Women of Distinction Awards handed out in Huntsville

The women of distinction who helped put Muskoka on the map in 2016 through their tireless outstanding achievements have been honoured.

YWCA Muskoka’s 15th Annual Women of Distinction Awards Gala was attended by 185 people at the Mark O’Meara Grandview in Huntsville by Fairy Lake.

YWCA’s Women of Distinction is recognized nationally as one of Canada’s most prestigious awards for women.

The awards honour women whose outstanding achievements contribute to the well-being and future of Muskoka.

Peers, friends and family nominated 12 women this year.

2016 Women of Distinction Awards were presented to the following exceptional women of Muskoka:

Young Woman of Distinction – Alissa Ahsome
 Arts, Culture and Creative Energy – Penny Varney
Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Brenda Rhodes Community Development and Social Activism – Michelle Ainsworth Health, Sports and Wellness – Jill Dunford
 Mentorship – Alison Brownlee
Lifetime Achievement – Arleigh Luckett

Special tributes were made to each of the 12 extraordinary women nominees including a chant
shared by 9 girls from YWCA Girlz Unplugged summer programs.

One of the evening’s points of interest was the key note address given by Marcy Hill, a longtime facilitator for Girlz Unplugged, Girlz Choice, Quest and YWCA women’s programs.

This event celebrates all women and each nominee is considered a valuable asset to the Muskoka community. They inspire and energize the attendees of the gala each year.

As Wendie Donabie, a 2014 Award recipient has said, “Receiving this honour encouraged me to keep going even those days when the creative well seems to have run dry. It’s at those times I look in the mirror award we each received and say, ‘You just need to dig a little deeper. It’s there waiting for you’”.

Although a final amount is not yet determined, organizers of the event estimate that close to $23,500 was raised and will be used to sustain programs for women and girls across Muskoka.

YWCA Muskoka champions positive change for women and girls. YWCA Muskoka envisions all women and girls thriving in a safe community of possibility.

For more information on how you can get involved, please contact office@ywcamuskoka.com or call 705-645-9827.

OPP say missing Huntsville teen has been found

(HUNTSVILLE, ON)- Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), who were seeking the public’s assistance in locating a missing youth, 14 yr old Jasmine Southwind, report that she has been located.

Huntsville OPP would like thank the media and the public’s assistance in helping to locate her.

Huntsville OPP searching for missing 14 year old girl

Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is seeking the public’s assistance in locating a missing youth from Huntsville.

Jasmine Southwind a 14 year-old was reported missing on Thursday from her residence in Huntsville.

Jasmine is described as a white female, 5’8”, 160 lbs, green eyes and long blonde hair. Jasmine is known to frequent South River, or could be in the Huntsville or Barrie area.

Anyone with any information or may know the whereabouts of this missing person is asked to contact Huntsville OPP or Crime Stoppers.

Vehicle crash claims the life of well known community activist

Police say they’re investigating after a Hyundai Sonata left Hwy 11 Monday evening and crashed into a rockcut in Huntsville, claiming the life of a well known community activist.

It happened just after 8pm – Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), along with Huntsville Fire and Muskoka EMS were dispatched to the crash.

Police say the Hyundai Sonata had left the road and struck a rock cut northbound north of Stephenson Road #1 in the town of Huntsville.

The deceased, according to a post on the page ‘Let’s make Bracebridge Great Again’ was the page’s co creator Steve Hern.

Police say the male driver was the only occupant of the vehicle and was taken to a local hospital with undetermined injuries at the time.

The investigation is continuing.

(Photo via Steve Hern’s FB Page)


MAHC board appoints new directors

Muskoka Algonquin Healthcare is pleased to introduce three new Directors, appointed earlier this month to the Board of Directors following a recruitment drive this summer.

Rhonda Lawson joins the Board for a one-year term, bringing a wealth of board experience from for-profit and not-for-profit corporations. Ms. Lawson is a corporate executive who currently heads up her own human resources consulting firm.

Michael Walters has also been appointed to a one-year term as a board director, having served as a community member on the board’s Strategic Planning Committee last year. Mr. Walters is the Executive Director for the Georgian Bay Treatment Centre and has an extensive background in mental health.

Moreen Miller joins the Board for a three-year term with professional experience from the aggregate sector. She has also served on advisory boards for mining and aggregate, as well as land and watershed stewardship.

In addition, two new community members have been appointed to standing board committees. MAHC is pleased to welcome Linda Walsh and Adam Hutton to their community member role, joining Betsy Rothwell, Gordon Horne and Richard Augustine.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, I am excited to welcome these new members who bring the Board to our full complement,” says Board Chair Evelyn Brown. “We have a dedicated group of talented volunteers with diverse skills and I am looking forward to working with them.”

The Board of Directors is a 17-member skills-based, volunteer body with 12 elected directors. The Board plays a key leadership role in setting policies and visioning for the hospital and provides oversight of the delivery of health care in the communities that we serve. Learn more about the Board of Directors on our website.

Huntsville embarks on dark sky friendly info campaign

By Matt Sitler

The Town of Huntsville is embarking on a dark sky-friendly outdoor lighting information campaign to encourage residents to minimize light pollution in and around Huntsville.

The information campaign is to accompany the Outdoor Lighting By-law, a new by-law passed by Town Council in January 2016, requiring outdoor lighting fixtures to be dark sky-friendly.

“When we minimize light pollution, we are protecting the natural environment and maintaining a view of the night stars that most tourists rarely see,” said Councillor Bob Stone, one of the proponents of dark sky-friendly outdoor lighting.

Stone notes that there can be some misunderstanding about what dark sky-friendly outdoor lighting entails.

“We are not asking anyone to get rid of their outdoor lighting; we’re simply asking them to make sure the light is directed where it is intended and nowhere else,” he said, adding, “In the vast majority of cases, your lighting can achieve the purpose for which it was intended and still be dark sky-friendly and in compliance with the bylaw.”

