Paleoncology an emotional workout and riveting tale

Review and photos by Mike Tombs

(July 30 BALA) Kira Hall, playwright and actor, with the support of Actors Colony Theatre, presented her creative work “Paleoncology”, the opening play of the 2015 ACT season Wednesday evening at Bala United Church.

Kira Hall (at left) chats with patrons before premiere performance of Paleoncology

Before this powerful performance, a mix and mingle session was held outdoors where food and refreshments were made available for patrons. Catered by Cottage Cravings of Bala, a splendid assortment of delicious cuisine was provided for all to sample. Henny and Randy Brown, the culinary wizards behind the tasty offerings, have been catering this yearly event for the past four years now with great success.

NOTE: See Paleoncology Wednesday through Saturday nights until August 8. All performances at 7:30pm Bala United Church. Click here for tickets.

Eva Moore, Artistic Director and Producer of ACT, talked to the crowd about the history and foundation of theatre in the Bala area. The big news; however, came when Moore announced that as of 2016, ACT will officially have a new home theatre, “all by the grace of an angel”. That angel, when summoned, was Greg Knight of Torrance, owner of Clear Lake Village Resort. Knight then revealed an artist’s rendering of the new theatre to be at the corner of Southwood and Torrance Roads and Muskoka Road 169.

Knight: Next home to Actors’ Colony Theatre to be in Torrance

After a solid round of applause in regards to the gracious donation and gift from Knight, Moore then asked Muskoka Lakes Mayor Don Furniss to join her. Mayor Furniss spoke to the “vision to bring back live theatre once again” as well as stating that this development “is a fantastic addition and will add permanence to Act’s future”. In closing Moore once more thanked Knight and spoke about the upcoming play, saying it “is both powerful and important.” As the lights came up on stage, we soon learned Moore’s

     Greg Knight unveils artist's rendering of new home for Actors' Colony Theatre next year

Greg Knight unveils artist’s rendering of new home for Actors’ Colony Theatre next year

description was right on the mark.

Enter the world of Paleoncology

The lights go down, darkness prevails, and the only sound heard is the anxious breathing of the audience. Lights go up, and the only visible action is the subtle movement of a stuffed dinosaur puppet. Dressed in a green and yellow dinosaur costume, Hall makes her appearance from behind the stuffed character representations and walks to the front of the stage.

Now begins the story of a young woman faced with the impending death of her idol, her brother who is afflicted by cancer. Immediately you are pulled into a tale of hope, frustration and tears, an emotional rollercoaster ride that spans the full spectrum from anger to empathy. Throughout the performance Hall expertly guides the audience through the struggles the character Lee is faced with, and broken into three distinct conversations using simple props. A counselor named Tammy, her Mom and Dad, but most importantly, her brother Daniel, build a story that touches the heart and stimulates the mind.

Conversations held with these imaginary characters personify them, and help the audience feel, think and be touched immensely by the stark reality that cancer has on a family. In the moments of silence on stage you could sense the intense anticipation of the audience, waiting for more, completely focused on this creative and profound artistic masterpiece.

Suspenseful, heart breaking, hopeful and confused, Hall gives life to the character Lee, with an acting skill and writing genius that is intense and believable. You can see, taste and feel the gamut of true emotion, and the plight of the main character Lee, who seems to be trapped inside an emotional wall struggling to understand and accept her brother Daniel’s life choices.

A must-see experience

This “powerful and important” play is a must see and should be added to your itinerary. It’s an amazing artistic script and performance that will challenge your senses and tug at your heartstrings.

After the show Hall stated that her creative work is not derived from “personal experience and is not an autobiography” and mentioned that right now she is focused

Kira Hall Paleoncology one woman show
Kira Hall captivates in Paleoncology. Photo: Mike Tombs.

on finishing this tour. Her future plans include two film presentations she is involved in as well.

Paleoncology runs from July 29th until August 8th at the Bala United Church, 3151 Muskoka Road 169, Wednesdays through Saturdays, beginning at 7:30 pm nightly. For more information on this superb play, visit the Actors’ Colony Theatre website where you can also buy tickets to this fantastic one-woman show.

Related Articles:

Actors’ Colony Theatre kicks off fifth season with Paleoncology

(July 25 2pm BALA – Press Release) Actors’ Colony Theatre proudly kicks off its fifth season in Bala with an award-winning show written and performed by former company member Kira Hall.

Paleoncology is a smart, heartbreaking, darkly funny solo show that tells the story of a young woman whose brother is dying of cancer. To deal with her feelings about the impending loss – or rather, to avoid dealing with them – she turns to her childhood passion: dinosaurs.

With the help of stuffed dinosaur puppets, educational overhead projections, and an unseen therapist named, we see her struggle to find herself when her world starts falling apart around her.

In summer 2014, Paleoncology completed its first run of the show in the form of a cross-Canada tour, receiving rave reviews in Montreal, Calgary, Victoria, Vancouver and Yellowknife, NWT. Besides strong critical acclaim, Paleoncology was one of CBC Canada Writes’ Top Ten Must-See Canadian Fringe Shows of 2014, and has enjoyed multiple sold-out performances. It also won Best Solo Theatre Production in Montreal, Favourite Drama from the Victoria Fringe, and Talk of the Fringe in Vancouver Fringe Festival and Plank Magazine.

Paleoncology is touring Ontario this summer, playing in Stratford, London, and several other locations before arriving in Bala for a two week run with Actors’ Colony Theatre. Opening on July 29, Paleoncology will run Wednesday – Saturday until August 8, at Bala United Church. Performances are at 7:30pm and tickets my be purchased online at or at the door, 30 minutes before performance.

For further information contact:

  • Eva Moore, Artistic Director
  • Actors’ Colony Theatre
  • M: 705 641 2949   E:

Muskoka Authors’ Association offers August workshops

(July 29 11pm BRACEBRIDGE – Release) Muskoka Authors’ Association (formerly Canadian Authors Association Muskoka) is offering local writers two creative workshops in August. The first one takes place on Thursday, August 20 from 7-9pm in Bracebridge with author, blogger and writing instructor, Lee-Ann Eckhardt Smith. Write It So They’ll Read It introduces proven techniques that help you take all your family or memoir data – births, marriages, deaths, census and memories – and turn them into stories ensured to be read and enjoyed. Lee-Ann will share six different ways to structure your story, and explain how to use the building blocks of narrative – character, setting and plot – in these genres. Learn how to bring your family’s history, or your own past, alive on the page.

Featured photo is of author Lee-Ann Eckhardt Smith

Lee Ann Eckhardt Smith’s passion for history and storytelling has driven her writing career. She has written articles on writing family history and memoir for several magazines and newspapers. She is the author of two acclaimed books: the family history Strength Within: The Granger Chronicles, and the story of the road that opened up the Muskoka district: Muskoka’s Main Street: 150 Years of Courage and Adventure Along the Muskoka Colonization Road.

