Huntsville man charged with keeping man captive and forcing him to withdraw money from bank account

Huntsville, Ontario man facing charges after another man was allegedly kept captive

Published August 31, 3pm: A Huntsville man has been charged with kidnapping, assault and forcible confinement of another man who police say was abducted and held captive from Thursday through Friday of last week.

Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) officers were made aware of the alleged assault yesterday.

The investigation found that on Thursday, August 28, the victim was taken into a residence and forced to remain there until Friday, August 29 for about 24 hours.  In that time, police say the victim was assaulted, threatened and was not allowed to leave. He was also taken to a local bank and forced to withdraw money from a bank account.

As a result of a search warrant conducted in a Huntsville home, police have charged 27-year-old John Merkel of Huntsville with Kidnapping, Robbery, Forcible Confinement, Assault and Breach of Probation under the Criminal Code of Canada. He faces further charges of possession of a controlled substance under the Controlled Drug Substances Act. The accused was remanded into custody and held for a bail hearing to return to the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on September 3 to answer to his charges.

Municipal Election: Former Councillor Dianne Davidson wants her seat back in Muskoka Lakes

Dianne Davidson seeks former Ward A Council position in Muskoka Lakes

August 28, 7pm: Former Ward A councilor Dianne Davidson today filed her intention to win back her seat at Muskoka Lakes Council.

Davidson was on council for Ward A (area encompassing Walker’s Point, Torrance and Bala) from 2006 to 2010. She lost her Council position by only 23 votes to Bob McTavish in the last election. McTavish resigned his position about a year later, citing “personal dissatisfaction.”

Featured photo: Dianne Davidson running for Township of Muskoka Lakes Council in Ward A

McTavish’s position was filled by appointment in January 2012. While Davidson applied to replace him, and was referred to as an “outstanding candidate” in a Township press release, she was passed over in favour of Donelda Kruckel of Walker’s Point. In 2010, Kruckel was fourth in her bid to be Councillor (receiving almost 100 votes less than Davidson).

Davidson has lived in Bala full time since 1980, and her family has cottaged in the Bala area since the 1930s. She is married with three children.

She operated Don’s Bakery in Bala with her family for more than 20 years. While the family sold Don’s, Davidson has continued to help out with the bakery’s newer owners.

Davidson first decided to run for council after becoming involved with the Glen Orchard parent teacher council.

Also in the running for Ward A Township Councillor is Matt French and Sandy Currie, both of Bala, as well as Donelda Kruckel.

14th Annual Gloucester Pool Cottagers Association Canoe for Cancer

Canoe for Cancer trek from Big Chute to Lock 45

Published August 27, 6pm: For years now the marine unit of the Southern Georgian Bay Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have been leading the way for a flotilla of canoes and kayaks in the Trent System. The trek from the Big Chute Marine Railway to Lock 45 in this annual fund raising event to support the Canadian Cancer Society has been incident free aside from some intentional soakers and tired arms from paddling while under the watchful eye of the OPP Marine Unit.

Participants span all age groups and in some families include 3 generations. The number of paddlers has grown each year and so has the community spirit. The Canoe for Cancer has been an extremely successful event and the Southern Georgian Bay OPP Marine Unit has been a proud participant in this fine example of police and community working together ever since it’s inception on Sept 2, 2001.

Mariners navigating the Trent System should be aware that there will be a large number of small craft on the waters between the Big Chute Marina Railway and Lock 45 at Port Severn on Sunday August 31, 2014 between the hours of 8:30AM to 3:00PM.

OPP Marine officers remind all vessel operators and owners to be sure that their vessels have all of the required safety equipment for the number of persons aboard and that lifejackets do save lives when they are worn! Please view and save the following link for the electronic version of the Canada Safe Boating Guide from Transport-Canada.

Patient Satisfaction Results Exceed Provincial Averages: MAHC release

Release from Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare

(Wednesday, August 27, 2014, Muskoka, ON) – Patient satisfaction for acute care and emergency care services for overall care received at Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare (MAHC) hospital sites continues to rank above provincial averages for Ontario community hospitals, according to a recent independent study.

