2009 budget adopted for The Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains town council adopted its 2009 budget including a tax increase of 2.2 per cent. A staff report received by council at their March 9 meeting estimated that taxes collected in 2009 will amount to $9,527,545 compared to the $8,903,253 in 2008. Council discussed the budget at a series of seven public sessions starting December 4 with the most recent amendments made at last week’s meeting on March 2. The original draft budget suggested a tax increase of 5.3 per cent, but council directed staff to make further cuts to bring the number down. Staff made cuts to the training and travel budget, axed the clothing allowance for inside workers, reduced the amount of money transferred to reserves, pushed capital projects into future years, cut legal costs and adjusted the IT budget to more conservative levels. Councillor Bob Gamble, chair of the finance and administration committee, remained opposed to adopting and enacting the 2009 budget. During the previous sessions, he explained that the town needed to have a more frugal budget given the status of the global economy at the time. After council voted in favour of accepting the budget, Councillor Cameron Kennedy said he hoped they could start discussing the 2010 budget early this year, because he wished they had more time to look at the 2009 budget.


Fanning the flames of literacy

Mundy’s Bay Public School has been taking part in a reading challenge for the month of February. To conclude the month, a literacy celebration took place March 6. Students participated in a program delivered by author Michael Wade, while Midland police Chief Paul Hamelin, Mayor Jim Downer and representatives from the Midland Fire Department, including Geoff Caldwell, read to students.


Town looking for comments on burning bylaw

The Town of Collingwood is looking for public comment on its newly proposed open-air burning bylaw. Those wishing to speak to the proposed bylaw are asked to contact the clerk’s department. The town is currently mulling over the bylaw to replace the bylaw passed last year, which was considered restrictive and was passed without public comment. The previous bylaw didn’t allow the use of outdoor fireplaces, campfires and allowed very little outdoor burning. "I don’t wish to delay it," said Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier. "I’m hoping we can deal with it a little more quietly. But not as quietly as we dealt with it last year." Under the proposed bylaw, residents must get a fire permit for $25, and all fires must meet fire department specifications. Residents will be allowed: • A fire for an outdoor fireplace with a spark arrestor – 15 feet away from any building, structure, property line, tree, hedge, fence, roadway, overhead wires or combustible article. • Cooking fire between sunrise and midnight that measures .3 metres in each direction and must be no less than 25 metres from any building, structure, property line, hedge, fence, roadway or overhead wires. • Special event permit, regulations will be set and agreed by the fire department. Collingwood Fire Chief Trent Elyea said the department prefers to have people use chimineas and commercial fire places, rather than just an open-air fire. "As long as it meets the requirements that we set out," Elyea said. He said people are having fires without a permit and said this bylaw will allow them to control it. "People are doing it anyway, this will allow us to regulate it," he said. If you are caught without a permit, you could be required to pay the cost of the fire department if they are called to your home. For more information visit www.collingwood.ca


Grey County supports equestrian bid

Grey County council has endorsed an attempt by The Blue Mountains to attract the 2015 Pan Am Games equestrian event to the local area. The Blue Mountains has agreed to support a bid to hold the equestrian event at the Thornbury Horse Park, which is being developed by the Cedar Run Corporation. At county council’s regular meeting last Tuesday, The Blue Mountains Mayor Ellen Anderson updated county council about the bid and asked for an endorsement from county council. "Your support shows the bid committee that the County of Grey is behind the bid. They regard partnerships as very healthy," Anderson explained. "This is a wonderful opportunity for us and your support does not tie the county into anything specifically," said Mayor Anderson, who has also invited the Town of Collingwood and the County of Simcoe to offer their support to the bid. Grey County Warden Kevin Eccles met with Mayor Anderson extensively prior to the meeting last Tuesday to discuss the bid proposal. Anderson also brought several pictures of the proposed equestrian centre to the meeting for councillors to take look at. Warden Eccles gave his complete support to the proposal. "If this does go forward it will create a facility that is world renowned," said the Warden. "There are no financial impacts (for the county) on this going forward," said Eccles. The Blue Mountains Deputy Mayor Duncan McKinlay said the equestrian centre would create enormous spin-off benefits for the entire region. "The creation of that facility will provide work for local contractors. It will be a permanent, high calibre facility to host a number of events each year that will provide employment in the tourism and agricultural industries," said McKinlay. Owen Sound Mayor Ruth Lovell-Stanners said the bid could lead to a great opportunity to let the world see the local area. "It sounds like something that would be huge for Grey County and would showcase our area," she said. County council unanimously voted in favour of supporting the equestrian bid. The Cedar Run big is currently up for consideration by the Toronto bid committee, which is responsible for choosing the various event locations across Ontario for the games. Once the locations are selected the overall Toronto bid committee submits an application to the Pan American Sports Organization for consideration. With files from Erika Engel


