O-P review process comes to an end

The lengthy process to review Grey County’s Official Plan came to an end at last Tuesday’s regular meeting of county council. County council passed a by-law officially adopting the reviewed plan at the meeting. Council’s approval of the new Official Plan means the local county review process has now been passed over to the provincial government for final approval. The time consuming process to review the Official Plan has been ongoing for several years and Tuesday’s formal adoption of the results of that process did not come without some controversy. Owen Sound county councillors Ruth Lovell-Stanners and Arlene Wright voted against the reviewed Official Plan due to Owen Sound’s objections over the plan’s approval of an expanded development area in Springmount – a highly developed, but unserviced area of the Township of Georgian Bluffs that is situated on the city’s border. "Owen Sound has consistently not approved the expansion of Springmount because of a lack of services there," Wright said. "We’re very concerned about the water table and the problems that could ensue," said Wright, who objected to Springmount being given a "secondary" settlement designation in the Official Plan. In responses to the comments from the Owen Sound councillors Georgian Bluffs Mayor Al Barfoot released an engineer’s report that he claimed proves development in Springmount is not hurting water resources in that area. "The report says there is no contamination of the bay," said Barfoot. Owen Sound Mayor Ruth Lovell-Stanners said the Springmount issue came up very late in the Official Plan process and needs more time to be studied. "This came up very late in the game. We need more time. We have a legitimate concern about the watershed," said Lovell-Stanners. The City of Owen Sound has always expressed concerns about development without full municipal services on its border. The Owen Sound representatives found little support for their position. Only Hanover Deputy Mayor Gerald Rogers voted with Lovell-Stanners and Wright in their quest to delay the approval of the Official Plan until the Springmount issue is decided. Grey County Planning Director Jan McDonald expressed a common sentiment in the county council chambers about the Official Plan when she gave an overview of the final product. "We’re tired. We’ve been at this a long time," said McDonald. The review process officially kicked off in 2005, with the bulk of the public meetings and open houses being held over the past couple years. "It has been a real team effort that I’m proud of," said McDonald. Planning was once a major hot button issue in Grey County. The provincial government of Premier Bob Rae ordered Grey County to develop an Official Plan in the early 1990s due to concerns about the county’s wide spread approval of severances in rural and agricultural areas. That provincial mandate resulted in the completion of the first County Official Plan at the end of the 1990s. The Plan received provincial approval – and became the planning document of record for the county – in 2000. The Official Plan is meant to have an approximate shelf life of 20 years with reviews mandated by provincial legislation every five years. McDonald said the new version of the Official Plan balances policies to help economic development and diversification, environmental protection and the preservation of local heritage and culture. "We believe we have found a balance," she said at the meeting. McDonald said the new version of the Official Plan contains 296 modifications to the original document. "Some are minor wording changes and others are entire sub-sections," she said. McDonald the Official Plan will now be forwarded to the province for approval. She said that process could take up to a year. The Blue Mountains Deputy Mayor and Planning and Community Development committee Chair Duncan McKinlay was pleased that the review process is complete. "I’m hoping this draft is fairly acceptable to the Ministry. There are lots of people across Grey that still want to invest and develop and they depend on certainty in our planning process," said McKinlay, who noted that the provincial approval process will still allow time for Owen Sound’s concerns to be considered. "The process ahead will give the opportunity to resolve long standing differences of opinion on settlement areas," he said.


Dashing through the snow

Four-year-old Josh Gorecki, a junior kindergarten student at Monsignor Castex School, walks using snowshoes during Aboriginal Games Day on Feb. 26. The event, a partnership between the school and the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, was led by Grade 8 students as part of a larger initiative promoting awareness of the aboriginal community.