The three-month survey, conducted from January 1 to March 31, 2014 indicated a 94.9% overall satisfaction rate by acute care patients and a 90.6% overall satisfaction rate by emergency care patients at MAHC’s two hospital sites. The provincial averages for Ontario community hospitals were 92.7% for acute inpatient care and 85.5% for emergency care.

“As we continue to work toward a patient- and family-centered care philosophy, these results are helping us to gage the patient experience,” says Natalie Bubela, Chief Executive Officer at MAHC. “While we are pleased to rank above provincial averages, we are also keen to further improve our care and have identified a new target in our 2014/15 Quality Improvement Plan that aims to achieve 85% response ‘Yes, definitely’ to the ‘Would you recommend our services?’ question.”

Five questions have been added to MAHC’s satisfaction surveys to gather more information about the provision of patient- and family-centered care. These include whether the provider introduced themselves, shared information on how long testing would take, provided an adequate explanation of the health problem, and collaborated with others to ensure all information was shared satisfactorily.

The measurement of standardized patient satisfaction for acute inpatient services and emergency departments is conducted by the Ontario Hospital Association’s surveying partner National Research Corporation (NRC), using the Picker Institute survey instrument. NRC randomly selects 25 acute care patients and 100 emergency care patients at each hospital site to evaluate their patient experience. Patients were asked their opinion on dimensions of care like the quality, access and coordination, their physical comfort and the conditions of their environment, the courtesy of staff and physicians, sharing of information and overall impressions.

On all of these dimensions of care combined, MAHC scored 76.8% for emergency care, compared to the Ontario community hospital average at 66.9%. For acute care, MAHC scored 79.9% compared to the Ontario community hospital average at 74.0%.

Participating in this survey program allows each hospital to compare patient satisfaction results and helps to foster continual improvements in patient care locally.

The full results <>  are available on MAHC’s website.

Municipal Election 2014: New face in Muskoka Lakes Ward C race

Four vying for two Township Councillors positions now in Ward C

Published August 26, 5pm: Of the four candidates so far in the running to be a Muskoka Lakes Township Councillor for Ward C, Terry Ledger is the first fresh face. The other contenders include incumbent Councillor Jean-Ann Baranik, along with Larrie MacRae and Jeff Mole. In the 2010 election, both men ran unsuccessfully for Council (MacRae for Mayor, and Mole for Mayor as well at first, before switching to being a Township Councillor candidate).

This is the first time Ledger has sought to serve in public office in Muskoka Lakes.

She is the owner/operator of the plumbing and hardware store, Fixtures, in Port Carling and a principal with t-squared design studio inc. A highly accredited professional, Ledger holds several certifications in the interior design industry, provincially and nationally.

“I have spent the last dozen years of my working life as a business owner and employer in the building industry, working with locals and cottagers alike,” she says. “I now find myself

Larrie MacRae, Muskoka Lakes candidate
Larrie MacRae, Candidate for Muskoka Lakes Township Councillor Ward C, was second to file his nomination papers after Jean-Ann Baranik

with the time and opportunity to further serve my community. I hope to encourage greater participation by the constituents of Ward C through the use of social media and to provide easier access to important information through the same. My goal is to allow the people to have their say every day. not just one day.”

Ledger has lived and worked in Muskoka Lakes for over 20 years and has been a cottager since childhood. Voters of Ward C can find her on Facebook by clicking here.

The present second Township Councillor for Ward C is Ron Brent who is now seeking the District Councillor position for Ward C in this election. A District Councillor votes at Township Council and at District Council. Brent is up against incumbent Ward C District Councillor Phil Harding. Ward C encompasses an area starting from just north of Bala (around Medora Lake) and through Port Carling to just west of Milford Bay and toward the north end of Lake Rosseau. It also includes a small corner of properties on Moon River.

