, paramedics, victims services, and coroner were all on the mock scene responding to the accident, just as they would in a real-life situation. The scenario lasted just over an hour and was followed by an assembly an hour later to focus on the consequences of impaired and distracted driving.

Flood Watch for Moon River issued by MNR

Flood Watch issued 11.16am Thursday – high water on Moon River, more rain expected through Friday

The Ministry of Natural Resources – Parry Sound District is advising area residents that a Flood Watch is in effect for the Moon River.

Residents along the Moon River should take necessary action to protect property and monitor developing conditions closely. People are asked to stay away from fast moving rivers and streams. All residents within the Parry Sound-Muskoka area are advised to keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around water bodies as flows and levels within rivers and streams continue to increase in the coming days.

MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions. Further updates will be issued as appropriate.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION

Description of Weather System

Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for the Muskoka Parry Sound area with rainfall accumulations reaching up to 60mm by Friday afternoon. Approximately 30mm of rain fell across the area earlier in the week causing water levels and flows to remain high.

Description of Current Conditions

Lake levels and flows remain higher than normal due to continued wet weather. Forecasted rainfall amounts will cause water levels and flows to increase substantially, possibly reaching flood levels, over the next few days.

Expiry Date:

This message will expire on Tuesday, May 20 2014, 05:00 PM

About Clyde Mobbley, NDP candidate in Parry Sound-Muskoka

Note: all biographical content supplied by the candidates.

Transportation, Jobs, Small Business and Training are priorities
Clyde says he will fight to have auto insurance and hydro rates reduced. He understands his job is to make sure Queen’s Park delivers to Parry Sound-Muskoka.

Clyde has spent over 10 years of his 25 years in the technology field managing the computer department for an Ontario Childrens Aid Society. “I was the only techie there. 65 computers and 65 employees, and two locations to manage make for a very busy job. When it comes organizing and getting things done I know what to do,” says Mobbley.

Throughout his life, Clyde says he has volunteered to help people. Personal help with moving a friend or neighbour, helping sort out why a neighbour on a fixed income was receiving sky high hydro bills are a few examples where Clyde gave a hand to community members.

Other examples/ Helping someone with their resume to find a job, and making repairs on their home when they just didn’t have the money to hire someone to do so. “It’s personal help I am most attracted to. Helping in that way is direct and immediate, it really makes a difference for someone who needs help now.”

Clyde has been a member of the Bent River Historical Society for five years, and says volunteering locally for the Society has been a lot of fun and rewarding. His time as a Cub Scout leader was one of his most rewarding volunteer experiences as a dad.

He and his wife, Lorna, live in Parry Sound-Muskoka. They are the proud parents of a son who turned 18 this year. They have lived in the area for over 15 years.

Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner visits Huntsville

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner joins Matt Richter in Muskoka

Published May 12, 4pm: Ontario Green Party leader Mike Schreiner will visit Muskoka tomorrow – the first party leader to drop in to the riding of Parry Sound Muskoka during the provincial election campaign. Schreiner will join local Green Party candidate Matt Richter at The Mill On Main Restaurant at 50 Main Street East in Huntsville tomorrow (Tuesday, May 13, 2014) from five to 6:15pm. They’ll then do some canvassing in town.

Featured picture: GPO leader Mike Schreiner (front) with local candidate Matt Richter

At the Mill on Main, the two Greens will talk about their party platform and give riding constituents a chance to ask questions and to share with them issues concerning people here. Everyone is welcome. Schreiner is coming up to support Richter from Guelph, where he is campaigning to try and unseat incumbent Liberal MPP Liz Sandals.

There is now a full slate of candidates in Parry Sound-Muskoka as the NDP acclaimed Clyde Mobbley as their candidate on Saturday and Dan Waters was acclaimed for the Liberals on Sunday. Keep up to date on where the candidates are – and soon where all candidate meetings may be held – on Ontario Votes, the Parry Sound-Muskoka Election Watch. It’s not known yet if other party leaders will make Parry Sound-Muskoka a stop before we go to the polls on June 12.

