National Defense Minister Peter McKay flew into town Saturday morning to do some training at Land Force Central Area training Centre (LFCATC) Meaford. McKay arrived via a Griffin helicopter on Saturday morning for an impromptu visit at the Meaford military training centre. McKay was looking forward to getting out in the field with the troops training in Meaford. “I understand they have a rigorous program planned for me today,” said McKay after he exited his helicopter and met with top brass from the base and MP Larry Miller. “It’s all part of a process I have undertaken to visit as many bases as possible and spend time with the troops and their families to express our appreciation,” he said. It was a very busy morning for McKay at LFCATC Meaford. Staff at the training centre planned to show McKay as much of the facility as possible during his four-hour stay. Capt. Jason Geroux said the timing of the Minister’s visit was perfect. “There are a lot of troops here right now and lots of vehicles. He will see the range and do some rappelling. There’s all kinds of training going on out there right now,” said Geroux, noting that the training centre had eight units consisting of more than 250 primary reserve troops from all over Ontario at the centre on Saturday. “We’ll show him the facilities. He will fire some weapons and have lunch with the troops,” said Capt. Geroux. McKay said the current government has made it a priority to modernize and update the Canadian military. He said as Defense Minister it’s very important to get out and visit Canadian forces to see the affects of the changes the government has introduced. “It’s important to demonstrate in tangible ways the value we place on the work our troops do,” said McKay. MP Larry Miller said he invited McKay to LFCATC Meaford immediately after he became defense minister in 2007. “It was a surprise when I got the phone call. It’s good to have him here to see our young men and women training in Meaford,” said Miller. “It’s very important for him to visit like this. He’s going to do some training. He will enjoy that, he’s a heck of a rugby player,” Miller added.
One of Canada’s largest labour unions was met with open hostility by Honda workers after picketers set up outside the Alliston plants today. Members from the Canadian Auto Workers union were outside the Honda of Canada Mfg. plant entrances during the afternoon shift change handing out information leaflets and looking for support. While most Honda workers leaving the plant simply kept their windows rolled up, some yelled insults and obscenities at the picketers. "You already put Ford and Chrysler out of work," one man yelled as he drove by. Another woman shouted to the picketers to "go home." Some Honda workers opened their windows and took the leaflets, while a few honked their horns. CAW representatives said the picket was to inform Honda workers of the difficulties autoworkers are currently facing. They want them to back the CAW as it fights cuts in the sector caused by the current recession. "It’s a solidarity message from the CAW with respect to what’s going on in the auto industry, the cause of it, and that it’s affecting all auto workers, not just GM, Ford, (and) Chrysler, but Honda and Toyota as well," said Dan MacPherson, of the CAW. The union had also scheduled information pickets outside the Toyota plants in southern Ontario. While Honda is not unionized, the CAW argues in the leaflet that wages and benefits of unionized employees have a direct impact on those of Honda workers. Karen Clark is part of the CAW Local 222 and works at the General Motors plant in Oshawa. She made the trip to Alliston for the picket. She said the media, among others, has given the public the impression that the union is to blame for the current financial trouble of the Big Three automakers. She suspects that’s part of the reason some Honda associates were acting hostile. "It’s a scary time for people, because they don’t know where to turn," she said. "If you actually look at the facts, I could work for free now and it wouldn’t sell another car." As Honda associates rolled into a local Tim Hortons after their shift, the reaction was a little more muted. Most didn’t want to comment on the picket. One man said the union was wasting its time and that the CAW doesn’t have a place in Honda. Another woman said she wasn’t allowed to talk about it. The issues for the CAW include layoffs, wage reductions, and recent reports that the province doesn’t have the money to back private pension plans should General Motors, or any of the Big Three automakers, file for bankruptcy protection. Ontario’s Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund provides pensioners with up to $1,000 a month if a private plan falters. Premier Dalton McGuinty said last week there was not enough money in the fund to cover pensions should GM go bankrupt. The fund is currently worth about $100 million. If that happens, the CAW argues, retirees from all sectors across the province could find themselves in financial jeopardy. The union is staging a large rally at Queen’s Park April 23 to push the government to do more to guarantee workers’ pensions. Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan has said the province’s priority is to work with GM to make sure the situation never gets that far. Honda in Alliston had no comment on the union action. Honda communications spokesperson Colin Fisher wouldn’t release any details regarding Honda’s pension plan, but he said there have been no changes to it during the economic turbulence of the past six months. Honda has however significantly cut production in the past months, cancelling the Plant 2 afternoon shift, buying out all temporary worker contracts, and at times cutting production to four days a week.