Write It So They’ll Read It is free to members of Muskoka Authors Association, $20 to non-members.

On Saturday, August 22, from 9:30am to 12:30pm, the association presents editor and creative writing instructor, Brian Henry with his workshop, How to Build Your Story, Plotting Novels and Writing Short Stories. This workshop will show you how writers plot a novel and will give you the best tips on writing short stories. Brian will also share where to get your stories published and how to win contests. Best yet, you will learn how to apply the story-building techniques you’ve learned to your own writing.

Brian Henry: How to build your story

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years.

He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada’s most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Charlottetown.

Brian Henry, Muskoka Authors' Association
Author Brian Henry helps writers build their stories

But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get their first book published and launch their careers as authors.

The How to Build Your Story workshop fee is $30 for members of Muskoka Authors’ Association. $45 for non-members. Doors open at 9:00 am for registration and coffee.

Both workshops will be held at St Thomas Anglican Church, 4 Mary Street, Bracebridge. To register for these events, or for more information, contact Wendie at 705-646-3663 or Cindy at 705-646-5595. Payment may be made in advance via cheque to Muskoka Authors Association, 3 Manitoba Street, Bracebridge, ON P1L 1S4 or payment by cheque or cash at the door.

[The regular meeting of the Muskoka Authors Association is held on the third Thursday of each month at St Thomas Anglican Church. These meetings feature authors, agents or publishers sharing their experience and expertise about writing and the writing business. MAA also offers workshops and other learning opportunities for writers. For more information, please contact Wendie at 705-646-3663 or Cindy at 705-646-5595].

Former Muskoka Lakes librarian hits the books in Petawawa

(UPDATE July 28, 2015 PETAWAWA) Former Muskoka Lakes Library CEO Sheila Durand has a new job, almost a full year after losing her chief librarian post in Muskoka Lakes. According to The Pembroke Daily Observer, Durand has landed the top librarian post in Petawawa. The report says Petawawa town council welcomed Sheila Durand officially on July 20 as its new library Chief Executive Officer. To read the Daily Observer article, click here.

It has not been disclosed publicly about whether Durand and the Township of Muskoka Lakes settled Durand’s dispute after she was dismissed July 30, 2014 from her position here.

September 17, 2014: Librarian lawsuit names Muskoka Lakes Township, Library Board and Board Chair; cites petty politics as prompting firing

Updated with reaction from Township of Muskoka Lakes, September 17, 4.30pm: Asked for comment on the lawsuit described in the article below, the Chief Administrative Officer has replied that as of 3pm today, the Township “is unaware of this lawsuit.”

Breaking News: Fired Muskoka Lakes Librarian wants job back, claiming wrongful dismissal, political malice prompted firing

Published September 17, 11:47am: A librarian fired as head of the Muskoka Lakes Library is seeking reinstatement or $1.7million in damages, claiming her dismissal was wrongful and motivated by “political malice.”

Sheila Durand was fired on July 30. A replacement was announced on August 26.

Court documents, obtained by Muskoka News Watch and served to the defendants this week, state Durand wants to remain as Secretary/Treasurer of the Muskoka Lakes Public Library Board and Chief Executive Officer and Chief Librarian of the Township of Muskoka Lakes Library. If this doesn’t happen, she will be seeking a total of $1.7million in damages and a declaration from the Township that it is responsible for the conduct of the Library Board and damages related to what the Statement of Claim calls “improper political interference.”

The Muskoka Lakes Library Board is supposed to be an autonomous corporation separate from the Township of Muskoka Lakes and protected from political interference or control, according to the statement.

 “Vindictive, motivated by malice and small town petty politics,” claims suit

Durand’s suit claims the “purported termination was wrongful, motivated by political malice and was “pay back” for policies approved by the previous Library Board with revenge targeted against Durand.

The statement claims the action was “vindictive, motivated by malice and small town petty politics of the worst possible kind.”

Named in the suit are the Muskoka Lakes Library Board, the Township of Muskoka Lakes and Patricia Gidley of Bala.

The lawyer for Sheila Durand, Michael Anne MacDonald, told MNW she also questions the decision to quickly appoint a new library CEO, Cathy Duck, just before the municipal election and pointing out the last search for a library head took months and was publicized widely.

Asked MacDonald: “Why did they replace a librarian in such haste, without a broadly broadcasted and open search? This “search” for a “new” librarian seems to have been the biggest secret in town,” she adds.

On Tuesday, August 26, the Library Board announced that Cathy Duck was being promoted to CEO and Head Librarian. Duck has been a library staff member since 2000.

While the Board had referred Muskoka News Watch to Township Human Resources personnel regarding the termination of Durand, the Township CAO later explained that the Library Board is independent of Township. When a new Council is elected, members of Council then interview and appoint members to the Library Board. The relationship between Township and the Library Board is to end there, but sources say in this past term, the Township treasurer was asked to help the Library sort out lingering financial issues from the previous library administration.

Presently, the Township’s web site is advertising for a Library Circulation Clerk under Employment Opportunities.

In 2011, Durand was reduced to tears after council members (specifically Murphy and Nishikawa according to a Bracebridge Examiner report – see Related Articles) criticized her for presenting a Library Board approved recommendation to close the Walker’s Point Community Library and Milford Bay Library. Members of that original Board then resigned and new Board Members were interviewed and appointed by Council.

In minutes of the Board meeting of April 2014, it was noted that the insurer for the Township of Muskoka Lakes had stated it was possible to include the “Friends of the Muskoka Library” under the same liability insurance policy that covered the Library Board. The minutes also note that then Chief Administrative Officer Chris Wray had confirmed that the Township would be responsible for the deductible on any given claim. It is unclear whether such insurance also includes potential labour related legal action.

On the day of Durand’s firing, Library Board Chair Patricia Gidley said she was unable to give comment on a personnel matter. Another board member contacted said all questions were to be handled by the Township Human Resources department. Immediately after Durand’s termination, MacDonald stated her client would be taking legal action.

Related articles:

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Review: Rock and roll on the Barge: “like crazy man”

Review and photos by Mike Tombs

(July 27, 2015 10pm GRAVENHURST) Picture a 1950s diner, rolled up blue jean cuffs, flat top haircuts and a five-cent neon jukebox in the corner.

With Freddy Vette and The Flames on stage Sunday night at Gull Lake Rotary Park Barge in Gravenhurst, by closing your eyes you could see, smell, and hear the 50s scene again. Malted milkshakes, red and white checkered tile floors, black leather topped chrome stools and that ever present big red Coca Cola sign hanging on the wall. All of these senses brought to life with the pumping rhythm of a rock and roll era that to this day still arouses audiences. Freddy Vette and the Flames gave a true 50s rockin performance that can be clearly explained in a simple phrase, ” cool Daddy`O, dug it man”.

