Magic of Children on display this month

The art work of 400 local youngsters will be on display this month. The 15th annual Magic of Children in the Arts show takes place at the Collingwood Public Library from Mar. 4-26. The event kicks off with an opening reception at the Library on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. The show features the work of about 400 children from Kindergarten to Grade 8 from schools around the area including Admiral Collingwood Public School, Cameron Public School, Connaught Public School, St. Mary’s Catholic School, Mountainview Public School, Bay School of Art, Byng Public School, Worsley Public School, Clearview Meadows Public School, Duntroon Public School,  Pretty River Academy and Little House Montessori. The students submitted work – this year’s theme was water – and it was judged by a panel of four including Carolyn Corner, Keli-Ann Pye-Beshara, Sue Miller and David Saunders. The awards will be handed out at a ceremony on March 25 at 6 p.m., at the Royal Canadian Legion. Organizer Marion Lewis said every student will receive an award as the goal is to foster creativity in youngsters. "We want to build self-esteem," said Lewis. Sandra Saunders, an art teacher at Collingwood Collegiate, is the chair of Magic of Children and says it’s important to find a creative outlet for elementary school students. "The ministry doesn’t have the money to have an art specialist in the elementary schools," she said. Lewis said it’s important to show students that being creative doesn’t just mean they can grow up to be painters and sculptors, but they can use the creative to make video games. "It’s about accessing their God-given creativity," she said. "Some people have it drilled out of them. It’s the creative class that will be the engine of the 21st century."


Town implements strict street naming policy

The Blue Mountains council has voted to approve a revised street naming policy for the town. According to the new policy, accepted at the March 2 planning meeting, the town will hold the responsibility for approving the names and renaming of all public and private streets. Until now, the town was not involved in naming private streets, and only had to approve names for public streets provided they were not duplicates. The new policy requires The Blue Mountains planning and building services department to compile and keep a list of proposed street names, which will each be approved by council based on suitability. They will all fall under six categories including names honouring those who have served their county, those who have given their life in public service, local history, national or international, community service and names that reflect the municipality’s agricultural and or recreational heritage or nature. The last category is miscellaneous, but not included in the six priority groups. In order for a street name to be added to this list, a written request must be submitted to the planning and building services department. The names will be checked for duplication and similarity in The Blue Mountains and Grey County, and accepted or refused by staff. If accepted, the names will be put to council for approval, then added to the list. To assign a street name, the proponent must review the list of approved names and chose a minimum of one street name from the six priority categories. At least half of the streets to be named must be assigned a name from these categories. Names up for approval must follow specific rules. The policy states that street names should be easily pronounced, recognized and use conventional spelling. Streets named after individuals must be a posthumous honour and must have the consent of living relatives. Names should not be longer than ten characters, Names should not be in conflict with others in The Blue Mountains or Grey County, they can’t be advertising, cumbersome, corrupted, discriminatory or derogatory. Names with sexual overtones, inappropriate humour, parody, slang or double meaning will be refused. Names with punctuation are discouraged. Currently, there is no list, but planning staff members are working to draft one to bring before council soon. A copy of the entire street naming policy is available at thebluemountains.ca.


CAW gets hostile reception

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.


Minivan crash mystery solved

Police said a 34-year-old Beeton woman was twice the legal alcohol limit when she drove a minivan into a creek east of Tottenham last week. At about 4 p.m. Wednesday, New Tecumseth firefighters driving along the 4th Line discovered a minivan that had gone through a guardrail and into a creek. No driver or passenger was visible anywhere near the vehicle. Police searched the area and eventually found the alleged driver, a 34-year-old Beeton woman, at the side of the road about one kilometre from the crash. She had apparently walked away from the collision. The crash took out over 20 metres of guardrail. The woman is facing several charges, including impaired driving, driving with a blood-alcohol level over 0.08, failure to remain on the scene, failure to report an accident and taking a vehicle without owner’s consent. She was released pending a court appearance.