Back in the running again: Dan Waters representing Liberals

Update: As of May 11, Dan Waters has been acclaimed as the candidate for the Parry Sound-Muskoka Liberals. MNW broke the news he would be acclaimed on May 9 (see post below).

Liberal and NDP candidates to be decided this weekend

May 9: 8pm: Nomination meetings this weekend will seal the candidate deal for local Liberals and the NDP as they select their contenders for the provincial election.

Featured picture: Dan Waters to seek Liberal nomination

Sources today confirmed to Muskoka News Watch that Dan Waters would be acclaimed as the candidate to represent Parry Sound-Muskoka Liberals. The Liberal nomination meeting happens Sunday. Waters is no newcomer to politics. He was elected in 1990 when the NDP took power in Queen’s Park. He later found his values were no longer aligning with that of the NDP and he has been active in the Liberal Party and local riding association since 1998. This election marks his potential to the campaign trail as a candidate.

Clyde Mobbley standing for nomination for NDP
Clyde Mobbley standing for nomination for NDP

Tomorrow, Clyde Mobbley is to be acclaimed for the NDP.

It’s unclear if any ‘surprise’ contenders would be able to run against these candidate at the nomination meetings this weekend.

Both Green Party of Ontario candidate Matt Richter and PC candidate Norm Miller had their candidacy confirmed well before the election was called last Friday (May 2).

Visit Ontario Votes – Parry Sound-Muskoka Election Watch to know more about all candidates, where in the riding they’ll be throughout the campaign, dates of all Candidate Meetings, and more.

Whatever you do, and whomever you support, be sure to vote.

About Muskoka News Watch – consider donating to keep information flowing: 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. To get news direct to your inbox, use the Subscribe form on our Home Page. Thank you!

 

 

Artists Gear Up for Muskoka Lakes Spring Art Tour

Muskoka Lakes Spring Art Tour just a month away

Article by Wendy Donabie

Published May 8, 8pm: Preparations are well under way for the 12th annual Muskoka Lakes Spring Art Tour to be held on Saturday and Sunday, June 7 & 8, 2014. Stretching from Bala through Glen Orchard to Port Carling and on to Windermere and Ziska Road in Bracebridge, 17 artists will open their studios and exhibit spaces to the public.

This year several new faces join returning artists, Iris Gammon, Jane Gordon, Erika Harris, Ise Soja, Sue Pritchard, Gayle Dempsey, Haysam Haytaoglu, Susan Eck and Stan Tait. For the first time, Marion Stevenson, Carole Anne Thur, Susan Ware, Krysia Bower, Lynda Lynn, Pat Whittle, Janice Feist and Wendie Donabie bring their original and unique artwork to the tour.

Each artist creates in distinctive styles and art forms: acrylic, watercolour, hot wax encaustic, soft pastel and mixed media paintings, wood turned bowls and pepper mills, MLSAT 2014 Artists (1)silver, semi-precious and gemstone jewellery, woven baskets, wool, sculpture, wood block prints, garden and window art. No matter your taste, the broad selection of artwork ensures you will find something you love.

Mark June 7 & 8 on your calendars and plan to enjoy an inspiring spring day touring Muskoka Lakes. Delight in the creativity of our local artists and take home a piece of Muskoka!

Watch for tour brochures throughout Muskoka in early May.

For more information on the MUSKOKA LAKES SPRING ART TOUR, please visit the website at http://www.muskokalakesspringarttour.com/ or call 705-765-1048.

Matt Richter kicks off Green Party campaign in Bracebridge

Local Greens kick off Matt Richter campaign; second in polls at the start for Parry Sound-Muskoka

Published May 8, 10am: Parry Sound-Muskoka Green Party of Ontario Candidate Matt Richter, his campaign team and supporters kicked off the 2014 election campaign last night in Bracebridge.

This is Richter’s third campaign as the Green Party Candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka and he shared with the supporters and reporters in attendance that he is “excited to get on the campaign trail to hear what really matters to the people of Parry Sound-Muskoka and ensure their voice is heard at Queen’s Park.”