All new fixtures are required to comply with the Outdoor Lighting By-law immediately. Residents have until January 2026 to bring existing fixtures into compliance.

“Ten years is a long time, and we did that on purpose,” Stone notes. “We’re hoping that as residents and businesses come to understand that they can be safe, secure, and well-lit – and still be dark sky-friendly – we hope everyone will want to comply. But that may take some time.”

For information about dark sky-friendly Outdoor Lighting and how to bring your outdoor lighting into compliance with the new by-law while still achieving your outdoor lighting goals, visit the Town’s Outdoor Lighting page.

$12,000 damage in Lake of Bays garage fire

The Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department was called to a reported fire in a garage on Buck Island Rd. in the Township of Lake of Bays shortly after 1pm today.

Upon arrival, crews encountered light smoke coming from the structure and were able to quickly extinguish the fire inside.

The fire had spread into the roof area and crews remain on scene checking for any extension of fire.

A dehumidifier is being looked at as a cause and damage is estimated at $12,000.

There were no injuries reported.

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

UPDATE: Innapropriate touching suspect arrested in Huntsville

UPDATE: On Friday August 19th, the Muskoka Crime Unit arrested the male in relation to the assault mentioned in the OPP release below. 40 yr old Adam Nadrofsky of Huntsville has since been charged with Sexual Assault under the Criminal Code of Canada. He will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Huntsville on September 21st to answer to his charges.

Huntsville OPP and Muskoka Crime Unit continue to investigate the incident and ask that if anyone has any information to contact Huntsville OPP or Crime Stoppers.

PRIOR: On Wednesday just at around 9:40pm, a female was riding her bicycle in the area of Main St. W. and Ferguson Rd. in the town of Huntsville and was approached by a male in a business parking lot in that area.

Police say the male touched the female inappropriately, and then he left the area in his vehicle toward the town centre.

Huntsville Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is looking for any witnesses that may have been in the area at the time. Suspect is described as a male, white in his 30’s with red hair and a neatly trimmed beard, 5’8” to 5’10” in height, medium build with a strong odour of cologne.

He was last seen wearing a dark baseball cap, and driving a silver/grey smaller pick-up truck.

Huntsville Crime Unit is assisting with the investigation. Anyone with any information is asked to contact Huntsville OPP or Crime Stoppers.

Fire causes $250,000 in damages to Huntsville laundry facility

Extensive damage to a Huntsville laundry facility early this morning after flames broke out around 1am.

The Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Department responded to the alarm call on Main St. East and upon arrival, crews encountered light smoke inside a commercial occupancy and discovered a working fire in the laundry facility located below.

Nearby residential occupancies were evacuated and crews were able to quickly extinguish the fire.

Some other areas of the building suffered some smoke damage and occupants in 2 residential units were not able to return to their homes.

No injuries were reported and damage is estimated at $250,000 to the laundry facility.

The cause is still under investigation.

Federal Tourism Minister to visit Huntsville on Sunday

Muskoka News Watch has learned that Canada’s Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Hon. Bardish Chagger will be visiting Muskoka on Sunday.

The reception will host Chagger in Huntsville at the Algonquin Theatre Sunday evening.

“It is an honour to have Minister Chagger visiting us here in Parry Sound-Muskoka,” said PSM Federal Liberal Association President Trisha Cowie. “Given the importance that both tourism and small business have in this area, her comments are sure to resonate here.”

Chagger was elected as Waterloo’s MP on October 19th, 2015 and was named Minister by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on November 4th.

The reception is to take place between 6 and 8pm.

All are welcome to attend, but you are asked to RSVP with the local Liberal Riding Association via email at dhudson@vianet.ca or by calling 705 645 6851 for directions to the location.

Severe thunderstorm warning ended for Muskoka

The Severe Thunderstorm Warning has ended for Muskoka.

PRIOR: *As of 8:18 PM EDT Friday 08 July 2016

A severe thunderstorm warning in effect for:


At 6:18 p.m. EDT, Environment Canada meteorologists started tracking a severe thunderstorm capable of producing very strong wind gusts, nickel to ping pong ball size hail and heavy rain.

Radar shows several storms in the regions are producing hail 2 to 4 centimetres in diameter. Wind gusts to 90 kilometres per hour and heavy downpours are likely with these storms.

Take cover immediately, if threatening weather approaches. Remember, severe thunderstorms can produce tornadoes. Lightning kills and injures Canadians every year. Remember, when thunder roars, go indoors!

Severe thunderstorm warnings are issued when imminent or occurring thunderstorms are likely to produce or are producing one or more of the following: large hail, damaging winds, torrential rainfall.

The Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management recommends that you take cover immediately if threatening weather approaches.

Please continue to monitor alerts and forecasts issued by Environment Canada. To report severe weather, send an email to storm.ontario@ec.gc.ca or tweet reports to #ONStorm. (Photo of funnel cloud forming over Minnett by Norah Fountain)

For more information:

Portion of Stephenson Road 1 East to remain closed until end of September

The Towns of Huntsville and Bracebridge have retained All Services Inc. to finish the replacement of the Stephenson Road No. 1 Bridge that crosses the Muskoka River North Branch between River Valley Drive and Balsam Chutes Road.

Construction on the bridge replacement started in late June and is scheduled to be finished at the end of September 2016.

Stephenson Road No. 1 East between River Valley Drive and Balsam Chutes Road will be fully closed to vehicles and pedestrians from July 4th to the end of September 2016 during the bridge replacement.

D.M. Wills Associates Ltd. will administer the contract for the bridge replacement on behalf of the Town of Bracebridge.

The Town apologizes for the inconvenience and thanks the public for its cooperation.

Mom and daughter team tackle Muskoka novel marathon

A local mother-daughter duo are the latest entrants in the upcoming Muskoka Novel Marathon.

