Occasional teachers reach deal with public board

Public elementary occasional teachers have reached a tentative agreement with the Simcoe County District School Board. A ratification vote will take place later this month by members of the Simcoe County occasional teacher local of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO). “This is a good deal,” ETFO president David Clegg stated in a news release. “Guaranteed, negotiated working conditions for occasional teachers provide a supportive school environment that benefits student learning.” Clegg noted Simcoe is the sixth occasional teacher local to reach a tentative deal. The other five agreements have already been ratified. “The ETFO bargaining team has worked very hard to secure a deal,” said Bob Blackwood, president of the ETFO’s Simcoe County occasional teacher local. “Once the deal is ratified, it will ensure four years of improved working conditions and better benefits for my members.” The Simcoe County local represents approximately 900 public elementary occasional teachers. Their contract expired Aug. 31, 2008.


Dentist part of medical mission

Stayner dentist Ted Proctor is part of a 26-member team heading to the Dominican Republic on March 29 for a one-week medical mission trip. Proctor, a Wasaga Beach resident, said the trip marks his fifth time to the impoverished country in the last three years. While in the Dominican Republic, Proctor will provide dentistry to Haitian refugees who have come to the country looking for work. He said that it was through long-time friends who visit the country for mission purposes that he learned of the opportunity to help. Proctor said he takes part as a way to give back. “Our country is so blessed – it’s our responsibility to help people and to share,” he explained. Spearheading the trip at this end are members New Life Brethren in Christ Church in Collingwood. But once the team arrives in the Dominican, they will work with Dominican Crossroads, a Christian ministry that operates in the hills outside Puerto Plata, a city in the northern part of the country. Proctor, a member of New Life church, said that Dr. Leslie Hutchings who practices in Stayner and Dr. Janet Clark who practices in Collingwood are also taking part in the trip, as are two nurses and several others who will work as medical support staff. “We’ll have people doing blood pressures, counting pills, that type of thing,” he said. Members of the mission trip will be traveling light in terms of personal items, he said. Each person going will bring what he or she needs for the trip in a carry-on bag. However, each person will also bring two 50-pound bags filled with supplies and items to give away, such as personal hygiene products, to those in need. Each person who is part of the team is responsible for covering his or her expenses. In total, the cost is about $1,200 for each person. Proctor said they will arrive in Puerto Plata and then take a roughly 30-minute bus ride to Crossroads, where the team will stay while in the country. Each day they will rise early and meet for breakfast at 7 a.m. and then board a bus at 8 a.m. and head to a village. “Every day we’ll be working in a different village,” Proctor noted. The Haitian refugees they will help have come to the country in search of a better life. Many harvest sugar cane or scavenge in dumps for materials they can sell. All are poor. Proctor said the homes people live in are primitive, made of scrap metal and wood. “These are Haitians who’ve left their country. They have no benefits, very little money and no help except for what outside organizations provide,” he said. Despite the incredibly tough existence the Haitians face, they are a beautiful and warm people, Proctor said. “They are spontaneous, loud, they’re happy, their needs and wants are very simple,” he said. In the villages, the team will provide basic care to people. For Proctor, that means doing emergency extractions without a proper dental chair, x-rays and lighting. “It’s the same standard of care, just in a primitive environment,” he said. At lunchtime each day, the workers will visit a local restaurant and then spend the afternoon distributing things such soap, toothbrushes, children’s shoes, baby clothes and school supplies to refugees. “Last year we took down over 1,000 pairs of shoes,” he noted. People wanting to help the group are asked to donate new or gently used items, such as baseballs, deflated soccer balls, children’s running shoes, plastic toys that don’t require batteries, school supplies, hygiene items and baby clothing. Items can be left at Proctor’s office at the Stayner Medical Centre on King Street or at Major’s Guardian Pharmacy – at the 45th Street or River Road location – in Wasaga Beach or at New Life Brethren in Christ Church, off County Road 124 in Collingwood. Monetary donations will also be accepted at Proctor’s office. Cheques can be made payable to New Life Brethren in Christ Church and a tax receipt can be issued. Last year, between Proctor’s team and another team comprised of Elmvale-area people, more than $20,000 in donations was collected – money that went towards such things as food and education supplies for the Haitians. Thanks to the financial support that mission trips to the country have received, Proctor said he’s seen progress, with schools and medical centres and churches getting built. He said that people who go on the mission trips are often changed by what they see. “When you can actually go, smell, taste and feel it – it changes your life,” he said.