Matt Richter, Green Party
Matt Richter speaking to supporters last night

The Green Party has shown great momentum during the past two campaigns and in the 2011 election Richter had the second highest percentage of the vote for a Green Party candidate across the Province. And in a riding projections poll yesterday, the Greens were shown to be running second in Parry Sound-Muskoka with the Liberals and NDP just a point or two behind, respectively.

Last night Richter reviewed the party policy and priorities on education, sustainable energy, creating and supporting jobs and protecting our food, water and natural resources.

“The Green Party is committed”, he said, “to politics that are not about catering to special interests or back door deals, but rather about engaging in transparent and fair processes and supporting the needs and interests of Ontarians.”

Green Party volunteers
Green Party’s Stan Hunter and Matt’s eldest son, Sam Richter, greeting volunteers just before campaign launch last night

The official campaign launch happened at 6pm at the new campaign office at 200 Manitoba Street, Unit 4, across the street from Oliver’s Coffee. It will be open daily.

To contact Matt Richter or find out more about the Green Party of Ontario’s Platform, visit www.gpo.ca or email mattrichter@gpo.ca with comments and questions.

Yesterday, PC Norm Miller was first to officially open his campaign headquarters on Taylor Road in Bracebridge. The NDP will announce its candidate on Saturday and the Liberals may reveal their candidate on Sunday.

Related Articles:
Moose FM, May 7: PS-Muskoka Green Party Matt Richter launches campaign in Bracebridge

Moose FM, May 7: Norm Miller Campaign Launch

 

And they're off! Miller kicks off election campaign this morning in Bracebridge

Miller cuts ribbon on Bracebridge campaign headquarters on Taylor Road, the Greens to kick off tonight at 6pm on Manitoba Street

Published May 7, 3.30pm: Parry Sound – Muskoka PC candidate Norm Miller held the grand opening of his campaign office at 11 Taylor Road in Bracebridge this morning. The ribbon was cut just after 10am (an incumbent candidate must have a separate campaign office from a constituency office just like every other candidate now that the Ontario government is dissolved).

“This election comes at an important time for Ontario. I am looking forward to getting this province back on the right track, and the Million Jobs Plan is the blueprint I’m confident will get the job done” stated Miller. “With a $12.5 Billion deficit and over one million Ontarians without jobs, a change of course is needed.”

“I look forward in the coming weeks to connecting with as many constituents as I can,” concluded Miller.

Miller followed the office opening with an afternoon canvass with his team in the downtown Bracebridge area.

Tonight the local Green Party of Ontario kicks off Matt Richter’s third election campaign at its campaign headquarters just up the street from Miller at 200 Manitoba Street, across from Oliver’s Coffee.

Richter encourages everyone to drop in. Official ‘go time’ for the Greens is 6pm.

The NDP are expected to announce their candidate on Saturday at a nomination meeting in Huntsville, while the Liberals are looking at a nomination for Sunday with a potential three people in the running to represent the Ontario Liberals in Parry Sound-Muskoka.

For all your local Ontario Election information, visit ONTARIO VOTES – our Parry Sound-Muskoka Election News Watch section of Muskoka News Watch.

Breaking News: Police officer from Thunder Bay dies after training incident near Gravenhurst

UPDATE May 7, 2:24pm:  The OPP has confirmed that the officer who died this morning after an incident near Loon Lake Road in Gravenhurst was a serving member of the Thunder Bay Police Service. At about 10.45am this morning, members of the Bracebridge Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) responded to a report of an incident.

The preliminary investigation states a Canine Officer, who was participating in a training exercise, collapsed and was rushed to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge in medical distress.

The officer was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The Ministry of Labour has been notified and is also investigating.

Correction: Police officer not with OPP as first reported.

Office in canine training is dead after a training session near Loon Lake Road

Published May 7, 1:43pm: The OPP has confirmed a police officer died today after a training session near Gravenhurst. He was not a member of the OPP.

OPP Sergeant Peter Leon says police will be issuing a release with more information shortly. Leon was responding to calls from Muskoka News Watch after readers called and emailed to say traffic had been stopped at Manitoba and Taylor Roads to allow an ambulance with a large police escort through just before noon today.

