Students travel for Habitat for Humanity

A bruising round of dodge ball at Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School kicked off a campaign to build a new life for residents of an impoverished country scarred by civil war. Travis Frampton and Mady Harber, both 18, leave April 24 for a two-week stay in rural Tajikistan, an earthquake-prone region with a battered infrastructure and inadequate housing. There they will join a dozen members of Habitat for Humanity Global Village to build a home for a family in the town of Nurek. “They need attention on the world stage,” Frampton said moments before students at his alma mater plunked down a toonie each to spend the afternoon drilling one another with rubber balls. All proceeds went toward the $5,000 in travel expenses and building materials each participant in the upcoming build are expected to raise. “The support is just amazing,” Harber added. Both graduates of the local separate school, the two met in a Grade 12 philosophy class. “We realized we shared a lot of the same interests,” Frampton recalled. When her like-minded friend decided to leave Orillia to help build a house for a single mother of eight in El Suyate, Guatemala last year, it was Harber who organized a fundraising coffee house event at the school. The resulting experience was life changing for Frampton. “It is not something I ever want to stop doing,” he added of the labour intensive but satisfying work. “It made me realize how ridiculous it is the things we complain about here.” Neither is Harber a stranger to the spirit of volunteerism. Proceeds from a locally produced CD and concert she organized last year raised more than $3,600 for the local Habitat chapter. The upcoming trip, “is going to be the first of many,” she added. “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Harber plans to study international development with the aim of improving living conditions for residents of Third World countries. “When I set my mind to something, I try my best to make it happen,” she added. Anyone wishing to contribute to the upcoming trip can do so online at


Ex-cop’s undercover experiences basis for book

Usually, new retirees spend a little time smelling the roses. For one former police officer, however, that just wasn’t an option. Instead, Greg Quesnelle – who recently wrapped up a 30-year career with the Ontario Provincial Police – opted to get right back to work writing his first book. “Undercover: My Story” is a fictional account of a young man who gets hired by a major provincial police department and quickly climbs the ranks to become an undercover officer with the drug squad. The story, Quesnelle said, describes noteworthy events throughout the character’s undercover career. The Penetanguishene resident told The Mirror despite always dreaming of police work, he actually started off as a nurse in training at the Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene. “I was too young to be a policeman and was fortunate enough to be hired by the province of Ontario (for the) practical nursing program,” he said. While he enjoyed that job, it wasn’t long before Quesnelle realized he just couldn’t let his fate pass him by. At the age of 21, he applied to both the OPP and RCMP. “I was probably drawn to (policing) by the adventure and the excitement,” he said. “You get to help people, do things, travel …  plus it’s a very honest and sincere career.” Quesnelle officially retired March 1, 2008, and has spent the past year drafting and writing his “fictional memoir.” Although he found himself confronted with a few unique challenges, he got through it thanks to a number of motivating factors. “The motivation for me to write book, was threefold,” he said. “(The first) is in memory of my friend Bill. He is one of the only OPP undercover officers that I know that was ever killed in the performance of his duty and recognized as such,” he said, adding Bill was one of the first friends and cohorts he got to know when he first joined the undercover unit. “His death is still unsolved. In time, people forget. It very easily could have been me there…. I wanted to keep the story alive of the people that are there to protect society.” The rest of his motivation, he said, came from his wife for “putting up with (his) career for 30 years” and his daughter for urging him to write the book. Quesnelle said his job provided most of the inspiration for the book and, although it is a work of fiction, there are many parallels to his own career. “I’ve been there (and) done it. I’ve bought the heroin, bought the coke, bought the grass, the LSD, stolen property,” he said. “I did an undercover jail job where I was in jail with a suspected double murderer … so (it is) loosely based on (my) own experiences,” he said. “It’s a different twist to have a fictional memoir. Usually, books are categorized as one of the other … but there are a lot of (parallels) with the story line and my career.” Quesnelle noted society doesn’t often get to see the covert side of policing. “It’s not your everyday-type job. It’s a real challenge (that requires) living with honesty and integrity,” he said, adding the story also shows the dangerous elements of the job – something he’s hoping readers will be able to appreciate a little more after reading the book. “I hope (readers) will understand that there are people out there in specialized services that are doing a lot of good, dangerous work for society,” he said. “A lot of times (we) are the unsung heroes. We don’t advertise who we are; we just do things because it’s the right thing to do.” The book, which was published March 11, is available online at and .