Body of Korbin South found this afternoon in Magnetewan River

Police report a tragic end to search for Korbin South in Burk’s Falls

Published August 26, 4:15pm: The body of seven-year-old Korbin South has been recovered from the Magnetewan River.

Around 1pm today, members of the OPP Underwater Search and Recovery Unit found the boy in about 11 feet of water below the dam at Burk’s Falls.

South had been playing in the area with other children before falling into the river and being swept away by the current on Sunday night.

The investigation is ongoing and police do not believe foul play was a factor.

The OPP is thanking all the volunteers that helped during this tragic incident.

Municipal Election: Murphy makes it official, running for Mayor again

Published August 22. 4:30 pm. There’s now a race on for the mayorship of Muskoka Lakes. As expected, and as Alice Murphy had announced as early as last year in the press, the incumbent mayor is seeking re-election. She filed her papers officially this morning.

Her only opponent is Don Furniss. Like Murphy, this past term was Furniss’ first as a Muskoka Lakes councillor.

Municipal election: Muskoka Lakes heats up with full race in Ward A

Currie, French and Kruckel each seeking to win one of only two Muskoka Lakes Ward A positions

Published August 21, 4;15pm: Now it’s a race. Yesterday two more political hopefuls filed their intentions to become Township Councillor in Muskoka Lakes Ward A.

Only two candidates will be successful as there are only two Township Councillor spots and now we have three contenders. Sandy Currie, president of the Moon River Property Owner’s Association, filed his nomination papers yesterday morning. This will be Currie’s second attempt to be elected in Ward A.

Featured photo: Matt French, Candidate for Muskoka Lakes Ward A Township Council

Later the same day, Matt French, vice president of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce and Chair of the Bala Cranberry Festival, also filed his papers. His filing means there are now three people competing for the two positions (French, Currie and Donelda Kruckel, who was appointed to the Township Councillor position following the resignation of Bob McTavish). Kruckel also stood for election in 2010 but was unsuccessful. And while there has been no official confirmation of his plans, incumbent Ward A Councillor Brad Burgess has told people in Bala and Township staff that he will not seek re-election.

Contacted by email yesterday, French said he’s looking forward to doing even more public service in the community.

“2014 marks my second term both as Vice President of the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and Chair of the Bala Cranberry Festival. I’m always at work in the three areas of Business, Community, or the Environment in Muskoka Lakes,” said French. “What’s more, I’m always listening and learning from feedback, so at this point, I’m simply looking forward to receiving input from the community, and the opportunity to working with even more people [in the Township].”

French also provided this brief biography:

“I started out as my family’s third generation of seasonal residents in Bala, and am the first generation of full time residents. I have worked year round at Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery since 2007, as Winemaker and Sales Manager. In that time, I’ve developed several award winning wines from local fruit, begun exporting our wine internationally, and helped develop Johnston’s as an iconic Muskoka attraction.”

French earned his degree at Queen’s University in Biology, Evolution and Ecology.

There are also two people seeking the single Township and District Councillor position in Ward A: Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa and Greg Knight.

Note: An email requesting biographical information and a picture was sent to candidate Sandy Currie shortly after he filed his papers yesterday, but so far there has been no response. MNW looks forward to updating this post with information from Currie to provide him equal space to that of French, and readers can look forward to full information from all candidates who provide it once they are certified in September.

Boat crashes into Squirrel Island on Lake Muskoka

Boat driver taken to hospital after Squirrel Island crash

Published August 19, 3:30pm: Just after midnight, a boat driven by an unidentified man crashed onto the north side of Squirrel Island on Lake Muskoka, according to Muskoka Lakes Deputy Fire Chief Harry Baranik.

He says the Muskoka Lakes Fire Department, Muskoka EMS, and the Bracebridge OPP all responded to a report of a vessel that had reportedly collided into a boat house on Lake Muskoka in the Milford Bay area. It turned out the boat didn’t run into a boat house, but had crashed onto Squirrel Island. Fire department officials say the lone male occupant of the boat had already been picked up by another vessel. Marine 9 of the Township of Muskoka Lakes  Fire Department met the occupant and took him to awaiting EMS Paramedics across the bay. He was later taken to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital with non- life threatening injuries.

