Things to do at your Muskoka Lakes Public library

Muskoka Lakes LibraryUpcoming Library Events

Ongoing Things to do at your Muskoka Lakes public library…

Thursdays 1:00-3:00 Kniterary  Drop in to Muskoka Lakes Public Library, Port Carling, with your latest needleworking project. Join others at the fireplace lounge for friendly chatter, advice, and discussion and as a bonus, tea served at 2 o’clock! No pre-registration required. ; 705-765-5650 ;

First Wednesdays of the Month, 2015 10:15-11:45 La Leche League Port Carling If you are interested in breastfeeding, you are welcome to attend La Leche League meetings. Anytime is a good time to come to a meeting, whether you are pregnant, have a new baby or you are in need of support or information beyond the first few months. Babies and young children are always welcome. The Port Carling LLLC Group typically meets 1st Wednesday of the month at Muskoka Lakes Public Library, Port Carling.  LLLC Leader: Lindsay Wilson Contact Email: Contact Phone: 705-769-1997

Senior Men & Women’s Social Club 10:30am FIRST and THIRD Wednesday of each month: Consider yourself a Senior? Come join us! FREE! Guest Speakers. Arts, New Experiences, Meet New Friends PRE-REGISTER 705-765-5650<> Muskoka Lakes Public Library 69 Joseph St. Port Carling. This week it’s Art for Seniors All activities designed for ‘first timers’ and hobbyists – no previous experience or skills required. Enjoy hands on creativity as we explore a variety of art activities including painting with acrylics, watercolour, pastels and other mixed media. Come on out and give it a try. It’s all for fun!

You can also follow what’s happening at your Muskoka Lakes library on Facebook




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”

Bala Falls Update: Moose FM interview with proposed Bala hydro facility architect

Bala Falls Update: Design progressing on possible look and feel of proposed hydro plant: Interview with Stevens Burgess Architects’ Karl Stevens on Moose FM

Published October 16, 2.30pm: Moose FM’s Matt Sitler interviews architect Karl Stevens (of Stevens Burgess Architects) on the possible future look of the proposed hydro facility at north Bala Falls. Muskoka News Watch will also request drawings to share in future articles, but for readers interesting in following this issue, click here to hear the Moose FM exclusive interview today.


Packing up for the season? Donate your summer leftovers through food bank program

Muskoka Lakes Association teams up with Oliver’s Coffee to collect food bank donations

Published October 4, 2.30pm: Tired of packing up your non-perishables and carting them back to the city? Consider donating your canned and boxed food to a local food bank.

The Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA), in partnership with Oliver’s Coffee in Muskoka, is encouraging cottagers who typically take their non-perishables home at the end of the season, to instead, donate them to local food banks.

Wendy Cameron, of the Manna Food Bank says, “708 families used the food bank last year, and this August saw an increase of 23% compared to last year, which is highly unusual. Local families are still reeling from increased propane and hydro costs made worse by the long and bitterly cold winter.”

From Friday, October 10 through Monday, October 14, Oliver’s Coffee in Bala, Bracebridge, Gravenhurst and Port Carling will be collecting donations that the MLA will then deliver to local food banks.

The MLA says it appreciates the support of the Muskoka community in making this project happen. The Manna Food Bank gratefully accepts donations of cash and non-perishable food items.

About Muskoka News Watch – consider donating to keep your Muskoka info flowing: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations as well! 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!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

French also provided this brief biography:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To know more about Norm Miller and his party policies, visit his campaign website:


Matt Richter kicks off Green Party campaign in Bracebridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moose FM, May 7: Norm Miller Campaign Launch


Potential for flooding as runoff expected to rise: Flood Watch in effect for our region

Flood Watch does not mean flooding an immediate threat, but potential is there water levels rise

Posted April 11, 11:15am: The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) for the Parry Sound-Muskoka District is advising area residents that a Flood Watch is now in effect. The advisory issued just now updates the notice sent out on April 9 that advised of a Flood Outlook.

Feature picture (left) by Norah Fountain: Watching the ice melt at Gull Lake Park in Gravenhurst

What’s the difference between a Flood Outlook and Flood Watch? Minor differences in water conditions terminology can mean a great deal for residents living in areas that are prone to flooding.

  • A Water Conditions Statement can be either a Water Safety or a Flood Outlook message that warns of high water along rivers and lakes. A Water Conditions Statement-Flood Outlook gives early notice of the potential for flooding.
  • A Flood Watch means potential for flooding exists within certain watercourses and municipalities.
  • A Flood Warning means flooding is imminent or occurring. This is NOT the case today, April 11, for our region. Today’s advisory is a Flood Watch, not a Warning.

Residents along rivers and lakes within the Parry Sound-Muskoka area are advised to keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around waterbodies as river flows and water levels continue to rise in the coming days.

A significant potential exists for flooding due to current conditions and forecasted rainfall. Residents may wish to take any further action necessary to secure or protect property in flood-prone or vulnerable areas. Local lakes are still ice covered which has the potential to impact shoreline infrastructure such as docks and boathouses as water levels rise and with prevailing winds.

The MNR is closely monitoring the weather and developing watershed conditions and will issue further updates as deemed appropriate.

Current forecast calling for rain starting Saturday

The current forecast is calling for up to 45mm or more precipitation Saturday April 12th through Monday April 14th. The forecast through to next Monday is for daytime high temperatures in the range of 6-13 degrees Celsius with near freezing nighttime temperatures.

Current Conditions: The water content within the existing snow pack throughout local watersheds continues to be significantly greater than the normal or historical average for early April. Forecasted temperatures and rainfall will accelerate the melt of the snow pack but flooding is not expected at this time. It is expected that the melting of the snow pack in addition to rainfall will significantly increase the amount of runoff into local waterbodies.

The rate of rise in water levels and flows is expected to increase through the weekend and into next week given current conditions.

Expiry Date: The MNR advises this latest message will expire Monday April 14, 2014 at noon.

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MNR expects cooler than normal spring temperatures until May; what about snow melt?

March going out like a lamb, but will we see a sudden warm up? Muskoka News Watch asks the Ministry of Natural Resources about the spring weather outlook

Picture at left shows a groundhog on Moon River doing a second groundhog day look-about on March 20, 2014

March 31, 3pm. Today March is going out like a lamb so it seems safe to say that spring has finally arrived. But is it really as warm as usual for spring, or have we become so accustomed to the deep chill of winter 2013-14 that it just seems to be warming up fast? In fact, the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) back in February suggested we could be looking at cooler than average temperatures right through to May.

Today, Ministry officials are meeting with Muskoka municipal politicians, emergency management personnel and water stakeholders, such as members of the Muskoka River Water Management plan, at the Rotary Centre in Bracebridge. The aim of the meeting is to follow through on a promise to review last year’s flood and share information about what the spring thaw could bring this year. The meeting was closed to the public and media, but Muskoka News Watch (MNW) hopes to bring you an update from today’s meeting as soon as possible.

While still shivering in early March, MNW Editor Norah Fountain asked Steve Taylor, an Integrated Resource Management (IRM) Technical Specialist with the MNR, what we might be able to expect in the way of weather this spring. Here’s our brief pre-spring Q&A with Taylor.

Note: Temperature data is readily available from Environment Canada and the most accurate up to date local information on watershed conditions is available at the MNR district level. Weather outlooks and forecasts are ever changing – just ask Rick Mercer in his widely popular “Seven Day Forecast” (See references at the end of this article). But flooding is no joke. It pays to check your forecasts and watch for weather outlook bulletins shared with municipalities by the MNR.

Q: What’s the spring temperature outlook? Is it time to put away the winter jackets, or should we keep some woollies at hand just in case?

A: We expect a cooler than normal spring, averaging all temperatures over the period from March to May. Of course, normal temperatures for each monitored location vary.

Q: How would the snowmelt potentially differ this year from last?

A: At the end of February, MNR snow pack monitoring indicated there was approximately 110mm of water content contained in the snow pack across the Muskoka River watershed. This is a reduction of approximately 27mm in water content since mid-February. In comparison, the 2013 end of February snow pack water content was approximately the same as this year for the month.

The melt rate of a late-winter snow pack prior to the spring thaw is driven by a number of factors including air temperatures and rainfall amounts.  The amount of snow pack water content throughout the winter is dynamic and can change significantly from month to month due to accumulation and loss factors. For example, evaporation of snow occurs at varying rates throughout the winter.