About $15,000 worth of cigarettes and unknown quantity of cash was stolen from Mac’s Convenience Store in Tottenham after someone broke in through the roof of the building early Tuesday morning. The thieves cut the phone lines to the building, before cutting a hole in the roof and then disabling the alarm panel inside the store, said Sean Sportun, the director of loss prevention for Mac’s Convenience Stores in central Canada. The culprits physically removed one small safe in the store, before moving on to crack open the big tobacco safe at the back of the store, Sportun said. The small safe had about $800 in cash. The tobacco safe also had an undisclosed amount of cash. Sportun said he suspects the strike was a professional job, given the expertise required to disable the alarm and crack the safe. He said there have been about six rooftop break-ins to Mac’s stores across Ontario this year, but he doesn’t know if they are related. The break-in happened between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. The culprits exited through the back door, police said. They were wearing black hoodie sweatshirts and masks. There were at least two culprits and perhaps a third, police said. They are believed to be male. Damage to the roof and the safes is expected to be several thousands of dollars.
Sunnidale Park users were turned away Monday morning after the body of a man was found by a dog walker at approximately 9:30 a.m. After cordoning off the area and remaining at the scene throughout the day, Barrie Police reported a 27-year-old man died from self-inflicted wounds during a press conference at 5 p.m. The man, who has not been identified, had “obvious signs of trauma” to his body, said Sgt. Robert Allan. He was found on the south side of the park, past a playground, down a hill, and just off a path. Close to a dozen officers set up a perimeter around the park in the morning, asking joggers, dog walkers and parents with children to stay out for the day. Many people stopped to ask what was going on, but police remained tight-lipped throughout most of the day. A few still tried to get into the park, heading into open areas not cordoned off. Officers quickly approached them to say the park was closed until further notice. By 4 p.m., most areas of the park had reopened to public use, and the coroner left the scene at 5 p.m. Allan acknowledged the discovery of the body has reminded many residents of the disapperance of 33-year-old Alexandra Flanagan who was last seen in Sunnidale Park on July 8, 2007. Partial remains discovered near Johnson’s Beach and Lackies Bush have been identified as belonging to the Barrie woman. Her case remains unsolved.
If a contract for the pro shop in the New Tecumseth Recreation Complex goes to the best bid, a private hockey school has threatened to pull out of its ice time, New Tecumseth council heard Monday night. A report from Parks, Recreation and Culture manager Joyce Epstein recommended the town rent the empty pro shop to George’s Arena Sports Limited, which is owned by Glenn Tilson. Epstein said Tilson is from Tottenham and has run a similar business in Bolton for about 10 years Deputy Mayor Rick Milne asked Epstein if she was aware that the owners of C and C Sports, Clay Birkett and Chris Pilon who were also vying for the contract, rent ice at the complex for Basic Hockey Skills camps. Milne said if the contract doesn’t go to C and C Sports the town could lose $30,000 in ice time rentals from the school. Epstein said George’s Arena Sports was chosen based on the pro shop application only. Regarding the potential loss of ice rental, she said she has also had inquiries from another private hockey school looking for ice time should Basic Hockey Skills pull out. Hutchinson Sports previously occupied the pro shop space in the new arena from October 2007 until this past January. Epstein couldn’t comment on why Hutchinson Sports left the arena because it is a legal matter. George’s Arena Sports was chosen as a replacement after each of the three applications was evaluated by Epstein, the New Tecumseth Recreation Complex co-ordinator, the senior buyer and a council member. George’s Arena Sports had the highest overall score. The contract negotiated is for a four-year lease, with the owner paying $10,000 plus GST each year for the space. Epstein hopes the pro shop will be open and operational as soon as possible. Improvements to the space are expected over June and July and the pro shop is expected to be fully operational for the start of the regular winter ice season in August. A final vote will decide the issue this coming Monday.
A few local professionals are hoping to get the ear of the province when it comes to the new cellphone ban in cars. Police, fire, and ambulance personnel are exempt from the proposed law but municipal law enforcement is not. “We have the ability as officers to communicate with certain devices, like cellphone or two-way radio while driving,” said Brenda Russell, president of the Municipal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association of Ontario (MLEOA). “The fact that (Bill 118) doesn’t exempt us, it would mean we fall within the general prohibition.” While Russell agrees with the idea behind the bill and says it will make roads safer for all drivers, she believes municipal law enforcement officers need to be exempted so they can do their jobs. “A lot of time our officers are engaged in services to the community, through their enforcement duties, and they require a prompt response that require communications that are critical to getting there in a timely manner,” she said. Without an exemption, it means bylaw enforcement officers have to stop, pull over, and make a call, then get back on the road. Whether it’s a dog bite or a lost child at the waterfront, municipal law enforcement officers are called to help in emergencies. “In urban areas, like downtown Toronto, they might not have the immediate ability to pull over to receive communications that could be critical or time-sensitive.” Russell wants to ensure their jobs – or personal safety – aren’t hampered by the legislation. “If we had an officer in distress and we weren’t able to communicate that person’s whereabouts in a timely fashion because it wasn’t convenient to pull over, it would be critical for us.” Last month, the municipal law enforcement officials made a presentation to the government to plead their case. Russell said there were concerns with the wording of some other laws, such as the Dog Owners’ Liability Act, but changes were made to correct any problems. “We watch the legislation very carefully to ensure our ability to perform our job responsibilities.” The Municipal Law Enforcement Officers’ Association of Ontario is a non-profit professional Association representing more than 1,300 municipal law enforcement officers throughout the province.