The crash is under investigation by the OPP and the Ontario Spill Action Centre was notified regarding the fuel entering the water after the crash.

End of a Blooming Era: Bala Communities in Bloom to fold

Long running Bala Communities in Bloom committee hangs up the gardening gloves due to dwindling volunteers; who will tend the gardens now?

Published Aug. 18, 7pm: After 16 years of effort and awards, Communities in Bloom Bala will be no more by this fall. The three remaining members of the committee, which once had 66 volunteers, advised the Township of Muskoka Lakes Committee of the Whole meeting on Friday that the committee would not be continuing. Committee member Mary Grady shared the news with Council on behalf of herself, Nancy Houghton and Annette Procunier.

What follows is Grady’s delegation speech to Council Friday outlining the past success of Communities in Bloom-Bala and reasons for why it is dissolving now.

“Communities in Bloom-Bala (CIB-Bala) was formed 16 years ago by an ambitious group of Bala volunteers whose objective was to beautify Bala, promote community pride and enhance visitors experience to our town. We were successful in winning top honours in Community in Bloom competitions at both Provincial and National levels.

In addition to adding floral beauty in the form of hanging baskets, bridge boxes at one time, and two significant planting partnership gardens with Freshmart and the LCBO gardens, CIB-Bala has maintained a very popular Heritage Walk with pamphlets and Practica Stations (doggy poo bags) at 4 locations in town.

CIB has been the coordinating body for the Township Earth Day annual street clean-up.

As with all things, as we age, abilities and enthusiasm wains. In 2006, we had 66 active volunteers. Today, we have 5 that we can count on regularly; one of whom is 83 years young. 27 have either moved away or passed away. The remainder are no longer available. No new persons have been added to the list, however, we do get the odd person helping out on a one off basis. Ongoing maintenance of gardens is extremely difficult at this time and pretty much falls to the 3 of us.

Annette, Nancy and I decided that after this fall, we will not continue on the executive of CIB-Bala. We have served our time and wish to retire as organizers.

In preparation, we held an AGM on Monday, June 24, 2015 and in addition to posting notice of the meeting in the usual locations in town we collectively emailed approximately 200 business and individuals to make them aware of the meeting and the need for a Communities in Bloom survival plan. Other than Annette, Nancy and myself, 6 persons attended the meeting. No new board was formed. Since that date, 2 persons have shown a bit of interest but have not indicated a willingness to serve.

Our intent today was to advise Council that Communities in Bloom-Bala will dissolve this fall. You are our largest funding partner: it is only right that you should be aware that a budget will not be forthcoming from this group. We have advised our planting partners to allow them an opportunity to make other arrangements for maintenance. We expect that the LCBO will want us to dismantle the garden at the corner of Hwy 169 and Gordon Streets. We are waiting for confirmation.

It is sad news to bring, but we are proud of our 16 years. I believe we were the longest running Communities in Bloom group in the district. Should individuals come forward soon to take the reigns, you can be assured that Annette, Nancy and myself will be available to assist them.”


Truck crashes into Lake Joseph in Muskoka Lakes Township; earlier car crash near Milford Bay

Truck crashes into Lake Joseph at Still’s Bay; Passat rolls over past Huckleberry Rock Cut

Published August 18, 12.30pm: A young woman has been charged after a truck crashed into Lake Joseph early yesterday (August 17) morning.

Bracebridge OPP received a call at 7:15am about an erratic driver of a pickup truck on Muskoka Road 169 in Muskoka Lakes Township. A female driver of a pickup truck then crashed into Lake Joseph near Hallett’s Road off of Muskoka Road 169.