Should people be concerned about the potential for flooding like we saw last year?
A: The potential or likelihood of a flood occurring this spring will not be known until prior to the spring freshet when watershed conditions, including snow pack water content, are assessed and timely weather forecasts are provided identifying predicted air temperatures and rainfall amounts.

People with homes or cottages in areas along lakes and rivers within known flood-prone locations should always be prepared for the possibility of flooding. Floods are natural events and could occur in any given spring with the melting of the snow pack due to prevailing weather conditions including rainfall.

The MNR Parry Sound District will issue local public notifications through the media and local municipalities such as a Flood Watch if the potential for flooding exists and a Flood Warning if flooding is imminent or occurring. These notifications are issued to provide the public and local municipalities enough lead-time to prepare or respond to a potential or actual flood situation. Note: After this interview on March 28, the MNR issued its first notification. Click here to view that PDF (the full Water Conditions Statement also follows References at the bottom of this post).

Q: Muskoka lakes and rivers seem to be very drawn down or lower than in recent years – why is this?
A: The typical drawdown of lake levels completed in late winter prior to the spring freshet or snow melt is identified by the Target Operating Level (TOL) within the respective annual operating plans as identified in the Muskoka River Water Management Plan (MRWMP). There are provisions within the MRWMP to lower lake levels below the TOL under certain conditions including when snow pack water content within the Muskoka River watershed or portions thereof are greater than 100% of the historical average. A significant amount of snow fell early this winter such as in the month of December.


Feature picture: Groundhog repeats Groundhog day on March 20 on Moon River. Photo by Mike Webb.

Full text of Ministry of Natural Resources – Water Conditions Statement – Flood Outlook as of March 28, 2014.

The Ministry of Natural Resources – Parry Sound District is advising area residents that a Watershed Conditions Statement – Flood Outlook is in effect in the District.

Residents in the Parry Sound – Muskoka area should keep a close watch on conditions, regularly check for updated messages and exercise caution around water bodies as flows within rivers and streams increase in the coming days.  Although flooding is not expected at this time, residents may wish to consider taking action to secure or protect any property in flood-prone or vulnerable areas.

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


Description of Weather System

Beginning today and extending into next week, daytime high air temperatures are expected to range from 1 degree to 8 degrees with overnight lows dropping to below freezing.  A total of 15-20mm of rain is expected today across local watersheds.  Rainfall and forecasted temperatures for the next few days will cause some melting of the substantial snow pack in the area but flooding is not expected at this time.

Description of Current Conditions

The water content within the existing snow pack across the Parry Sound-Muskoka area is approximately 180mm, which is significantly above average for this time of year.  The long-range weather outlook or trend suggests that cooler than average temperatures will return late next week, following the current mild spell.

In the absence of any significant rainfall amounts through early April, it is expected that these cooler air temperatures will allow the snow pack to melt at a relatively slow rate therefore reducing the potential for significant flooding within local rivers and lakes.

Expiry Date: This message will expire March 31, 2014 5:00 pm

Understanding Terminology

**WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – FLOOD OUTLOOK: gives early notice of the potential for flooding based on weather forecasts calling for heavy rain, snow melt, high winds or other conditions

WATERSHED CONDITIONS STATEMENT – WATER SAFETY: indicates that high flows, melting ice or other factors could be dangerous for users such as boaters, anglers and swimmers but flooding is not expected

FLOOD WATCH: potential for floosing exists within specific watercourses and municipalities

FLOOD WARNING: flooding is imminent or occurring within specific watercourses and municipalities

New technology, methods, products discussed at Working Around Water

Update: Working Around Water event draws crowd

Update Posted April 2, 9am: As part of the Shoreline Stewardship program launched late last year, Muskoka Conservancy played host to a “Working Around Water” Symposium for professionals who work around water in Muskoka on Wednesday, March 26th at Knox Presbyterian Church in Bracebridge. The event brought together about 75 local professionals to hear about the new products and technology for working in and around shoreline properties.

The Shoreline Stewardship and Water Quality Program was launched in the fall of 2013 by Muskoka Conservancy and Muskoka Lakes Association. “This is a multifaceted program that combines community workshops, private landowner consultations, and outreach to local contractors and service providers”, says Kristie Virgoe, Executive Director of Muskoka Conservancy.

“This was a great opportunity for professionals to get together to discuss and share information about working along shorelines in Muskoka so they can continue in the great work they are doing”, says Jenn Head, Stewardship Coordinator. Presentations during this event included permitting agencies, Maccaferri Canada, Waterloo Biofilter and the Wildflower Farm.

“The Symposium is vital part of our program and we are already looking forward to this becoming an annual event” says Head, Stewardship Coordinator. “Participants in the event will have their businesses listed in our Landowner Services Guide that we will provide to every landowner we visit. In that way, we are helping landowners connect with the professionals that can help them improve and restore their natural shorelines”.

“Muskoka Conservancy is thrilled to be working with all areas of our community to help protect our natural features.  The takeaway message from this event is simple – Muskoka has a great listing of contractors and consultants that really care about Muskoka!  This event gave them an opportunity to learn about some new products and technologies as well as to hear what is new in permitting processes”, says Virgoe.

As part of the Shoreline Stewardship program, Muskoka Conservancy will be hosting landowner workshops throughout the year to reach seasonal and year round shoreline property owners. These presentations will include topics like shoreline erosion control, and tips to manage Canada Geese on your shoreline property. Please visit for a list of topics, dates and locations.

Original article follows.

A don’t miss symposium for those who do work on the shores of Muskoka Lakes; event in Bracebridge

Posted March 22, 11am: Muskoka Conservancy is offering a “Working Around Water” Symposium for professionals who work around water in Muskoka. The day-long event will bring together local professionals to hear about new products and technology for working in and around shoreline properties. Permitting agencies, Waterloo Biofilter, and Maccaferri Canada, will be among the presenters.

Waterloo Biofilter has developed solutions for on site waste-water treatment. Maccaferri is a world leader in innovative environmental solutions with extensive expertise in retaining wall systems (gabion, geogrid), reinforcement of steep slopes, embankments, drainage systems, rockfall protection, soil erosion protection and soil stabilization.

Wednesday’s event is part of the Shoreline Stewardship and Water Quality Program launched in the fall last year by Muskoka Conservancy and the Muskoka Lakes Association. “This is a multifaceted program that combines community workshops, private landowner consultations, and outreach to local contractors and service providers,” says Kristie Virgoe, Executive Director of Muskoka Conservancy.

Working Around Water Event Details

  • When: Wednesday, March 26, 8:30am – 4pm
  • Where: Knox Presbyterian Church, Bracebridge
  • Cost: 50 per person and includes lunch.
  • Register now by calling 705-645-7393 ext. 200 or email

Topics for the day will include erosion control, permitting and planning (new construction and improvements), septic technology, site planning, and landscaping.

“This isn’t a training event,” says Jenn Head, Stewardship Coordinator, “it is an opportunity to share information and to hear about some of the new technologies that will help Muskoka landscapers, builders, and contractors in the great work they are doing.” Additional landowner workshops are offered throughout the year to reach seasonal and year round shoreline property owners.

Businesses get listing in Landowner Services Guide
“This Symposium is vital part of our program,” she says. “Participants in the event will have their businesses listed in our Landowner Services Guide that we can provide to every landowner we visit. In that way, we are helping landowners connect with the professionals that can help them improve and restore their shorelines.”

For more information and to register for Working Around Water, please contact 705-645-7393 ext. 200 or email

To know more about the Muskoka Conservancy visit or call 705-645-7393.

Please share a link to this article with anyone you know who works on and around the water in Muskoka.

Other events coming up in April from the Muskoka Conservancy include Canada Geese Shoreline Stewardship Workshop on April 2 and Flooding and Naturalizatin Shoreline Stewardship Workshop on April 9.

About the Muskoka Conservancy
For over 25 years, the Muskoka Conservancy (formerly the Muskoka Heritage Foundation and Trust) 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 32 properties totaling over 1,800 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.


Science Matters, April 3, a presentation about science and how it is shaping our future by former astronaut and present MP Marc Garneau, Rene Caisse Theatre, Bracebridge. To buy tickets, click here

Muskoka Summit on the Environment – resolving the Dichotomy of Economy and Environment, May 8-9 and featuring keynote speaker, the renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman. To learn all about the summit, please click here.