Bracebridge lawyer Cindy Watson and her daughter, Trent University student Jade Wilton-Watson, are also both writers – Adventuresome writers… which is why they both hit the “Register” button in the nick of time to participate in the Muskoka Novel Marathon.

This coming weekend, July 8-11, they and thirty-eight other writers will sit down to produce as long and as excellent a piece of writing as they can in 72 hours, competing for prizes which include having their manuscript bypass the slushpile to be seen by an editor or a literary agent.

Raising $$$ for literacy services through marathon

The writers will also raise money for YMCA Literacy Services in Huntsville. Last year they amassed $32,000.

“I was always an avid reader and writer,” says Cindy. “I remember writing poems even as a very young child, and embarrassing stories about a young girl in an orphanage, all riddled with overuse of adjectives and melodrama.” But fiction gave way to the necessities of her legal career, at least until her children were old enough for the stories she wrote them. “I haven’t looked back since.”

“I’ve been writing ever since I can remember,” says Jade, 19. “I started with short stories. There was always a hint of magic to it, either a witch or a sorcerer. As I grew up, and started to read Young Adult books, I started to write contemporary YA.”

Cindy had heard of the Marathon years ago, and then Jade caught wind of it at a writer’s conference last year, after the registration deadline for the 2015 Marathon was past. “I mentioned it to Jade this year, sort of threw it out off the cuff,” says Cindy. “She was immediately into it, which made me think ‘let’s go for it!’”

Mother and daughter plan to sit together, and were considering collaboration, but have decided to each do her own thing. Whether they will compete against each other by entering manuscripts in the same category, they haven’t yet decided. “I think of the Marathon less as a competition and more as an opportunity to get uninterrupted hours getting to know your characters, and guiding them through a journey,” Jade notes.

Both confess to being both excited and nervous.

“I participate in NaNoWriMo every year and thought that this was the next challenge I was ready to face,” says Jade. “I can write a novel in a month, but can I write one during a weekend? I sure hope so.”

Cindy enthuses: “I love that Jade and I share this passion. I particularly love that we’re sharing this exciting rookie experience together for the first time. There’s something magical about firsts, and sharing that magic with her will be a lifelong memory.”

To sponsor Cindy Watson, Jade Wilton-Watson or other Novel Marathon writers, visit www.muskokanovelmarathon.com <http://www.muskokanovelmarathon.com> .

Huntsville man charged with cocaine trafficking

A Huntsville man is facing numerous charges including one of possessing cocaine for the purpose of trafficking.

On Monday, police say they observed activity in a parking lot on Howland Drive in the town of Huntsville which led to the arrest of 62 yr old Gordon Markle.

As a result of their investigation and a subsequent search warrant of his residence, the accused now faces several charges including:

Possession of a Schedule I Substance for the Purpose of Trafficking – Cocaine – Controlled Drug and Substances Act
Possession of Property Obtained by Crime over $5000.00 – Criminal Code of Canada
Possession of a Schedule I Substances for the Purpose of Trafficking – Other Drugs x2 – Controlled Drug and Substances Act
Possession of a Schedule II Substance – Cannabis Marihuana – Under 30 grams – Controlled Drug and Substances Act

The arrest led to the seizure of over $6,500.00 in drugs, and almost $5,500.00 in property.

The accused was held for a bail hearing and will appear in the Ontario Court of Justice in Bracebridge on July 4th to answer to his charges.

Woman dies following collision on Brunel Road in Huntsville

Update March 31, 2016: According to the OPP, no charges will be laid after an investigation into the death of a pedestrian who was hit by a car and died from her injuries earlier this month in Huntsville.

Woman dies following collision on Brunel Road in Huntsville

Original post March 11, 2016: Just before 7pm on Thursday March 10th, the OPP and Muskoka EMS were notified that a pedestrian had been struck by a vehicle on Brunel Road in Huntsville.

Police have now confirmed that 42 year-old Seungah Kim of Huntsville has succumbed to her injuries.

Police say Brunel Road remained closed for the investigation.

52 year old woman hospitalized after snowmobile crashes into tree

No charges have been laid following a snowmobile collision that sent a 52 year old woman to hospital.

On Friday at 3pm, Huntsville OPP attended the scene where a snowmobile had been travelling on Trail #78 in the area of Hutcheson Road and Limberlost Rd.

The operator lost control and struck a tree.

A 52 year old woman was taken by ambulance to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

No charges were laid against the operator of the snowmobile.


Driver hospitalized after snowmobile goes through ice on Fairy Lake

This morning just before 11am Huntsville OPP along with Muskoka EMS received word that a snowmobile had gone through the ice on Fairy Lake near Scotts Point Road in Huntsville.

Witnesses saw two snow machines out on Fairy Lake and one had gone through the ice. The driver, a 16 year old from Huntsville managed to get himself up on the ice and roll toward the second snowmobiler, who went back and picked him up. He was eventually transported to a local area hospital.

Staff Sergeant John Graham of Huntsville OPP detachment advises “although we have had some colder weather recently, this does not mean that our local lakes are frozen enough to venture out on motorized vehicles. Take a minute to assess the ice conditions before you venture out”.

Staying off the ice altogether is the only sure way to prevent snowmobile tragedies from occurring on our waterways this winter. No ice is safe ice.

Guelph woman hospitalized following snowmobile collision with tree

A snowmobile collision in Huntsville sent a Guelph woman to hospital over the weekend.

On Saturday at 5:48pm OPP attended the scene.

Police say the snowmobile was travelling southbound on Trail D102B in the area of Britannia Road when it struck a rock and then veered into a tree.

A 28-year-old Guelph woman was transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

No charges were laid against the operator of the snowmobile.

In Northern Ontario on Saturday, two people died in a head on snowmobile crash near Searchmont, north of Sault Ste. Marie.