Angus Early Years Centre closing March 31

After several battles to keep the doors to the Ontario Early Years Centre (OEYC) in Angus open, it is closing March 31. Users of the centre were given notice Feb. 27 that the OEYC on Mill Street in Angus is closing for good. The letter also notified parents that the same programming would be offered through outreach programs at other locations in the community. Losing the central location is a concern for parents who regularly use the programming. Debbie Skiffington has been bringing her two-and-a-half-year-old twins to the OEYC programs for over a year, since she moved to the area from Georgetown. Being new to the area, Skiffington said the OEYC helped her access information through resources at the site or be pointed in the right direction for services not available at the location. "It’s just been great the amount of information I’ve gotten out of that place," Skiffington said. Skiffington likes the OEYCs routine, from visiting the office to the activities it provides for her children. She said the programming reiterates things for children that they are already learning at home, like washing their hands and not wandering around while eating. The programs are also a reminder for parents, who she said regularly learn helpful tips at the OEYC. "That location means so much to the people that go there," she said. "It’s hard to put into words the impact it’s going to have on all these people that use it." As the site is cleared of its resources, why is the lingering question for Skiffington. She said every time she’s at the centre it’s busy, so she doesn’t know how usage could be an issue. "Maybe it’s just not enough," said Skiffington. E3 Community Services is responsible for the Angus and Alliston locations of the OEYC, which are satellite locations of the main site in Collingwood. The OEYC does receive provincial funding, which is given to E3 to distribute between the three locations. Over the past year, Ministry of Child and Youth Services spokesperson Cristina Brandau said E3’s OEYC funding hasn’t changed. Brandau said the programs previously offered at the Mill Street centre are going to be at community centres, churches and schools in the area. "We want to create as little disruption as possible for families," said Brandau. In continuing to offer services to Angus, the Ministry said outreach programs are the most cost-effective option. It was a year ago that Angus last faced service cutbacks. At that time, OEYC notified the landlord of the building where the OEYC is located that the organization wouldn’t be renewing its lease in June. MPP Jim Wilson petitioned the closing and the doors stayed open past the June deadline, however hours at the centre were slashed. E3 also said they were reviewing the programming in Angus. Wilson said at that time it was public pressure that helped keep the level of programming in Angus. "Keep the pressure up," said Wilson. "Don’t give up because the government made a decision, governments have reversed decisions." This year, Skiffington said she and other parents started hearing rumours that the doors are closing for good about a month ago, with the real worry starting when items at the site started getting cleared out. Confirmation came when the users received their letter about the centre. She said now that people are used to the changes in programs and hours last year, the location is actually closing. "It’s frustrating," she said. E-mail reporter Maija Hoggett at [email protected] 


Merging the sales tax could get costly

Harmonizing the federal and provincial sales tax that was proposed by the Ontario government in its budget Thursday could cost the average family $3,000 per year, according to Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson. The proposed budget gives Ontario a $3.9 billion deficit for 2008-2009 and a $14.1 billion in 2009-2010. It also projects the next balanced budget in Ontario will be 2015-2016. Wilson said it’s not the right time to be merging the provincial and federal sales tax, which would create on 13 per cent sales tax. There are some exemptions from the new tax, such as children’s clothing and car seats, and new homes under $400,000. But fast food under meals under $4, haircuts and gasoline are among the items and services that will cost more with a harmonized tax. To help people adjust to the taxes, a tax relief will be handed out over three years to low and middle-income people. Families with an income less than $160,000 would get three payments of $1,000. Single people with an income less than $80,000 would get three payments of $300. The payments would be made in June 2010, December 2010 and June 2011. Wilson noted that the final payment comes right before the next provincial election. "People will see through the fact that he’s trying to bribe us with our own money," said Wilson. The sales tax isn’t the only thing not sitting well with Wilson. Aside from a corporate tax cut, which has the rates going from 14 per cent to 10 per cent by 2013, there is little that satisfies Wilson in the budget. For Simcoe-Grey, Wilson said there is no commitment to create more long-term care beds, nor is there help for hospital expansions. The budget allows for some tax relief in manufacturing industry as a whole, but a provincial tax holiday Wilson and the Progressive Conservative caucus are pushing for on new car sales is absent. Wilson told The Sun before the budget that a tax holiday on new vehicles could help get cars off the dealerships lots and make room for more, which would help workers on the manufacturing factories. Wilson said a similar provincial tax holiday on accommodations would help promote tourism destinations like the Nottawasaga Inn Resort in Alliston or Blue Mountain in the north end of the riding. The budget does include infrastructure money, with $32.5 billion set aside for projects in the next two years. Wilson said there is no proof that anything has been done to remove the provincial red tape that holds up the infrastructure projects when municipalities try to get the work done. Other highlights of the budget include: • $32.5 billion for infrastructure projects over the next two years. • $1.2 billion to renovate 50,000 social housing units and build 4,500 new affordable housing units for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. • $400 million more in children’s benefits over the next three years. Low and middle-income families will receive up to $1,100 annually per child in Ontario Child Benefit payments starting in July. • $700 million over the next two years for new skills training and literacy initiatives, including enhancements to existing programs. • $4.5 billion in business tax cuts over three years.