Proof of chimney cleaning rewarded by Muskoka Lakes Fire Department

How to get a free carbon monoxide detector or smoke alarm from Muskoka Lakes Fire Department

Posted March 20, 1pm: Chimney fires happen more often than you might think, and are often a cause for alarm calls to the Muskoka Lakes Fire Department, according to Muskoka Lakes Fire Chief Richard Hayes. Chimney fires can be equally damaging and dangerous for you, your home, and the fire fighters that respond.

Today the department is reminding people they should have chimneys cleaned at least once a year. This action is primarily for wood burning stoves but there can still be issues for any chimney from any fuel fired appliance.

If you have a receipt from a WETT-certified company about a recent chimney clean, you can bring it in for a free carbon monoxide detector or smoke alarm from the Township fire department as a reward for being diligent in fire prevention. To know more, click here to view the online notice or you can download the Fire Department PDF on chimney safety: Chimney Safety

Spring forward and think fire prevention, too

As today is the first day of spring, when was the last time you changed the batteries in your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detectors? A general rule is to do this when you spring forward with time zone changes.




Early Wahta Election results have Philip Franks as new Chief and 3 new Council members

Posted March 15: 9.40pm: There are unconfirmed reports that the votes have been tallied after today’s vote for the Council for Wahta Mohawk Territory. It’s reported that Philip Franks was succesful in his bid to become Chief and one of the four incumbent Council members — Stuart Lane — will retain his position. Also reported elected are Karen Commandant, Michael Decaire and Teresa Greasley.

Here’s the unconfirmed breakdown of vote numbers:

For Chief

  • Philip Franks 154
  • Tim Thompson 93

Four Elected to Council

  • Karen Commandant 156
  • Mike Decaire 151
  • Teresa Greasley 146
  • Stuart Lane 114 (Incumbent re-elected
  • Shirley Hay 104
  • Dan Stock 104
  • Bill Hay 100

Wahta Mohawks have been without a chief since 2011, elections today will see position filled

NOTE: Results are expected to be published tomorrow after release by the Elections Officer.

Posted March 15, 9am: Members of the Mohawk Wahta Territory are casting their ballots today to choose a new Chief and Council. The poll opened at 9am at the Wahta Administration Office and will close at 7pm tonight.

In the running for the position of Chief are Philip Angus Franks and Tim Thompson. Seven people are seeking Council positions and only four will be elected. They are:

  • Karen Commandant
  • Michael Decaire
  • Teresa Greasley
  • William (Bill) Wayne Hay (incumbent)
  • Shirley Hay (incumbent)
  • Stuart Lane (incumbent)
  • Dan Stock (incumbent)

Votes will be tallied immediately after the poll closes, says Elections Officer Veronica McLeod and results are expected by 9pm.

The Wahta Mohawks have been without a Chief since November 2011. Blaine Commandant had held the position of Chief for 12 years and was removed from office after Council said he had missed three meetings. Since then, the process to fill the position of Chief has not been without controversy.

A Council update in April 2012 said the community had agreed to a postponement of a by-election to replace the Chief. At the time, there were at least two people (reportedly Lawrence Schell and Steve Stock) who had shown interest in competing for the position.

In June 2012, legal action was taken to attempt to re-instate the past Chief and remove the four duly elected Councilors. That action was unsuccessful. In its 2014 Annual Report released this month and posted just prior to today’s election, Council states it considers this case as still not being closed as court costs remain owing to Council.

The report also outlined Council’s position on the nomination process, which disallowed certain Wahta members to run for Council if court costs owed to Council by applicants involved in the court case were not paid prior to seeking nomination for office.

The 2014 Annual Report states:

“The Electoral Officer, on the advice of legal counsel, is requiring the Applicants to ensure that the court costs are paid prior to being considered as having met all qualifications for running for office.”

According to the Council report, applicants in the court case were “Blaine Commandant, Darrel Bruce DeCaire, George Francis Decaire, Elizabeth Bella Roberts, Scott Sahanatien, Lawrence Schell, Neil Schell, Ronald Strength, Calvin White and Michael Dewasha.” It’s not known if any of these people sought to seek office in today’s election.

Related Articles and References

Dust the snow off the Muskoka Lakes Museum: big plans for its 50th year!

Muskoka Lakes Museum marks its Golden Jubilee – opening day in May starts a summer-long celebration of 50 great years

Posted Mar. 6, 5:30pm: 2014 marks the 50th year of The Muskoka Lakes Museum and the museum has a big 50 goal: to grow its Endowment Fund to $50,000 to support programming.

“The board of directors is spearheading this initiative to grow the Endowment Fund to $50,000 to help enhance programs,” says museum board Chair Liz Lundell. “The income generated supplements our grants and membership revenue, providing flexible funding to help create new offerings – such as a new exhibit or children’s program.”

Founded in 1964, the Muskoka Lakes Museum has relied on municipal, provincial and federal grants, charitable donations, program fees and fundraising to cover operating expenses. The Museum’s annual operating budget is roughly $100,000 and that covers wages, insurance, facilities maintenance, programming costs, administration and care of the collection.

museum, golden jubilee of museum, port carling
Muskoka Lakes Museum in Port Carling

As a registered charity, the museum has received generous gifts from donors and bequests over the years and the Endowment Fund currently sits at approximately $30,000. The capital in the fund is preserved, while the income is used to pay for programming costs such as children’s activities, lectures, and family events. The Endowment Fund is invested with a highly reputable investment management firm and the income provides a sustainable source of funding that is not vulnerable to government cutbacks or fundraising fluctuations.

The museum Board of Directors is hoping museum members, sponsors, and community supporters will consider a one-time birthday gift to the Endowment Fund to help the community museum reach its target and create a legacy to celebrate. All contributions are eligible for a charitable receipt for income tax purposes. Information about how to donate can be found at

Save the date for July 26th to celebrate Muskoka Lakes Museum Day

A number of additional festivities are also planned for the Museum’s 50th season. The popular lecture program will be offered at no charge. A 50th anniversary book is in production and a photography contest will run throughout the summer. All members of the community and visitors will be welcomed to a day of celebration at the island between the locks in Port Carling on July 26 – Muskoka Lakes Museum Day. Watch for details about these and other events at

Some history on the museum’s history…

Indian River cottager Marion Catto first proposed the idea of a museum in Port Carling to preserve the area’s pioneer past and provide a tourist attraction. The Port Carling Historical Society was founded at her cottage on September 9, 1961. While the group sought a permanent home, the society collected and borrowed artifacts, which were displayed at the Algonquin Hotel on Joseph Street.

In 1964, the Port Carling Pioneer Museum was incorporated by Letters Patent from the Province of Ontario and the first directors were Marion Catto, Gertrude Tassie, Dorothy Duke, Lorraine Amey and Adel Coutts. Plans for a centennial project began and on July 2, 1967 the Museum opened its doors in its present location on the island. After a name change to The Muskoka Lakes Museum in 1989, the organization continues today as a non-profit, registered charity guided by a board of directors.

The original centennial building was expanded a number of times to house a growing collection. In 1982-83, the Hall family log cabin was moved from its original location in Glen Orchard and reconstructed on the island.

Over the years, descendants of early settlers made many generous donations of artifacts and these have been joined by others contributed by both permanent and summer residents. The Honourable James Bartleman donated a large collection himself in 2013 chronicling his Port Carling and Rama background, as well as his contributions in the diplomatic service and as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

Haven’t visited the museum recently? Be sure to be there this summer to wish museum curator Doug Smith and all the great volunteers a hearty happy 50th! The museum re-opens on May 17, 2014.

Featured Photo in Top Left: The 50th Anniversary Logo (logo designed by Rob Donald, Interlink Graphics, Port Carling).

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On sharing Sun Media article, Mayor Murphy Attitude Draws Scorn from Muskoka Lakes taxpayers

What’s Up Muskoka Article, Mayor Murphy’s Attitude Draws Scorn

Click here to Read Article by What’s Up Muskoka. Author: Matt Driscoll.

Muskoka News Watch fully agrees with this article and others like it published over the past four years in Muskoka newspapers. MNW Editor Norah Fountain writes she believes we have a poisonous culture being fostered at Muskoka Lakes Council and more people need to speak up about what they’ve seen and experienced.