Both drivers, one 59-year-old male from Sault Ste. Marie and a 45-year-old male from Michigan died from their injuries at the scene. No names have been released pending notification of next of kin. The investigation into the crash is continuing.

Man charged following two vehicle collision in Huntsville

A Strong Township man has been charged after a collision sent a woman to hospital in Huntsville.

On Tuesday at 12:15pm, Huntsville OPP responded to the collision, which involved two vehicles in the area of Highway #60 and King William Street in Huntsville.

An eastbound Chevrolet Uplander was rear-ended by a second eastbound vehicle. The female driver of the Uplander received non-life threatening injuries resulting from the collision and was transported to a local hospital.

Robert Stumpf of Strong Township was charged with careless driving section 130 of the Highway Traffic Act.

Mayor rejects Bala Falls conflict of interest charges by Wahta

No pecuniary interest says Huntsville Mayor after Wahta Chief accuses Huntsville and Bracebridge Councillors of putting money ahead of a portage…


(December 30, 1130pm MUSKOKA) The Chief of Wahta First Nation is accusing some Muskoka District Councillors of acting out of greed rather than for the greater good of the District – and one Mayor has already rejected Chief Franks’ charges. Continue reading “Mayor rejects Bala Falls conflict of interest charges by Wahta”

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.

Ontario Votes: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the Parry Sound Muskoka Election Watch

If you look hard, or just take a little time, you can always find something to vote for, if not someone

Commentary by Norah Fountain. Featured photo: All Candidates in Huntsville.

Published June 11, 11:59am: No matter what you think of this Ontario election campaign, all candidates and volunteers and voters deserve credit. For people who are undecided and think they might pass on going to the polls, consider all the people – many of whom are your neighbours who have worked so hard for democracy these past weeks. Voter fatigue is a reality, but surely you can find a nugget of something in someone’s platform that you can agree with so you can cast a vote. Which brings me to this eleventh hour commentary.

I’ve followed this election closely, I’ve heard all the candidates, and what follows is my analysis of the good, the bad, and in one case, the ugly, that I saw or heard since the election was called. The only party and candidate I will not comment on is Green Party of Ontario candidate Matt Richter* because of my personal bias in favour of him. See full disclosure at end of article.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Ontario Votes – Parry Sound-Muskoka

The Bad. The Blame Game. Let’s take the gas plant scandal. After all, those who live in glass houses…One of the best quotes, hands down, at the Huntsville all candidates meeting came from Liberal Dan Waters: “A pox on all of their houses: McGuinty, Horwath and Hudak.” He’s absolutely right. NDP leader Andrea Horwath and PC leader Tim Hudak themselves stood in Oakville and said they would cancel that plant while campaigning in 2011. Blame makes for easy sound bites but I think voters are sick of hearing about past blunders while not hearing solid policy for a better future. That leads to apathy and that’s next.

The Bad. Apathy. And/or Need for Better Communication with Voters? I counted only 89 people at the Huntsville All Candidates meeting, the only such meeting held in Parry Sound-Muskoka. Many people asked me afterward, when’s the next meeting? I think all local media (including MNW) promoted the meeting, but that wasn’t enough. Maybe no amount of communication would have made it better as one wise pundit I know believes such meetings are only worthwhile for the press they might generate.

The Good. Huntsville Lakes of Bays Chamber of Commerce for producing that all candidates meeting. Well done.

The Good. Hunter’s Bay Radio for holding the best debate production I’ve heard in a long time. Hopefully, they can do the same during the municipal election. Many voters also told me they watched the Cogeco All Candidates debate and said it, too, was well produced.

The Bad. Refusing to vote because ‘the parties are all the same’. Surely there is something in someone’s platform that you can like even if you don’t agree with it all?

The bad. Healthcare? Education? Anyone? I found there was little discussion on education and on healthcare other than about cancelling the LHINs (Local Health Integration Networks) and concern for our local hospitals. I can’t recall any policy statements covered well, at least not locally. (The Toronto Star also has a good article, Healthcare, the forgotten issue, suggesting healthcare was not on the radar much across the province either). TVO’s The Agenda did have a roundtable on education Tuesday night.

The Bad. Job creation that starts with cuts. Tim Hudak and the Ontario PC party created turmoil and confusion right at the start with Hudak’s announcement that his party will cut 100,000 jobs (and he also gets bad marks for what appears to be shoddy math skills, particularly for an economist).

Local PC candidate Norm Miller claims that any suggestion that the 100,000 job cuts would include municipal job cuts was ‘fear mongering’ by the other parties. Time will tell if that is true. “Municipalities are not specifically targeted. It’s across the greater civil service and our plan is over four years, mainly through attrition, to reduce the civil service by 100,000,” says Miller.

Note: I could not find one direct quote from Hudak saying jobs at a municipal level would be cut even though a Hudak staffer had said they would in a CBC report.

Quoting that report: “In response to a question from CBC News, a senior Hudak campaign member confirmed Hudak’s plan would include cutting funding to municipalities.”

But the report does not quote Hudak as saying that. So Miller gets a nod from me for supporting and explaining the PC job cut plan with grace under pressure, and for clarifying that “no transfer cuts are planned to the municipalities.” But the job cut plan? Still bad, in my opinion.

The Good. What the Liberals rightfully boasted about, such as no more coal burning and for having the guts to make the Green Energy Act (GEA) reality. No matter how badly it may have been implemented, Ontario has been touted across North America as the leader in renewable energy policy. A former Chair of the Toronto Board of Trade noted, “with the introduction of the Green Energy Act, Ontario will be at the forefront of progress, a dynamic force for change.” No, the Liberals didn’t ‘get it right the first time’. Neither did Obama when introducing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act in the U.S. But there is no doubt that the GEA is the needed step in the right direction. Nobody’s talking climate change much in this election, but the people of Parry Sound-Muskoka care about the environment and our economy depends on its health. Laurels for the Act and darts to the poor implementation, but please, let’s not execute this green Liberal baby and green job creator.

