Daycare plea rejected by council

Council has rejected a last-ditch attempt to have the city waive development fees on a new building planned for a soon-to-be displaced daycare. A week after council committee turned down a request to waive development fees on a facility planned for west Orillia, Treasure Island Daycare Centre director Lucille Desjardins appeared before council to plead for reconsideration. Desjardins stressed that the non-profit operation was being forced from its long-time home at OPP General Headquarters due to security concerns. “This request is in response to a unique situation,” she said. “Had we not had to move from GHQ, we would not be here asking.” The agency is seeking $1.7 million in provincial funding to assist with the relocation, and has launched fundraising initiative that has garnered more than $5,000. Development charges and other fees would amount to about $120,000, a portion of which – about $50,000 – is already covered by the municipality. As an alternative, Desjardins suggested that council consider paying for an elevator that will allow children with disabilities to access a gymnasium in the basement of the new daycare. ••• Defending a significant planning decision before the Ontario Municipal Board cost the city more than $113,000 in fees, council heard this week. Residents of a waterfront neighbourhood cheered when council rejected a triple tower condominium complex proposed for Orchard Point. The decision was challenged and defeated at the OMB, allowing the developer to proceed with the project. Fees shouldered by taxpayers during the hearing include $55,000 for planning consultants, $47,000 in legal costs and $10,000 for archeological experts. Councillors Ralph Cipolla and Wayne Gardy said the figures fail to reflect the time spent by staff involved in the hearing. “It was a cost to the city because it took them away from their normal duties,” Gardy added. ••• Ensuring ample parking is available for vendors and customers alike is crucial to the success of Orillia’s historic farmers’ market, council heard this week. Farmers’ Market Vendors’ Association chair Kevin Scott warned that losing 37 parking spaces when a new library is erected would lead to frustration among shoppers and sellers of produce and other goods. “Good vendors will disappear if they don’t have an opportunity to make money,” Scott said. Mayor Ron Stevens in a letter to market representatives said council is “actively pursuing” options to address the parking problem. Stevens was not present at council this week. “We have to be united and work together to make it happen,” added Coun. Ralph Cipolla, who was raised near the market. “Every Saturday morning, it was the place to go and the thing to do.” Council has additionally agreed to include a room within the new library for use by the market, Stevens added. Scott wants an answer on the group’s parking concerns sooner than later. “The bottom line is, parking has been taken away due to the expansion of the library,” he said. ••• Out of order. That was Coun. Michael Fogarty’s blunt assessment of a committee motion last week, when members affirmed a decision to build a new library on the site of the existing facility. According to parliamentary procedure, “council cannot reaffirm a position taken,” said Fogarty, who chaired this week’s meeting. The motion to affirm was deleted. ••• City staff will investigate the cost of adding fluoride to Orillia’s drinking water, following a report by the health unit on the poor state of dental health in Simcoe County. Coun. Joe Fecht requested information on fluoridation after reading “alarming statistics” about oral health in the region. Early childhood tooth decay is more prevalent in Simcoe County and Muskoka than in most parts of Ontario, the report said. “I think this would be a first step in looking at this issue,” Fecht said.