Commentary by Norah Fountain posted March 6, 11:30am: I don’t take delight in writing about what myself and others feel is untoward behaviour on the part of some councillors in our Township. In fact, I feel ill as I write this commentary. You see, it’s even harder in a small municipality to speak up about abuse, and I am in awe of those who have the guts to say they’ve been treated badly and want it to stop. The weekly What’s Up publication, owned by Sun Media, this week published an article about people who say they have felt the wrath of Alice Murphy, the Mayor of Muskoka Lakes. Click here to read it. For her part, the Mayor was quoted by What’s Up as saying she acts in a “open and warm” fashion…and that those firing off criticism should find something proactive to do with their time and energy.” If she believes that, she isn’t leading by example.

Muskoka News Watch (MNW) readers regularly complain (off record, out of fear of retribution they say, unfortunately), to me about treatment they have seen Murphy mete out. Members and supporters of the fire department management appear to be favourite targets, along with anyone who has any opinion that differs from the mayor on the proposed hydro plant. Even a librarian giving a report about libraries was once reduced to tears during a council meeting.

A poisonous culture brewing

And the Mayor is not alone in her behaviour toward others. Recently Councillors Harding and Nishikawa berated a staff member in a public council meeting over her job fair efforts. In that case, the Mayor actually stopped the questioning that observers said was unduly sharp, reportedly on the advisement of the Clerk. It’s unfortunate that Murphy isn’t stopped when she herself takes aim at staff or someone delegating to Council.

At a meeting I attended on February 14, Councillor Nishikawa laughed derisively about the Fire Chief’s pay scale recommendations while agreeing with Councillor Harding that she couldn’t understand the report the Chief had delivered. This is a report the Council had originally requested and sent back for more work three or four times. The Mayor and Councillors sent the Chief back to the drawing board again. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that as part of good oversight, but here’s the but: in my opinion, from what I saw at that meeting and what I’ve heard has happened at others, the way the fire chief is treated might be construed as a potential constructive dismissal ploy. In other words, make the ones you don’t like want to quit.

He wouldn’t be the first staff member to leave (See Sun Media article, More Senior Staff Jump Ship). Six senior staff employees either quit, or opted for early retirement in 2012, leading one business person to ponder why in a client newsletter: “It is uncertain whether these moves are coincidental, or due to issues with the Mayor’s management style.” (Source, Muskoka Happenings, Summer/Autumn 2012).

I’m sure some staff are getting along very well with Council, but I believe no one should endure the poisonous tone of questioning I have witnessed at some Council meetings.

Then there are the people — the taxpayers and professionals hired by taxpayers — that experience ‘unpleasantness’ in and outside of Council chambers.

Stories of unpleasant interactions in and out of council

>The woman giving a historic tour of Port Carling to a group of of tourists who was stopped (some say accosted) by the Mayor on the street (The Mayor had a loud bone to pick with her for some reason).

>The man who was booed as he gave a delegation as the Mayor sat back and let it happen (Granted, the Mayor has improved and now asks for courtesy. That’s appreciated).

>There are the two people (that I know of) who have left Council meetings in tears (the first was reported by the Bracebridge Examiner – for May 2011 article, click here) who no longer wanted to endure the Mayor’s comments.

>The ratepayers who were singled out by the Mayor during a discussion on heritage minutes (Read February 2013 Metroland article, Heritage Minutes set off Mayor, here) and have been slammed at other times in the newspapers by the Mayor (Read March 2013 Metroland article in which she displays her warm approach to all: “Mean spirited RatepayerAssocn hurts #Muskoka community. Running secret society w/ ‘chosen’ Board, yet positioned as ‘conscience’ of Townshp,”). This was a YEAR ago.

>There are property owners who have dared speak opinions that don’t jive with hers and then had to go to the Ontario Municipal Board for resolution, costing them and the Township money.

>The politicians in other local municipalities, and in other levels of government, who shake their heads about her Tweet tirades against politicians and government agencies. Most recently, Oakville Mayor Burton, whom Murphy once asked for advice and then wrote to the province and federal government with allegations about Oakville that the Oakville Mayor countered were untrue.

>And yes, there’s me. I was yelled at to get out and ‘show some respect’ by an enraged Mayor striding across a public hall outside Divisional Court in Toronto. I asked for an apology, but like others, I’m still waiting. I’ve been approaching and interviewing politicians since 1979. I’ve never seen any of them act like Murphy.

Fear factor alive and well in Muskoka Lakes

I wish more people would speak up, but I can’t blame Councillors or local business people who have had their own negative experiences with the Mayor.  They say they can’t risk it. Or that it’s pointless, especially as without competition, it looks like Murphy will be the Mayor of Muskoka Lakes for another four years. Certainly, who am I to judge them? I didn’t hold my ground when she went after me that day in Toronto.  I try my best to never engage with her on social media like Twitter as she demonstrates ‘Troll-like” behaviour (see definition in this article about her Twitter tackle of Oakville’s Mayor).

Last week a Toronto political journalist called me and asked how I manage writing such commentary when I live in a small area where I can encounter the people I’m writing about in the grocery store and such. It’s hard for big city journalists, too, but small town politics are way more up close and personal.

The president of the Muskoka Lakes Association (MLA) told me he feels the negativity of what I and others have written is unproductive (I am a member of the MLA and the Muskoka Ratepayers’ Association). So have my personal friends. I agree with them in principle, and wish it were different, but as long as people are being abused in our township — be it staff, taxpayers or visitors — I think we all need to shine a light on it.

I admire the brave ladies of the MRA who sit through so many Council meetings to report what they see for those of us who can’t be there to see for themselves the way Council business is being conducted. And a big nod to local media – What’s Up Muskoka and Metroland’s Bracebridge Examiner and Banner for reporting what is happening in Muskoka Lakes. Believe me, it isn’t easy for those writers either.

Read and share the article published March 4 by What’s Up Muskoka by clicking here.

Full disclosure note: Some readers have complained that I may be guilty of ‘sour grapes’ because I was the co-campaign manager for mayoral candidate Patricia Arney in 2010. The fact is that Alice Murphy won by a landslide. Arney was in third and even if Arney and incumbent Karen Ellis had pooled their votes together, Murphy still would have won. She ran a strong campaign and Murphy once thanked me for being so gracious during the campaign. That was 2010. Articles written since have focused on the actions of Murphy since taking office. In the What’s Up article this week, Murphy also accuses the MRA of sour grapes because of her win. It is clear that many MRA members voted for Murphy.

Any mayor will get both positive and negative attention. Winning an election is one thing. It’s what your do in office that really counts.


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Distracted Driving Campaign Starts March 8 and so does March Break: Be safe!

OPP Asking for Public’s Help with Distracted Driving Campaign starting March 8 and a reminder: It’s March Break!

Updated March 7, 11am: The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is reminding the public that the annual school Spring Break starts today in many of our areas.

Chief Superintendent John Tod, Regional Commander of the OPP Central Region is reminding the public that with March Break starting, “there will be many children playing in areas during the day that we are not used to seeing them. Please watch for children at all times.”.

Outdoor enthusiasts are also being cautioned to use caution as milder weather is in the forecast and this will no doubt compromise the quality of snow and ice conditions. “Although winter is still very much upon us, safety and planning ahead should be always an important component of any outdoor activity in the coming days and weeks as snow and ice conditions can start to change hourly,” adds Tod.

And drivers, remember that the OPP’s Distracted Driving Campaign is continuing and that Distracted Driving has become the number one factor in motor vehicle related collision deaths. Inspector Dom Beckett, Manager of the OPP Central Region Traffic and Marine Unit is asking motorists to “please keep your eyes and attention focused on the road; that is where it needs to be ALL the time. Distracted driving related deaths can be reduced if drivers change their behaviour and pledge to always reach for safety and not for their phone”.

OPP Distracted Driving Campaign starts March 8

Release from OPP Posted Mar. 3, 10.38am: Irresponsible driver behaviour has the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) concerned about the fate of many road users this year as officers prepare to launch their next campaign against Distracted Driving (Mar 8-14).

2013: Distracted driving caused more deaths than impaired and speeding drivers

In 2013, distracted driving fatalities surpassed both impaired and speed related fatalities in fatal motor vehicle collisions investigated by the OPP.  A total of 78 persons died in distracted driving related collisions compared to 57 impaired driving deaths and 44 speed related deaths last year.

“When you consider the overall impact of these 78 fatalities last year and the 325 other distracted driving victims who have died since 2010, the number of people these irresponsible drivers have had a profound and devastating impact on is in the thousands,” said OPP Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair, Commander of Traffic Safety and Operational Support.