The Liberal Bad. They deserved the knocks they get for poor implementation, communication, and support of programs that start as good ideas. I didn’t hear any Liberals admitting they could have done better during this campaign. They also seemed to fudge on education: there’s still no indication of any overhaul of the way education is funded in the province despite the need to do so and I am leery of promises that they will finally do more for special education – or ensure more funding actually is used for that purpose.

Dan Waters, Liberal Candidate
Dan Waters

The Good. Dan Waters for hanging in there, broken ankle and all. And for always speaking his mind. When an NDP MPP, he spoke for Parry Sound-Muskoka even when it didn’t jive with his party’s direction. As Liberals, he and his wife, Cindy, have worked hard to keep the provincial riding association and conversation about issues going. They really believe in Kathleen Wynne. You may not like their politics or party, but you’ve got to applaud their passion. Oh, and a good for Wynne for promising to move to allow election ballots to be ranked (if she’s elected, of course).

The Bad. The NDP for making this election happen, now. We didn’t need it now, in my opinion, and you’d think whoever runs things for the NDP could have given local ridings more of a ‘be prepared’ pep talk. Yet I think this election is now a critical one. Please, everyone vote. If voter anger combined with apathy causes a huge swing (which has happened before in Ontario), the PCs could have big smiles on their faces late tomorrow night.

The Bad. The NDP offer of an estimated $200 off our hydro bills. Sure, go ahead, consume – we’ll give you money back! I can’t begin to properly dissect the shortsightedness of this offer – and this coming from a person who has a huge hydro bill to deal with this month.

The Good. NDP promise of interest free student loans and the senior caregiver idea gets half a nod. Good idea but I think it should go further. The slightly bad of both of these ideas is I didn’t hear these platform points made at the all candidates meeting or elsewhere, locally.

Clyde Mobbley
Clyde Mobbley

The Good. NDP candidate Clyde Mobbley for writing letters between elections, even though some have criticized him for giving a certain federal MPP too much ‘ink’. While he doesn’t comment much on provincial issues, he stays engaged and deserves kudos for starting conversations in our region. I felt his closing speech at the all aandidates meeting fell flat: mostly ‘vision’ speak without clarity on what the NDP might actually do to help our region.

The Good: Getting our fair share? Back to Miller, he says municipalities Norm Miller - Campaign Vanwill fare better under his government as the PCs would make sure there was a better sharing of the gas tax for municipalities like ours that don’t have transit. Personally, I think it might be a tough sell given the clamoring of urban municipalities, but locally we need and deserve a better share.

The Really Bad: Job cuts affecting schools. The 100,000 job cuts by the PCs will include cuts to jobs in schools – most to non-teaching support staff, anywhere from the PC number of 10,000 (in a 2013 PC plan) to 22,000 according to Kathleen Wynne. (If you want to read my entire piece on the 100,000 job cuts and more of my interview with Norm Miller, see the additional copy at the end of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly list).

The Ugly. Play acting as a female bureaucrat to make a point. Admit the somewhat misinformed rhetoric and sometimes comic relief; I thought Andy Stivrins actually had some good points about ‘police state’ concerns. But when answering a question about WHMIS regulations hurting business (a good starting discussion point about an issue legitimately affecting small and medium sized businesses in our region), Stivrins talked about ‘people in pink hats’ and then assumed a falsetto voice to mimic a woman coming into a business to drive the owner crazy. You lost me at ‘pink hat’, Mr. Stivrins, and made me wonder about your Freedom Party’s position on freedom for women to make a living in the workplace.

The Bad. No mention of how getting Muskoka back into Northern Ontario Heritage Fund was abandoned. I’m surprised it didn’t come up at the all candidates, and I didn’t ask Miller about this when I could have, but I believe Muskoka’s fight for access to funding deserved more attention from our MPP. I believe Miller should have led a much stronger charge to allow Muskoka to take advantage of the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund. Just because a party isn’t in power does not make an MPP powerless. Muskoka, thanks to the efforts of local Mayors and others, can now supposedly take advantage of the Eastern Ontario Development Fund that I bet displeases some people in rural areas around Ottawa and Kingston. Locally, I know people personally who have lost job opportunities because they didn’t live in Parry Sound even though they were only minutes away in Muskoka Lakes.

The Good. Better thinking on electricity. At the all candidates meeting in Huntsville, Miller mentioned importing cheaper electricity from neighbouring provinces. It’s not a new idea, but it’s a good one. According to Paul Norris of the Ontario Waterpower Association, all parties have looked at interties (transmission between provinces) as an economic framework and have all mentioned it on the campaign trail (except for maybe the NDP) and importing electricity is a core plank of the Green platform. It would take government negotiations to import more, says Norris, but it can be done.

The Good. Infrastructure work here. Miller also deserves praise for pushing ahead with his private members’ bill on paving highway shoulders. It may not sound very environmental, but non-paved shoulders in our region are a hazard. I fear for the lives of youth on bikes heading into work, for example. At first, I thought this legislation would not really affect our area, but I was wrong. Hwy 124 now has paved shoulders – and people who travel that route tell me more cyclists are now taking advantage of that change. Miller deserves credit for that.

The BADDEST. Partisan Politics that make debates seem more like football games being fought to the death. Instead of footballs, it’s scandals being tossed around and a lack of individuality that is Orwellian-scary. And, hey, if we want to cut jobs, what about the whips (a tip of the hat to Liberal Waters for raising that during the campaign) and the people in the premier’s office that help feed partisan politics. We need to hear good ideas from all MPPs, all parties, and from all citizens. Just like we have a problem federally thinking that somehow the PMO office has become an ‘elected official’, we have to remember that each MPP is one vote. And government has to work together. Refusal to do so is what got us this election.