The female driver was the lone occupant of the vehicle and was transported to the hospital with minor injuries. The 22-year-old was charged with impaired driving and has a date before a judge in Bracebridge on September 23 to answer to her charges.

Firefighters from Station 1 (Foots Bay) also responded to the crash (the fire department’s second collision call of the day – see the earlier one on 118W reported below) on Muskoka Road 169 across from Stills Bay. Firefighters say a Chevrolet pick-up was travelling northbound and veered across the road, struck a guard rail and then launched itself over the guardrail, rolling over on the rocky hill, and coming to rest in approximately 5 feet of water in the lagoon across from Stills Bay. The single occupant had managed to get herself out of the vehicle and was attended to by EMS staff. The driver was transported to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital by ambulance, however, the injuries were not life threatening. The Township of Muskoka Lakes Fire Department stood by while the vehicle was extricated from the lagoon. The Fire Department also assisted the tow truck. The Ministry of Environment was contacted, as there was a small amount of petroleum related products observed on the surface of the water.

Much earlier that morning, at 5:58am, firefighters of Stations 9 (Milford Bay) and 6 (Port Carling) responded to a Single Motor Vehicle Collision roll over on Muskoka Road 118W, just west of Milford Bay. Upon arrival, the three occupants had managed to free themselves from the vehicle. Injuries were minor, but the vehicle, a Volkswagen Passat, was described as a write off. Firefighters believe speed was a contributing factor as one fire fighter travelling to work in Port Carling had just made it to the bottom of the Milford Bay Rock cut when the same Passat passed him. He said it was travelling at an “insane” speed.  OPP are investigating the matter and charges are pending.


Bold mid-day robbery bid Saturday at downtown Bracebridge shop; more vandalism in Bala

Knife wielding robber demanded money from employee of Ice Cream Shoppe in Bracebridge, say police; vandals toss picnic tables into Bala’s Mill Stream on weekend

Published August 18, 11:40am: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) of the Bracebridge detachment is investigating an attempted robbery in Bracebridge on the weekend.

On Saturday, August 16, 2014, at 12:10 pm Bracebridge OPP members responded to the Ice Cream Shoppe on Manitoba Street in Bracebridge. They report a knife-wielding man entered the store and demanded money from the employee. The employee backed away from the suspect and the suspect immediately fled on foot.

There were no injuries to anyone involved and there was no money taken by the suspect.

The area was searched by police and the suspect was not found. He is described as wearing a grey/black, baggy hooded sweatshirt, with a black covering over his face, and he is approximately 5’6” -5’8”, with a stocky build.

The Muskoka Crime Unit is currently investigating the incident. The OPP is asking for any information regarding this crime to be provided to police by calling 705-645-2211 or Crime Stoppers 1-800-222-8477.

Vandals strike Bala again this past weekend

In Bala, vandals hauled picnic tables and umbrellas away from Annie’s Cafe & Deli at Portage Landing and dumped them into the Mill Stream, says Annie’s Cafe owner, Annie Hillier. She says the damage happened late Saturday night or early Sunday morning and police have been informed.

On the previous weekend, someone broke into The Hook and Ladder in Bala, stole a few items, including a firefighter’s helmet, and may have overturned a large display in front of the restaurant.

Bala Hook and Ladder, vandals
Vandalism at The Hook and Ladder August 12; Burlington teen charged in connection to break in at restaurant

The Hook and Ladder features firefighting memorabilia. A young man the OPP described as being under the influence of alcohol was found on foot a short while after the break in on August 12. A Burlington teen is facing two counts each of Theft, and Break & Enter in connection with the incident.

Township of Muskoka Lakes seeking to fill Treasurer vacancy left by Steve Rettie

Published August 18, 9am: The Township of Muskoka Lakes is now actively seeking a new Treasurer to replace Steve Rettie, who left for a position with the Town of Bracebridge in July. Rettie was hired in August 2011 to replace Julie Stevens who had moved to the District of Muskoka.  Read the Steven Rettie departure story by clicking here

The Township published the job posting last week on LinkedIn (click to see job posting here) and is actively recruiting.