Freddy Vette and the Flames in Gravenhurst
Rockin’ the Barge Sunday July 26

So cat, “here`s the dope on the scene”, a simple stage backdrop set against a brilliant Muskoka evening, sunny and warm while a soft breeze cooled the air just enough. A subtle reverb of music and voice boosted by the hillside and driven by a group of talented musicians in the delivery of classic rock and roll. The hillside as well as the hilltop facing the stage filled with people of all ages, clapping and toe tapping in sync with the do-bopity doo-wop music.

With Vette dressed in a white blazer, wing tip shoes, black pants and shirt rattled the keys on a 50s style piano with impressive soul and spirit, background harmonies and melody was delivered by the buttery vocals of three wonderful female voices. Those being Betty Vette lead female vocalist and Freddy`s wife, Debbie Collins and Sara Miron. Dressed in the themed outfits of black slacks and shoes, refined and highlighted a glittering deep blue sequined blouse that certainly gave that special “hepcat ” juke joint stage freddyvette4backupWEBfeeling to the music.

The bionic saxman

“Razzin the berries” and pumping up the swing infused instrumentals was handled by Gary Buffet on drums, Kevin Crotty on the six string electric guitar, Wayne Mills “blastin jive sounds” on the sax and Ken Globe on the stand-up bass. Buffet on a simple drum set typical of the early days of rock and roll, with cowbell, symbols and three-piece kit kept the beat alive and true to the 50s era. Crotty playing a six string Hawaiin guitar shot out lead rifs that took hold of, and didn’t let go of the audience’s attention. Mills “the bionic saxman” as described by Vette, was a tremendous treat and really captured the mood and ambience of the evening.

That “scratchin'” period in time

In the background, bass maestro Globe, adding the deep tones of the stand-up bass entertained the crowd by bringing home the lower sounds of rock and roll songs from that “scratchin’” period in time – a time when Marlon Brando and James Dean were the idols of the hipsters, beatniks and greasers, wearing their black leather jackets with the collars turned up, packs of smokes in the arm of white t-shirts, and big black riding boots.

At one point during the boogie-woogie, swing and shuffle song list, Vette spoke about his trek into the world of online radio personality as well as his musical background. In 1999, Vette started a radio program on 800 CJBQ in Belleville, featuring rock and roll music from 1955 to 1975. “Where Rock and Roll Lives” is where you can listen to Freddy Vette`s Graffiti Gold program. Influenced by former radio stars, the likes of Cousin Brucie, Jack Armstrong and other radio greats, is what directed Vette toward radio.

On the music side Vette remarked, ” A good record player and a great stack of vinyl is the only real educator you need”.

Vette also stated that at “age 30 he took music lessons again”, seeing he was only six years old the first time he studied.

Blue Suede Shoes got things really hoppin’

As in the three previous shows on the barge, Freddy Vette and the Flames gave the crowd a song list that included rock and roll golden oldies the likes of “Hot Rod Lincoln”, “Yackety Yak” and “Lollipop”. The biggest moment of the night? When “Blue Suede Shoes” (the “Rock and roll anthem,” freddyvette1webexclaimed Vette) came to life on stage. It’s a number one hit that has traveled the ages by none other than the famous Carl Perkins, and set with the New Orleans style thumping piano grit he is known for.

Little Richard, and Elvis Presley, household names that are familiar and still heard in today’s homes everywhere, were also featured by Vette and the Flames during the latter part of the evening’s show. Near perfect renditions of “Lucille” by Little Richard in his signature driving style, along with ballads made famous by the legendary Presley, had the crowd snapping fingers and rockin’ with the sway and swagger of “boss tunes made for chillaxia hepcat”.

If Wolfman Jack, the voice of the 50s – 60s radio rock and roll scene were here today he would have commented over the air waves that Freddy Vette and the Flames will “rock this place inside out, like craaazzzy man”, in his famous deep growl.

And judging by the crowd’s reaction it seems they did just that with pure 50s “jam”, threads and flare. Perhaps with images of FW Woolworth Co, nest and jelly roll hairdos, 1930s deuce coupe hotrods and clear glass straw holders ever present in their collective mind’s eye.

Music on the Barge Summer Performances program co-ordinator and MC Fred Schulz reminded the crowd that even though these great musical shows are free to attend “any donations would be greatly appreciated and help to keep this venue moving forward into the future”. So as they would have put it in that era, ” let the doll go man, loosen the belt and pass some coinage into the tray, be a righteous cat”.

After all, music on the Barge is a long Muskoka summer tradition. The Rotary Club of Gravenhurst is in charge of the collections and volunteer Doug Wallis said “the donations are greatly appreciated and do make a difference in the community”.

Next Music on the Barge show > Johnny Cash & The Queens of Country, Sunday, August 2nd | 7:30 pm

Parry Sound couple killed in crash on 69 near Pointe au Baril

(July 27 3pm POINTE AU BARIL) The two victims of a Saturday’s tragic crash on Highway 69 south of Pointe au Baril were identified today as 72-year-old Andre Veilleux and 71-year-old Doreen Veilleux of Parry Sound.

The OPP is appealing to anyone who may have seen the accident to come forward to help with the investigation.

At about 2 p.m. Saturday, West Parry Sound OPP responded to reports of a crash about three kilometres south of Pointe au Baril in the Township of the Archipelago. The initial investigation suggests a northbound pickup truck tried to pass two camper trucks and had to swerve to miss a southbound SUV. The SUV then hit one of the campers head on.

Both occupants of the SUV died of their injuries. Two people in the pickup and two people from the camper that was struck were taken to hospital with injuries described as non-life threatening.

Anyone with information about this tragedy is asked to call PC Aaron Jeffery at 705-746-4225.

Business: Wendy Crothers joins Summit Mortgage brokerage

(July 26, 2015 BRACEBRIDGE) Fresh from volunteering at the PanAm Games, Muskoka mortgage broker Leslie McCann is upping her company’s own game by welcoming mortgage agent Wendy Crothers to her team.

McCann is excited to have Crothers on board, describing her as a “triple threat performer” for her business.

“Firstly, she is a licensed mortgage agent, most recently working for a major bank; two, she ran her own real estate company as a broker; and, three – she was once a paralegal focused on real estate law,” says McCann. “To say she’s got all bases covered when it comes to helping her clients through the entire process of buying a property would be an understatement.”

Crothers, who lives in Gravenhurst and grew up in Orillia, started officially with Summit Mortgage on July 8.

No more one size fits all solutions

Crothers says she’s enjoying the flexibility that comes with being able to seek out many lenders, including private funders, for the wide array of people in Muskoka with unique financial needs.

“My experience working with the bank was rewarding, but it was frustrating to turn away people because they didn’t fit certain bank requirements. Now I can find those people the money they need, and if it’s a fit, I can also sell them a bank mortgage like I did before.” Crothers said people often don’t realize that a mortgage agent can shop all the banks as well as other financial companies.