More musings, as promised, on the 100,000 job cuts if you really need or want to read more…

Perhaps I asked the wrong questions of Norm Miller about this issue when he graciously gave me a one-on-one interview to talk it over. In doing my research, there was evidence that Hudak couldn’t find enough Ontario public service jobs to cut so the PCs might have to widen it to the broader MUSH (Municipalities, Universities, Schools, Hospital) sector. Yet Hudak had said doctors and nurses and police would be safe.

So there was a lot of talk about where the 100,000 jobs would come from and I bought into some suggestions that even jobs in municipalities could be cut. I took that to mean municipal governments, like our township offices. Putting that aside, if doctors and nurses and police don’t have to worry about being a few of 100,000…

That leaves schools and universities, and there’s no doubt there will be ‘modifications’ as another PC candidate Rob Leone said repeatedly (and chillingly) on TVO’s The Agenda last night. A PC plan released in 2013 promised to cut 10,000 non teaching jobs. Liberal Kathleen Wynne (whom I think could have done a better job pushing for more non teaching support when she was Education Minister) said it’s more like 22,000 education jobs that will get cut by the PCs.

As a former school trustee I fear I know where those cuts will come from. From educational assistants and support workers who work with the students who need help – and the parents of these children– the most should be concerned. Teachers need those support workers as they try and accommodate students who need extra help. And if you think, well, that doesn’t affect me as my child is doing just fine, thank you, recognize that your child is losing out, too, when there’s not enough support for their peers.

Oh, but the cuts will just be those highly paid management jobs at school boards, one voter said to me. Just imagine what those severance packages would look like, I answered back. Savings, really? Not in the short term, anyway.

Are we trading off public sector jobs in favor of promoting private sector positions, I asked Miller. He answered, “It’s not trading off, it’s right sizing government is to get back to a balanced budget and a government we can afford. That’s the reason to reduce the civil service back to 2009 levels.”

As for other jobs that might be lost in Muskoka. Ontario public service jobs are some of the best paying ones around. The PC plan is to “do away with middle management bureaucracy,” says Miller. Perhaps certain board positions might be lost if the PCs cut the LHINs and other bodies and government agencies the PCs would cut.

The constant stressing of attrition and retirement bothers me though: is Miller suggesting the “5-9 percent” he mentions that retire every year are jobs that never needed doing if they are so replaceable? Perhaps there is a gravy train.

True or not, it sounds to me like we’re going to lose jobs in the middle-income sector, and isn’t that where much of our provincial tax revenue comes from? So yes, political rhetoric exploded all over the 100,000 job cut promise, but in my opinion it is not a promise that will meet its goal of balancing budgets. At best, it might seem to create savings in the short term, and I agree with Dan Water’s comment that “when payroll is lost, we all suffer.”

In fact, the announcement that Hudak would cut 100,000 jobs was quickly named the ‘Pink Slip Plan’ by the Liberals who claimed in a press release that Hudak had confirmed in a radio interview (CFRA) that the cuts would include municipal jobs. Some pundits suggested municipal cuts would come by way of cutting transfer payments to municipalities and others, like NDP Clyde Mobbley, demanded Miller show what local jobs would be lost. Yet if you read the media reports carefully, it’s hard to find one showing a direct quote about municipal cuts attributed directly to Hudak. For example, the CBC report attributed it to a Hudak staffer. Here’s what that report said, again:

“In response to a question from CBC News, a senior Hudak campaign member confirmed Hudak’s plan would include cutting funding to municipalities.

“Yes, Mr. Hudak made it clear that we will be reducing spending across the board except in health care. More details on our full fiscal plan will be forthcoming.”

When you think about it, the word, forthcoming, is apt. Because in the real world of politics, campaign promises, be they bad, or good, or ugly, can sometimes turn out to be promises that are impossible to keep. But voters CAN see an action through. They can vote.

*Disclosure: I am a supporter of The Green Party of Ontario and of Parry Sound-Muskoka Green candidate Matt Richter.

Matt Richter
Matt Richter

As a result, you didn’t see a discussion of Matt Richter in this analysis at all. It’s not that I’m ignoring him or the Greens. It’s just that I support him too strongly to be able to comment on his party’s position without a bias: I would cheer him on in ways that could put the Raptors Dance Pak cheerleaders to shame.






Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner visits Huntsville

Green Party leader Mike Schreiner joins Matt Richter in Muskoka

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

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

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

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

Huntsville woman seeks Canadian beauty crown

Nguyen of Huntsville has sights set on being Miss World Canada

Posted March 16, 3pm: Former Huntsville resident and Huntsville High School student Sindy Nguyen wants to wear the crown of Miss World Canada. She will compete against another 39 women across Canada for the title in the pageant in Vancouver this May.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to compete in pageants, but never
thought that I was tall enough, good looking enough, or even “white” enough
to compete,” says Nguyen.

Sindy Nguyen, Huntsville woman competes for Miss World Canada, Miss World Canada Vancouver, Huntsville High School alum, beauty pageant for Muskoka woman, news about Muskoka, Muskoka news watch
Sindy Nguyen of Huntsville, Ontario plans to compete for  Miss World Canada this May. Photo Credit: Hazel Studio Productions

“There were no other Asians competing or representing Canada in the International level. and as I got older, I realized that I now have the opportunity to be a role model for younger girls despite my race, height or background,” she says.

Nguyen graduated from Huntsville High School in 2007. After moving to Toronto for work, she joined the Princess Cruise
Lines as an Assistant Cruise Director.