No answers on MP’s election promise

The numbers are in for Simcoe-Grey MP Helena Guergis’ 2008 election campaign, but so far it’s unclear if the final tally includes the cost of a riding householder delivered in September, after the writ had dropped for the fall election as promised by Guergis and her campaign team. At the time Guergis said the four-page householder was the same as the four-page newsletter she sends out each year before the fall session of Parliament. Although she said the newsletter was ready for a month and a half before it was actually sent out, information on the front page of it carried an update from the Beijing Olympics. By having the Canadian medal count for the Olympics, which ended Aug. 24, Guergis contradicted her statement that the mailer had been ready for over a month. A letter to The Alliston Herald – The Sun’s sister paper – from Guergis’ campaign manager Andy Beaudoin just before the election, also confirmed that the householders would be paid for by the campaign budget and not taxpayer’s dollars. When the Herald contacted Guergis’ riding office to speak with her about where the expense was listed, spokesperson Val Knight said the question should be directed to Beaudoin. Messages for Beaudoin were not returned. The Herald made further attempts to reach Guergis directly, but Knight said she didn’t know when that would be possible. "Because it’s International Women’s Week she’s really busy," said Knight. An e-mail from Knight after the conversation confirmed Guergis would not be speaking to the local media. "Helena is currently in meetings and is leaving shortly for the UN where, as Minister of State (Status of Women), she will be leading the Canadian delegation for International Women’s Week. I know Helena will address this at a later date," said Knight in the e-mail. Guergis has been in the riding since the expenses have been released, but she has not responded to any of the Herald’s requests to speak with her. For Guergis’ campaign, Beaudoin received three cheques totalling $13,314, with one for $3,000 included in the ‘other’ advertising expenses, where the householder cost should be included. Also included in Guergis’ advertising expenses is $226 to mom Linda Guergis, $525 to Backbone, $741.71 to C.C. Tatham and Associates, a group of engineers, site planners and landscape architects, $8,758.91 to consultants Callaghan and Associates, and $6,000 to Eleftherios Sklavos. It is not clear which, if any, assumed the cost of the printing and postage for the householders in question. Guergis also paid $20,000 for RMG to do elections surveys and research. Her personal expenses submitted for the campaign were $2,417. Of the six Simcoe-Grey candidates, five have had their expenses made public with Elections Canada. Information for Liberal candidate Andrea Matrosovs is not yet available from Elections Canada online. Matrosovs, who is currently out of the country, was given an extension to submit her expenses, according to campaign manager Leo Losereit. He said the auditor was slow in getting back to the local Liberal campaign for the Feb. 13 deadline and that they had until March 16 to submit their costs. Unofficially, Losereit said the cost for Matrosovs’ campaign is $36,800, and she had $31,459 in contributions. Guergis’ contributions totalled $30,560.76 from 108 people. NDP candidate Katy Austin raised $7,575.60 from 34 donations and the Green Party’s Peter Ellis raised $942. The Christian Heritage Party of Canada candidate Peter Vander Zaag raised $4,710 from 22 donations and Libertarian Party of Canada candidate Caley McKibbin had two donations, raised $230. Of the $94,126 candidates were permitted to spend on the campaign, Guergis spent $71,239, the most of all the Simcoe-Grey candidates whose returns have been made public so far. Austin spent $6,076, Ellis spent $9,0146, Vander Zaag $4,175 and McKibbin spent $200. The deadline for filing campaign expenses is four months after election day, or in this case Feb. 14. Extensions are permitted in extreme circumstances.


Canadian general calling on SCI

Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson of the Canadian Armed Forces will visit Stayner Collegiate Institute on Mon., March 23 as part of a public outreach tour he is conducting. He will be at the school from 1 p.m. to 2:15 p.m., giving a talk about the role of Canada’s Armed Forces in Afghanistan. From May 2008 to February 2009, Thompson was commander of the Canadian joint task force in Afghanistan. The visit to Stayner Collegiate is a coming home of sorts for Thompson, who attended the high school in the 1970s after graduating from New Lowell Central Public School. Pam Jeffrey, a teacher-librarian at SCI, invited Thompson to the school. “How it all happened is kind of a funny story,” she said in an interview Monday. Jeffrey said her husband, Dayn Leyshon, went to high school with Thompson but the two had lost touch. She said in May 2008, her husband read a newspaper story about Thompson and thought it might be the same guy he knew from high school. She said he compared a current photograph of Thompson with an old yearbook picture and determined it was indeed the same person. In February of this year, Jeffrey said she sent an e-mail to the Canadian Armed Forces, trying to reach Thompson. She said she was thinking he or a designate might be able to do some type of web-cam presentation on Afghanistan that would be of interest to students. Four days after she sent the e-mail, Thompson personally replied and through e-mail the two were able to arrange his visit to the high school. Jeffrey said the entire student body will be on hand to hear Thompson’s presentation, plus Grade 8 students from public schools in Clearview Township. Jeffrey said the public is invited as well, but she asks that people contact the school ahead of time to arrange a seat. To contact the school, call 428-2639.