Here is an excerpt from the Job Description posted: Reporting to the CAO, the Treasurer plays a key role as a member of the Senior Management Team. In addition, as Treasurer you champion the direction and leadership of the Township’s Finance Department and are  responsible for managing the financial affairs of the Corporation including capital and operating budgeting, property tax, financial accounting, payroll, treasury activities and financial reporting. You are responsible for the Finance department’s vision, business plan and measuring progress to ensure expected outcomes are realized. You review and develop financial policies, procedures and internal controls to ensure efficient and effective processes and appropriate risk management strategies. You leverage technology and systems to drive automation and optimize business performance. You support corporate leaders (Council, Senior Management, Managers, etc.) with corporate guidance and decision-making assistance. You liaise with the public, external and government agencies on statutory responsibilities in accordance with the provisions of the Ontario Municipal Act and other Provincial Statutes.  You prepare and review reports and presentations for management and Council and administer other related duties or special projects, as assigned.

Related Articles:


Gas leak in Bracebridge over just after 1 pm

Published Aug 7, 1:10pm: The gas leak has been stopped and fixed and the area is now open to the public.

The leak was believed to have been caused by local construction digging and hitting the gas line.

Published Aug. 7; 12:13pm: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) of the Bracebridge detachment and the Bracebridge Fire department are on scene clearing the area of Wilshier Blvd, in the Town of Bracebridge.

Police and the Fire Department are going door to door in the area of 7 Wilshier Blvd to give residents direction, until the gas leak can be corrected.

Police are asking everyone to avoid the area until further notice.

An update will be sent out when more information is available.

Gas leak in Bracebridge on Wilshier Blvd reported at noon today

Published Aug. 7; 12:13pm: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) of the Bracebridge detachment and the Bracebridge Fire department are on scene clearing the area of Wilshier Blvd, in the Town of Bracebridge.

Police and the Fire Department are going door to door in the area of 7 Wilshier Blvd to give residents direction, until the gas leak can be corrected.

Police are asking everyone to avoid the area until further notice.

An update will be sent out when more information is available.

Cottage Country Writers spin tall tales; August author group gathers

All invited to enjoy storytelling by Muskoka writers in Bracebridge August 18 – and Canadian Authors Association Muskoka meets August 27 at Riverwalk

by Wendy Donabie

Published Aug. 6, 5pm: Cottage Country Writers invite you to an evening of Tall Pine Tales at Bracebridge Public Library, Monday, August 18, 7 pm. Admission by donation; there are refreshments and door prizes!

In 2013, under the initial leadership of Melody Richardson, local writers from Haliburton and Muskoka joined together to provide a series for public readings over the summer months.

Featured pic (submitted): Paul Feist, Master of Ceremonies, Tall Pine Tales

This year, calling themselves, Cottage Country Writers, they have entertained their audiences with tales of humour, fiction, memoirs and more. August 18 is the last evening in this year’s series with well known, local actor, writer, story-teller, singer, Paul Feist, as Master of Ceremonies.

All proceeds from the evening go to the Friends of the Library. Come out for a great night of talented wordsmithing and support your local writers! For more information, please contact Wendie Donabie at 705-646-3663.

Remember to check the MNW Events page for things to do near you!

Muskoka News Watch is pleased to support other writers in our region with this release from Wendy Donabie. Also, remember to check out our Events page for local events of all kinds.

In Bala this weekend…Just 8 Jazz is performing at Bala United Church Sunday, August 10 with funds raised going to the Actors’ Colony Theatre (and some to pay the drummer!)… and of course it is Wakestock weekend back where it all started in Bala (Aug. 7-10). Check out Wakestock plans by clicking here.


Author, Sue Reynolds, Guest at Can Authors

Join fellow writers and book lovers on Wednesday August 27, at 6:30 pm, for the Canadian Authors Association Muskoka meeting in the upstairs of Riverwalk Restaurant, 1 Manitoba Street, Bracebridge. The meeting is free to members of the Canadian Authors Association and the general public attending for the first time. For all other attendees there is a cover charge of $20 per person.