Having been an entrepreneur herself upon founding her real estate brokerage (Sutton-Around Muskoka Realty Inc., which later amalgamated with Re/Max North Country Inc.), Crothers understands the challenges that can face self employed business owners, of which there are many in Muskoka. “It’s great to say yes to so many more people,” Crothers says about working with Summit.

In partnership with dozens of lenders (major banks, credit unions, trusts and other national and regional lenders), Summit Mortgage Services gets people the mortgage money they need for everything from home and commercial building buys to equity lines, and it offers a key advantage: partnership with a dedicated private lender. Founded in 2006 by McCann, Summit is a proud member of Verico, Canada’s top mortgage brokers network with over $12billion in collective loan volume.

Photo of Wendy Crothers (left) and Leslie McCann by Norah Fountain

New cardiac program aims to provide faster access to care

(July 23 11:30am SIMCOE-MUSKOKA) Ontario has given its support to a proposal to bring advanced cardiac care services to patients in North Simcoe and Muskoka.

Premier Kathleen Wynne made the announcement today at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) in Barrie. Under the proposal, RVH will partner with Southlake Regional Health Centre in Newmarket to offer advanced cardiac care services at both hospitals. This will give patients in the northern part of Simcoe County and the District of Muskoka faster access to services that can save the lives of people with heart disease. The proposal will also enhance care by allowing cardiologists to work at both hospitals, which improves flexibility in coverage and provides more opportunities for skills development.

In February, Ontario launched the next phase in transforming the health care system through its Patients First Action Plan. Expanding cardiac care services in North Simcoe and Muskoka will help achieve one of the plan’s four key objectives: providing faster access to the right care.

A release from the province today says improving access to advanced health care services is part of the government’s plan to build Ontario up. The four-part plan promises to invest in people’s talents and skills, making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history, creating a dynamic, innovative environment where business thrives, and building a secure retirement savings plan.

Writers tell Tall Pine Tales in Baysville and Bracebridge

(July 22, 3pm BAYSVILLE) Writers from across Muskoka and Haliburton will read their work Wednesday, August 5 at the first of two Cottage Country Writers events at Baysville Public Library and again at Bracebridge Public Library. The first literary event runs from 7 to 9pm and will be guided by Master of Ceremonies Wendie Donabie.Wendie Donabie

2015 marks the 3rd year for the Tall Pine Tales events, bringing together writers from three groups (Haliburton Highlands Writers’ and Editors Network and the Baysville and Bracebridge Library Writing Circles) to share their talent with the public. Started in 2013 by Melody Richardson (d. 2015), Writer in Residence at the Bracebridge and Baysville Libraries, the two summer reading events are now arranged by a committee of dedicated volunteers. The events are dedicated to Melody’s memory. Her energy, enthusiasm and encouragement inspired writers across Muskoka and Haliburto

Attendees will enjoy readings of fiction and memoirs, laced with humour, refreshments and door prizes.

Wendie Donabie

Admission is by donation with proceeds going to the library.

The Baysville event on August 5 features writers, Paul Feist, David Franks, Chris Boorman, Bruce Liddle, Wendy Truscott, Stephen Drury, Katharine Kristiansen, Pauline Johnson and Casandra Hart.

Miss Mariposa contest
Paul Feist will MC Tall Pine Tales at Bracebridge Library August 17

A second public reading event is scheduled for Monday, August 17 from 7 to 9 pm at Bracebridge Public Library with MC, Paul Feist, local actor and writer. In Bracebridge on August 17, attendees will hear from David Bruce Patterson, Angela Jackson, Wayne Ross, Wendy Truscott, Jan Wheeldon, Jo-Anne Brittijn, Sharon Lawrence, Linda Voycey and Irene Davidson-Fisher.

Door prizes will be drawn throughout the evening. Admission is by donation.
Feature photo (submitted) shows Wendie Donabie, Master of Ceremonies for Tall Pine Tales by Cottage Country Writers


Bala Communities in Bloom flowering well; thanks camper volunteers

(July 22, 2015 BALA) You may have seen the people hard at work in flower beds in Bala and that’s because Bala’s Communites in Bloom (CIB) has a new committee to carry on 16 successful years of keeping Bala bright and colourful. And committee members want to shower thanks on the teen volunteers from Camp Crossroads for all their help this past month.

Featured photo shows Camp Crossroad volunteers Isaiah Bennett, Madeline Klassen, Enya Mortley, Michael Reimer

Take in the flowery sites and more work of the CIB

Communities in Bloom Bala committee
Committee members Jan Turner, Janie Graham, Heather Boyce, Jennifer Overend

CIB maintain perennial gardens in Windsor Park, Jaspen Park, the LCBO and the Bala Freshmart.  They provide over 60 hanging baskets along Hwy 169, Hwy 38, and Bala Falls Road, maintain 5 dog stations with complimentary doggie bags in Windsor, Jaspen, Margaret Burgess and the Bala Sports Parks, and at the Bala Bay Dock, as well as maintaining the historical plaques and brochures around town.

Extra hands make light work: CIB thanks Camp Crossroads

CIB organizers want to say big “thank you” to these teen volunteers from Camp Crossroads for their pitch-in attitude: Isaiah Bennett, Madeline Klassen, Enya Mortley, Michael Reimer, Marcus Tuttle, Hannah Agler, and Janelle Thiessen.

Bala Heritage Walk
Bala Heritage Walk a project of CIB

CIB welcomes any and all who are able to help out with spring clean up, planting, and new garden development among other projects.  Don’t forget – these are also great opportunities for our high school students to earn community service hours. To volunteer, email Jan Turner.

Communities in Bloom provincial awards get presented September 26 in Perth and judges are presently making their rounds. One of the judges is Gravenhurst councillor Sandy Cairns (she judged at the national level in 2011 and is a committed CIB volunteer). Note: Bala is not being judged this year.

Related Articles:

June 8, 2015: Vandals strike blow to renewed CIB effort

August 18, 2014: End of a blooming era: CIB Bala to fold


About Muskoka News Watch – consider donating to keep good news stories like these flowing: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you like being informed, please toss a few dollars our way using the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page (you can use Credit Cards or Debit). Your support is needed and appreciated. Thank you, and thanks to CIB Bala for keeping MNW informed as well!

Ratepayers hear about airport worries and cranberry joys at MRA AGM

(July 21, 2015 PORT CARLING) About 90 people were on hand for the 54th Annual General Meeting of the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association (MRA) Saturday, July 18, 2015 at the Port Carling Community Centre.

They heard from speakers Ron Brent on the future of the Muskoka Airport and Matthew French who told the crowd the story of from “Bog to Bottle” about the growth and change of Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh in Bala from cranberries only to include the multi award-winning Muskoka Lakes Winery.

About the airport, Brent said an ongoing fundamental challenge is the way that small planes often have to use the grass runway and he hopes one day it will be paved.

Featured photo of MRA President Liz Denyar by Norah Fountain

On the topic of Bala’s famous cranberries, French shared how the cranberry-blueberry wine is now being sold on shelves as far away as Taiwan and how the cranberry and winery tours have become a signature Canadian experience. The big news from French was that the farm would soon offer Johnston’s blueberries as they are now planting a blueberry hill at the marsh.

