Mayor seeks court judgement against Nishikawa

The Mayor of Muskoka Lakes claims a member of his council has breached the municipal Conflict of Interest Act and he’s now seeking a court judgement in the matter.

Muskoka News Watch has obtained papers filed at the Bracebridge courthouse which show Mayor Don Furniss has launched a civil proceeding against Councillor Ruth Nishikawa.

According to the Mayor’s affidavit, Nishikawa’s conduct at a September 16th council meeting during council discussions about whether she should pay costs after being found guilty of defaming former councillor Ron Brent, was in conflict with Section 5 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

The affidavit, filed by MacDonald Law on Friday, reads, in part: “Prior to consideration of the resolution on September 16, 2016, the Respondent was cautioned by the Clerk of the Township of Muskoka Lakes Cheryl Mortimer that she should consider whether or not she had a conflict of interest. The Respondent refused to declare a conflict of interest and took part in the discussion with respect to the resolution (in breach of section 5 (1) (b)). She continued to sit at the council table, but abstained from voting. By abstaining, by operation of the rules of Council, her vote was recorded as a “No” vote, such that abstaining deliberately constituted a “No” vote, contrary to section 5 (1) (b) and (c).”

The matter is slated to be heard in the Superior Court of Justice on December 12th.

Related Links: 

Breaking News: Muskoka District Councillor found guilty of defamation

Fellow councilors order Nishikawa to pay part of defamation judgment


53 yr old Bala man facing slew of charges including possession of stolen property

(GRAVENHURST, ON) – On Thursday, October 13th just before 2am a Bracebridge OPP officer was conducting general patrol in Gravenhurst when he became concerned about the driving behaviour of a vehicle that was hauling a trailer on Muskoka Road North.

The officer conducted a traffic stop on Muskoka Road North and ultimately the truck stopped crossing both lanes of the road.

As a result of the investigation it was determined the attached trailer had been stolen from a business in Barrie, as were some of the items inside the trailer.

The driver of the vehicle, 53 year-old David Hutchinson of Bala was arrested and charged with the following offenses:

Driving While Ability was Impaired by Drugs
Possession of Schedule II substance
Possession of Schedule I substance
Two counts of Possession of Property Obtained by Crime
Failing to Surrender Licence
Fail to Surrender Permit for Trailer
Use Plate Not Authorized for Vehicle

The accused will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on November 15th.

Sunshine in Bala for 32nd annual Cranberry Festival

Crowds have flocked to Bala this weekend for the ever popular annual Cranberry festival.

From cranberry crepes to boutique clothing and tours of the storied cranberry marshes, people from all over the province have had a fun filled time so far at this year’s festival, despite Sunday’s rain.

Check out our pics gallery (below) which have been updated throughout the weekend. (photos via Muskoka News Watch)

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Bala Legion helping homeless veterans with $2,000 donation

At the recent Ontario regional convention of the Royal Canadian Legion, members of Bala Legion Branch 424, President Royce Jarick, Ross Smith, Greig Foord and Fred Orchard presented a $2,000 donation in support of Operation: Leave the Streets Behind.

This initiative is a Royal Canadian Legion program whose mission is “To ensure that every veteran who is homeless or near homeless finds the help they need to leave the streets behind.”

Through this program, homeless veterans receive rental assistance and help to ensure they have suitable and stable housing as well as medical assistance in the form of dental and vision assistance.

To learn more about Operation: Leave the Streets Behind, please visit

Membership Chair Dennis Mills says thanks for supporting Bala Branch 424 during its 70th Anniversary Concert Series. “With your help, your Bala Legion is able to support some of the most vulnerable people in our community — homeless veterans who have already given us all so much,” he said.

District construction on Moon River bridges in Bala to last until Spring

The North and South Moon River Bridges in Bala have been scheduled for rehabilitation to prevent further deterioration, extending the serviceable life of the infrastructure.

The rehabilitation will occur simultaneously on both the North and South bridges. Construction will commence on Monday, September 6th and will continue until Spring 2017.

There will be no full road closures during this time, however there will be single lane closures at times with flagging personnel.