Teen steals then crashes truck A 16-year-old Beeton teen is facing charges of theft over $5,000 after stealing and then crashing a pickup truck Friday. A Second Street resident in Beeton called police to report a truck had driven into a tree on their front lawn at about 11 p.m. two males running from the scene. The next morning, the owners of the 2001 black GMC reported to police the vehicle had been stolen from their Dayfoot Street home in Beeton. Further investigation identified a local 16-year-old male as the culprit who had allegedly stolen and crashed the vehicle. The young offender, who cannot be named, is charged with Theft over $5,000, and three counts of Breach of Probation. Electronics and booze stolen Electronics and booze were stolen from a Beeton residence after a break-in some time Thursday night or Friday. Police were called at about 7:40 p.m. Friday, after the Smyth Crescent resident noticed the break-in. An Acer Espire 5500 laptop computer and a Bell HTC touch phone were stolen. The computer has a 15-inch monitor, silver sides and a black top. It has a gauge out of the right side, and is valued at $899. The phone is worth $399, police said. There was also an assortment of alcohol missing, including Woody’s cooler, Inniskillin wine, and other ice wine of various brands. Footprints found at the scene indicate there might be two suspects, police said. It is believed they left through a side patio door, before exiting through the back of the property. An OPP crime scene investigator took photographs of the prints. Statue Grabbed A 40-centimetre resin statue was stolen from the front lawn of a Darling Crescent in Alliston Sunday. Police were called just before 4 p.m. after a resident noticed someone had stolen the statue, which was of a girl. It is about 7 kilograms. The resident said there have been several small thefts on the street recently. Can’t Find It Anywhere An Angus resident woke up Sunday morning to find their GPS unit stolen from their car. The car was parked at the resident’s house on Tree Top Street. Missing is a Garmin Nuvi 200 GPS unit, valued at $250. There was also a plug and play North American map card, which is used the system, stolen from the car. The map card is valued at $150. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
The Collingwood Fitness Centre – also known as the Contact Centre – could be declared a heritage building in the future. According to the minutes of the March 19 heritage advisory committee, the committee is looking at developing a statement of cultural heritage value for the property. The building – which is located on Napier Street – is the former home of Connaught Public School. The building will be vacant once the new fitness centre is built at Heritage Park – at the corner of High and Third Streets. The building has long been neglected and some members of council – including Mayor Chris Carrier and Counc. Tim McNabb – were in favour of closing the facility. Carrier said there were discussions about a residential development on the property. Carrier would like to see the town divest themselves of the building. "I would prefer to get rid of it and sell it," he said. He said that under the province’s policy statement for planning, communities will only be allowed to develop inside of their ‘built boundaries,’ so Carrier argues that some developments will have to be created on the sites of old buildings. He said this could be one of those sites. "This is one that could be viable," he said.
While there were some hair-tugging moments, the Glenn Howard rink from the Coldwater and District Curling found itself with a perfect 3-0 record, heading into day three of action at the Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary. Beginning play Monday, Howard, a three-time world champion, was deadlocked with reigning world champion Kevin Martin from Alberta at the top of the Brier standings with identical 3-0 records. Meanwhile, Glenn’s older brother Russ experienced some bitter losses during the opening two days of play and stood at 1-2 in the standings beginning play on Monday. Sunday evening, Glenn Howard improved to 3-0 with a 7-4 win over the Sean Geall rink from British Columbia. Howard scored two points in the sixth end and one point in the seventh to jump into a 6-3 lead over Geall and never looked back. Howard and his rink of Richard Hart, Brent Laing and Craig Savill opened up the Brier on Saturday evening with a dramatic 9-8 come from behind win over Brad Gushue’s rink from Newfoundland-Labrador. Gushue, the 2006 Salt Lake City Olympic gold medalist, seemingly had a victory in hand over the 46-year-old Howard, leading 8-6 entering the 10th and final end. But Gushue watched as three of his teammates missed key shots, allowing Howard to score three points to secure the 9-8 win. On Sunday afternoon, things went much smoother for Howard and his rink, as they scored four points in the fourth end, en route to a 9-2 over the Mike Jakubo rink from Northern Ontario. Jakubo’s Sudbury foursome were never really a factor in the game, as Howard jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, which they never surrendered.
The Community Volunteer Income Tax Program is hosting a series of clinics for people who need help completing their 2008 tax return. The sessions are being held at Wendat Community Psychiatric Support Programs (237 Second St., Midland) in the morning for all of March and April. They will also take place at the Midland Public Library from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 9, 16, 23 and 30, and at the Midland legion from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 11, 18, 25 and April 15. For more information, or to book an appointment, go to www.cra.gc.ca/volunteer, or call 527-8071, 533-0238 or 1-800-959-8281. People who qualify for assistance include those who are unable to complete their tax return themselves, as well as people with low income and a simple tax situation. Those attending are required to bring proof of their social insurance number, a copy of the previous year’s tax return and all documentation received from the Canada Revenue Agency, as well as any receipts related to expenses or income.