New Tecumseth council is planning to pass the 2009 budget Monday night. Currently the tax increase sits at 1.49 per cent. For the average home assessed at $255,159 that represents an increase of $27.14 annually. Because the town signed onto the OPP contract last year and it included an increase in funding for additional officers, 1.03 per cent of the increase can’t be reduced. That means the portion of the budget council can control is increasing .43 per cent. Monday night, Coun. Dennis Egan proposed the town use a portion of the tax stabilization fund to pay for the controllable impact on residents this year. While Egan had the support of Coun. Jim Stone, the remainder of council was not in favour of depleting the stabilization fund. Mayor Mike MacEachern said that the economic challenges are going to continue and cautioned against tapping into the stabilization fund. Coun. Jamie Smith said if the town covered the .43 per cent, essentially they are spending their savings account. He said a slight increase in taxes is not unconscionable and thinks the budget as it is right now is reasonable. There are some budget items that are still to be hashed out Monday. The most contentious so far has been the field house at the Mel Mitchell playing fields in Beeton. When the field house project was proposed it had a $100,000 price tag, half coming from the town and half from fundraising and in-kind donations. At a January budget meeting a decision on the field house was put off until February, when council could see designs. At that meeting the project cost was $200,000. When the designs were brought forward at a February budget meeting, a new cost estimate of $331,250 was attached to the two-phase project. Several options for the field house project are going to be presented at the March 9 committee of the whole meeting, including a scaled back version of the project. Depending upon which design council chooses, it could mean an increase in the budget. Irrigation of the 14th Line sports fields is the other item up for discussion at the meeting.
One of Barrie’s largest employers has a new corporate owner. Bell Canada Enterprises (BCE) Inc. is acquiring the Canadian headquarters for The Source by Circuit City on Bayview Drive, and its 756 retail stores across Canada. The Source employs 438 staff at its 402,000-square-foot national office and distribution centre in Barrie. Another 3,000 employees are scattered across Canada working at the retail outlets. The company had filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors in Canada shortly after its parent Circuit City did the same in the U.S. before Christmas. Bell is buying the assets from InterTan Canada Ltd., the Barrie subsidiary of Circuit City. Acting president Bruce Dinan told Barrie staff in a communication, “This is a great outcome for our company. We are moving forward as part of Canada’s largest communications company, one with considerable financial strength, a rich history of technological innovation and a firm belief in the long-term potential of our business. “The acquisition of The Source, which remains subject to court approval, follows an active sales process that saw our company receive interest from a number of serious buyers. All current InterTan employees will be given the opportunity to continue on in their current roles, on substantially similar terms, under the new ownership. Our head office and warehouse facility will remain open and fully operational. Upon closing of the transaction, Ron Cuthbertson will return to lead the current management team. In the meantime, it’s business as usual at The Source.” Key to the deal is that a wide array of Bell electronic products, such as wireless, TV, Internet and home phone services, will eventually replace those of rival Rogers Communications in Source stores starting in January 2010. The purchase will also bring the number of stores offering Bell wireless products closer to Rogers, who operates 1,100 outlets, and Telus, who operates approximately 800 stores in Canada. The Source will continue as an independent subsidiary, run by the present management team, under the new ownership structure. Terms of the deal were kept quiet. However, a Bell representative said the company is paying less than the $260 million (U.S.) Circuit City Stores Inc. paid four years ago when it bought the chain of stores, then known as Radio Shack. “It was a very good marriage,” said Wade Oosterman, president of Bell Mobility and chief brand officer for Bell. “I think the existing management, who were going to continue on and run that business, saw the product breadth we would bring to the table as very attractive to them.” In 2008, The Source’s revenue was $643 million. The deal is expected to close in the third quarter of 2009. With files from Torstar news service