In Township of Muskoka Lakes Mayor Don Furniss’ address to the group, he pointed out that public Strategic Plan meetings for the Township had been well attended. However, he says he thinks the Township can still do a better job communicating with the public. He encouraged people to look at the website for Township information.

There was also the business of the MRA to deal with. For example, one motion made the association’s name change official, changing it from the Township of Muskoka Lakes Ratepayers’ Association to the now more familiar name of Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association. President Liz Denyar welcomed everyone and told members and visitors that among the many items of pride felt by the Association, the Board is especially pleased that the MRA has given over $100,000 to students in the Township in the past 50 years.

This year, the student bursary winners were Shannon Conner from Gravenhurst High School who is headed for George Brown College, and Mason White from Bracebridge and Muskoka Lakes Secondary School. White will be studying civil engineering at the University of Waterloo.

The new MRA Board of Directors was introduced for the coming year. They are Liz Denyar, Sharon Hunter Aiken (new Director), Jim Boyd, Doug Bryden, Dianne Davidson, Madeline Fielding, Christine McKibbin, Wayne McKibbin, Mike Silver and Mike Webb.

Next up for the MRA was a week of Township of Muskoka Lakes and District Council meetings, which members of the MRA attend constantly to keep its members informed.

For more information about the MRA, contact:

Liz Denyar, MRA President E:   Dee Denyar, MRA Administrative Assistant T: 705 765-0022 E:

Bracebridge man wins Miss Mariposa beauty contest

Bracebridge, ON, July 15, 2015: Paul Feist is the winner of a virtual beauty contest sponsored by the publishers of the Jim Foster book, The Crowning of Miss Mariposa.

Here’s how Feist earned his imitation diamond tiara (among other awards) as ‘Miss Mariposa’:

Walden House (Books and Stuff) decided to run a fun virtual beauty contest, the Miss Mariposa Contest, that required entries to write a short essay about the book, Stephen Leacock, or their own small town experiences. The rules were are follows:

• Must be Canadian (or at least human)
• Are any age over 18
• Marital status ignored
• Must know who Stephen Leacock was
• Must read The Crowning of Miss Mariposa by Jim Foster
• Must write a 200-500 word application saying why they would recommend Miss Mariposa
• Must have their own teeth and not anyone else’s
• A contestant must not have won any international beauty contest or appeared as the centrefold in any magazine in the past 40 years.

The book’s publisher was pleased – and surprised – to crown a man as Miss Mariposa, but say Feist’s entry was definitely the most engaging.tiaraimage

“It was a hard decision for the judges, but the entry that most caught the imagination and was truest to the Mariposa theme was indeed Feist’s,” says Walden House (Books & Stuff)’s Brenda Paterson.

Here is Paul Feist’s winning entry:
I had just finished reading ‘Game of Thrones’ (a new take on musical toilets), and The Vikings. Now, there’s not much humour with a Viking, excluding of course Eric the Jester and Leif the Jocular, and so perhaps I was in the mood for something lighter. A friend suggested Jim Foster’s, ‘The Crowning of Miss Mariposa’, including a contest by the author with the prerequisite of having to read his book. A dastardly writer’s ploy no doubt. Not to be outsmarted, I borrowed the book.
At first I tried not to enjoy the ramblings of Foster’s, Mr. Morrison, until it donned on me he was talking to me about my town. Yes, his Mariposa was my ‘Pacebridge’. We had our J.B.Beasley, with our T.P.Outhouse. Years ago T.P. was going to take over the old turkey farm, disbanded because the birds caught the Flu or something. He was going turn it into a giant auto parts plant. That fell flatter than Muriel Snodgrass’ bosom and so it then became zoned to accommodate a hotel resort complex. The only guests so far, to this vacant field of dreams, are the wild turkeys that wander about in search of their ancestors.
Our primitive LCBO was deemed inadequate for the few sots hovering around the entrance at 10 a.m. each morning. I always wait until noon. They built a store that can now house enough hooch to sate the thirsty hordes invading Muskoka for the next decade … or, at least ten years.
Just like Foster’s, Tecumseh, our ‘Gravencursed’ is the sin bin of the north. The wife and I only venture there on special occasions … like every Wednesday for strip bingo.
Yes, Foster’s Mariposa is our town. We have our Millicent and Caspar, Roslyn and Clarence and even the Newspacket paper (our Gaggette-Exagerator). And if I’m not mistaken, that speedster canine, Absentee, scorched a trail through my property that still has my dog sniffin’ like she was on the trail of Scarface Pacino.
But I digress. Would I recommend The Crowning of Miss Mariposa? As I said, I tried to stifle any outward showing of amusement. That is until I read the ‘Chicken Soo Guy” line, forcing a loud guffaw from somewhere deep inside me, not recently visited. Later, sitting outside my main street storefront reading The Great Discovery chapter, I broke into hysterical laughter, causing pedestrian traffic to give me wide birth and cross the street. This is a very funny book. Should be a must read for anyone living in small town Canada, (or the world). Jim Foster, I now plan to buy your book, you cunning wordsmith. Leacock would be proud.


This Miss Mariposa title includes these rewards: front cover exposure on the second printing of Jim’s book; an imitation diamond tiara of the dollar store variety; a tour of the Leacock Museum; a signed copy of the book; and dinner with the author in Orillia.

“Unlike other virtual beauty contests, there will no cheesy photographs,” says Paterson. “A ceremonial Crowning for Mr. Feist will be held at a date still to be arranged.  Your crown awaits, Paul! Congratulations!”

To know more about Walden House, visit www.waldenhousebooks.


Muskoka Conservancy warns destructive Emerald Ash Borer on way here

(July 15 5:30pm BRACEBRIDGE) Next Monday the Muskoka Conservancy, along with BioForest Technologies, will install a trap for detection of the invasive Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). Why? Because the Conservancy says the destructive EAB is heading for Muskoka. Mayor Graydon Smith will be there at the installation July 20 on behalf of the town of Bracebridge.

Emerald Ash Borer is a highly destructive invasive pest that arrived from Asia, most likely in untreated Ash wood used for packing material. In North America, EAB was first detected in Windsor, ON and Detroit, MI in 2002.

Destructive Emerald Ash Borer on the way to Muskoka  

According to a Muskoka Conservancy release, significant outbreaks of the metallic green EAB are reported in Barrie area this year and it is quickly moving toward the Muskoka forest. The Conservancy and BioForest are concerned and are partnering to raise awareness.

Mayor Smith was quoted as saying “The town has been following this issue. We are pleased the Conservancy has been proactive about public awareness.”

According to Rebecca Ferguson, Stewardship Technician with Muskoka Conservancy, this is late in the year for hanging detection traps. “These traps are more for catching the attention of the public. We felt that there has been a very low level of awareness in the general public. Most of Muskoka’s Ash trees will soon be dying.”