Council approves Denmark development

Meaford council at its planning meeting on March 16 approved a small four-unit residential development on Denmark Street. Council held a public meeting to consider a re-zoning request for two vacant lots located on Denmark Street. The re-zoning implemented a consent severance on the two lots that added a small amount of property from one lot to the other in order to create more evenly sized lots. The re-zoning will allow four semi-detached residential units to be constructed on the properties, with two units on each property. On one side of the properties is a Rogers Cable control box and on the other side is a municipal waste treatment facility. Directly to the rear of the properties is the Georgian Trail and steep banks that lead to the Bighead River. There were no objections to the proposed re-zoning at the meeting. Both Grey County and Grey Sauble Conservation Authority planners were satisfied with the development proposal. Municipal planners said the proposal meets all Official Plan and provincial policies requirements and recommended its approval. Steve Doherty is the proponent for the development and he spoke briefly to council about his plans for the properties. "We want to put something in there that will complement the other buildings on that street," he said. "They will be attractive one-storey buildings that will appeal to seniors. We feel that the impact on the surrounding area will be negligible. They idea is to drive by in two years and you would think those buildings have always been there," he explained. Councillor Jim McPherson raised the only concern at the meeting on behalf of the Georgian Trail Board of Management. McPherson noted that the re-zoning is changing the rear setbacks from the Trail from nine metres to 8 metres. On one portion of one lot the rear set back will be as low as two metres due to the curvature of the Trail. As a result one of the units will have a smaller backyard than the others. McPherson – the Vice-Chair of the Board – said the Board is concerned that drainage from the property will flow onto the Trail. He said this has happened with other developments close to the Trail. Doherty said he understood the concern, but didn’t think the development would cause any drainage issues. "There’s not going to be anymore water draining than there is now. The lots already slope to the back (towards the trail)," said Doherty. Other members of council were pleased to approve the proposed development. "It’s an excellent proposal for this property that’s been sitting vacant for years growing up in brush," said councillor Gerald Shortt. Deputy Mayor Mike Traynor was particularly pleased to see efforts by the proponent of the development to fit into the community. "I like what the developer is doing here to take the time during the planning stage to create something that will compliment the area," said Traynor. The zoning bylaw amendment was passing unanimously by council.


City faces charges

The city faces charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act following an investigation involving the Orillia Opera House. A summons issued by Ontario’s Ministry of Labour says the alleged offenses date back to April 22 of last year. According to the document, the city committed “the offence of failing, as an employer, to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker at a workplace located at 20 Mississaga Street West …” contrary to the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The address given is that of the Orillia Opera House. In an appendix to the summons, the ministry describes one of two alleged offenses. “The defendant failed to take the reasonable precaution of ensuring that a hand-hold situated above a hatch way leading to a fixed ladder was securely attached to a wall.” The summons was delivered to culture and heritage director Craig Metcalf – the department responsible for the opera house – on March 19, close to a year after the alleged offenses occurred. Speaking recently with Orillia Today, Metcalf said only that the matter had been referred to the city’s solicitors. The city appeared at the Ontario Court of Justice in Orillia on April 14. “A part-time employee fell from a ladder at the opera house,” Lori Bolton, the city’s health and safety officer said of the reason for the initial investigation. “At the time, the employee sustained minor injuries.” Labour Ministry Crown counsel Shantanu Roy in a letter to the municipality said violations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act by a corporation can result in a maximum fine of $500,000. “If the Crown obtains a conviction, we will be seeking a fine that is appropriate given this maximum amount,” Roy added. The ministry alleges the city failed to follow a portion of the act requiring that access ladders be equipped with side rails that “extend 90 centimetres above the landing.” Bolton had yet to hear back from the city’s legal counsel regarding Tuesday’s court appearance. The summons and accompanying letter from the labour ministry were included in a recent council agenda but were not discussed.


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.


Passport clinic offered for travellers

People looking to head out of the country this year are going to need a passport. That’s why Simcoe North MP Bruce Stanton will be hosting a passport clinic in Penetanguishene on April 4. The clinic, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Royal Canadian Legion branch 68, will offer people assistance in filling out a passport application, give them the opportunity to get their picture taken (a $20 fee applies), and have their completed applications reviewed to ensure all required materials and documentation are included. There is a fee for the passport itself: $87 for adults and $22 to $37 for children under 16. Applicants need to bring a birth certificate or Canadian citizenship certificate or card, as well as other documents to support their identity, such as a driver’s licence, health card or seniors card. Contact information for two references and one emergency contact must also be provided For more information call 1-800-265-6228.