Simcoe County District School Board trustees have voted to keep four of five area high schools open, leaving existing enrolment gaps at some schools and possibly creating new ones at Collingwood Collegiate Institute. Onlookers spilled into the atrium at the school board’s administration centre in Midhurst Tuesday as members of the facility standing committee, comprised of trustees, voted at a special meeting called to deal with nine staff recommendations about how to resolve high school enrolment issues. "Before us there are nine recommendations that are basically going to tear our communities apart," said Peter Beacock, trustee for Springwater Township and Oro-Medonte. Trustees poured over nine staff recommendations during a four-and-a-half hour period Tuesday, in the end, defeating a motion to close the high schools in Stayner and Penetanguishene. A motion to recommend improvements to Collingwood Collegiate Institute was also defeated. They did approve the closure of Elmvale District High School and the construction of a new secondary school to serve Wasaga Beach and Elmvale. Caroline Smith, the trustee representing Collingwood and Clearview Township, spoke in favour of following the recommendations made by an accommodation review committee (ARC) last month. "There was never a direction from the ARC that they wanted a mega school," said Smith. "This was as close to a consensus as any of the ARCs ever got." She said the board is not allowed to close one school to get growth to build another school, speaking in defense of Stayner Collegiate Institute. But the decisions made by trustees Tuesday are far from final. Jodi Lloyd, trustee for Severn, Tay and Ramara, chairs the facility standing committee. She said by approving some recommendations and not others, the three-school solution recommended by staff has been altered and there are now holes that need to be filled. Redirecting the 450 Wasaga Beach secondary school students to a new high school will result in capacity issues at Collingwood Collegiate Institute. Lloyd said that problem has yet to be dealt with. She said things are sure to change as trustees go through another wave of public delegations in May before they make their final decision at a board meeting on June 17. She said although all school trustees sit on the facility standing committee, there will certainly be changes in opinion as they go through the process. The board embarked on the review one year ago to seek solutions to declining enrolment in the area, creating a surplus of so-called pupil places. Staff recommendations, contained in a report dated April 14, differ from the recommendations made by the ARC last month. High schools in Stayner, Collingwood, Elmvale, Penetanguishene and Midland are included in the review. Wasaga Beach was also included as a possible school site. The ARC, a committee made up of school and community representatives, recommended a five-school solution, to keep all five schools open and fund necessary improvements and upgrades to solve capacity issues. Board staff recommended a three-school solution, which would result in the closure of Penetanguishene Secondary School, Stayner Collegiate Institute and Elmvale District High School and the construction of a central school for Wasaga Beach and Elmvale. Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier said the decision to close Elmvale High School wasn’t the best one. "I supported a six school option, one for each community," he said. "This is devastating news for the people of Elmvale," he said. "I sympathize with them. I’m shocked that this is one of these recommendations." Carrier said there continues to problems with education funding in Ontario. "I don’t think the board folks are the bad people," he said. "It shows how under-funded education is." Carrier disagrees with the idea that if a school is built in Wasaga Beach, CCI will lose programming. He said it is likely that CCI could lose 300 students, but he can’t see them going from 1,250 students to 850 students overnight. "If they are going to close Elmvale, the school will likely be located in the east end of Wasaga Beach. It still might be advantageous for kids to hop the bus and come to Collingwood," he said. Carrier said they expect huge growth in Nottawa and those kids would likely attend CCI. He said the growth in Collingwood will also add more students to CCI. "Where is the growth going to be in Simcoe County – it’s going to be in Collingwood, Clearview and Wasaga Beach," he said.