AshTreeFerguson says “In addition to hanging these traps, we are hosting an information session at the Bracebridge Sportsplex on August 4th beginning at 7 pm to share information and bring awareness to the community. “

Muskoka Conservancy has been concerned with the arrival of a number of invasive species in general, over the last decade. Emerald Ash Borer is the most recent. Reports of trees dying from EAB in Barrie helped to resolve Muskoka Conservancy to launch an awareness campaign in Muskoka.

BioForest Technologies President, Joe Meating, welcomes the chance to partner with Muskoka Conservancy and get the word out.  “For people with Ash trees that are in special places or prominent in neighbourhoods, there are some treatments to protect them,” he says.

EAB beetles are metallic green in color and about 1 cm long.  The insect feeds on leaves and lay eggs from June to August.  EAB larvae are white and flat, with distinctive bell-shaped segments, and grow up to 2 cm long.  They kill the tree by feeding on inner bark, cutting off water and nutrient flow.

EAB attacks all species of True Ash (Fraxinus spp.) found in North America.  EAB kills True Ash of any size or age, including healthy trees. EAB does not attack or kill Mountain Ash.  Sightings can be reported to the Conservancy.

For over 25 years, the Muskoka Conservancy provides comprehensive environmental stewardship and outreach programs. The first property was donated 23 years ago and the Muskoka Conservancy has been protecting the regions’ natural spaces ever since. Today, the organization protects a total of 36 properties totalling over 2,400 acres of sensitive wetlands, forests, rock barrens, and shorelines. With over 200 active volunteers, the organization keeps its operation costs low and dedicates most resources to stewardship projects, land conservation, and community outreach. Muskoka Conservancy believes in working with community to build and support a vibrant Muskoka that honours the natural environment and the traditions of the area.

Featured photo shows healthy Ash tree

Fire destroys Port Sandfield cottage

(July 14 9pm PORT SANDFIELD) A two-storey cottage on Lake Joseph was destroyed by fire tonight in Port Sandfield.

The Muskoka Lakes Fire Department was called to a cottage fire at 1079 Elgin House Road on Cox Bay shortly after 7:30pm.  Fire crews from Minett and Port Carling Stations responded to find the cottage fully engulfed in flames. Three adults and five children were in the building, but all escaped without injury.

As of 8:30pm, firefighters had the fire under control but were still battling the blaze. The fire will be investigated.

In 2012, the 2,700 square foot home had been up for sale for $1.8million, according to a previous listing on the Cottages for Sale in Ontario web site.

Fibre optic expansion planned for Bracebridge and Huntsville to bring high speed benefits

(July 14 BRACEBRIDGE) Connecting via the Internet may soon get faster for more people in Bracebridge and Huntsville thanks to joint government funding of up to $5.6 million to install fibre optic cable in the towns.

Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement was joined by Sudbury MPP Glenn Thibeault this morning at the Lakeland Energy office in Bracebridge to announce that the Small Communities Fund is going to help fund Lakeland’s installation of fibre optic cable in Bracebridge and Huntsville.

fibre to the home project funded
Group at today’s funding announcement to provide fibre to the home from Lakeland Networks

The Fund provides money jointly from the governments of Canada and Ontario. Thibeault was there to share the joint funding announcement on behalf of Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, Brad Duguid. Chris Litschko, Chief Executive Officer of Lakeland Energy Ltd., was also on hand.

Joint federal-provincial funding promised of up to $5.6 million

According to the announcement today, the project will lead to improved web access for residents, businesses and visitors (high-speed online benefits include faster email, access to online programs, including government programs that must be accessed online, uploading and downloading of files, web browsing, and better e-commerce and e-learning, to name just a few advantages).

Here’s how the funding breaks down:

  • The Government of Canada will provide up to $2.8 million;
  • The Province of Ontario will contribute up to $2.8 million; and,
  • Lakeland Energy Ltd. will be responsible for all remaining costs of the project
Businesses will be more competitive and quality of life improved for Muskokans, says Lakeland CEO

“On behalf of Lakeland Energy/Networks, I am incredibly proud to be part of this important funding announcement,” says Litschko. “The installation of our fibre optic infrastructure will make businesses more competitive and improve the quality of life for thousands of Muskoka residents.” (Lakeland Networks was one of the first companies in Canada to provide super fast 1 Gigabit fibre connectivity to business and residential consumers. 1 gigabit or 1 Gb is equal to 1000 megabytes and 1 Gb service is about 50 times faster than the average data transfer speed in Canada).

Clement says the federal government is equally pleased to be investing in much needed local infrastructure. “ Through the New Building Canada Plan Small Communities Fund, we are investing in priority infrastructure projects that have a strong impact on the quality of life of Ontario’s residents while helping job creation and economic growth,” he said.

In an accompanying news release, Thibeault echoed the importance of investing in fibre to promote long-term economic growth. He explained the funding is part of the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history – more than $130 billion over 10 years – which is supported by a number of initiatives, including unlocking the value of public assets to help make investments in transit, transportation and other priority infrastructure projects. “It demonstrates our government’s commitment to keeping our communities strong, creating jobs and making sure that people get the basic services they pay for now and in the future,” says Thibeault.

References and Related Articles:

Police hunting convicted killer who broke parole

(July 14 5pm BRACEBRIDGE) He’s been convicted of manslaughter, he’s on the run after breaking parole and the police are hoping the public can help find Frank Peter Spagnola. The Repeat Offender Parole Enforcement (ROPE) Squad is asking for the public’s help in finding Spagnola, a federal offender wanted on a Canada Wide Warrant as result of their Breach of Parole.

Spagnola is 55-year-olds, 5’4” (163cm), 196 lbs (89kg).  He wears prescription glasses, has a shaved head and a light coloured goatee.  He has numerous tattoos, including “Rose”, “a Gravestone” and “Garfield” on his left arm, “Reaper” and an “Eagle” on his right arm.  Also has tattoos on his  chest, abdomen, both legs, ankles, and his back.

He is serving a two year and eight month sentence for possession of a schedule substance for the purpose of trafficking  and breach of court orders.

Frank Spagnola has many convictions for break and enter, frauds, assaults, drugs, and a conviction for manslaughter from 1998.  He is considered high risk to reoffend.

Bracebridge one of parolee’s known hangouts
The offender is known to frequent the Bracebridge area as well as Kingston, Barrie, Windsor, Toronto, Guelph, Hamilton, Orangeville, Oshawa, Oakville, Peterborough, and Brantford.

Anyone having contact with this offender or information in regards to their whereabouts is asked to contact the Provincial ROPE Squad at 416-808-5900 or toll free at 1-866-870-ROPE (7673) or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or call 9-1-1.

Muskoka Church Directory

To find a church and know times of services, choose a link from the list below. Know that in the off season, some church schedules change.