This month the CAA Muskoka welcomes, Sue Reynolds as the guest speaker. Sue is a psychotherapist, writer and an accredited writing instructor in the Amherst Writers and Artists method and past president of the Writers Community Durham Region and current vice-president of Canadian Creative Writers and Writing Programs (CCWWP).

In 1992, her novel Strandia won the Canadian Library Association’s national Young Adult Novel of the Year award, and she received the Timothy Findley Creative Writing Prize three years in a row for her short stories and poetry. Sue’s area of specialty is the therapeutic use of journaling and memoir, and her thesis on that topic received the Canadian Psychological Association’s Award of Academic Excellence in 2006.

For seven years, she has been leading writing workshops for female inmates at Central East Correctional Centre, a program for which she received the 2007 June Callwood Award for Outstanding Volunteerism.

The CAA Muskoka meets monthly in the upstairs of Riverwalk Restaurant. Each meeting is free to members and will feature an author, agent or publisher sharing their experience and expertise about writing and the writing business. There is a cover charge of $20 per person to non-members of CAA.

David Friesen, Executive Chef and owner of Riverwalk, has generously provided space for the event and has prepared a special menu for these monthly events; doors open at 6 pm. (enter through the black door under the purple awning). To register, please call Wendie at 705-646-3663.

For more information, please contact Wendie at 705-646-3663 or Cindy at 705-646-5595 and visit to learn more about the Canadian Authors Association.

Municipal Election Update August 18: Two more file to be Township councillors in Muskoka Lakes

Larrie MacRae and Gunta Towsley file nomination papers; still only one person has filed to run for Mayor (Councillor Don Furniss)

Update as of August 18, 2014: Two more citizens have put their names forth as potential candidates in the upcoming municipal election in the Township of Muskoka Lakes. Gunta Towsley has filed her papers to run as a Township Councillor in Ward B (incumbent Gault McTaggart is also seeking to return to his seat). There are always two Township Councillors elected in each Ward, so unless someone else enters the race, both Towsley and McTaggart could be acclaimed. By running for Mayor, Don Furniss has freed up a potential Township Council seat in Ward B.

Larrie MacRae of Port Carling, who last election ran for Mayor, is also seeking this time to be a Township Councillor for Ward C. Jean-Ann Baranik has also announced her intention to retain her Township Council seat in Ward C. There are no other contenders for the Township Council positions yet, but sources say at least one more potential candidate is preparing to throw his hat in the ring.

Phil Harding and Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa make their plans official

Updated August 4 to correct Nishikawa reference as previous District representative – she was previous Township Councillor prior to  2006. MNW regrets the error.

Published August 2, 10am: Two present Councillors on Muskoka Lakes Council plan to hold on to their Township and District seats when the votes are counted on October 27.

Phil Harding of Port Carling is the District Councillor for Ward C (Port Carling-Medora area). Ruth-Ellen Nishikawa is the District Councillor for Ward A (Walker’s Point, Torrance, Bala). Both have served in this present term in Council. Nishikawa was a previously a Township Councillor until she was voted out in 2006. She was returned again in the 2010 election as a Township and District Councillor.

Featured pic: District Councillor Phil Harding seeking another term

In an interview this morning, Harding said, “Collective dialogue and openness to change will protect Muskoka Lakes going forward. And having the respect of your peers at the District is what ultimately has helped over the past 4 years for Muskoka Lakes and will again be essential for the coming term. Calm, level headed and responsible behaviour around the table is necessary to manage the affairs at Township and District.”

As of today, all but two present Councillors have filed nomination papers (Ward A Councillor Brad Burgess and Mayor Alice Murphy have not filed). If the Mayor runs, as she has told media she will do, Murphy will face off against Councillor Don Furniss. Only one new face has joined the race: Greg Knight contesting Nishikawa’s seat. Up against Harding for District Ward C is Councillor Ron Brent.