More than 70 local businesses are set to promote themselves at the Wasaga Beach Business Show on March 29. The business show was created in 2007. It is now in its third year and is presented by the Wasaga Beach Women’s Business Association and the Wasaga Beach Chamber of Commerce. Wasaga Beach Women’s Business Association president and Wasaga Sun sales representative Wendy Sherk said this year’s show sold out weeks ago and they now have a waiting list. "We’ve had a tremendous response to this year’s business show," said Sherk. "The success of the past two shows proves that it is well attended and well received in the community. This year’s show will be even bigger and better." The trade show offers local businesses an opportunity to promote their services and products during an event that offers the public an opportunity for one-stop browsing. The show will feature several business sectors, including real estate, financial institutions, restaurants, trades, healthcare workers, media, insurance agents, home improvement specialists and much more. Sherk said the show will feature many new businesses and some that are well established in the community. She said each vendor will have a 10-by-six-foot space to offer demonstrations and feature products. Sherk said the show also offers people an opportunity to meet some of the business owners. Jennifer Campbell is among those who will be manning a booth at the show. At age 14, Campbell started teaching dance lessons. It was the beginning of The Danceroom, as it would come to be known. The first lessons were held in the basement of her parents’ Wasaga Beach home with only five students. Several years later the business has grown to have more than 180 dance students and program participants. "The explosive population at the dance studio has been exciting and it has been wonderful to constantly establish and build on relationships with dancers and parents," said Campbell. "It’s also been a bit of a crystal ball for what may be in store for the future." Campbell, 19, is at York University where she studies modern dance in her first year of a three- to four-your program. While she is away her mom Juliet manages The Danceroom and they have hired an artistic director and seven instructors. They also have three assistant instructors and three volunteer instructors. On March 25, The Danceroom is moving to the Sunnidale Corners Hall, having outgrown its rented space at Centennial United Church in Stayner. Campbell hopes to one day have a permanent location. The Danceroom now offers a number of dance and fitness programs and is introducing a number of new programs, including ballroom dancing for youth and baton, in addition to body sculpting and an abdominal program to enhance yoga. For more on The Danceroom visit www.the-danceroom.com. ReMax agent Marilyn Ruttan will be promoting a new venture at the show. She, along with website designer Henning Geiler of Pinpoint Graphics, have developed ClosingContacts.com, which is designed to provide people all the information they need to get their property ready to sell or close a deal on a new property. The site lists contact information for mortgage brokers, surveyors, appraisers, movers, home inspectors, lawyers and others sought out by homebuyers and sellers in the Georgian Triangle. Visit www.closingcontacts.com. Juergen Keller will be promoting Aqua Formations, a company that creates water gardens, aquatic landscapes, rock gardens, waterfalls, pondless streams and eco pond systems. He also creates rainwater harvest systems which collect rainwater that can be dispersed through a sprinkler system to water the lawn, something he said will be very valuable to people once Wasaga Beach’s water meters start being read. Visit www.AquaFormations.com. The Business Show takes place at the RecPlex on Sun., March 29 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Free admission. Many businesses will be offering draws and promotions throughout the day. The Lioness Club will be operating a canteen offering lunch and refreshments.
Members of city council are quietly pushing to have a twin-pad arena built on a larger property than originally planned, sparking fears that the project could be stalled. “If they do this, it is going to reopen the debate, and every councillor is going to want their pet project there,” Michael Fogarty said. “It is going to delay things further.” Just weeks after council agreed to build an arena on a 25-acre parcel of city-owned land by the fall of 2010, some are campaigning behind the scenes to move the project to a 45-acre property located nearby, Fogarty said. “This is being pushed quite heavily,” he added. The larger property was to be saved for industrial use, but according to Fogarty and others who spoke with Orillia Today, members are increasingly viewing it as the answer to the city’s recreation woes. “Some councillors want to move the whole MURF out there, some councillors want some options so they can expand out there,” he added. To date, these discussions have happened out of the public’s view, and included an informal chat at the conclusion of a closed-door meeting on Monday evening, he said. Fogarty said he felt the discussion was inappropriate and left the room, followed shortly after by Wayne Gardy. “When council starts discussing an item that would lead to a decision of council, it is a meeting,” Gardy told Orillia Today. “The clerk should be present and it should be recorded.” Gardy echoed concerns