Fee for carriage critical for A Channel

If nothing else, there seems to be general agreement that the traditional revenue and regulatory model for conventional television is broken. Now we’ll see how that translates into a solution for what troubles broadcasters like Barrie’s A Channel. Comments earlier this year by CRTC chairperson Konrad von Finckenstein could be interpreted as a sign the federal regulator is in a mood to listen to the tales of woe now coming fast and furious from conventional broadcasters. Addressing the Canadian Film and Television Production Association, he acknowledged the problems besetting the broadcasters, and hinted at solutions, including a rethink of the regulator’s refusal to approve the broadcasters’ love-to-have item: fee-for-carriage. He seemed to, however, attach a condition, saying that conventional broadcasters had never explained how the fee would further the objectives of the Broadcasting Act. That might be a bit of a chasm to bridge, as conventional broadcasters seem to be thinking more in terms of survival than ‘furthering regulatory objectives.’ Broadly speaking, the act is a big-picture set of principles and regulations governing broadcasting in Canada. It seeks to preserve and promote Canadian-owned and operated stations. It gives the CRTC authority to develop and enforce ownership regulations and content standards, such as the amount of Canadian and local content required to meet licensing criteria. A loosening of requirements to carry Canadian and locally-produced content has been identified by conventional broadcasters as a means to the end of becoming financial stable, but it’s fee-for-carriage – receiving a fee from cable and satellite companies to carry the signal – that has been pegged as the cure to declining revenues. “Fee-for-carriage is absolutely No. 1. We believe we can make it work if we have that extra revenue stream,” Peggy Hebden, station manager for Barrie’s ‘A,’ told me recently. Push is turning to shove as far as the broadcasters are concerned, as insiders like Hebden worry about the ability of local television to survive. Earlier this month the station let go 24 of its 74 employees. “In our heyday, we had 135 employees. We could make a profit at that time but now we can’t.” The station has been a fixture in the community since 1955. It has undergone a number of name and ownership changes, including CKVR, The New VR and now ‘A’ channel. It has been independently owned, a CBC affiliate, and is now part of CTVglobemedia.  At the time of the Barrie layoffs, CTV also announced the closing of stations in Windsor and Wingham, and the cancellation of local content, including Barrie’s morning show. Instead of that show, early-morning viewers are watching a repeat of the suppertime news program; later-morning viewers see the 11 p.m. newscast. Across the ‘A’ network, 118 jobs were eliminated. It’s an indication of how dire the situation is for conventional television in smallish markets like Barrie, said Hebden. “If we sold every 30-second spot on our channel, we still couldn’t make money.” The station, and others like it, has not been profitable for years. “We can’t continue to do what we were doing. We were losing money anyway, we’re just losing it faster now.” Unlike specialty channels, which receive fee-for-carriage payments, conventional television has one revenue stream: advertising.  “We need to come up with a new way. They (licensing regulations) need to be revised,” said Hebden, adding the regulations governing conventional broadcasting are 50 years old.  During his address to the film and television association, the CRTC boss pointed to four challenges facing conventional broadcasters.  1) The global economic crisis: “It accelerated much more quickly than expected and caught everybody by surprise, including us.” 2) Advertising: “One of the first casualties of such an economic crisis is – inevitably – advertising. The broadcasting industry as a whole depends heavily on a strong, steady flow of advertising dollars … advertising placement is down sharply. The conventional TV broadcasters, who must depend entirely on advertising for their revenue, are obviously the sector most heavily affected by this downturn.” 3) Audience fragmentation: “A shrinkage of viewership of conventional TV has already been in progress because of the fragmentation of the audience. Specialty and pay channels have siphoned off many viewers … a lot of eyeballs have migrated to the discretionary sector and they have taken profitability with them.” 4) Challenge of New Media: “ … especially its on-demand capability and its attraction to advertisers. Younger Canadians in particular are turning to Internet-based and mobile media that hardly existed as entertainment sources ten years ago.” 5) Diminished role of conventional television: “What is also clear is that a lot of people are watching less conventional television than before.” The chairperson went on to identify four unresolved issues that need to be addressed in the drive to fix the ‘broken model.’ 