Council flips on decision to turn off fluoride

Adding fluoride to the water system is the safest, most equitable and cost-effective way to distribute it, heard New Tecumseth council Monday night. A group of Canadian dental experts highlighted these points at a committee of the whole meeting after learning council had told town staff to take the necessary steps to end fluoridation of the water system in Tottenham. The motion to remove the fluoride was started by Tottenham Coun. Jim Stone, who said fluouride has been linked to some cancers and there is no proof of people having fewer cavities in areas where fluoride is added to the water.   Council has now decided to rescind their earlier decision and allow the fluoridation process to continue. "It was very disturbing when I read in the paper that people had voted in favour of removing fluoride from our water without knowing other information," said former Tottenham Reeve and New Tecumseth Deputy Mayor Joan Sutherland. "If fluoride was as much of a poison, I should be dead because I have been drinking tap water for 36 years, and still do." The decision to add fluoride into Tottenham’s water system was made in 1973 and was voted on by the residents during the municipal election that year. It is the only community in Simcoe County to add fluoride to the water supply. When the motion to end fluoridation was brought up this March town staff believed the only step to remove it was to apply to the Ministry of Environment to amend a certificate of approval for the fluoridation practice. A report from manager of public works Chad Horan this week said council is also required to pass a bylaw to discontinue fluoridating the water. The Fluoridation Act also says that a question may be put to the public before passing a bylaw, although it’s not required. Muskoka-Simcoe Dental Society president Gerry Ross has lived in Tottenham for 38 years and has had a dental practice in the community since 1971, before the fluoridation practice started. Ross said he was disappointed Stone, Ross’s local councillor, didn’t come to him for more information before introducing the fluoridation removal motion to council. "What I see in my practice is a tremendous difference in teeth in children in Tottenham and those from Beeton, Alliston and other surrounding areas," said Ross. Charles Gardner, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit medical officer of health, said the evidence supporting fluoridation and that was provided by the dental experts at the meeting is based on systematic reviews, not a selective review. He said the first involves careful research and examining all relevant articles whereas a selective review picks and chooses information to prove a point. Gardner said fluoridation reduces tooth decay 20 to 40 per cent in the population at large and that there is no consistent, strong or relevant evidence to suggest fluoride is linked to an increase in cancers, kidney disease or other diseases. It can cause mild fluorosis, which is light white marks on the teeth usually only visible to dental professionals. Oral Health in Simcoe Muskoka, a SMDHU study, shows a trend of tooth decay in children. It shows 40 per cent of five-year-olds and 60 per cent of seven-year-olds have tooth decay in the SMDHU area. Overall, the oral health of five, seven and nine-year-olds in the region ranked in the bottom 15 to 30 per cent of the health units in Ontario. "Our trend is not a positive trend, it’s of concern," said Gardner. The SMDHU recommends fluoride being available to all residents on municipally supplied drinking water. Along with the Simcoe-Muskoka Dental Society and SMDHU support of maintaining Tottenham’s fluoridation, the Ontario Dental Association, Ontario Association of Public Health Dentistry, Health Canada, and the immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry were at the meeting to advocate the importance of fluoridation. "(Flouridation) has been researched to death and back and it has been guaranteed to be very safe," said Peter Cooney, chief dental officer for Health Canada. Stone said he doesn’t trust Health Canada though. "One of the reasons I don’t respect the stats of Health Canada is that I believe that they support the giant corporations (drugs, food and chemical) in this country," said Stone in a written report to council. Stone said his concerns extend beyond dental health. "Dentists always talk about teeth and they didn’t seem to talk about the holistic affects that fluoride has for you," said Stone. He believes fluoride is a deadly poison that does much harm to your body. New Tecumseth has two water systems. Alliston and Beeton get their water supply from the Collingwood-Alliston pipeline and Tottenham has its own well system. According to a town report the fluoridation question was put on the municipal ballot for Alliston and Beeton in 1976 and voted down. If the question is put to Tottenham residents about fluoridation, the report said the question could also be put to Alliston and Beeton. Adding fluoridation into Alliston and Beeton’s water supply would be more difficult than in Tottenham as there are at least seven stations that would need to have fluoridation systems installed, as well as receiving Ministry of Environment approval, according to the town report.