Anglican Churches

Presbyterian Churches

Pentecostal Churches

Roman Catholic Churches in Muskoka

Churches of Bracebridge and Gravenhurst

Note: In the above PDF, the link for the Gateway Worship Centre, Gravenhurst is incorrect. Please use the link below.

Apostolic Church

Gateway Worship Centre

Summertime Only Churches

The Church of The Kettles

Cottage Synagogue

Date: every Saturday throughout the months of July and August.
Time: 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Event Name: Shabbat morning Synagogue service
Location: Camp Shalom, Camp Shalom (1110 Brydons Bay Rd. Gravenhurst, ON)

The new Cottage Synagogue (formerly Orillia Cottage Shul) offers weekly Shabbat morning services at Camp Shalom in Gravenhurst, Ontario, during the months of July and August.
Services start at 10:45 a.m. and will be lead by guest Rabbis. Everyone welcome.
Location: Camp Sholom’s Sanctuary. For directions, visit Parking available north of the Sanctuary building.  For inquiries e-mail or call (416) 419-5169.

Photo Gallery of Churches around Muskoka

No Wakestock in Bala – or anywhere – this year

(July 13 BALA) Wakestock, which made a triumphant return to its roots in Bala last year, is taking a break for 2015.

A release on the Wakestock web site says they’ve decided to postpone the popular event until 2016 due to scheduling conflicts and related factors. The organizers are asking riders, sponsors and all stakeholders to stay tuned for plans for Wakestock 2016.

The Township of Muskoka Lakes was informed by phone and email late Friday. As a result, the block event proposed for Bala Falls Road in front of The Kee on August 8 won’t go ahead either.


Featured purchased photo: Copyright information



Tragedy on Peninsula Road: father and son killed in crash

(July 11 MUSKOKA LAKES) A head on crash in Muskoka Lakes Saturday claimed the lives of 49-year-old David Lash and his father, 76-year-old Anthony Lash of Toronto and Minett. The two men were pronounced dead at the scene. The Lash family has a long history in Muskoka and cottage on Lash Point on Lake Rosseau.

A teenaged girl who was said to be in the back seat was airlifted to a Toronto hospital with non life threatening injuries, while a man driving another vehicle was taken to South Muskoka Memorial Hospital in Bracebridge, also with non life threatening injuries.

Police say the collision occurred at 4:30pm on Peninsula Road, just north of Gregory Road in Minett. The Lash family has a long history in Muskoka with their cottage on Lash Point on Lake Rosseau.

Police are asking anyone with information to contact the OPP at (888) 310-1122 or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477. You can submit your information online at if you have any information on this crime or any other crime. Crime Stoppers does not subscribe to call display and you will remain anonymous.  Being anonymous, you will not testify in court and your information may lead to a cash reward of up to $2,000.

Should Muskoka worry about climate change target gaps? MWC says yes.

(July 10 BRACEBRIDGE)  The Climate Summit of the Americas wrapped up in Toronto yesterday in a week where we learned Ontario won’t meet its own 2020 green house gas (GHG) emission-reduction targets without aggressive action – action speakers at the summit claim has to happen to avoid a global warming disaster in the making.

Watching the events of this week unfold from Muskoka makes one wonder here whether we will remain unscathed from the impact of climate change. After all, we’re not on the edge of an ocean, so we don’t have to worry about rising sea levels, for example. But as Muskoka Watershed Council Chair, Dr. Peter Sale, explains, Muskoka won’t be spared the pain. It’s one of the reasons the Watershed Council is asking Muskokans to consider what our region could look like in 2050 – when the province now says it may be able to reach all its emission targets.

Climate change matters here, too and more action needed to reach targets
“Climate change is having impacts in Muskoka just as in the rest of the world, so what Ontario does about GHG emissions matters to us as much as to people down in the ‘big smoke’,” says Sale. He also says it’s not a surprise that the target Ontario set for 2020 is going to be difficult to meet without significant new efforts.

“The good news is that the provincial government is aware of this, and taking the first steps by setting a price on carbon emissions,” continues Sale. “That alone will likely not be sufficient, and some direct attention to the emissions due to transportation will probably be needed as well.” (In the provincial progress report released this week, acting Environmental Commissioner stated car and truck emissions along with energy-inefficient buildings present the single-biggest problem in the province’s fight against climate change).

According to Sale, later targets in 2030 and 2050 will require an even greater commitment.

MWC working to understand local impact

“The Muskoka Watershed Council is currently investigating likely impacts of local climate change and will be bringing forward recommendations for actions that can be taken locally to ameliorate those impacts,” adds Sale. “One part of this project is a survey of our community to find out what people expect Muskoka to be like at mid-century (not just with respect to climate change). Knowing what we expect will help when the group reports back and provides its recommendations for local action.

In a 2010 report (see References), the Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) reported that the Ministry of Environment expected a warming climate could bring a two-to-four degree increase in temperature and 20% more precipitation by 2050 in our region. The report stated “Rising air and water temperatures are already shortening the ice cover season, exposing water to evaporation for more of the year. It also warned of an increase in extreme weather events.” That was in 2010, three years before the 100 year flood event in 2013.

All need to support GHG emission reduction

So, what can Muskokans do now?  “We should all support initiatives at the provincial or national level to address climate change — costs will be lower if we move sooner,” he predicts. Meantime, the MWC is looking critically on what could happen in Muskoka by 2050.

The Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC) is evaluating scientific and other data on anticipated climate change impacts and potential development pressures to create scenarios of what Muskoka may be like by 2050. Learn more about the Muskoka Community Expectations project >

What you can do, right now: Fill out the Community Expectations Survey (just 5 questions). Click here.

Read the MWC Response to Provincial Draft Discussion Paper on Climate March 2015 (PDF))

Related Articles and References:

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Rest stop in Torrance for cross country HIV/AIDS awareness relay

(July 8 3:10pm TORRANCE) Athletes running in the Mylan Relay for Hope to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS have just arrived for a well-deserved overnight break, camping at Gull Wing Lake Park in Torrance.

Muskokans may have seen the the athletes or the vehicle trailing the three Ontario runners (in photo from left, Delaney, François and Sofia) on this leg of the relay, which started in St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 21.

Runners hit road again Thursday through Muskoka

A joint initiative between the Canadian AIDS Society and Mylan Pharmaceutical, the Relay for Hope campaign is into its 11th week of its cross-country tour, which will includes 36 runners travelling distances of over 8,300 km in support of the cause. To date, the relay runners have covered close to 3,700 km.

They’ll pick up the pace again tomorrow morning, running through Torrance between 8 and 9am as they continue their way westward. Organizers expect the runners taking part to reach Hope, B.C. by mid-October.

To keep tabs on their progress, check out the Hope for Relay web site by clicking here and use hash tag #RelayforHope on Twitter.

Heat is on: Ontario will miss 2020 greenhouse gas target

(July 7, 2015 TORONTO) Ontario’s acting Environmental Commissioner Ellen Schwartzel offered some praise for the provincial government in her 2015 Progress Report yesterday, but also warned the government will find it hard to meet its next target for combatting climate change.