Leon says the officer was involved in a canine training exercise near Loon Lake Road when he collapsed and was rushed to hospital.

He says the family has been notified; a cause of death will not be known until after a post mortem and that the Ministry of Labour has been called to investigate the officer’s death. The officer was from another part of the province.

MNW will update with the official police release later today.

 

Award-winning Bracebridge entrepreneur launches Pita Pit in Huntsville

Pita Pit opens its doors in Huntsville this Friday; 10 new jobs created

Published May 6: 6pm: 25-year-old entrepreneur Andrew Bridle, the owner of the Pita Pit in Bracebridge, will be opening a new Pita Pit on Friday, May 9th at 130 Howland Drive in Huntsville.

Featured picture: Andrew Bridle in his Bracebridge Pita Pit in August 2012

“I am really excited to bring a healthy, convenient alternative to fast food to Huntsville,” says Bridle. “I am passionate about healthy eating and fitness and happy to have the opportunity to bring my passion to life in the community.”

New Pita Pit in Huntsville, Andrew Bridle
Ready to Launch in Huntsville; Bridle has trained 10 employees for the opening

A winner of the Bracebridge Chamber of Commerce’s “New Business of the Year” and “Young Entrepreneur of the Year” awards in 2013, Bridle got involved in business at an early age. He has been flipping houses since the age of 18, started his own contracting company at 21, and then bought his first Pita Pit at 23. The Huntsville location will be Bridle’s second Pita Pit. He also serves as a developer for Pita Pit in the Ontario area; he’s  developed four locations and is in the process of building another four.

They have trained 10 employees for the Huntsville opening and Bridle is already working to make his Pita Pit a positive force in the Huntsville community.

On June 11, they’ll be taking part in a charity golf tournament for Habitat for Humanity for Huntsville. Bridle also hopes to partner with the local Big Brothers Big Sisters since the program has played such an instrumental role in his life. He is still friends with his Big Brother and stays in regular contact with him.

Pita Pit was founded in 1995 in Kingston, Ontario near Queen’s University.

New Pita Pit under construction
New Pita Pit under construction and set to go Friday in Huntsville on Howland Drive

With more than 400 stores across North America and an additional 70 stores internationally, Pita Pit connects healthy food with people seeking alternatives to the typical fast food choices. Pita Pit’s motto is “fresh thinking – healthy eating”, and features a menu based on the customer’s choice of grilled meats, fresh vegetables, zesty sauces and a pita rolled into a unique and convenient package.

References and Related Articles:

MNW, November 2013: Outstanding Business Achievers Recognized

To know more about Pita Pit, visit PitaPit.ca, www.pitapitsolutions.com, or www.facebook.com/pitapitcanada.

Bala Falls Update: Muskoka Lakes’ second try in court set for July 14

Township has a hot court day in July: SREL wins ask for sooner-than-later hearing date

Article and Commentary by Norah Fountain

Published May 6, 1:40pm: The Township of Muskoka Lakes will go a second round against the province in the Court of Appeal for Ontario on July 14 in its bid to stop a hydro plant and protect public access on Crown land in Bala.

Today the Court of Appeal set the July 14th hearing date for a Judicial Review requested by the Township. The Township will argue that the public has the right to cross Crown land according to the Public Lands Act – and in doing so, will have to argue that access trumps public safety, which is also covered in the Act. Last year the lower court, the Divisional Court of Ontario, ruled the opposite way – in favour of public safety. (See References at end of this article for that decision).

On Friday, Township Council voted to send a message to the District of Muskoka to say it did not want entrance permits given to SREL until it had more answers about the project; and that the permits in this situation were abnormally complex; and that the permits should wait until the Judicial Review was complete. (See References for those resolutions).

At District Public Works the week before, District Councillors and other Township Councillors attending that meeting heard a District Entrance Permit (the permits SREL needs to gain access to the Crown land site off Muskoka Road 169) is normally granted within one to six weeks – six weeks being the maximum for even unusual circumstances.

Swift River asked for expedited hearing

Swift River confirmed today it requested the Court of Appeal to move faster with a hearing date rather than slower.