Thief makes cop’s job easy

A Midland police officer investigating a theft from a downtown hardware store had an easy time finding the culprit – he was strolling down King Street carrying stolen merchandise. The incident happened around 5 p.m. on March 26. The officer was driving to the scene of the crime when he spotted the thief. A 26-year-old Midland man has been charged with theft under $5,000, possession of stolen property and breach of probation. He was held for a bail hearing in Barrie the following day.


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.


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]


Georgian College eager for deficit help

Georgian College is counting on a share of newly announced provincial funding to erase a multimillion-dollar operating deficit. College president Brian Tamblyn this week confirmed the multi-campus school was closing out the year with a projected shortfall of $2.8 million. Government funding has failed to keep pace with rising enrolment in the college’s diploma and degree programs, he said. “We have been growing very quickly for the last four years,” Tamblyn said. “It kind of catches up to you operationally.” The province, in its latest budget, announced $150 million in immediate, one-time support for colleges and universities. Georgian will learn in the next couple of weeks whether its share of the fund will cover the sizable deficit, Tamblyn said.  “It is quite possible our share could cover our projected deficit this year.” The college’s fiscal year ended March 31. Tamblyn stressed Georgian is not alone as it works to overcome financial challenges. “Pretty well all the colleges and universities are looking at serious financial situations,” he pointed out. Overall enrolment rose 9.5 per cent in March compared to the same period last year, while applications for the fall semester are already up by almost seven per cent, Tamblyn said. “It’s possible we will have a similar increase in the fall as we did in the winter,” he said. Tamblyn said the province is dedicating another $200 million to colleges and universities next year through its “Reaching Higher” plan. “The concern is whether the enrolment growth will outstrip the money provided,” he said. In the meantime, the college will draw from a $6-million reserve. “At the point where you are out of reserves, you have to work with the ministry and come up with a plan on how you get out of (deficit),” he said. “But we are not there yet.” Tamblyn said colleges have been encouraged to maintain growth or risk losing funding. Georgian is experiencing growth in its college and degree programs in Barrie and Orillia, and apprenticeship programs at its Midland campus. [email protected]


Provincial tests cancel classes for some students

Local high schools are going to look a little empty tomorrow morning (Thursday). The Simcoe County District School Board is conducting its annual Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test that day. The test is for Grade 10 students and other students that failed previous tests. The three-hour test will be conducted Thursday morning. Only those students scheduled to write the test are to go to school in the morning. Classes for all of the students will be postponed until the afternoon. Bus service will run in the morning as usual, but there will be additional runs at midday for students starting class in the afternoon. Students will be bused home after school as usual. The exam is a standardized test, prescribed by the Ministry of Education, and administered to students across the province. Students and parents can learn more about the test and review sample questions by following the OSSLT links at the website,


Soldiers’ addresses safety charges

Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital appeared in provincial court Tuesday to face two charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Officials said the charges stem from a Labour Ministry inspection last April, and relate to the storage of two oxygen cylinders and the disposal of one needle and a syringe. The hospital’s legal counsel is reviewing the charges, Orillia Today was told. “Our board and administration want the community to know that we take workplace safety very seriously and are committed to maintaining a safe and healthy environment for everyone who comes through our doors,” said Elisabeth Riley, the hospital’s president and CEO. Hospital spokesperson Terry Dyni said the two sides were setting a court date, and that the case could be months away from being heard. “We are of the understanding that it will be a matter of minutes that it will be spoken to today,” he added. “There will be no testimony or evidence provided today.” Hospital policy dictates that used needles and syringes are deposited in so-called “sharps” containers, plastic bins mounted on walls throughout the building. The lidded containers are made available as a safety measure, Dyni said. “It is to avoid people sticking themselves with needles,” he added. “You would never throw one in a garbage can or anything like that.” In the case investigated by the provincial labour inspector, a needle and syringe – the plunger-like device – were not stored in one of the protective containers, Dyni said. Oxygen tanks are frequently used in the hospital, and are subject to policies governing their handling and storage, he added. “In this instance, the inspector noticed that two of them were out of place,” he added. Officials in a statement issued Tuesday said staff receives ongoing safety education, and that the hospital supports “a culture of safety throughout the organization.” Achieving a healthy workplace and becoming a hospital known for patient safety are two of five priorities identified in Soldiers’ strategic planning process, officials noted. The hospital has a joint occupational health and safety committee, and the board has a quality and safety committee.