that the project could be delayed by a change of location. “It shouldn’t even be discussed,” he said. “Council made a decision that we need a twin pad now, as well as keeping the community centre in use until the twin pad is ready.” Ralph Cipolla concurred. “It would delay the construction of the twin pad until at least 2011, and that is not acceptable” he said. Cipolla, who continues to pursue a portion of the Huronia Regional Centre property for the MURF, is urging council to follow its original plan. “People are only asking for a twin pad,” he said. “Let’s build it, and that will give us time to assess what we are going to do about getting a premier recreation facility, rather than piece meal. If we go to the 45 acres, we are going to end up with a barn again, and that is unacceptable.” User groups who were left scrambling to secure ice time following the closure of the community centre were angered to learn of the discussions. “All we asked for was a simple, twin-pad facility – that is all we wanted,” said Bruce Goddard, a member of the Twin Lakes Oldtimers Hockey Club. Goddard spearheaded a petition for the new arena, gathering more than 3,000 names with the help of other groups, including minor hockey and figure skating. “It is a typical Orillia situation,” he added of the recent development. “You start something, then it’s ‘Change this and change that.’ “People should get on the blower and start calling their councillors,” he added. “They can get their numbers on the city’s web site, or call city hall.” Orillia Minor Hockey president Cathy O’Connor is concerned not with the site but the prospect of a delay. “I’m more concerned about them getting that piece of property and all of sudden they want to put the MURF there, and that is where the delay would come from,” she said. “They’ll fight about the spot, and are they going to want to add the pool? They made a decision, stick with it.” Fogarty, who opposes a change in venue, said “there is a real concerted effort of trying to get this through. “I think councillors are slowly waking up to the fact that (a recreation complex on West Street) is not going to happen,” he said. Joe Fecht tried but failed to convince council to move the majority of the MURF project to the 45-acre site. He would “absolutely support” a proposal to move the twin pad to the larger property. “If we can’t proceed on West Street, we potentially have another opportunity to look at the other aspects of a recreational sports complex,” he said. Coun. Tim Lauer earlier argued in favor of building an arena on the larger property, saying it offered room for additional soccer fields and other outdoor amenities. “As we get closer to the actual design, if there are some compelling arguments to move it, I will certainly be championing them again,” he said. “Right now, the priority for me is that everything moves forward.” Lauer continues to support the West Street property for the MURF, but said that, were the site deemed unworkable, “you would at least have that option” with the 45-acre property. Lauer rejects the notion that building the arena on the larger property would delay the project. “It wouldn’t be a big deal,” he added. “It would just be a discussion about which side of the road you want to be on.” Both Lauer and Fecht downplayed the significance of the impromptu discussion held Monday. “We were just getting an update of information,” Fecht said.
Trevor Connor has had some explaining to do since word of Chrysler’s financial woes trickled down to the owners and would-be buyers of vehicles produced by the troubled auto giant. Connor, a sales person at Simcoe County Chrysler in Orillia, readily acknowledged that Chrysler’s slide into bankruptcy protection south of the border has prompted concern among customers unsure of the company’s future. “Consumers are a little intimidated,” he said this week, stressing that, “the warranties and everything else that goes along with it are intact.” Even as the U.S.-based Chrysler undergoes a restructuring that includes billions in loans from Ottawa and Queen’s Park, it is business as usual at franchises across Canada, Connor said. “We are solid as we have ever been, we are not going away,” he said. While sales of new cars are down 50 per cent at the local dealership, sales of used models are on the rise as buyers seek to lower their costs. Growing interest in used cars is further driven by Chrysler’s inability to offer leasing, he said. “Any of the sales people in Orillia will tell you a lot of new-car sales are hedged around leasing,” he added. Customers are also holding onto their vehicles longer, and are increasingly willing to spend more on repairs, he said. “People are spending $3,000 or $4,000 (on repairs),” he added. Operating with a relatively lean staff of 10 – including sales and service – the dealership is well positioned to succeed in future, Connor said. “I think being small and nimble is a tremendous advantage,” he added. “We observed this coming. We were fully prepared for this and were taking steps in August of last year (to become more efficient). “We are not trying to be the biggest store in North America,” he added. “We know our customers’ needs. They want to deal with a smaller location.” Connor is confident Chrysler will emerge from its restructuring in a stronger position, citing past successes such as the mini-van as evidence of its innovative approach. “Absolutely,” he said. “We tend to be on the forefront of innovation.”