On the eve of the Climate Summit of the Americas, Schwartzel praised Ontario’s ambitious targets for reducing emissions, noting they are in line with those adopted by leading jurisdictions. “Now it has to do the hard part and deliver on its commitment.”

The acting Environmental Commissioner today released “Feeling the Heat: 2015 Annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report”, the latest in the Commissioner’s annual reports on the issue. The 2015 report points out that the government will miss its 2020 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions if it doesn’t expand and act on its policies.

Figure 1: Ontario greenhouse gas emissions trends and targets (1990-2013)

“Unless the government takes more aggressive action” said Schwartzel, “particularly in the transportation and building sectors, it will not be able to meet its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 19 megatonnes by 2020. This would be roughly equivalent to the reductions it achieved with the closure of the province’s coal-fired electricity plants.”

Feeling the Heat singles out the transportation sector as the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario. “The government can rightly point to its success in closing the coal-fired plants” said Schwartzel, “but we need a more ambitious suite of actions to get us to our 2020 target, focused especially on reducing emissions from cars and trucks. And each time a new high-rise tower goes up, we should be reminded that buildings account for the next biggest increase in megatonnes of CO2.”

Greenhouse Gas emissionsSchwartzel acknowledged the government recently announced a number of positive initiatives, especially a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. But she said the cap-and-trade program will likely focus on large industrial emitters, and this will not be enough to fill the near-term gap.

“Climate change has already begun to cost Ontarians,” said the acting Environmental Commissioner, “and the costs are only expected to grow.” The report notes that extreme weather associated with climate change has already damaged the province’s infrastructure; for example, intense storms and flash floods in recent years have caused costly damage to provincial roadways and commuter rail lines. And future projections for the province point to an even more unpredictable and unstable climate.

“I am heartened by the government’s recent actions” said Schwartzel, “as they indicate a commitment to fighting climate change. Our office looks forward to assessing the government’s new climate change strategy that it promised for the end of 2015.”

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare: $2million donation, land offers won’t impact hospital site selection

(July 6 2:45pm Huntsville) The Huntsville Hospital Foundation today announced a major planned gift that, according to the donors, is conditional on the location of the future, one-site hospital for Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare.

Lake of Bay residents Les and Marijane Dakens want to leave the Huntsville Hospital Foundation a $2million legacy gift (as one of their will beneficiaries) with one stipulation: that any new, centrally located hospital built be no further south of Huntsville than Port Sydney on the Highway 11 corridor, according to a media release from the Dakens (see Related Articles).

“There is no question that this is a very generous gift, and while I can appreciate Les and Marijane Dakens’ desire to advocate for health care in their home community, the MAHC Board cannot be influenced by conditions that compromise the required Ministry process that we must follow for site selection for a new hospital,” says MAHC Board Chair Charles Forret. “CEO Natalie Bubela and I met with Mr. Dakens on July 2 to clarify the process we must follow for site selection in hopes he would remove the condition. That has failed to materialize. In April 2015 we received an offer of land from the Town of Bracebridge for one hospital that we also could not consider prior to the formal site selection process.”

“It is the responsibility of the Foundation to manage their donation protocols,” adds Forret. “As Chair of the MAHC Board, I am pleased that the Dakens support the Board’s decision, however the conditions of the planned gift – perceived or otherwise – will undermine the trust and confidence I believe the MAHC Board has earned in our communities. We, the Board, have a responsibility to pursue a site that is the most accessible to all those we serve.”

In May 2015, the MAHC Board of Directors unanimously voted to select one hospital as the best model to provide safe, high quality health care that is sustainable for future generations in the year 2030 and beyond.

In making this decision and acknowledging the importance of access and travel times, the MAHC Board committed to developing a single site that is centrally located to provide the highest degree of accessibility to the population serviced by MAHC.

MAHC hopes to receive Ministry approval of the preferred one-site model for 2030 and beyond by the New Year. The MAHC Board will then begin the site selection process, a process that could take up to 12 months and will involve internal stakeholders, community members and Foundation representation. The site selection process will involve criteria that have not yet been developed that ensure a rigorous, structured selection process. The Board is committed to following an open and competitive process that is accountable and transparent, and follows Broader Public Sector Guidelines.

Related Articles:

July 6, 2015, Huntsville Forester: Dakens Family gifts Huntsville Hospital $2million

SantaFest is coming to town July 25

(July 3, Bracebridge) Santa Claus has been spreading goodwill from his summer residence at Bracebridge’s Santa’s Village for 60 years. It’s a milestone anniversary, and the community of Bracebridge has decided to celebrate by spreading some goodwill of its own at the inaugural summer SantaFest on Saturday, July 25 (a companion of sorts to the long-running winter SantaFest at Santa’s Village every December).

SantaFest is a party to honour the Jolly Elf that has put the community on the map and showcase what’s magical about Bracebridge, located on the 45th Parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole.  

“Bracebridge has always been closely associated with Santa’s Village, and I felt the community needed to celebrate their 60th anniversary in style. We’ve been successful in gathering a bunch of like-minded individuals from the community to work on our SantaFest committee for what we hope will become an annual event,” enthuses Bruce Kruger, Town Crier and SantaFest Committee Chairperson.

A summer Santa Claus Parade

Santa's Village
MP Tony Clement shares a ho ho ho with Santa

The Committee — in partnership with Santa’s Village — plans a fun event for all ages that captures the spirit of Christmas even as the sun shines down upon Muskoka. Held in downtown Bracebridge from 10am to 5pm, SantaFest is a street fair that will include vendors, children’s entertainers such as Ronno and Johnny Toronto, gingerbread decorating, buskers, face painting, and a host of other activities ideal for the young and young-at-heart. The highlight of the day will be a special 60th anniversary parade, beginning at noon, to pay tribute to the history of Santa’s Village.

Samta's VIllage
Bracebridge Mayor Graydon Smith, MP Tony Clement, Councillor Rick Maloney, Santa’s Village President P.D. Murphy and Santa at zipline unveiling

The party doesn’t end at 5pm on the 25th, though. Instead, the festivities carry over to Santa’s Village on Sunday, July 26, where admissions will be buy one and get one free. Guests to the Village will enjoy a number of new attractions for the 2015 season, including a children’s aerial adventure park on Elves Island, wherein children as young as three traverse Christmas themed obstacles along a wire-rope constructed course, and several additions to Muskoka Zip Lines & Aerial Park, such as a jump tower and new zip lines.

“We were delighted to have been approached to support the inaugural SantaFest event this summer. The community has come together to celebrate all things “Santa”, and we are very appreciative of the tremendous support the residents of Bracebridge have shown”, declared Jamie Hopkins, General Manager of Santa’s Village
Fuel up on the eggnog beforehand, because SantaFest promises to be a weekend full of fun.  

For more information on SantaFest please visit