“Everyone, from the victims’ families and friends to the police officers who attend these horrific collision scenes and have to notify next-of-kin, knows the emotional impact of one life lost to this senseless driving behavior trickles down to so many people who, sadly, through experience, know how badly this behaviour needs to stop,” he added.

The OPP recognizes that the only way to stop people from dying in distracted driving related collisions is to raise awareness of how serious the problem is and to have everyone make a firm, lifelong commitment to helping the police and safety partners eliminate it altogether.  According to the OPP, it can be done.

“Over and above every driver pledging to never text or talk on the phone, pledge to be a good passenger and speak up if the driver in your car is using his/her phone or engaged in other forms of distraction.  Pledge to regularly encourage your friends and family to not be distracted while driving,” said OPP Chief Superintendent Don Bell, Commander of the Highway Safety Division. “Even though our campaign only runs one week, make this a year-round commitment because it is a fail proof way to help us eliminate the tragic deaths that occur every year because of distracted drivers,” added Bell

March 18: fines jump to $280

The OPP is reminding motorists that on March 18, 2014 the current distracted driving fine of $155 will jump to $280 (this includes the increased $225 fine plus a $50 victim fine surcharge and $5 court cost).

The OPP’s Distracted Driving Campaign runs from Saturday, March 8 to Friday, March 14, 2014.  During that time, the OPP will be doing its part to eliminate the threat of distracted driving through its own awareness raising efforts and focused enforcement of distracted driving laws throughout the province.

The OPP is asking Ontarians to show their support during this important campaign.  Go to the OPP’s Facebook page and/or follow them on Twitter and let them know how you plan on helping to eliminate distracted driving on Ontario roads. The OPP will highlight some of your entries in a campaign wrap-up news release following the campaign.

NHL alumnus visits Muskoka as part of Lake of Bays Brewery and NHL alumni contest

Mike Krushelnyski in Bracebridge March 5 to kick off Lace Up with NHL Alumni

Posted Feb. 28, 3.45pm: Now that Lakes of Bays Brewing has the NHL Alumni ‘on speed dial’ as the Baysville company is the Alumni’s official brewery partner, the company has announced it has got none other than NHL alumnus Mike Krushelnyski to drop in to Muskoka next week for a personal appearance. The company issued a press release about its Lace Up with the NHL Alumni campaign kick off today. The details from that release are below. 

Lake of Bays Brewery Press Release:
Mike Krushelnyski (the friendliest NHL alumnus and best Battle of the Blades sport ever), is coming to town to kick off Lace Up with the NHL Alumni, a contest organized by Lake of Bays Brewing and the NHL Alumni Association, in which 18 lucky winners will get to play in an NHL Alumni game and after party, taking place in Sudbury on Saturday May 10.

Mike Krushelnyski in Muskoka, Muskoka News Watch, NHL in Bracebridge, Lake of Bays BreweryWho: Mike Krushelnyski
What: Personal appearance and autograph session
Where: Old Station Restaurant in Bracebridge
When: Wednesday March 5, starting at 6:30 pm
Why: To kick off Lace Up with NHL Alumni contest in Bracebridge

Come on down and meet Mike and share a Top Shelf Classic Lager with us. The life of any party going, Mike likes to bring his Stanley Cup Championship rings along and foist them onto anyone willing to try them on for size.

In addition to being a heck of a personable guy, Mike has had a formidable professional hockey career. He spent 14 years with the NHL, playing for Toronto, Edmonton, Detroit, Boston, and Los Angeles.

Mike Krushelnyski in Muskoka, Muskoka News Watch, NHL in Bracebridge, Lake of Bays Brewery
Lace Up with NHL Alumnus Mike Krushelnyski

He is a three-time Stanley Cup champ on ice (Edmonton ’85, ’87 and ’88) and one time as assistant coach (Detroit ’98). More recently, he competed in the 4th season of Battle of the Blades, skating alongside Marcy Hinzmann.

About Lace Up with the NHL Alumni

The prize: 18 lucky hockey fans get to don their skates and play in a game of shinny alongside the likes of Mark Napier, Mike Pelyk, Bill Derlago, and Jack Valiquette. (Additional NHLAA to be announced). The game is set for Saturday May 10 in Sudbury, and the after party will be at Overtime Sports Bar and Grill, also in Sudbury.

Three Ways to Enter

1. At participating licensees
From March 4 to April 22, patrons at The Old Station Restaurant in Bracebridge, Lockeroom Barrie, Boston Pizza North Bay and Overtime Sports Bar and Grill in Sudbury can fill out a ballot to enter.

The ballots also double as scratch and win tickets, awarding NHL Alumni memorabilia and discounts for Signature Series Club membership. (Signature Series Club is an online beer and collectables club launched in December by Lake of Bays Brewing and the NHLAA. Go to to learn more.)

If you’re planning to be in the North Bay area next Saturday, March 8, Walter Gretzky (aka The Great One’s dad) will be at Boston Pizza to kick the contest off, starting at 11:30 am.

The licensee draw will take place in late April.

2. At participating LCBOs
Look for ballots at nearly 70 participating LCBOs across Central and Northern Ontario. NHL Alumni will be dropping by for an awareness-raising autograph session at the following times and places:

  • March 6: Matthew Barnaby in Sault Ste Marie
  • March 8: Marty McSorley and Matthew Barnaby in North Bay
  • March 15: Timmins, Sudbury, Barrie. NHL Alumni to be announced.

The LCBO draw will take place on the week of March 20. Email us if you would like specific times and locations for those appearances.

3. On Facebook
One lucky Lake of Bays Brewing Facebook friend will get to take part. Just go to our Facebook page, like us and click the contest link. The winner of that one will receive an overnight for two in Sudbury as well.


Gold Morning Muskoka!

Team Canada Wins Again! We did it in One-Two-Three!

Posted February 23, 9:17am: It’s still the best game you can name, and we own it at the Olympics.

Sidney Crosby, Team Canada captain, Sochi, Gold Medal Game
Crosby’s a guy you can count on! Goal 2! Photo Credit: Canadian Olympic Team Official Web Site

Canadians rose early this wintry morning to watch the big Olympic hockey finale (before the ‘final’ finale of the Closing Ceremonies) and were not disappointed. Team Canada won over Sweden, 3-0.

Team Canada AC Jonathan Toews started his team off in the first period with the first goal. Then it was Captain Sidney Crosby’s turn in the second.

And in the third? It was Chris Kunitz of Regina scoring Canada’s third goal in the third period, and then, with ten minutes to go, a penalty call against Canada had us all at the edge of our seats. After all, anything can happen, right? While the Swedes played hard, it was not to be a nail biter comeback like that by our Canadian women’s team (arguably amongst the most exciting hockey games ever to be played and watched. Ever.).

Congratulations to all Canadian Olympians. Like the hash tag says, #WeAreWinter.

Team Canada, Bracebridge
Crowd counts down at Boston Pizza Bracebridge

Where were you at 7am this morning? Muskoka News Watch welcomes your comments on this and your other favourite Olympic moments (think Dara Howell!).

Courtesy of Meghan Eidt at Boston Pizza in Bracebridge, here’s a video of the crowd cheering on Team Canada early on in the winning game. Click here to view YouTube video.

Next:  Get ready to cheer on Graeme Murray of Gravenhurst in Paralympic Sledge Hockey. The Paralympics in Sochi start March 7.

Team Canada, hockey, Sochi, Chicago Blackhawks, Jonathan Toews
Team Canada AC Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks) gets first goal in first period.

Related articles: Dara Howell of Huntsville takes Gold at Sochi, Muskoka News Watch


From Stratford to Bracebridge, a new Economic Development Manager named

Randy Mattice new Manager of Economic Development for Bracebridge

Posted Feb. 17, 7pm: The Town of Bracebridge today announced the appointment of Randy Mattice as Manager of Economic Development for the Town. He takes on the post on March 17.  Mattice will report to Cheryl Kelley, the Town’s Director of Planning

Randy Mattice, Bracebridge
Picture from Mattice’s LinkedIn profile

and Development, and is responsible for overseeing the Town’s Economic Development programs and activities focused on business retention, expansion and attraction.

He will also oversee tourism and cultural aspects of the Town’s economic development program.