Midland is going to get scavenged next weekend. Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Simcoe will be hosting “The Amazing Rally,” a scavenger-type hunt based on one of television’s most popular reality shows. Up to 120 participants will tour the area May 2, participating in mental, physical and silly tasks at 14 checkpoints around town. Upon completing each task, rally racers will receive an envelope with a clue to get to the next checkpoint. France St. Amour, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Simcoe, said time will be a factor, but the goal is to be safe and to have a lot of fun. Therefore, anyone who finishes in less than four hours will lose points. “I wish I could participate,” she said. “It bugs me I am creating the thing with other people, because it’s going to be fantastic. It’s going to be an awesome, awesome day.” The race will be followed by a dinner and dance at Café St. Marie. The winners will receive prizes, including the grand prize of a weekend for two at The Inn at Christie’s Mill. The event, St. Amour noted, will help raise money for the organization’s mentoring program. “We’re hoping to raise $10,000 from the (inaugural) event,” she said, adding she anticipates the rally will become an annual affair. “It’s for charity, but it’s also going to be a blast. It’s going to be a fun day (and) it’s helping the children in our community.” The race will begin at General Mills (111 Pillsbury Dr., Midland) at 11 a.m., with the last racer expected to cross the finish line around 5 p.m. The cost is $100 for a team of two. For more information, call 526-5051 or visit . email@example.com
Telus in Alliston was in the giving mood recently, donating proceeds from its cuddly Critter Sales initiative to Big Brothers Big Sisters of South Simcoe. The store sold plush meerkats, two of which are seen here checking out some phones, to customers during the Christmas season. Proceeds from each sale went to BBBSSS. In total, $113.42 was raised. Seen here, from left, are Kyle Cubberly from Telus Alliston, and Kelly Cetnarski and Kally Malcher from BBBSSS.
The future of a proposed expansion to a Highway 26 location for the Knights’ Home Building Centre is now up in the air after Meaford council passed a bylaw dictating take-it-or-leave-it financial terms for a development agreement with Knights’ at Monday night’s regular council meeting. Knights’ representatives Scott and Tyler Knight were caught completely off guard when council passed a bylaw dictating the terms of a development agreement for the Knights’ proposal. The bylaw passed by council will force Knights’ to pay – up front – in excess of $110,000 for municipal servicing requirements at the new location. The Knights’ proponents were stunned when council passed the bylaw at Monday’s meeting without even discussing the report during its committee of the whole session. Neither Tyler or Scott Knight addressed the situation during council’s public question period earlier in the night because they had been told by municipal staff they would have an opportunity to present their case during committee of the whole. Only as the meeting appeared to be coming to a conclusion – with council preparing to move -in-camera to discuss an unrelated topic – did the Knights’ speak. "We were blind-sided tonight," Tyler told council. "We were told by your staff we would get a chance to speak and plead our case," he told council. Earlier in the meeting council rammed through a development agreement bylaw in a 6-1 recorded vote that will force the Knights’ to pay the municipality more than $110,000 for future servicing. The municipality has not provided any guarantees when servicing will be extended to the new Knights’ location on Highway 26. Only councillor Gerald Shortt voted against the bylaw. Councillor Jim McPherson asked if the Knights’ were satisfied with the agreement. In response Mayor Francis Richardson said the municipality is satisfied. "We’ve come to what we believe is a fair agreement," said Richardson. Tyler and Scott Knight said they were both caught completely off guard when the agreement was not discussed during the committee of the whole portion of the meeting. "I thought the direction (at the last meeting) was to talk to us and listen to us. There have been no negotiations. It’s all been one-sided. Our lawyer was told what has been decided," Scott Knight told council. "I feel like this was done behind our backs to get it over with," he added. Mayor Richardson made it clear council was not going to negotiate the situation with Knights’ any further. "It’s a bylaw now. What happens from that point I don’t know. Council has passed a bylaw and we now look for your reaction," said the Mayor. "That’s as fair as we can be," he said. Only councillor Gerald Shortt opposed the dictated bylaw. "It’s wrong to do what we did tonight. It’s a pretty good slam (for Knights’)," said Shortt. Scott Knight asked council to provide a copy of the guidelines it used