Everyone can cast vote for “People’s Choice contestant

Nguyen hopes she will get the support of her former community by voting for her as “People’s Choice”. To vote for her and learn more, visit www.TeamSindy.com. She’s also looking for sponsors and they can reach her at: Sindy.Nguyen@Missworldcanada.com


Muskoka Olympian Dara Howell takes Gold in slopestyle

Dara brings home the Gold, Kim Lamarre, Bronze, in slopestyle event: Their wins give Canada even greater lead at Sochi

February 11: 8am: “I think that’s the best run I’ve ever done,” an ecstatic Dara Howell told reporters after her winning slopestyle run in the finals, held 4am this morning. Over a Dara Howell Feb 11hundred people gathered at the Muskoka Ski Club at Hidden Valley Highlands ski area to watch Dara, including many generations and relatives of the Howell family. Dara posted an 88.8 on her first run in the semi finals that started at 1 am and in her final run, she scored at 94.2

What’s Up Muskoka reporter Chris Occhuizzi was there with the emotional crowd. Read his account here in The Toronto Sun

Not only are Muskokans swelling with pride and Canada thrilled to have such a strong lead now in the overall media count, there are many other reasons why Dara’s win is so poignant and resonates across the Canada and the world of freestyle skiing. Sarah Burke of Squamish, B.C. trailblazed the sport of freestyle skiing and fought long and hard to have the event included in the Olympic Winter Games. She was a favourite to win gold at these games but her dream was cut short when she died in 2012 after a training accident in Utah. Skiiers who wanted to honour Burke by wearing Sarah Burke stickers on their helmets were told by the International Olympic Committee that the stickers would not be tolerated as they would be considered a political statement. Burke’s mother, Jan Phelan, was at the Sochi slopestyle site to see Burke’s legacy in action.

In an interview with CBC after today’s win by Dara, Huntsville’s hometown girl spoke about Burke:  “Earlier this week I said I wish a Canadian would win a gold medal, and it would be for Sarah. To be that person, I didn’t expect it and you work so hard for it, it’s truly amazing. I know she would be proud and happy and I just want to keep pushing this sport and pushing myself and doing what I love to do and I know she would honour that.”

Dara Howell has started off an exciting and historic day for women in sport. As well as the first slopestyle event, the first women’s ski jump competition also takes place in Sochi today.

ORIGINAL POST January 29, 2014: Midnight start won’t stop Huntsville from cheering on Dara Howell

Olympic cheerfest starts Feb. 10 at Midnight at Hidden Valley; Dara’s slopestyle events begin at 1am

Posted January 20, 5:40pm:  It’s not often we get a hometown girl realizing Olympic dreams and we can all cheer on slopestyler Dara Howell from the comfort of the Muskoka Ski Club on February 10.

The only catch is that her freestyle ski event will be happening midnight our time. So grab a nap and some java and join the crowd at Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area to cheer this talented 19-year-old on. The ski area has issued an invitation for those who want to join them in watching Dara make her bid for Olympic Gold in real-time.

Schedule of Dara’s Olympic Events:

Slopestyle, freestyle skiing, Muskoka, news about Muskoka, Dara Howell
Dara Howell of Huntsville competing in Olympic Slopestyle event
  • Ladies’ Slopestyle Qualifiers start at 1:00 a.m.
  • Ladies’ Slopestyle Finals start at 4:00 a.m.

Local ‘Cheer Dara On’ Details:

  • This is a FREE family-friendly event.
  • Time: From midnight February 10 to 5am February 11.
  • Where: Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area, Members’ Lounge
  • What: CBC Olympic coverage will be on the big screen; there will be activities for kids (make a sign to cheer on Dara!), and complimentary snacks. A cash bar will also be available for a limited time.

RSVP not required, but if you plan to come, organizers ask that you please join our Facebook event page by clicking here (or email dawn@skihiddenvalley.ca if not on Facebook).

Organizers suggest you wear a Dara Howell shirt (available at Algonquin Outfitters), and sport Olympic colours (red, black & white!) and/or Olympic mitts to show your support.

Photo provided by Hidden Valley Highlands Ski Area and Canadian Freestyle Ski Association.


Update: Hanna's Landing OMB hearing date set for September

OMB hearing about controversial Port Carling development set for September 22; ruling could come long after next municipal election

Update Jan. 22: The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing at the Township of Muskoka Lakes took care of administrative matters quickly this morning. The meeting wrapped up within an hour of its 10 am start time with about 25 people attending. The purpose of today’s meeting was to see what the issues are and to find out who might be involved as a party or participant and to figure out how long it might take to hear all the issues identified. The Muskoka Lakes Association and Rick Spence have joined the Township of Muskoka Lakes as parties to the hearing, each with their own list of issues in regard to Hanna’s Landing Inc, which launched the OMB action by requesting the OMB take over the zoning approval process for its development project from the Township. Parties to the hearing will be expected to make presentations at the hearing which is scheduled for September. A handful of neighbours of the proposed project also asked to be listed as participants so they can be kept informed of the proceedings. Sources say the Township has hired an external planning firm that may have helped produce a list of up to 37 issues (including a draft plan of subdivision) given to Hanna’s Landing officials late yesterday. Muskoka News Watch has requested the issues lists provided to the OMB by all parties involved.  

Hanna’s Landing hopes OMB will take over zoning approval from Township; public pre-hearing of issues starts Wednesday, Jan. 22, 10am

Posted Jan. 19, 6pm: Taxpayers in Muskoka Lakes Township may learn why the Township is refusing to circulate a zoning amendment request about the proposed Hanna’s Landing development on Wednesday. That’s when the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is holding a pre-hearing to uncover what’s caused Hanna’s Landing Inc. to seek help from the OMB — and to learn why the Township has dug in its heels.

Hanna’s Landing is a residential development planned for the former Glenwood Trailer Park on the Indian River in Port Carling, a property that can also be seen from Mirror Lake. The developers promise to provide future housing needs for year-round residents of Muskoka Lakes and for those seeking vacation properties. The OMB pre-hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday at 10am [CORRECTED TIME is 10AM] in the Township Council Chambers and is open to the public.