No construction during Thanksgiving or Cranberry Festival

Both North and South bridge locations will be fully open (2 lanes) during the Bala Cranberry Festival and throughout the Thanksgiving weekend to accommodate increased traffic and reduce delays.

The District Municipality of Muskoka would like to thank all those affected for their patience while these necessary bridge improvements are completed.

Progress updates and additional information will be available throughout the project on our website: or follow us on Twitter: @districtmuskoka or @muskokarecycles.

Muskoka locations streaming the Tragically Hip farewell concert

The Tragically Hip Live from Kingston concert is being streamed at several locations throughout Muskoka and surrounding areas this evening. The concert airs at 8:30pm but people should arrive earlier to get a good spot.

Here’s the list of locations that will be streaming the concert:

Bracebridge at Annie Williams Park
Huntsville’s River Mill Park
The Huntsville Legion
800 Degrees in Orillia – 99 Mississauga Street
The Stockey Centre in Parry Sound
The Muskoka Drive In – Gravenhurst
Sawdust City Brewing Co – Gravenhurst

*A Tribute to the Tragically Hip is also happening at Clear Lake Resort in Torrance near Bala between 4pm and midnight which includes live bands, food and then the airing of the Hip concert on an outdoor movie screen. All proceeds to local charities. Free shuttle ride home. Tickets are available at PIE Muskoka

Celebrating 30 Years of Cranberry Festival Fun in Bala

The Bala Cranberry Festival has the hip waders ready for marsh pictures! 30th Annual Festival kicks of Friday, October 17

Submitted Release October 13, 2014: The 30th Annual Bala Cranberry Festival is inviting families and friends everywhere to come and experience three, fun-filled days on October 17, 18 and 19. Cranberry Festival is  Always The Weekend After Thanksgiving.

The festival kicks off on the Friday and Saturday at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and falls into Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Enjoy Muskoka’s fall colours during it’s cranberry season.

“All kinds of great new vendors and attractions for the 30th Edition of the Festival. THIS is the year to attend, you’ll be berry glad you did” says Melissa Whittle, Event Coordinator.

A highlight of the festival is always the cranberry vendors who gather to showcase their local products and recipes. This year a new activity added, that has been ‘ripping’ across the waters, is the Ontario Watercross Racing where snowmobiles race around the lake. The festival also includes the famous cranberry marsh tours, hands-on exotics, pig races, trackless train trolley, photo booth, face painting, balloon twisting, an interactive animal zone, and much more. In fact, the Dunk Tank on Bala Falls Road has invited all the local electoral candidates to participate as well as a few other local celebrities.

On Saturday night, guest 19 and older can enjoy a live show from The Stampeders at The Kee To Bala. With the purchase of the festival’s souvenir button the concert tickets can be bought for $20.00 per guest.

A button souvenir fee of $8.00 per person is required for participation in festival activities and attractions. The button can be purchased the day of at various button booths or prior to the date at locations listed on the event website. Children 12 years old and under are FREE.

Visit for a full list of events and more information about the 30th Bala Cranberry Festival. Discover the ‘Friends of the Festival’ accommodations and the many Cranberry Festival packages available.

Visitors are welcome to email or call the Bala Cranberry Festival at 705-762-1564 with any questions.

“The Bala Cranberry Festival gives the community of Bala, and surrounding areas, the opportunity to extend the tourist season and improves the quality of life in our community by providing financial assistance to organizations and individuals in need.”

Municipal Election: Muskoka Lakes Ward A Candidates for District Council; One to be elected

Knight and Nishikawa seek single District Council position for Muskoka Lakes Ward A

Muskoka News Watch requested self-written, 450-word submissions along with a photo that would not be edited. Only one of the two candidates provided a submission. We thank all candidates who took time to provide information for voters in Ward A. As with all candidate information, MNW presents the candidates in alphabetical order. Ward A voters can only vote for one of these two candidates.

GREG KNIGHT: Like many of us who have made Muskoka home, I fell in love with Muskoka as a child.