to arrive at the $110,000 servicing costs Knights’ will be required to pay. After the meeting both Tyler and Scott told The Express they will have to carefully consider all their options in light of council’s decision. Scott Knight said not going forward with the proposed expansion is possible. "It’s obviously an option, but that’s still the best place for us. We wouldn’t have bought the property if it wasn’t," he said, noting that an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board is possible, but unlikely due to the expense of such a venture. "To me the town is supposed to work with us. It seems to me that it was their objective to get the highest amount of money out of us they could," he said. He said he couldn’t comment on what the company’s next move on will be. "We have shareholders we need to talk to and update," he said. Both Tyler and Scott said they have never disputed that their development will have to help pay to have services extended to that area of the town. He said they are being asked to pay over $100,000 up front with no guarantee when services will be installed. "They can’t even tell us when the services are coming. It could be 10 years or 20 years," he said. Tyler Knight told The Express a lot had changed at the council table in a short time. "Two months ago (council) was adamant that agreement wouldn’t even come before council unless we had signed it," he said.
Brush past the fun and funky beads hanging in the doorway of 102C Main St. in Penetanguishene and be enveloped by the tantalizingly rich aroma of coffee. But this isn’t just any coffee; it’s organic fair trade (not to be confused with free trade), which aims to put money directly in the hands of the people producing the products rather than a vast multinational marketing network. Think of it as a cup of karma, the notion that you reap what you sow. Erin Chapelle’s vision statement for the store reads: “We believe you get what you give because what goes around comes around.” Today’s brew is a blend of beans from Guatemala, Peru and the Dominican Republic. “It’s as directly from the farmer as it can be,” Chapelle explained. “There are just two hands between me and the farmer.” The beans travelled to a port in the U.S., and then to a roaster in Barrie. It’s a far cry from traditional commercial brands, which may pass through dozens of distributors, processors, marketers and retailers before reaching consumers’ cups. Each one takes a percentage, leaving fractions of a penny in the hands of the producers. Welcome to the Karma Marketplace. From the fair-trade coffee beans to the locally made wire jewelery, artwork, clothing and home furnishings, there are many options for the conscious consumer. Chapelle opened her doors in November 2007, and, although it may be a small space, it’s a store with a big vision, encouraging consumers to think about the source of their supplies and ensuring fair wages for quality handicrafts. “People are at the source of what we use every day,” Chapelle said. “In purchasing quality, original, handmade products and supporting local and international artists, we think you are not only participating in conscious consumerism, but also directly affecting your own karma through positive action.” Chapelle said she’s not just selling objects, but sharing an idea, telling shoppers about her producers and explaining the concept and importance of fair trade. “As a teacher, you learn more through sharing.” Chapelle likens it to planting a seed. “Seeds sometimes take a while to grow,” she acknowledged, but that doesn’t stop her from trying. She’s fostering those seeds in other areas, as well, working with Only Green in Midland as an eco-adviser and joining the Simcoe County Farm Fresh organization to promote local producers and awaken shoppers to local food sources. Chapelle is undertaking a survey of local restaurants to determine their food requirements and how direct links with local suppliers could be further developed. “It’s another way to bring attention and awareness to the local community.” Along with a University of Toronto student, Chapelle is also working to establish an eco-awareness summer camp for kids this year. At the moment, she is most excited about efforts to establish a community market in Penetanguishene, an idea she proposed to the town last summer. The market would include a range of locally created produce and products. “I’m a crafter, not a baker or farmer, so I termed it a community market.” Since then, she’s been delighted by the co-operative response from the municipality, as well as the interest from both producers and consumers. A recent meeting at the Penetanguishene library attracted 33 people and plenty of enthusiasm. A steering committee of 10 has now been created, and plans are moving ahead for the Penetanguishene Community Market to operate each Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from June 6 until Oct. 10. A few logistics are still being worked out, but the market