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.


Funding shortage leaves long term care facilities struggling

A chronic funding shortage has left long-term care homes wrestling with rising costs and struggling to serve clients with increasingly complex needs, Simcoe North MPP Garfield Dunlop heard. Representatives of three area homes presented Dunlop with more than 650 petition cards, calling on the province to honour an earlier commitment to increase funding for long-term care. “We need what they said they were going to give us,” said Sabrina Desranleau-Tyers, residential and family service coordinator at Leacock Care Centre. “It would help us significantly, and it would help the residents.” Residents, family members, staff, and visitors signed the petition. Another 35,000 of the cards were presented at Queen’s Park, Dunlop noted during an appearance at Leisureworld Orillia. “They are not asking for more money, they are just asking for the money the government promised in 2003,” he added. “This is a promise we want to see the government keep.” Staff is spending an increasing amount of time filling out paperwork, often at the expense of residents, said Janet Maconachie, a Registered Nurse at Oak Terrace. “It is hard to deliver care and be behind a desk doing a mountain of paperwork,” she said. “We are too rushed because of the time constraints, and it is not fair to (residents).” The Ontario Long Term Care Association is demanding the province fulfill a promise to boost funding to ensure adequate staffing levels. Funding for a range of services that impact on resident care has failed to keep pace with rising costs over the past six years, the organization said. The provincial association is equally concerned about the 1,700 people currently occupying hospital beds as they await placement at long-term care homes. Likewise, some 1,300 long-term care residents end up in hospital emergency rooms monthly because their homes are unable to provide the increased care they require. Additional personal support workers and nurses will result in improved care for residents and, in turn, lessen the burden on Ontario’s hospitals, the association said. Investments in training and education are also essential, it added. Greater financial support for long-term care facilities “would definitely make an improvement for (residents’) quality of life,” Desranleau-Tyers said.


Caring a universal language

A group of women trying to make a difference in the fight against HIV in Africa is looking close to home to raise money for their cause. Kathy Proudley, a member of the Huronia chapter of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign, said the group will be holding a fundraiser later this month to raise money to help buy school uniforms, cover school fees and assist community gardens. The group’s goal is to raise awareness and mobilize support in Canada for African grandmothers, many of whom are raising children orphaned when their parents died of AIDS. The event, scheduled for March 28 at the Midland Legion, will feature Geph Mitchell in an Elvis Presley tribute, with additional music by Back 2 Back DJ Services. Proudley said the group is hoping to raise upwards of $3,500. “It’s going to be a great night,” she said. “The world is getting to be a much smaller place…. What happens in Africa affects us all.” Tickets are $15 each and are available in Midland at the legion, Johnstone’s Musicland, Sergio’s Italian Sandwiches and Hair Fantasy, as well as Marlynn’s Buro Plus in Penetanguishene. More than 150 groups of Canadian grandmothers have taken up the call for action – raising more than $1 million for the campaign. The money is directed by the Stephen Lewis Foundation to community-level organizations in 14 sub-Saharan African countries that provide grandmothers with food, housing grants, school fees and grief counselling. For more information on the group, visit