Greg Knight, Ward A District Council
Greg Knight

I completed an undergraduate degree in Geography, a law degree at Osgoode Hall, and a Schulich M.B.A. before founding a development company focused on socially and environmentally responsible development projects throughout central Ontario.

During the last municipal term, I also served as a member of the District of Muskoka Attainable Housing Advisory Table.

As a developer and a volunteer, I have worked closely with several municipalities to create award winning development plans to achieve environmental conservation, heritage preservation and affordable housing initiatives. Exposure to many different Councils and senior staff has provided considerable experience that I look forward to bringing to Council.

I value long term visioning at the municipal level. Environmental conservation must be a focus of our local government. Muskoka’s natural environment is what we all love and cherish. It’s why we’ve put down roots here and why our children follow in our footsteps.

Environmental conservation is good for business.   Muskoka’s natural heritage is what draws visitors, new residents, and cottagers here. It’s what defines our brand and is what drives local investment.

Finally, environmental conservation is imperative to ensuring future water quality and a healthy ecosystem. It is our only means of ensuring we will leave our grandchildren the same stable environment our grandparents enjoyed.

We must create a friendly atmosphere that supports local businesses and the year round population. It is the restaurants, arts, culture, retail, recreation and personal service shops located here that complete the traditional Muskoka experience…all without eroding the natural heritage on our lakes.

In order to maintain and encourage vibrant towns, we must support the development of appropriate and attainable housing to create growth and foster a stronger sense of pride within our communities.

We must endeavor to implement these initiatives with a renewed, higher standard of governance, respecting township’s professional staff to implement policy in a responsible and cost effective manner while evaluating further efficiencies within our two tier municipal government system.

Finally, as is the case with the Bala Falls, we must have the courage to recognize when our ability to implement an environmental conservation policy is limited by matters beyond our immediate control. We must work collaboratively and be willing to negotiate for the benefit of our citizens.

As an experienced affordable housing developer, lawyer, and local small businessperson, I have the skills and knowledge necessary to help improve our community, particularly as it applies to water quality, stewardship, conservation, good governance, and fair taxation. I ask for your support as the new Muskoka Lakes Ward A District Councillor.

Website:  Email: Tel: 705-706-3199

Greg Knight, Candidate, Ward A District Council

RUTH NISHIKAWA: No response.

Note: Previously, Nishikawa has informed she will not conduct business by phone or by email.

Muskoka Lakes Mayor accuses Oakville of secretly funding Bala Falls hydro plant; Oakville says no

Charges Oakville considers an “unacceptable hydro plant” an acceptable Oakville investment’;  and begs province to “not put lives at risk” in letter to Premier and MP.

Posted Feb. 14, 3.15pm: Muskoka Lakes Mayor Alice Murphy has again tried to drag the Town of Oakville into ongoing controversy surrounding a proposed hydro plant at the north Bala Falls. In a letter written on Township of Muskoka Lakes letterhead and distributed via Twitter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and federal Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, Murphy claimed Township had learned that Oakville may be the silent financial backer of the hydro project. She proceeds to write that “As we all know, a gas plant was politically unacceptable in Oakville but an unacceptable hydro plant in Muskoka is apparently supported as an Oakville investment.”

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton was quick to respond to Muskoka News Watch (MNW) inquiries with copies of his own correspondence to the Premier and MP Raitt on Monday, in which he states emphatically,

“With respect to the reference to the Town of Oakville in the 5th paragraph of this letter (Murphy’s letter), please be advised that the Town of Oakville is not “…the silent financial backer of this project.”

Meantime, MNW was polling Township Councillors on how aware they were of the letter and its allegations. Four Councillors – Ruth Nishikawa, Phil Harding, Donelda Kruckel and Allen Edwards — say they had been advised of the letter. Nishikawa and Kruckel said it had been discussed at council at a ‘past meeting’ and Kruckel said she had been surprised to learn that Oakville was involved. Harding responded he was “advised that the Mayor was writing a letter. The general contents were discussed; the specifics were not in question.” Harding adds the letter has his full support as a Councillor concerned about navigation on our waterways. He said he was not aware of the Twitter post. A question to the Township Chief Administrative Officer requesting clarification about which meeting date the discussion about the letter had occurred went unanswered.