Related Articles:

July 30, Bracebridge Examiner: Harding Runs to Retain Council Seat

July 16, Bracebridge Examiner: Knight and Kruckel sign up for Muskoka Lakes election

May 2014, Bracebridge Examiner: Four Muskoka Lakes Councillors run in Opposition

May 22, MNW: Greg Knight enters election race

April 23, MNW: Four incumbent councillors file to run in Muskoka Lakes: Furniss for Mayorship

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Breaking News: Librarian fights back against firing by Muskoka Lakes Library Board

No justification for Sheila Durand’s dismissal, says lawyer Michael Anne MacDonald

Exclusive to MNW August 1, 4.15pm, updated 8:20pm (updates with addition that there are no details yet as to legal action being sought): The Chief Librarian of Muskoka Lakes who was fired on Wednesday by the Muskoka Lakes Library Board is pursuing legal action. Sheila Durand, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Librarian of the Muskoka Lakes Library, was “summarily dismissed without cause by a Board that has only four meetings to go before the end of the municipal term,” says her lawyer Michael Anne MacDonald.

“As her counsel,” continues MacDonald, “there is no doubt that this is small town politics in action – an undeserved attack on a well respected public servant. It’s an outrage.”

Durand, herself, cannot speak to media as she is bound by a confidentiality agreement. Details of what action Durand may take against the Board were not released.

On breaking the news of her dismissal on Wednesday, Muskoka News Watch (MNW) was told by former Library Board members that Durand was asked to come in and “sign something” at Township office. That something turned out to be a severance package that Board members say came as a shock to them and Durand. Reached by phone, a present Board member informed MNW that the Board had been instructed to forward any queries to Stephanie Clark, in charge of Human Resources at the Township.

Here is the email from MNW on Wednesday to Township requesting more information about Durand’s firing.

“I understand you are assisting the Library Board in regard to the firing of Sheila Durand. I have confirmation and am going to press but will hold off on the comments from members of the past library board who also worked with Ms. Durand until you or the board indicate when I can receive a comment.

Former board members have told me that previous performance reviews were excellent but that the board tone toward Ms. Durand had changed and the environment was one that crossed the fine line of providing oversight to micro management.

Would you care to respond?”

As Clark was out of office, MNW forwarded the email to Chief Administrative Officer Clayton Harris, who kicked back the questions to the Library Board, explaining, “As you may know, the Library Board is appointed by Council to provide governance and oversee library operations, but the Library is a separate organization and operates under different legislation. If you have questions regarding the Library, please follow-up with the Chair of the Library Board, Patricia Gidley.”

On reaching Gidley yesterday, MNW received a polite “no comment.”

At the start of each new municipal council term, an advertisement goes out to recruit Library Board members, explains former Board Chair Linda McCauley. “I believe everyone who sent in a resume in the first round was approved for the board – we usually need everyone. Then people began to resign.”

In the next recruitment stage, past Board members claim the new citizen members were hand-picked to join the Board by Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy (not an unusual action as other Mayors have appointed people to Township community boards in the past as well. Council then ratifies the appointments). One past member, who asked not to be identified, said, “Suddenly there was an accusatory tone aimed at Sheila, almost right from the get go from members of the new Board. After Sheila’s presentation in Council [in 2011], it seemed like a witch hunt. The Mayor herself was said to be calling Sheila directly, which some felt was not appropriate.”

Says McAuley: “I was on the board with Sheila four years (McAuley was Chair for two-and-a-half years) before 2010 and afterward. To me, her performance was exemplary. She came with such a wealth of knowledge that expanded the library and she had a strong work ethic, often working way past the 35 hours for which she was paid.”

Related articles:

May 25, 2011, Bracebridge Examiner, Library CEO in TearsOver Branch Closure Controversy

March 6, 2014, MNW commentary on Sun Media article: Mayor’s attitude draws scorn

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