Mayor talks about Great Lakes issues at provincial conference

The Blue Mountains Mayor, Ellen Anderson, presented the eco and economic issues surrounding Ontario and America’s fresh water resources at a municipal leaders convention last week. She spoke on the mandates and efforts of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (GLSLCI), an organization of mayors and local officials from the states and provinces bordering the great lakes working with the upper levels of government to protect and restore the lakes and waterway. Anderson sits on the Board of Directors for the initiative. She made the presentation at the Ontario Good Roads Association and Rural Ontario Municipal Association joint conference on February 22 to 25 in Toronto with the hopes of spreading awareness and recruiting new members for the initiative. "I believe it is an extremely important organization that has a true voice," said Anderson. "It’s becoming highly recognized by the province … I think more and more we’re being recognized as a very good resource for them and vice versa." Her presentation included information on invasive species, the harmful effects of improper dredging, water levels, water-related infrastructure costs, the importance of the Great Lakes and a recent Canada-Ontario Agreement allowing the GLSLCI to form a taskforce to advise the Provincial and Federal levels of government on their water-related decisions. "Our future direction is to work closely again with the municipalities to encourage environmental and economic development," said Anderson. "These things have to go hand in hand." Most of the involvement in the initiative so far has come from the cities on the border of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence. Anderson says the initiative is targeting municipalities more inland now. "Water is water, it starts from the source and ends in the bays," she said. "The more municipalities involved, the greater the voice." Anderson said her seminar was well attended and well received. Other speakers at the event included Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Transportation Minister Jim Bradley and Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Jim Watson.


Topping the trends

According to, Hyundai was on the February leader board of car manufacturers doing well in an otherwise slow sales month. “Amid news that auto sales in the U.S. have fallen to their lowest annual rate since December 1981 and lag 39.4 per cent behind year-to-date sales at this point last year, some models are bucking the trend,” said the report.  Both the Elantra and the Accent made it into the top five behind Audi’s A5/S5 Coupe and the BMW M3 convertible. But the counter-culture movement isn’t strictly south of the border. “We are certainly seeing that at the local level,” confirms Mike Holgate, sales manager at Barrie’s Baytowne Hyundai. “Our sales are up significantly over the number last year, which is in line with what Hyundai is experiencing across the province and across the country.” Among its competitive segment, Holgate credits a combination of aggressive warranty incentives, low interest rates and the high quality for car buyers “looking at us as a very good value,” he explains. “Of course, we are also the exclusive provider of WALKAWAY financing protection,” he adds.  Introduced in the U.S. in January, the Hyundai Assurance Program originated in Canada in 2000 as the first-ever loss-of-income insurance on new car loans. The sales stimulus has been heavily advertised since it was introduced. “A decade ago Hyundai pioneered America’s Best Warranty to show you the faith we have in our cars,” reads promotional material. “Today, in addition to our warranty, we’re introducing Hyundai Assurance, to show you the faith we have in you. Right now, buy any new Hyundai, and if in the next year you lose your income, we’ll let you return it.” Hyundai is first ever automaker to offer job-loss insurance on new car loans.” In Canada, the WALKAWAY Protection program “lets you seek relief from your payments temporarily, or return your vehicle and walk away from the financial obligation for good. In most cases, the difference between the balance owning and the residual value of your vehicle will be fully covered.” The program is offered on a complimentary basis for one year. “In this uncertain economy, we are looking for ways to reassure shoppers that Hyundai still represents the best value in the auto industry,” announced John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America president. The overall strategy for credibility and competitiveness is proving to be sound.  Not only is Baytowne Hyundai the only Hyundai dealership in the region, it has grown to become the largest Hyundai dealer facility in the province since it opened for business in 1991. Larger facilities opened at 191 Mapleview Drive West in Barrie’s south end in 2005, more than tripling the size of the dealership. In addition to a much-larger indoor showroom, the new dealership also offers a local shuttle service, customer lounge and a service drive through. After years in its original bay-side location, “we needed to update and expand our facility to accommodate growth,” according to Holgate. Now the season is here that traditionally boosts auto sales across the board, Holgate invites shoppers to check out what’s making the news. “It’s a fun and easy place to get a new car,” he promises. For more information, visit