Council split on purported Council discussion

It was a completely different story about whether Council knew about the letter from Councillors Don Furniss, Jean-Ann Baranik and Gault McTaggart. They say they never saw the letter and it was not discussed in Council (Brad Burgess and Ron Brent are on holidays and could not be reached for comment).

Furniss was especially surprised by the contents of the letter as the Oakville Mayor had stated previously and publicly that he does not want to be involved as an investor in a green energy project viewed as a hostile project. Furniss adds he’s “seen nothing or heard anything factual that shows that Oakville has become an investor in the Bala Falls small hydro project.”

(In October 2013 in a Toronto Star article, Mayor Burton spoke about how he offered to Murphy to consider investment in the project to work out a solution but she was not interested. He stated in the article that Oakville was not interested in pursuing the project after speaking with Murphy, who was also quoted in the article. Read Bala hydro project roils Muskoka and Oakville Mayors.)

“I can tell you that if you read the minutes of the meetings, I don’t see anything in there that shows that this letter was discussed,” continues Furniss. “My position and several other councillors’ positions with the Mayor is that if she is sending letters on Township stationary under the Mayor’s name to higher levels of government that those should be reviewed by Council before they are sent,” says Furniss. “She doesn’t agree with that but you can see what happens when she sends them: they are riddled with errors.”

Furniss continues: “This isn’t the first time she’s sent a letter and in the past she’s been called on it by other councillors. She feels she can send whatever she wants, whenever she wants, on Township letterhead. I have a real problem with that. Certainly I don’t have the ability to get township letter head to send letters out.”

Furthermore he says the Mayor’s letter contains information that is completely wrong. “The Mayor’s claim that the project’s final operating footprint is 16 times larger than the original hydro plant on the site is absolutely false. Where does she get this balderdash?” Furniss warns the Mayor’s ongoing letter campaigns will only make things worse with the province. “If the Mayor continues to ignore requests of Council to have opportunity to review and comment on letters of policy to higher levels of government, it could get to the point, in my opinion, where the Township has become a leper in the eyes of the province.”

Councillor McTaggart agrees with Furniss’ concerns and emailed this response:

I do not approve of the letter for several reasons:

a- as it was sent on TML letterhead “office of the mayor”and signed as “mayor” it has the appearance of being the thoughts and position of the township and council. Without council agreement and resolution It should have been sent on Alice’s personal stationary and signed without the position of mayor.

b- the reference to Oakville is misleading. Oakville has indicated that they are not an investor, and even if they were, what right would TML have to prevent them from investing?

c- misleading errors! The proposed facility will not be 16 times the footprint of the previous power facility. I believe that the power generated will be about that multiple of the original.

This is not the first time that a letter has been sent to senior government members without discussion and review by council, in spite of requests of councillors to see and review letters that will be sent to senior government representatives.”

References (please click on images to view in larger size – and clear type): Below left is the Tweet issued by the Mayor which also contained her letter to the Premier and MP Raitt. The Tweet from the Mayor complains that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources is now signing off on matters of federal jurisdiction. Below the Tweet is a copy of the letter in which she implies Oakville is backing the hydro project, followed by Oakville Mayor Rob Burton’s response to Muskoka News Watch and his letter to Premier Wynne as a result of MNW asking for his reaction to the Murphy letter.

Related Articles:

Dear MNW Subscribers, Some of you have complained Murphy’s letter to the Premier and Lisa Raitt is too hard to read. You’re right. It is, as it is only a picture of what Murphy displayed online. If you want to explore the letter further — and Councillors’ responses to it, click here to read a new sidebar article published February 16 entitled Who is Zooming Who, a Critical Look

Mayor tweetMayor Letter Feb 7 2014

Burton EmailEmail to Premier from Mayor Burton following MNW ask for reaction.

Oakville Mayor, Rob Burton, Muskoka Lakes Mayor accuses Oakville

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Feature Picture: Murphy turning back on cameras while trying to halt test drilling at proposed Bala hydro project site, June 2013.