“Swift River is pleased with the court’s decision today to expedite the hearing as we are eager to put this issue behind us, as we move forward with the Project,” says Karen McGhee, project manager for SREL. “Without the expedited date provided by the court, we were told that the hearing would have likely been scheduled for the fall. I think everybody wants the same thing — that the quicker we can get closure on this issue, the better.”

MNW Note: Mayor Alice Muphy was reached for her reaction to the July hearing date, but she has not responded.

So is the hydro project in limbo until July?

McGhee says it is not. The company will ask District again for its permits at the next District Council meeting. It also contends the Judicial Review hearing in July does not stand in the way of preparation work for the hydro plant it plans on building on Crown land, on the south side of the North Bala Falls. SREL is also eager to speak with the Township soon about its offer to keep Margaret Burgess Park open and untouched – as opposed to closing it off completely during construction.

Margaret Burgess Park. Church has asked it be untouched: SREL offers alternate plan
Margaret Burgess Park. Church has asked it be untouched: SREL has offered alternate plan to Township that would potentially leave Park open. Township has yet to respond as to whether it is willing to consider allowing use of parking lots and land beside proposed hydro plant site.

That suggestion included an opening offer of a $100,000 lump sum payment to lease the Shield parking lot and township lands (part of the Portage Parking Lot and the township part of Burgess Island south of the Crown site) for about 18 months. From the tone of the Council meeting on Friday, and according to sources, it appears some councilors have no interest in collaboration, and that includes talking about ways to protect the park. Only three Councillors on Friday voted against the Township resolution stopping entrance permits until the Judicial Review hearing was complete.

The Judicial Review will be heard in Toronto at Osgoode Hall and the justices will hear arguments from both sides on that date. In a review like this, the court generally reviews all the evidence originally presented, but either side can file a motion to introduce fresh evidence. A court clerk says this normally will not result in a delay: rather, the court would decide just before the appeal date whether any new evidence can be included.

Either way – the hydro plant is not a ‘done deal’ and neither is it a ‘done deal’ that a Judicial Review decision in July that favours the Township might stop the hydro project all together. Neither can anyone be certain Township’s hot day in court in July will not change. Last time the Township’s number one criteria for its case was to have a Judicial Review heard on an “urgent basis.” Then it applied for more time.

References and Related Articles

May 6: Expedited Appeal Date set for July 2014. Judicial Review Court Date DOCS-#13416516-Court_of_Appeal Legal representation present: Eric Block and Shane D’Souza for Swift River; A. Andersen for Muskoka Lakes; and S. Nishikawa for Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Ontario as represented by the Minister of Natural Resources

May 2 Resolutions to Hold on District and Township Entrance Permits: May 2 Resolutions Entrance Permits

MNW, August 20, 2013: Exclusive: Superior Court says public safety trumps other parts of Public Lands Act

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Parry Sound-Muskoka NDP to reveal their provincial candidate Saturday; be up to date with Ontario Votes on MNW

Local NDP association holding candidate meeting on Saturday in Huntsville

Published May 5, 3:30pm: The provincial election campaigns starts officially on Wednesday and the NDP will reveal their candidate of choice this Saturday in Huntsville.

Clyde Mobbley is expected to be acclaimed as the NDP candidate for Parry Sound-Muskoka. Mobbley is also president of the riding association.

The association will hold its Ontario election candidate nomination meeting at 1pm on Saturday May 10 at the Huntsville Public Library at 7 Minerva Street East. The local Liberal riding association plans to announce its candidate as soon as possible. There’s no official word on who that might be but sources say there are three potential, but still unconfirmed, candidates.

Presently, PC Norm Miller and Green Party candidate Matt Richter are the only two candidates confirmed to be on the ballot June 12.

INTRODUCING ONTARIO VOTES: Election News Watch for Parry Sound-Muskoka

For information about candidates, voter eligibility and all candidate meetings in our region, please see ONTARIO VOTES on the Home page of Muskoka News Watch. Breaking news about the election will still be sent direct to our subscribers but relevant (and non partisan) info will be posted for Parry Sound-Muskoka residents on ONTARIO VOTES.