For more information on his appointment, please click here


Mayor Murphy’s Twitter attack of Oakville Mayor

Murphy continues to infer Oakville Mayor a liar on Twitter re Bala Falls; ‘trolling’, misinformation appear as go to mayoral tactics

Opinion by Norah Fountain: Stop the Twits: Follow Dignity and Integrity Instead

Posted February 15, 6pm: Oakville Mayor Rob Burton said ‘No’ in October 2013 in The Toronto Star. He said No again in November 2013 in a letter to Save the Bala Falls. When presented with a letter on Monday showing the Mayor of Muskoka Lakes complaining about Oakville’s alleged involvement with the Bala hydro project to Premier Wynne and Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, Burton again said No.

But Mayor Alice Murphy won’t take No for an answer.

Burton had to repeat ‘No’ again – twice – last night on Twitter – the Mayor’s apparent fave forum for picking fights, which some might consider to be ‘trolling’ [Trolling in Internet lingo is a term for online harassment]. When pushed to his Twitter limit, Burton then gave Murphy fodder for something she’ll most likely turn into ‘proof’ that she was right all along.

The following is the Tweet exchange last night between an exasperated Mayor Burton in response to Murphy’s allegation that his answer of ‘No’ was ‘Gamesmanship’. This time, he said more than No.Murphy & Burton Tweet

No doubt some context would be helpful.

Last year, rumours swirled around Bala that there might be a company about to buy Swift River Energy Limited (SREL), the company selected to develop a small hydro project in Bala. These rumours were fueled by a post on the Save the Bala Falls web site, despite the fact the same November 13, 2013 post confirmed the Town of Oakville had said ‘it was not involved in the project’.

Read the Toronto Star article yourself and you’ll see why Save the Bala Falls was looking for clarification. You’ll see that Burton says he had spoken with Murphy and suggested it might be possible for Oakville to invest to make the project better. Word for word, here is what The Toronto Star article ACTUALLY says, despite Murphy’s repeated twist that it means Oakville is still considering buying in (she also claims in the article that she has never spoken to Burton).

From The Toronto Star article by John Spears, October 22, 2013:

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton, who sits on the board of Oakville Hydro, says he offered to invest in the project and work out a solution that would result in a safe and aesthetically acceptable power station.

But he said in an interview that Murphy wasn’t interested.

“I’ve told her: We could buy it, and we could put in the mitigations and that would be your sort of half a loaf. Then I discovered she wasn’t interested in mitigations either,” he said.

But he doesn’t want to start a war:

I have no interest in the matter unless it can be done in a friendly and congenial way,” he said.

Weeks before I read this article in October, and the first — and second times — I heard the rumours of a potential Oakville involvement, I called the project manager acting for SREL to ask if the rumours were true. Karen McGhee said she had not heard anything. A few weeks later, and pressing harder, McGhee said she was tired of this line of questioning as she had fielded similar questions over the past few months, and pointed out that “after all, any company at any time might get an offer to be bought  — surely you are aware of that.”

No argument there. Look at BlackBerry. Or this week’s merger between America’s biggest cable companies – Comcast and Time Warner. The possibility that a company might buy another is not unexpected, nor unusual, unless a government steps in to stop the buy for some reason. As a former CFO for a diamond company (the irony is not lost on anyone who knows our Township’s mayor last worked in an industry often criticized for its environmental impact), Murphy knows a thing or two about how business works. Yet her ongoing barrage belies that fact. Consider this one from last night (note she marks it as ‘Follow-up 2’ in the middle of one of her Twitter ‘filibusters’).

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 1.19.03 PMJust like Murphy said during budget deliberations yesterday that she wouldn’t want to pigeonhole future councils (regarding hospital funding), there is no way Mayor Burton can predict what future councils might do.

But will Oakville ever invest, asks Murphy

Hypothetically, let’s say The Town of Oakville (and remember, right now Mayor Burton is on the Board of Oakville Hydro) decides sometime in the future to invest in the project or buy it outright. How does that help Murphy’s efforts to stop the building of it? Maybe a new owner would be less disheartened since the bulk of the public battle is over, or maybe they would disregard the vast public input of the past 10 years. The latter could be bad, and granted, local investment is generally better, but why does it matter so much to Murphy?

The answer may be that it doesn’t matter. Not a dam. More possibly, the rumour mongering and public fight with another Mayor is a bid to dissuade any potential investors as building a hydro plant takes money. So perpetuating a rumour that Oakville wants to buy in and having Burton constantly saying he won’t get involved in a hostile project could be an effective stall the plant strategy. In that case, Oakville is just a pawn (and so is this opinion writer!).

The EXTRA bonus of using Oakville is the chance to tie in to the gas plant controversy. Murphy and her Save the Bala Falls colleagues have attempted to draw a direct parallel between a gas plant and a small hydro project. I won’t get into the energy differences, or levels of concern, but I will take a stab at the political realities which quickly leave the ‘let’s stop it like they did the gas plant’ plan a non starter. Say the gas plant was moved to save a Liberal seat. Many believe this. I have no informed opinion on that one, but I do know Parry Sound-Muskoka. The last time I checked, MPP Norm Miller isn’t going anywhere. He’s got a strong hold on our riding as a Conservative, so there’s no reason to believe the Liberals will jump to nix a contract with SREL to try and win an election here (some believe that the only reason the north Bala Falls site was released for development in 2003 was because we are a Conservative riding: that this whole drama never would have happened had it been a Liberal riding. But just as we can’t predict the future reliably, it’s hard to go back 10 years and paint a potentially different political scenario…).

This brings us back to WHY Murphy enjoys misinforming whomever will see her comments on Twitter (to be fair, her twists stick to politics; she does post encouraging truisms about Muskoka, too). Perhaps she desires a media storm of controversy (Trolling is also defined as deliberately intending to provoke an emotional response and disrupting on-topic discussion). So she compares Oakville to Bala. She drags Oakville’s Mayor into our local ‘Dram-ocracy’ so she can get ink. Shows her followers constantly that she’s still fighting.

It’s working. This editorial proves it. I’ve been sucked in.

Admire persistence but deplore tactics

The fact is, Murphy is a master of misinformation in her bid to do whatever it takes to fight the building of a hydro plant. Indeed, that’s her goal, and her persistence is the only thing for which I give her kudos. Murphy ran for mayor to stop the hydro plant across from her cottage in Bala (she herself has said that’s what made her become an activist in Bala). Many voters in Bala gave her a mandate to do that, she says, and I believe that is why many people voted for her in Ward A (some voters in Wards B & C may have different reasons, but even Township staff have said she’s ‘all about the falls’ and it’s hard for anyone to argue that Bala has not been the focus for the past four years.)

Do the ends justify the means? Big No. Arguably, the Mayor’s actions also break with Township policy C-GG-05 that states: “The Mayor assures the integrity of the Township Council’s process and represents the Township Council to outside parties in a dignified and professional manner.” That policy also as things to say staying within jurisdiction…

Simply put: Murphy’s behaviour is embarrassing.

I’m not the only one who thinks that: sources at District and Township among staff and councillors have told me they feel the same way. It’s clear at least one Mayor in another municipality thinks that, too.

Some worry that any sympathetic ear Muskoka Lakes had with government agencies and politicians in other levels of government may be gone. I think we can expect Murphy’s ongoing fight to get even more outrageous and expensive during the silly season approaching the municipal election.

What about conflict of interest?

Asked again by a reader of MNW last night: Does the Mayor have a conflict of interest? To be in conflict means there must be a money aspect. Just because she lives directly across from the proposed plant location, she says, is not a conflict because she is fighting the plant just as others in her situation are doing. Despite the lousy optics, I concede she’s argued that well. Besides, no money is at stake, unless she were to ask or get agreement from SREL to buy her property or something like that.

Where she might have a conflict of interest is in voting on anything to do with Swift River due to the defamation suit against her personally. Murphy stands to lose — or gain — money depending on the outcome of the suit. As a result, if she doesn’t want to declare a conflict of interest, it’s in HER best interests to never allow Council to speak with SREL about anything regarding the project – even if it could help the community. She knows Council is split on trying to soften the potential construction impact of the project on Bala. Four councillors have indicated they think enough money has been spent fighting and a few have been requesting an official meeting go ahead with SREL.

As well, Councillor Allen Edwards has repeatedly said he wants to hear from the people on the issue, and in a meeting last month when Council debated the topic of SREL’s design concept survey (the one Murphy called ‘disrespectful’ in a Gravenhurst Banner article), Councillor Phil Harding said he’d like to hear from people, too. If Murphy lets a respectful conversation with SREL happen that leads to any vote or decision at either Township or District, she might have to declare a conflict and not be able to vote against any compromise. That’s why I think you’ll never see any ‘real’ offers of any constructive or ‘fulsome dialogue’ to use Murphy’s own words. Her constant accusation that SREL refuses is ‘disingenuous’ – another favourite Murphy phrase that came up at least five times in the Judicial Review hearing I attended, but it wasn’t uttered by Murphy. ‘Disingenuous’ was used by the judges at least four times  in reference to the Township’s position — and once by the Township lawyer in defence of that charge.