Commercial space expensive in Bradford West Gwillimbury

The cost of leasing retail and office space in Bradford West Gwillimbury is a growing concern for both council and the town’s manager of economic development, Michael Disano. However, Mr. Disano said there’s not much the municipality can do about it. “We can’t force the hand of the business owners,” he said. “We can only hope that with time, their prices will come back down.” The concern came up during a discussion at a council meeting regarding the town’s economic state. The average price for leasing industrial, commercial or retail space in town in 2008 was $15 per square foot. That said, the total square footage leased in 2008 went up by 10,000 square feet over 2007. However, that increase is believed be quite low, considering the number of people who were in search of space but couldn’t find any at a good price, according to some members of council. “I have heard from many people who have come to me and said that they were looking to open up in Bradford but the actual square footage costs were too high,” Ward 4 Councillor Mark Contois said. “We want businesses to relocate, but the price that the landowners are asking is too high.” According to a report Mr. Disano compiled with the help of outside sources such as Tina Sibbald of Royal LePage Timeless Realty, those prices could soon change without the aid of municipal politicians. “As development continues to expand west, property owners will have to take a more realistic view with respect to lease rates in order to avoid high vacancy rates in the downtown and east end,” Ms Sibbald said in Mr. Disano’s report. “This applies particularly to buildings which are older and in need of significant structural, system and facade upgrades.” Making matters worse, according to Mr. Contois, is the number of property owners who don’t live in the town. “I would love to know the percentage of people who own the buildings that actually live in town,” Mr. Contois said. “These other absentee landlords don’t seem to care what happens to the property.” However, the involvement of landlords in their property is something the town can’t get involved with, Mr. Disano said. “There is not a whole lot the town can do unless they want to start to buy or expropriate these properties,” he said.


Canadian Tire gets break

Innisfil council has decided to ignore its own March 31 deadline by giving Canadian Tire a $300,000 break on development charges for a new store in Alcona. But the majority of councillors hope the reprieve will see the new Canadian Tire at Innisfil Beach Road and Sideroad 20 built sooner, which could reap financial benefits in the long run. “I think there could actually be a financial advantage for us by doing this as this time,” Mayor Brian Jackson said. Jackson pointed to an immediate influx of $900,000 in pre-paid development charges under the old rate and $500,000 a year in commercial taxes once the development is built. “If they don’t end up locating here we could lose that for some time,” he said. Council set a March 31 deadline for its new development charges, meaning developers that apply for a building permit after that date would pay significantly higher rates. But Canadian Tire sent council a letter March 19 saying it couldn’t meet the deadline. The letter warned that the “project would not be financially viable” if Canadian Tire was forced to pay the higher rate. “Canadian Tire is disappointed that the Town is willing to levy such a substantial increase in charges against our store that has been in the pipeline for such a significant period of time,” Alicia Kuntz, the corporation’s vice-president of real estate, wrote. In the end, council voted 6-2 in favour of allowing Canadian Tire to pre-pay the old development charges. But it must be ready to apply for a building permit by Sept. 1 or face additional charges. Councillors Lynn Dollin and Paul Wardlaw voted against the move, arguing taxpayers will end up paying the $300,000 in lost fees to attract retail growth that will eventually arrive anyway. “This is not a Honda plant,” Dollin said. “This is retail, and when there is residential growth there is retail growth. We’re going to have to ask residents to pay the $300,000 so we can have these (45) jobs come to town.” Meanwhile, a No Frills store planned for the north side of Innisfil Beach Road did meet the deadline and will pay the old development charge rate. The grocery store and Canadian Tire, which will include a Mark’s Work Wearhouse, are the only two developments affected by the deadline. Although he sees the Canadian Tire development as boon for Alcona, Deputy Mayor Gord Wauchope said he would not vote to extend the deadline again. “This is the final time,” he said. “This is going to be a great event for the Alcona area as an entrance to the downtown core. It will attract other businesses. This is great advantage for the Town of Innisfil at this time.” Jackson added, “Alcona has been commercially deficit for years. I think we need to move ahead on this. It’s been a long time getting to a population that warrants having a new Canadian Tire and No Frills store.” Council sees the stores as a “gateway” to a new downtown in Alcona, a vision that includes a $20 million plan to create a state-of-the art streetscape for Innisfil Beach Road between Sideroad 20 and Lake Simcoe.