The OMB holds a public pre-hearing to:

  • identify the issues to be dealt with at the actual hearing;
  • identify parties who want to take part in the full hearing; and,
  • set the date for the full hearing.

Ahead of Wednesday’s pre-hearing, Hanna’s Landing has sent its list of issues to the Township (as well as the District, MLA and Friends of Port Carling as those groups may want to take part in the hearing). As of press time, the company had heard nothing back.

Township Planning Director David Pink confirmed Friday (January 17) that Hanna’s Landing had shared its list of issues to be raised at the pre hearing, and the Township had yet to reply. He added the pre-hearing will try to solidify issues and that he could not comment on anything else at this time.

Muskoka News, news about Muskoka, Hanna's Landing, Port Carling, OMB, Jeff Goldman, Planscape, Muskoka Lakes, Mayor Murphy, Save the Bala Falls, municipal government, Muskoka
Hanna’s Landing and surrounding area

Here’s how the OMB proceedings have come about: Hanna’s Landing Inc.  appealed to the OMB last August after Township council refused to circulate a re-zoning application for its property. Under its regular procedures, the Township  staff would circulate such an application to the public (without intervention by Council) and applicable agencies for comment within a certain timeframe. But Council refused to send it out.

“Our application [for a zoning amendment] was submitted in March 2013, and certified as complete by Township Planning Director David Pink,” says Jeff Goldman, President of Hanna’s Landing Inc. He notes both Pink and the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) recommended that the application be circulated for comment to statutory agencies and the public (even though the MLA opposed some of what the application contained). Yet Council, under the Mayor Alice Murphy’s leadership, refused to do so, says Goldman. He claims Council has displayed a continued disregard for the advice of its own Planning Director and “flagrant violations of the procedures for processing planning applications as proscribed by The Planning Act.” As a result, he’d like the OMB to take the zoning approval phase of the development over from the Township.

Township Council heard the request to approve circulation in Planning Committee of the Whole (COW) Meetings held May 21 and August 15, 2013. In one meeting, Goldman says Council took about 45 minutes to try and rewrite the needed rezoning bylaw on the spot.  When that effort failed, Council then called for a second special meeting to rewrite the draft bylaw that had already been vetted by the Township planning department. Goldman says that meeting was never held. He adds the discussion during the public COW meeting raised questions that “came out of left field” from the Mayor and other councilors that he felt were irrelevant to the task at hand. By August 22, there was still no Council decision on the application that was received by the Township more than 120 days before: so Hanna’s Landing appealed to the OMB. (Note: Friends of Port Carling provides its perspective on how those meetings proceeded in a 2013 recap. See References).

In a letter dated August 22, 2013 to Murphy and all Councillors, the lawyer for Hanna’s Landing, Leo Longo, states Council’s actions, when coupled with its continued decisions to ignore advice of its own planning professionals, “undermines our client’s confidence in the inclination and/or ability of Council to deal with its application in a fair, objective and competent manner.”

This is not the first time Hanna’s Landing has been an issue in front of the OMB. Before the last municipal election in 2010, the MLA and Friends of Port Carling opposed part of the Township’s and District of Muskoka’s Official Plans that expanded Port Carling’s boundaries for properties (an expansion that would demand any future development to be on District sewer and water). The expansion of Port Carling’s eastern boundary also included the area proposed for Hanna’s Landing, a development the Friends of Port Carling oppose. A third appeal came from Hanna’s Landing itself as the District of Muskoka had approved less of an expansion than was sought by the developers.

Sidebar: Just prior to Murphy announcing her candidacy for Mayor in Summer 2010, Murphy also tried to launch a fourth appeal of the Official Plan. Her concerns were in regard to the proposed hydro development at North Bala Falls, but the OMB dismissed her application to appeal as there was no evidence of any previous objection. (See MNW article about proposed Zoning Bylaw overhaul that highlights importance of registering objections before bylaws are passed. Revisions to that zoning bylaw are being discussed tomorrow, Jan. 20, 2014, and Council has said it hopes to pass the bylaw in early 2014).

In August 2011, the OMB upheld the Official Plan (and boundary expansion), paving the way for Hanna’s Landing to move ahead. Murphy, along with the MLA, called the OMB ruling a victory as it also left a door open for further consultation and broader participation in plans for the Hanna’s Landing development.

The OMB decision required that the parties (i.e., The Township, District, Friends of Port Carling, MLA and Hanna’s Landing) through their lawyers and planners collaborate to finalize some technical details for the boundary expansion area.  “Unfortunately”, according to Goldman, “Mayor Murphy inserted herself into these discussions despite our objections. She was instrumental in introducing requirements for the site that were beyond the scope of the initial OMB hearing. and the discussions became deadlocked resulting in a second OMB Hearing in Toronto in November 2011.”

Mayoral intervention may have backfired

Goldman says the results of that November hearing upheld the positions taken by Hanna’s Landing on all matters. The OMB decision also made it possible for the number of residential units at Hanna’s Landing to grow from the original expected 250 to a minimum 295 (agreed to by the Township in those 2011 meetings) and to possibly more than 330 — an increase that will likely not sit well with those opposing the development in its entirety. That change, say some observers, begs the question about whether ongoing intervention by the Mayor and Township has backfired for those in the community who would prefer to curtail the size of the development. The OMB has essentially granted the developer with more flexibility: making the situation worse rather than better in the eyes of those who oppose it. Wednesday’s pre-hearing may provide insights into whether Hanna’s Landing will get the support it wants from the OMB.

MNW Readers, if interested, MNW has compiled a timeline of events regarding the Hanna’s Landing issue from the beginning OMB appeals to today. Click here to read that timeline. We look forward to feedback if any verified dates are missing.

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