Cyclist in hospital after crash with truck in Bracebridge

 

 

Driver charged in crash after cyclist hit this morning

Published May 5, 10:30am: A cyclist is seriously hurt after a pick up truck allegedly hit him this morning on Westvale Drive in Bracebridge.

The crash happened just after seven this morning. Police from the Bracebridge OPP detachment say the bicyclist was struck by a truck on Westvale Drive toward Wellington Street North.

He was not wearing a helmet and was transported to the hospital. His injuries have been found to be serious in nature. The driver of the pickup truck has been charged with careless driving under the section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act.

Police are clear of the scene and Westvale Drive is open to the public after being temporarily closed during the investigation.

Ontario Goes to the Polls June 12; local parties prepping for writ drop this Wednesday

Update: May 3 – Parry Sound-Muskoka candidates gear up for election

May 3, 6pm: The writ drops this Wednesday, May 7, and Muskoka News Watch today took the pulse of the major political parties in Parry Sound-Muskoka to see if they’re ready to roll.

Incumbent Progressive Conservative MPP Norm Miller and the Green Party of Ontario’s Matt Richter (this will be Richter’s third provincial campaign) have already been confirmed by local riding associations as candidates. Clyde Mobbley is expected to be acclaimed for the NDP and the Liberals are working toward a nomination meeting t0 determine their candidate of choice. Stay tuned to get the official word on candidates running in Parry Sound-Muskoka and to watch for information about each person running.

Writ on Wednesday? What does it mean for the writ to be dropped, asked one MNW reader — isn’t the campaign under way now? The answer is not officially. The ‘writ’ period of an election campaign begins when the laws that govern how an election is conducted are applied by the election officers. So the writ period begins when the writ is ‘dropped’ and ends when the votes are totalled. Basically, the writ is the legal document governing the business end of a campaign. For example, elections signs should not start showing up until the writ drops Wednesday.

Saturday Premier Wynne sets date: Opposition turns thumbs down on budget

“Let me be clear,” said Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, speaking live Friday at 10 am.  “We will not support this budget.”

In Parry Sound-Muskoka, incumbent PC MPP Norm Miller and Green Party of Ontario candidate Matt Richter are so far the only two candidates confirmed by their parties to run in the spring election.

For more on this breaking news story, Muskoka News Watch recommends you visit www.OntarioNewsWatch.com. Their update can be read by clicking here.

Update: Human remains found on Christian Island identified as missing pilot

Missing Owen Sound man identified from remains found last Thursday

Update May 6, 6pm: The pieces of a man’s body found on Christian Island have led to an identification: the remains are those of missing pilot Wilfred Oscar Burnside, a 64-year-old Owen Sound man. Burnside disappeared on the night of November 7 while piloting his Cessna 182 aircraft from Cornwall to Owen Sound. He failed to arrive at his destination. A post mortem held yesterday at the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto confirmed the identification.

OPP and Anishinabek Police investigating discovery yesterday of remain near Big Sand Bay

May 1: 6pm: Members of the Anishinabek Police Service were alerted to the discovery of what would appear to be human remains late yesterday afternoon in the area of Big Sand Bay on Christian Island.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has been asked to help in the investigation, which resulted in members being dispatched from the OPP Southern Georgian Bay Detachment along with members of the following OPP Central Region Units: Crime Unit, Forensic Identification Services Unit (FISU), K-9 Unit and Emergency Response Unit (ERT).

A search of the area resulted in remains and other scene exhibits being removed for further examination at the Centre for Forensic Sciences in Toronto to determine their origin, identity and possible cause of death.

The investigation is continuing and police say updates will be provided as they become available.

Budget Will Not Deliver Change Ontario Needs, says Miller; Liberals say it will Build Opportunity, Secure Future

No surprises, yet still astonishing, says MPP Norm Miller in reaction to Ontario budget; AMO calls it a one-two punch for rural municipalities; Liberals call it compassionate, competitive and a plan toward a more prosperous Ontario

May 1, 5.40pm: Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller says there were no surprises this afternoon as the 2014 provincial budget was introduced in the Legislature: at the same time he says he’s still astonished that the Liberal government is committed to even more new spending. In a release, the Conservative Miller noted much of the contents were previously leaked in April by ministry bureaucrats.