Who really pays the price?

The worst thing in my mind (admittedly, a paradoxical opinion after saying no one can predict the future) is that my own prediction IS coming true.

In August 2011, I delegated to the present Council to express support for Option 2 (a plant option away from the Falls). I warned if Township didn’t at least try and talk reasonably with any developer, people who love Bala Falls might get everything we DID NOT WANT.

bala falls, muskoka news, bala, parking lot, new crosswalk, swift river energy, muskoka lakes, mayor murphy, norah fountain, save the bala falls
Presentation and ask of Council August 2011

We did not want extra signage. We now have it – portage signs fighting with do not trespass signs, etc. We did not want fences. We did not want a plant built on the edge of the falls. We did not want to lose access to either side of the north falls. As I said earlier, we can’t go backward in time. Option Two is gone. I left Council that day (August 29, 2011), with these words: please don’t make a long-term mess the Council’s legacy.

I thought then it would mostly hurt the people of Bala. Now I believe Murphy’s mess is hurting the entire township.

Note: Murphy is invited to respond via comment any time she wishes to this editorial on this page as opposed to typing 140 characters on Twitter. Of course, this is a ‘dram-ocracy’ and she is free to do what she wants. I just want everyone to know her comment would be printed just as she sends it.

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Twitter Disclosure: Sometimes I act like Twit on Twitter, too, and I try hard to avoid the occasional jab, but sometimes I slip. You can follow @MuskokaMedia for Non Twit like remarks and only Muskoka content or @Muskokahn for my personal views and opinions.

Do you want to comment on this editorial? All comments are welcome. To make sure you are human and not repeating comments using aliases, we ask for your first and last name and email address, but only your first name will be published unless you indicate otherwise. For regular commenters, you may notice on your own computer browser that your name and email shows up. That’s because it is cached on your own computer, so it’s always a good idea after you Submit to go back and delete your personal info. If you’re new to MNW, you’ll get a response telling you when your comment is published. To know more about our Comment policies, read About MNW. Thank you.

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Tags: Muskoka News, Alice Murphy, Rob Burton, Save the Bala Falls, Swift River Energy

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.

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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

About Muskoka News Watch: Muskoka News Watch exists primarily on donations. If you appreciate us keeping you informed with comprehensive articles such as this one, consider tossing a few dollars our way via the Donate Button on the top right hand corner of our Home Page. Or tell potential advertisers about us. Thank you.

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


More and earlier say on cell tower sites, promises MP Tony Clement

Industry Canada unveils new rules for cell tower placement

The following is a verbatim press release from the office of Parry Sound-Muskoka Tony Clement.

Posted Feb. 5, 3:30pm: Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement said that new Industry Canada rules announced today will ensure the public have their say on proposed cell towers in their communities, regardless of their proposed size.

“I know the issue of proposed cell towers has caused conflict in several areas across Parry Sound-Muskoka, and the public deserves to have a say in how any new cell tower locations are identified,“ said MP Clement. “Improvements to Industry Canada’s Antenna Tower Siting Policy will ensure that local residents and municipal governments are at the forefront of the tower placement process.”

Over the last 20 years, wireless services have grown into something that Canadian consumers rely on every day. As a result, we are seeing an increasing number of new cell towers being constructed in our communities. The placement of these towers is becoming ever more divisive with the rapidly increasing demand for wireless services.

The changes to the policy guiding the installation of new antenna towers will require companies to:

  • consult communities on all commercial tower installations, regardless of height;
  • build the tower within three years of consulting with communities; and
  •  ensure that residents are well-informed of upcoming consultations.

The improvements will also strengthen federal communications with the public on tower siting procedures, including new online resources on the process, and new reporting mechanisms to track tower issues and report back to communities.

These measures build on the Harper Government’s current tower sharing policies that require companies to first look at sharing existing tower infrastructure, whenever they can, to reduce the number of new towers needed in each community.







“Canadian consumers expect their government to make decisions that will deliver more choice, lower prices and better service in the wireless sector for all Canadians,“ said MP Clement. “The Government of Canada will continue to work with the wireless sector in the weeks ahead on ways to more effectively balance the concerns of local communities.“


Quick facts


•            Under the existing cell tower siting policy, a company is only required to consult the community when it plans to build an antenna tower taller than 15 metres.

•            Before any company can build a new cell tower, it is required to look at alternatives like whether there is an existing tower in the same area that it can share

•            All antenna towers, no matter the height, location or power, have to satisfy Industry Canada’s technical requirements and comply with Health Canada’s rules to ensure the safety of Canadians.


Sled driver suffers serious injuries after Tiny Township crash

Man thrown from sled after hitting rock near Michaud Point, says OPP

Posted Feb. 2, 7:30pm: A 56-year-old Tiny Township man is being treated for serious but non life threatening injuries at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto after a sledding accident this morning near Penetanguishene.

The South Georgian Bay OPP, Tiny Fire and Simcoe County Paramedics responded to a 911 call around 10:30 am. The caller reported a sled driver had been thrown from his snowmobile and was laying on the ice just off shore in the Michaud Point area (on Penetang Bay near Champlain Road and Peek A Boo Trail).

Police say the man struck a large rock which threw him from his sled on a section of ice offshore. The investigation into the incident is ongoing. There have been five fatal snowmobile accidents so far this season.

New Muskoka Watershed Chair and exploring the link between environment and economy

How environment can drive economy focus of February 6 event; Muskoka Watershed Council welcomes Dr. Peter Sale as Chair; Robert Bateman to be keynote speaker for Muskoka Summit on the Environment

New Chair for Muskoka Watershed Council (MWC): Marine ecologist and noted author of Our Dying Planet, Dr. Peter Sale, has officially stepped in to Patricia Arney’s

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Dr. Sale with outgoing Chair Patricia Arney. Photo by Lyndsie McGregor

shoes as Chair of the Muskoka Watershed Council. Arney has completed her two-year term with the Council, which champions environmental stewardship in our region.  The change in leadership happened at the Council meeting held on Friday, January 24, during which Sale presented Arney, a Bala resident, with a certificate of appreciation in recognition of her commitment and dedication. (Arney has been involved with the MWC since 2001 and Sale joined the Council in 2010). Lou Guerriero has also been elected as Vice-Chair. He first joined MWC in 2004 as a representative for the Town of Gravenhurst.

The Environment is Good for Business Event Feb. 6: Do you have to choose between a healthy environment and a strong economy? Experts agree that Muskoka’s economy can serve as a perfect example of how they can go hand in hand. On Thursday, February 6, economic and planning consultant Rob Milligan will explore the opportunities that exist as a result of the environment–economy connection.  Milligan, who is also a member of the Muskoka Watershed Council, is the keynote speaker at the annual Bridges to Better Business event put on by the Muskoka Small Business Centre. It happens at the Rotary Centre for Youth in Bracebridge. To learn more and register, please click here or call the Muskoka Small Business Centre at 706-646-9021 (remember to tell them you read about it here at Muskoka News Watch!). The day also features a panel of businesses with close connections to the environment, and an afternoon series of popular speed mentoring sessions, where attendees can get business advice from experts on a whole range of topics.  For more information or to register for this important event, contact Muskoka Small Business Centre at 705-646-9021 or visit

Plans well under way for 2014 Muskoka Summit on the Environment: Resolving the Environment-Economy dichotomy is also the theme for this year’s Muskoka Summit on the Environment in May. Keynote speaker for this event is renowned Canadian wildlife artist, naturalist and conservationist Robert Bateman. He heads up a great line up news about muskoka, muskoka events, muskoka news, muskoka, environment, summit, watershed, save the bala falls, lake muskokaof speakers who will look at creative approaches to closing the gap between economic and environmental considerations.

So far, speakers for the event include:

  • Robert Sandford, Director of the Western Watersheds Research Collaborative and a leading thinker on the impact of climate change on freshwater resources.
  • Elena Bennett, from McGill University, who studies the connection between ecosystem services and human well being.
  •  Terre Satterfield, an anthropologist at UBC, whose work focuses on culture and justice as they influence environmental values.
  •  Daniel Simberloff, from the University of Tennessee, is a leading terrestrial ecologist and expert on the biology of invasive species.
  • Peter Victor, from York University is an economist who works on environmental issues.