Police charge other driver in cruiser crash

Nottawasaga OPP have charged a 21-year-old Alliston man in connection with an OPP cruiser collision Feb. 24. The man is charged with Turn Not in Safety, under the Highway Traffic Act. The collision happened on Church Street South in Alliston at about 5 p.m. A cruiser, responding to an emergency call on Albert Street was northbound on the road and came up to a long line of cars. The cruiser had its lights and sirens activated, but the cars did not move out of the way, according to police. The officer pulled out to pass and as he was approaching the front of the line, the lead car in the group, a Honda Civic, turned left, and into his path. Both cars spun out into the west ditch, with the cruiser slamming into a sign for PPG Canada. The driver of the Civic was taken to hospital with minor injuries. The officer was not hurt. E-mail reporter Kurtis Elsner at [email protected]


Union helps fight against abuse

La Maison Rosewood Shelter received some much-needed aid last week. The local branch of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) donated $2,000 to the women’s shelter – one of 50 shelters across Canada that received a donation from the union – in conjunction with International Women’s Day. The donation, noted local CAW spokesperson Alex Contois, came from the CAW National Social Justice program, which puts $100,000 aside each year to donate to women’s shelters. Each local has to apply for the donation, said Contois, who applied on behalf of Rosewood, an emergency shelter that provides residential and non-residential support to abused women. “It’s important because there is a lot of abuse against women, and that’s a real no-no with CAW,” he told The Mirror. Each year, more than 60 women in Canada are killed by their partner or ex-partner. According to a recent Statistics Canada report, more than 38,000 incidents of spousal violence are reported to police across Canada annually. “The CAW has made ending violence against women a priority,” said Contois. “Real change comes with a political commitment to progressive social policy. Therefore, we will continue to challenge all levels of government to commit to concrete solutions that produce real change for women.” Contois, who said he knows of a few people who have required the assistance of a shelter, noted CAW recognizes the problems women have: “A lot of it is because of men. We are against violence against women, so that’s why we do it.” [email protected]


Teen dies after fall at local ski hill

A 17-year-old girl who died as a result of a skiing accident was remembered by friends as an exceptional student and athlete with a ready smile, and dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Elisabeth Reurink was on a school trip from London, Ont., at the Blue Mountain Resort in Collingwood. She was near the bottom of a hill rated as intermediate when she skied off to the side of the open slope yesterday at about 10:50 a.m., police said. "At the bottom of the run she collided with a tree," said Const. Theresa Van Boven of the Collingwood OPP. Police had an area of the hill taped off while they conducted their investigation. Reurink, who was wearing a helmet, was taken to Collingwood General and Marine Hospital where she was pronounced dead. The accident was the third fatality on Ontario slopes in two weeks. At the time of the accident, weather and snow conditions were good. Friend Christina Chehade remembered Reurink, a student at London’s Catholic Central High School, as a rosy-cheeked young woman with a bright future. "She was an amazing student … achieved high rankings in both cross-country (running) and wrestling, an amazing friend, always had a smile on her face and would laugh no matter how lame my jokes were," she said yesterday. Reurink maintained a 90-plus average, she said. In 2005, Reurink received a Spirit Award, presented to students who "exemplify the Ontario Catholic Graduate Expectations," according to the London District Catholic School Board website. Last Sunday, a 45-year-old Toronto man died at Beaver Valley Ski Club, about 30 kilometres southwest of Collingwood. John Zsolt, described as a skilled snowboarder, fell and crashed into a tree. He was also wearing a helmet. On Feb. 18, "James" Boo Sung Moon, a 13-year-old Korean visa student at Richmond Hill’s Trillium Woods Public School, was killed after he lost control and hit a tree on a beginner hill at Snow Valley. He was not wearing a helmet, which prompted Premier Dalton McGuinty, an avid skier, to buy one himself and urge others to don one on the slopes. Torstar News Service 


Solid start for Howard

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.