Lefroy pair charged in nudist camp assaults

A Lefroy area man and woman have been charged with several serious criminal acts following an investigation by the York Regional Police Crimes Against Children unit. The 53-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman are alleged to have committed a series of indecent acts against the victim at a nudist park located in King Township between 11 and 17 years ago. The man and woman were involved in a relationship at the time. The incidents took place between 1992 and 1998, when the victim was between six and 12 years old and was known to the accused. The man is a former martial arts instructor in the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury and in other parts of the Greater Toronto area. He has also been a member of several nudist parks in Ontario and Quebec. On Thursday, Apr. 9, the man was arrested at his residence without incident. Police also seized a quantity of child pornography. The woman was arrested later that day in the Town of Innisfil. Charges against the pair include sexual assault, sexual interference, two counts of invitation to sexual touching, possession of child pornography, sexual assault and sexual interference. The man is being held in police custody and has appeared before a judge by video remand. The woman was released from custody, but placed on strict conditions and will appear in court on May 5. The Ontario Court of Justice in Newmarket has issued a publication ban to protect the identity of the complainant.


Collingwood council pans games bid

Collingwood Council won’t be financially backing The Blue Mountain’s bid to be an event host for the 2015 Pan American Games. At council on Monday evening, a request came forward asking the municipality to be a co-guarantor, along with TBM, for $1.8 million in funds for improvements to the Thornbury Horse Park, which would be used for the equestrian events. Counc. Ian Chadwick felt the event would not only be a great thing for the area but it might also get the municipality on board with the Collingwood Regional Airport. Collingwood has been asking TBM to become a member of the airport services board. Chadwick also felt this was a good chance to participate in a regional event. “Every hotel will be full. Every restaurant will be full,” he said. “I just think we need to look at the regional impact. It will be huge.” Counc. Tim McNabb disagreed and said if they aren’t going to support the Collingwood Airport, he wasn’t going to support their bid for the games. McNabb didn’t feel it was a smart move for the town to “go into debt,” for a piece of property that isn’t in Collingwood. “I’m against this for the airport reason,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate.” Counc. Kathy Jeffery was in favour of offering moral support for the bid but not financial support. Collingwood Mayor Chris Carrier said dealing with Wasaga Beach and Clearview Township on the airport services board gives the municipality a greater comfort level in supporting the bid. “If this was Clearview Township or Wasaga Beach, it might give us more comfort,” he said. Council defeated the motion by a vote of 5-1. Grey County council, however,  endorsed the bid 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 Chris Fell and Erika Engel


Fast teaches students about living in poverty

Every night, millions of people around the world go to bed hungry. Local Catholic school students got a taste of what that is like and did their part to solve the problem through an event called THINKfast. The idea for the event comes from Development and Peace, the international development organization of the Catholic Church in Canada. Grade 8 students from Marie of the Incarnation, Mother Theresa, St. Charles and St. Jean de Brébeuf schools took part to complement their Confirmation. They began the fast last Thursday at 11 a.m. and ended it with a feast at the Holy Martyrs of Japan parish hall at about 11:30 a.m. Friday. “It’s to teach them they do have a voice; they do make a difference,” organizer Debbie Walsh said. The students raised pledges for Development and Peace as part of the fast. This was the third THINKfast in Bradford West Gwillimbury in the last four years. In previous years, the event has raised between $1,200 and $4,000 each year. The amount raised this year was unavailable at press time. As part of the event, students and their families gathered at their schools last Thursday evening. Some of the schools served a broth with bread to help the students through the fast, Ms Walsh said. Another objective of the event was to bring families, schools and the parish together, she said. The students took part in a mass Friday morning at Holy Martyrs, then listened to two guest presenters. One of the presenters, Noeleen Crawford, spoke to the students about how they are capable of great things. “If you believe in everything, you believe in nothing,” she said. “You’ve got to believe in something.” Luis Orbegoso, a musician from Toronto, then performed on the cajón, a Peruvian percussion instrument. He explained the cajón’s origins as a slave instrument and got the students to sing along with a song about freedom written by freed slaves. After the presentations, the students partook in the feast, which was prepared by members of the Holy Martyrs parish. Students at Holy Trinity High School held their own THINKfast last month.