The two-day summit will feature presentations by each of these experts and will wrap up with a panel discussion hosted by CBC’s Paul Kennedy (to be broadcast afterward on Kennedy’s award winning program, Ideas). Registration is now open for the Muskoka Summit on the Environment, happening May 8-9 at the Rene Caisse Theatre in Bracebridge. To learn more, visit the Summit site by clicking here.


Welcome February and more snow: we could get another 10cm Saturday night in Muskoka

Snow Watch February 1, 6pm: We could have another 10 centimetres before the snowfall lets up at midnight tonight and then we could still see some more flurries heading into Groundhog Day. We should see skies clearing by late afternoon Sunday and the good news: it’s warmer than we’ve experienced the past few weeks – Sunday’s high is near minus 6.

Blowing snow still causing problems in our region – Hwy 11 SB was closed at Stephenson Rd due to an accident there – now open at 5.17pm; Environment Canada suggests avoiding areas of snow squalls

Posted Jan. 29: 4:45pm: Snow squalls continue to cause dangerous winter driving conditions due to sudden zero visibility in whiteouts. The Ministry of Transportation reports one accident on Hwy 11 Southbound at Stephenson Road today that had one lane closed for an hour or so this afternoon until just after 5pm. Still be careful on SB 11 between Bracebridge and Utterson.

Environment Canada has updated its snow squall warning and it looks like we won’t get a break from those squalls until later this evening. It reports:

“Multiple snow squalls will continue in a stiff and cold west flow off Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and Lake Erie. Snow squalls are affecting primarily the Bruce Peninsula and areas east of Georgian Bay south to Midland.”

Snow is expected to pile up rapidly within the snow bands, and local snowfall rates of about 10 centimetres per 12 hours are possible, according to Environment Canada. The agency suggests drivers should consider adjusting travel plans including avoiding regions of snow squalls all together.

New Windchill Warning posted Monday, January 27

Extremely cold wind chills developing today and tonight. In the wake of a cold front, falling temperatures and strong winds will generate wind chill values into the minus 30s tonight and likely into Tuesday in most areas. Tomorrow the high is expected to be minus 15 with the windchill making it feel like minus 34. We could warm up heading toward the weekend – Saturday’s forecast from Environment Canada suggests the thermometer may make it up to a high of minus 4.

Southern Ontario cold front expected to move Muskoka way overnight. windchill could bring windchill of minus 35 on Tuesday

Posted Jan. 19, 8:35pm: That sharp cold front sweeping across Southern Ontario could make itself felt in Muskoka overnight and bring extremely colder conditions on Tuesday. As if Monday wasn’t cold enough with temperatures of minus 16 feeling like minus 26 with

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Wild turkeys take shelter from the snow squalls today at home near Milford Bay

the windchill.  Environment Canada says deepening cold air, combined with moderate winds, could result in even colder wind chill values ranging from minus 20 to as cold as minus 35 on Tuesday morning.

Historical average temperatures for this time in January are usually closer to minus 17. If weather forecasts are correct, the earliest we may see temperatures rise close to zero again will be January 28 (or possibly not until early February).

Along the front, bands of intense flurries developed today bringing periods of near zero visibilities in snow and blowing snow, along with a quick few centimetres of accumulation. The good news is that a snow squall warning for the Muskoka region ended tonight (Sunday) by 7:30pm.

Please stay warm and safe monitor the latest forecasts and warnings for the Muskoka region from Environment Canada. or click on the Weather Network button on the Muskoka News Watch home page.

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.

To comment on this article, please use the Submit Comment form below. Please remember, we need at least a first name and email to know that you are a ‘real’ human. Only your first name will appear unless you request otherwise.


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Plans under way to install crosswalk beside Bala Falls bridge

Crosswalk to link boat walkway just south of township parking lot to Margaret Burgess Park

Posted Jan 14, 1:45pm: A new signalized pedestrian cross walk that aims to make the busy Portage Landing area crossing in Bala safer is a step closer to reality. Plans have been drawn up that show a proposed location for the crosswalk. It would be located right at the north end of the Bala Falls bridge, starting from the path where people come up from their boats and crossing directly across to the entrance to Margaret Burgess Park (See picture or click here to download bigger PDF image: ProposedBalaPXOlocation1).

Tony White, District Commissioner of Engineering and Public Works, says the District would like to get the crosswalk installed in the spring before the busy summer season. He says its location was requested by the Township of Muskoka Lakes, warrants for the crosswalk were confirmed by the District, and the location provides the required 85 metres of sight distance in both directions. The proposed crossover will mean the loss of some parking spots on the Margaret Burgess Park side beside the parking in front of the Bala United Church.

The crosswalk came about by way of resolution COW-10-05/02/13 of the Township of Muskoka Lakes, which asked That a Traffic Signal pedestrian Crossing be installed across Muskoka Road 169 in Bala, linking the Township Parking Lot and Margaret Burgess Park”. It was forwarded to District for approval on October 21, 2013. Just before installation was approved, Councillor Phil Harding was quoted in the Bracebridge Examiner as saying “we’d like to get the crosswalk in line with the boat parking for those people who come into town.” (Source: Bracebridge Examiner. See References).

This is not the first time the Township has considered a crosswalk for this area which often sees people darting from the parking lot over to the shops in the Portage Landing building, which include Don’s Bakery, Annie’s Café & Deli, Riot and most recently, Muskoka Bear Wear. As Harding has pointed out, the idea of a crosswalk has been enhanced by the Township’s purchase of part of the Portage Landing parking lot.

Crosswalk a long awaited feature

Bala crosswalk, streetscape plans, original crosswalk for bala
Original Streetscape Crosswalk plan at Portage Street beside Don’s Bakery with still enough clearance to corner and connecting parking lot

Safer pedestrian crossings were recommended in a Strategic Economic Development and Urban Design Guidelines plan produced in 2002 that was funded by FedNor and produced by the Township, Planscape and the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

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Proposed 2006 Crosswalk toward Don’s from Parking Lot

In 2006, a study that looked specifically at a planned crosswalk was later prepared for the Township by a transportation design and engineering partnership (see References). It showed a crosswalk on the south leg of the intersection of Muskoka Road 169 and Portage Street.

Now the plan has changed somewhat with a proposed protected route for pedestrians arriving by boat that will direct them from the boat walkway across 169 to the park.

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Previous Xwalk plan at Portage Street, closer to Don’s Bakery

“A crosswalk at the location shown in 2006 might be a more conventional choice,” says White, “but there is a curve in the road immediately north. The Township’s preferred location provides the required visibility in a straight line in both directions.”

Do all roads lead back to Bala Falls?

When asked if the crosswalk could stop Swift River Energy Limited (SREL) from gaining an entrance permit into Margaret Burgess Park, White answered that any needed access will be only temporary for construction purposes. However he says Swift River (the company selected to develop Crown lands at North Bala Falls for power generation) will need to determine how the crossover and a short-term entrance can co-exist. He adds the Township has also asked for an opportunity to comment on any application by SREL for an entrance permit.

“This, in my view, is a reasonable request since the requirements of the District and the Township are usually coordinated through the Township’s control of the site plan approval process, and the District’s jurisdiction over access,” he explains. “However, site plan controls do not apply to this project.”  White confirmed the District is solely responsible for issuing an entrance permit.

Mike Webb, a director of the Muskoka Lakes Snow Trails Association, says he’ll be asking what the proposed crossover location means for the snowmobile trail there. Signage directs snowmobilers under the bridge on the boat walkway that will now mark the start of the pedestrian crossover.

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Crosswalk end point will mean these parking spots will no longer be available.

As a resident, he expressed surprise that the crosswalk would be placed down the street from where most people park to cross the road. The proposed location also raises a potential inconvenience for scuba divers who unload gear in the parking spots that may be lost. “Our shop doesn’t use that spot that often,” says Dean Mark, owner of Scuba Shack in Gravenhurst, “but a lot of other divers come up from Toronto to use it. The loss of that parking area would definitely affect the tourism aspect of that spot.”

Other Bala residents have questioned whether the updated crosswalk location is just another tactic to hamper access for Swift River – tactics some residents cheer on while others shake their heads. As one Township source put it, “all roads lead back to Bala Falls.”