Local group endorses energy plan

Members of the Simcoe Huronia Association for Renewable Energy (SHARE) are applauding the province for its plan to introduce a Green Energy Act next month. The local group has been promoting renewable energy and energy conservation in the Midland area for three years. “With the provincial government’s support, moving our society away from fossil fuels and toward more sustainable and clean energy sources will happen sooner,” SHARE president Susan Hirst stated in a press release. SHARE is lending its support to an Ontario Sustainable Energy Association campaign to inform Ontarians the province could add 250,000 jobs and generate 31,000 megawatts of energy simply by importing technologies and processes already widespread in Europe. SHARE noted the legislation would provide for priority purchase and access to the grid for all renewable energy projects, and would provide pricing that more equitably reflects technologies such as wind, solar and biogas. “If we continue to invest in technologies that further destabilize our climate, we are going to pay a bigger and bigger price,” said Jose Etcheverry, energy director of the David Suzuki Foundation. “Countries like Germany and Spain are producing enough renewable energy to power all of Ontario, with much less renewable energy resources. They’re way ahead of us, but, with our abundant natural resources, we can catch up very quickly.” SHARE is a non-profit corporation with the mission to promote sustainable energy through education and conservation. For more information, visit sharehuronia.googlepages.com, e-mail [email protected] or call 527-0922.


Everett residents want playground

A group of Everett residents is pushing for park equipment for their neighbourhood. Maureen Nixon has lived on Dekker Street for the past five years. During that time, she has stared a nearby seemingly empty field, wondering why the township hasn’t built any playground equipment. The area is designated as parkland and currently has water and waste treatment facilities underneath. Nixon, like many people on the street, has small children. Hers are ages three and five, but she said there are about 120 more children in the subdivision younger than 12. She said they need a place to play, and with the economy in a recession, affordable recreation needs to be accessible. "Now, more than ever, families need somewhere to go where it doesn’t cost money. We need to become more of a community," she said. Nixon said all of the existing playground equipment in Everett is found north of County Road 5, making it a long and dangerous walk for young children. At an Adjala-Tosorontio council meeting last week, the group of residents pitched a proposal to work with the township to get the equipment installed. Coun. Joy Webster said she was impressed with the initiative the group has shown. "They want to see a partnership. They didn’t come banging on the door looking for money," Webster said. The group, which is a subcommittee of the Everett Parks and Improvement Committee, is more interested in getting the ball rolling now, Nixon said. Nixon said the group is willing to look at fundraising and other necessary steps to make the park a reality. Council directed staff to meet with the group to determine how and where equipment could be placed on the land. The group has set up a Facebook page to keep the community advised as to how the project is progressing. It is called "Neighbours for a Park on Dekker Street" and can be found by typing the name into the search bar at the popular social networking site (www.facebook.com).


Councillors wary about bridge costs

Members of Meaford council are adamant that the cost of replacing the Bognor Bridge better be reasonable. The Municipality of Meaford has received more than $920,000 in funding to replace the bridge. With the municipality’s one-third share of the money factored in, the town has in excess of $1.3 million available for the bridgework. At council’s regular meeting on February 23 members of council were clear that they expect the project to cost less than that total amount. "I’m having a lot of trouble accepting that this bridge could run over $1.3 million. We’re replacing a one-lane bridge – with a two-lane bridge I hear now. There has to be some costs savings on this. I hear Chatsworth was able to get a new bridge installed for $150,000," said councillor Harley Greenfield. "Are we tying up a fortune in engineering and consulting fees? Do we have to? It should not cost that much," said Greenfield. Councillor Jim McPherson said he will be watching the costs of the project very carefully and expects municipal staff to find savings. "I don’t want to hear from another municipality that we got taken on this," said McPherson. In terms of the status of the bridge project CAO Frank Miele told council that the design work should come forward at the next committee of the whole meeting on March 9. "We’re confident that in the next few weeks we’ll initiate the RFP process. We should have a bridge in by the fall," said Miele. Deputy Mayor Mike Traynor said the municipality is fortunate the upper levels of government came through with funding for the bridge. "We’re blessed that the feds and the province have come forward with this $900,000. Whether it’s a single lane or double lane bridge it’s a bridge that will be there another 80 years," said Traynor.


Spring Home and Garden Show this weekend

Kerry Barton and Allison Morgan of Rona Home and Garden encourage shoppers to think green when purchasing products for the home. The MBM Shows Spring Home and Garden Show is Saturday and Sunday at the Barrie Molson Centre. Admission is $7 for adults.