1) Digital transmission: Most Canadians get their broadcast signals from cable or satellite. About 10 per cent get their signals over the air (OTA) using old-style antennas. The CRTC has set a deadline of Aug. 31, 2011, for the switching of analog signals to digital, however the industry is balking, saying it would be too costly to invest in OTA digital transmitters, when only a small number of households would use this service. The commission says it’s unacceptable that those households now relying on free OTA signals would lose them, or be forced to pay for them through broadcasting distribution undertakings (BTUs).  Discussions are underway to arrive at a solution, with some sort of hybrid system probable, he said. 2) Local programming improvement fund: “Stations in smaller markets have been having difficulty in maintaining adequate levels of local programming, especially news … the fund’s objective is to provide incremental funding for local programming,” said von Finckenstein, who added, “ … terms must be set for administration of the fund, including eligibility to access it.” 3) Distant signals: “For some time, broadcasters have been asking for compensation for the retransmission of their signals outside their priority carriage market … the commission recognized the legitimacy of their claim … we believe that market-based negotiations between the parties will arrive at a fair price.” 4) Terms of trade:  “The industry needs to have a template for agreements on rights, just as there are standard forms for the sale of a house.” OK, so there is general agreement the industry is in trouble. So what now? The CRTC boss outlined a three-phase approach. The first phase is to hold the scheduled licensing hearings in April, but with a dramatically reduced focus with the objective being how to help conventional broadcasters weather the immediate storm. Instead of seven-year licenses, one-year licenses will be granted. A review of the entire licensing system over the summer will constitute the second phase. The commission will look at “the reality of large ownership groups controlling both conventional and discretionary broadcasting services – with some of them also being major distribution undertakings.” According to the CRTC chairman, “The intent is to design a framework for licensing broadcasters – both conventional and specialty – on the basis of these ownership groups, not on the basis of the types of service they deliver. Such a framework would reflect the industry reality.” The third phase, in April 2010, involves “… a combined hearing for specialty and conventional television and assign privileges and obligations on that new ownership basis.” Sounds like quite the plan. Broadcasters hope fee-for-carriage lies somewhere amid the details. “This is not a selling problem or performing problem,” said Hebden. “We have great performance, but it doesn’t seem to matter.” The loss to Barrie and region of its local television station would hit the community hard, she predicted. “We’re very important and we need to have a local television station tell our stories. We don’t need our stories told from Toronto, and that’s what would happen.” To tell those stories, ‘A’ is required to produce 14 hours of local content per week, said Hebden. “Barrie is exceeding it with 20.5, including our repeats.” To a layman, it seems a balance needs to be struck between profit and local content. The station is, after all, a business. But without local content, there wouldn’t be any of “our stories” Hebden speaks of, and without those, little value to the community from a station merely based in Barrie, but carrying content readily available elsewhere. Many in the community are rallying to the station’s side, including MP Patrick Brown. “The majority of residents … adore having the ability to learn about local news, cultural activities and charitable events through the ‘A’ station.” “The CRTC must allow local television stations to add a second stream of revenue, a fee-for-carriage, which would be paid for by local cable providers.” Ultimately though, it would be the consumer who paid, as cable and satellite providers can be expected to pass on the costs. The CRTC has already rejected the fee-for-carriage request twice, with cable and satellite providers among the most vocal opponents. There’s no argument the industry is in trouble. The numbers speak for themselves. The CRTC recently reported that the profits of conventional broadcasters dropped by more than 90 per cent last year; the industry’s 2008 profits, before taxes, were a miniscule $8 million, compared with $112.9 million in 2007 and $233.4 million in 2004. Debt load, particularly with Canwest ($3.7 billion), compounds the problems facing local television, as the media giants struggle to service debt amid declining revenues. The industry is being assailed from a number of fronts, and, is “at a crossroads that people need to pay attention to. “It’s serious,” said Hebden, adding she doesn’t see how the CRTC could ignore the call for fee-for-carriage. The alternative is a stark one, she said. “We are so important and vital to this community and we could very easily shut down if something doesn’t change.”