will be at the Penetanguishene Town Dock. Chapelle said there are at least 15 vendors ready to roll: “We are still looking for local vendors and performers.” She said she would like to see entertainment as an integral part of the market – whether it’s music, drama, jugglers, unicyclists or whatever – and also plans to provide space for community groups to promote their activities. “We brag about our Winterama history; I think we should be able to brag about our Community Market history, too,” Chapelle said. “It’s wanted.” Meanwhile, the Karma Marketplace also hosts poetry nights on the third Wednesday of the month. “It’s open to local poets and listeners. We’re getting good response, including some high schools students. We have about nine steady poets who come to present.” Readings begin at 7:30 p.m. and run for a couple of hours: “We’ve been setting themes, and this month it’s hope.” Poetry readings rotate between Karma and the Meritz Bistro next door. In the future, Chapelle said she would like to expand the fair-trade initiative. She spent six years in Central America teaching and working with farmers and neighbours, and she’d like to turn those connections into direct relationships with communities and farmers. The Karma Marketplace is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon until 6 p.m. A website (www.karmamarketplace.com) is under construction and will soon be a convenient way to keep up with happenings and products in the marketplace and the community. For more information on monthly art shows and products, call 549-5999.
Bluewater District School Board trustees were to appoint a new chair at their regular meeting Tuesday after Rick Galbraith abruptly quit on Friday as controversy over a letter from MP Larry Miller continued. Galbraith, who is the trustee for Meaford and The Blue Mountains, quit suddenly after originally defending the board and its administration after federal Conservative MP Larry Miller publicly spoke out against the BWDSB, saying he had received several complaints from his constituents, parents and teachers alike, who told him their issues were ignored by the board. "Over my five years as an MP, I’ve had dozens and dozens of calls and emails from individuals who, every time they’ve had an issue with the board, basically, they were brushed off," said Miller in a phone interview from Ottawa on Monday. He said some teachers, who have raised issues in the board claim to be "black balled" by the board and are unable to become principals in the Bluewater region. Miller said he heard that Galbraith resigned, and called the situation unfortunate. "From what I can gather about him, he is a very good guy. We need people in the system like him to stand up and say, ‘what’s going on here – this isn’t right,’" he said. Miller acknowledged that education is provincially funded, but he said he’s speaking out because his constituents have asked him to. Galbraith could not be reached for comment on this story before press time. "This isn’t a provincial issue, it’s a Bluewater board issue," he said. "I believe some people at the top have their own agenda, and that agenda isn’t about the best thing for the children, the students of the BWDSB … Larry Miller might have brought this forth, but I can tell you it came from people behind the scenes that are scared." He hopes that some parents and teachers, who have asked for anonymity, will now come forward to make their complaints public. Miller committed to supporting those people in the case of any repercussions. "This kind of behind-the-scenes bullying has to stop," he said. Miller was clear to say that there were great teachers and principals in the board. "It’s not about them, it’s about the system they have to work in," he said. BWDSB Director of Education, Mary Anne Alton, said Galbraith informed her he was resigning on Friday, March 20. She said she was "very disappointed" to hear that Galbraith was resigning, and said he was a great "advocate for students and a positive voice for public education." As for Miller’s comments, Alton said, though she has heard from him in the past on issues his constituents have raised, she has not had communication with him recently. "I’m perplexed by Mr. Miller’s comments," she said, adding that he was a federal representative and education is part of the provincial government’s mandate. "I’m really not sure what the issues are that Miller is talking about." Alton maintained that all communication the board receives gets a response. "Nobody has been ignored," she said. "Certainly nobody has been bullied by our staff. The fact that people don’t get the outcome they’re looking for doesn’t mean their issue hasn’t been dealt with," said Alton. "It’s not possible with 18,000 students and 2,000 teachers for all issues to receive the desired outcome, but that doesn’t mean the issue’s been ignored." Galbraith was elected as the Meaford and The Blue Mountains trustee last year, and as chair of the board this January.