To read the Liberal government’s news release with budget information, click here.

The NDP has been given a week by Premier Kathleen Wynne to let Ontarians know if they support it. If they do not, an election could be in our immediate future.

Progressive Conservative Reaction: the following is from the release from Miller’s office today:

“It is astonishing to me that this government chooses to commit to even more new spending as the provincial deficit balloons to $12.5 Billion” said Miller.

The 2014 spending plan confirmed that projected revenues are actually to be lower than previously predicted. Coupled with a higher than projected deficit, the government still maintains that the budget will be balanced by 2017-18.

“This government has a clear spending problem and it is concerning that they are willing to sacrifice another credit downgrade to avoid making difficult decisions or doing what is best for all Ontarians and future generations.”

“At a time when there are over a million Ontarians who wake up every morning without a job, and the province runs an over $12 Billion deficit, there needs to be a bold plan to move forward on the right path. It is disappointing that the new spending plan is more concerned with keeping the current government in power rather than taking the measures that are necessary to get Ontario back on the right track” added Miller.

The vote on the 2014 budget is set to take place during the month of May, and the government will need the support of the NDP in order to pass.

“Only the PC party has a plan to create jobs and get Ontario back on the track to prosperity. The Million Jobs Plan represents those steps. Now is the time to change the team that leads the province” concluded Miller.

The budget wasn’t sitting well with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) either, saying “accelerated OMPF cuts and rising OPP costs are a one-two-punch for small, Northern & Rural communities.” MNW readers can follow AMO’s analysis below under References.

How the Liberals are touting their budget: “It’s about competitiveness and compassion, opportunity and security, and leading a government that works to build a more prosperous Ontario”

What follows is a statement and budget highlights directly from the Liberal government.

Media Release: Earlier today Charles Sousa presented Building Opportunity, Securing Our Future, our government’s ten-year plan for a stronger economy and a fairer province. Our Budget is about competitiveness and compassion, opportunity and security, and leading a government that works to build a more prosperous Ontario today and for tomorrow.

Highlights

1. Jobs and the Economy – Our Budget gives people and businesses the tools to seize opportunities in the changing economy, become more competitive on the global stage, expand opportunity and create good jobs.

A new $2.5 billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund is how Ontario will compete with other places around the world for job-creating investments. Lowering energy costs is how we will help all of our businesses grow and create jobs. And to make sure our youth are ready for new jobs, we’re investing in education, committing to our 30 % Off Tuition Grant, and expanding our successful Youth Jobs Strategy.

2. Transit, Roads and Transportation – Moving Ontario Forward is Premier Wynne’s bold new plan to fight congestion, grow the economy, and make everyday life better, and it is a centrepiece of our Budget. The fully-funded ten-year plan will build roads, bridges and transit across Ontario, with a fair and transparent system to allocate funding across the province.

3. The Ontario Retirement Pension Plan – We talked a lot over the last year about the fact that today’s workers are staring down a lower standard of living in retirement. It’s not right, and it’s going to have terrible social and economic consequences if immediate action is not taken. The Harper government won’t do the right thing, but we will. Our Budget creates an ambitious plan – the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan so that millions of Ontario workers can have the security in retirement that they deserve.

4. A Fair Ontario – As Liberals, we’re in government for one reason: to help people. We believe that as we work to support jobs and grow the economy, there are a number of things the government can and must do to make life more affordable for people who are struggling today.  As we expand prosperity, the Budget ensures fairness and support for help all people to achieve their full potential. Additionally, our Budget contains dozens of initiatives that will save people money on childcare, post-secondary education, electricity, and auto-insurance, to name a few.

It’s a practical and realistic plan and the right Budget for Ontario to prosper over the next decade, and it takes the immediate steps needed to expand opportunity and security for people today while ensuring that Ontario’s best days lie ahead.

References: