NORTH DURHAM: Spending on infrastructure improvements and employment programs is set to rise in Ontario, along with debt levels following the release of the latest Provincial budget by Finance Minister Charles Sousa last week.
A primary piece of the budget is a 10-year $130-billion infrastructure plan, which includes $49.8 billion for transit, highways, and bridges in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, the largest infrastructure investment in Ontario’s history. According to a press release from Durham MPP Granville Anderson, Durham Region will receive a portion of approximately $16 billion.
Motorists may also see reductions in car insurance rates, with interest on monthly car insurance to fall from three per cent to 1.3 per cent. As well, companies will now be mandated to offer a reduction for those with snow tires, and forgiveness for minor at-fault collisions.
The Liberal government continues to put money into job creation in their latest budget, with the province increasing funding for the 10-year $2.5 billion Jobs and Prosperity Fund, as well as continued funding for the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy and apprenticeship grants.
There was also plenty of news regarding beer, with a new three cents a litre beer tax kicking in this November, and continuing for the next three years, which the government says will bring in an extra $100 million. As well, the first beer sales in Ontario grocery stores is expected later this year.
"From ensuring access to all-day kindergarten for our youngest learners, to supporting Ontario's skilled tradespeople and building the infrastructure we know we need, Ontario is making the much needed investments to help build Durham and all of Ontario up," said MPP Anderson.
However, the budget is not all good news, with Ontario’s $284 billion debt rising to close to $300 billion. Interest payments are expected to rise to $11.4 billion, the fourth-highest expenditure in the province behind health, education and children's and social services.
The Liberal government came under fire from opposition MPPs for this latest increase in Ontario’s debt, which currently sits at more than $20,000 per resident.
“There is no plan to deal with the debt - it is just going up and up,” commented interim Ontario PC leader Jim Wilson.
As well, all program expenditures are slated to be cut by 5.5 per cent, with the exception health-care and education, which will receive modest increases, albeit below the two per cent level of inflation, leading to criticism from opposition MPPs.
“Ontarians didn't vote for this. They did not vote for a plan that fires nurses, closes schools and weakens social services,” argued Ontario NDP Andrea Horwath.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: With the high school teachers strike in Durham Region entering its second week, more job action by teachers may be looming across the province, including local elementary schools.
As of May 10, Ontario’s public elementary school teachers will be in a legal strike position.
“We are hoping on, or prior to, May 10 that we get substantial movement at the table and we won’t have to move in a direction nobody wants to move in,” Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, said in an interview with the Toronto Star, adding that the union has no interest in negotiating concessions and called the provinces current offer on the table “offensive” to his 76,000 members.
An elementary school teachers strike would affect more than 817,000 students across the province.
Last week, members of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association gave a strike mandate of 94.2 per cent, although the earliest they would be in a strike position is mid-June.
As well, on Monday, April 27, high school teachers in Sudbury’s Rainbow District School Board joined Durham high school teachers on strike after a break down in labour talks with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation over the weekend.
High School teachers with the Peel District School Board could be the next to walk off the job, as they have set a strike date of May 4.
Meanwhile, Durham’s high school teachers strike continues in its second week, with little progress towards a resolution.
“Unfortunately no change is expected at this time and all DDSB schools remain closed for Tuesday, April 28, 2015. The DDSB continues to work with the conciliator to get talks back on track to reach a mutually agreeable, negotiated local settlement to get our students back into the classroom,” the DDSB said in a statement on their web site posted on Monday, April 27.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Lucy Maud Montgomery will be coming back to Leaskdale this June, when a new life-size bronze statue of the renowned author is officially unveiled at the Historic Church.
Members of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario (LMMSO) announced the unveiling at council’s meeting on the evening of Monday, April 27.
The statue, which has been crafted by local sculptor Wynn Walters, depicts the famous author sitting on a bench, with an open book on her lap, at the time in her life when she lived in the hamlet of Leaskdale, as the new bride of Presbyterian Minister Ewan Macdonald. The couple lived in the Leaskdale Manse from 1911 until 1926, and while there Montgomery published 11 of 22 her books.
Mr. Walters noted that the model for the statue was actress Jennifer Carroll, who has portrayed Montgomery in the one-woman play ‘Maud of Leaskdale’ which has been performed the past three summers at the Historic Leaskdale Church.
“Nationally, this of great significance. It is the only statue of Montgomery, not only in Canada, but the world,” long-time LMMSO member Kathy Wasylenky explained. “The Society will continue to do our part to make Uxbridge Township a tourist destination for people from around the world.”
The unveiling is scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 20, as part of a special ceremony in the garden of the Historic Leaskdale Church, from 2 to 5 p.m.
“Public art enriches the life of any community,” added Mr. Walters. “This sculpture of our best-loved writer no only enhances this historic site, but is a significant addition to Canada’s recognition of its heroes.”
Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor praised the LMMSO for their tireless work in promoting the community and restoring the historic sites in Leaskdale.
“It’s been an amazing transformation,” said Mayor O’Connor. “And even more meaningful when we have people like Wynn Walters that are so artistically inclined.”
DAN CEARNS The Standard
SCUGOG: Durham Regional Police are currently looking for suspects, after Allen Computers and Electronics on Water St., in Port Perry was robbed in the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 28.
The thieves broke the window of one of the storefront doors with a large rock, and took about 10 cellphones and tablets valued at around $1,000 from the store at around 4:30 a.m. No money was taken from the register.
“They knew what they were looking for and they took it. They were in and out in minutes,” store owner Brad Allen told The Standard.
Durham Regional Police arrived shortly after the store’s alarm was activated, but were unable to locate a suspect, and according to Mr. Allen, did not seem hopeful that many of the stolen items would turn up.
“They said that unless one turns up, they are going to have to wait for another break in and see if they can trace the serial numbers,” said Mr. Allen.
There is currently an investigation underway into the robbery. If the public has any information, they can contact Crime Stoppers at 905-436-8477 or Durham Regional Police at 1-888-579-1520.
DARRYL KNIGHT & DAN CEARNS The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Councillors in North Durham recently heard an update from representatives from the Region of Durham regarding the status of the Vibrant North Durham plan.
The Vibrant North Durham plan was adopted by Brock, Scugog and Uxbridge councils in June 2013 as the first economic development plan specifically for the municipalities that make up North Durham.
“Vibrant North Durham is unique across the province, having municipalities come together this way,” Nancy Rutherford, manager of the Region’s Economic Development department said at a Uxbridge council meeting in Goodwood, on Monday, April 20.
The plan identifies four strategies to an improved economic landscape including: being open for business, inspiring and supporting entrepreneurship, creating a vibrant future for young adults and building a strong rural and small town identity.
Later this year, Vibrant North Durham will be showcased at the 2015 Building Business Forum, being held in Brock in September. The forum allows local business owners to connect and learn from each other. Last year’s forum drew a record crowd of 150 people, Scugog council was told during a presentation on Monday, April 13.
“We are hoping for more or increased turnout at the event this year hosted by the township of Brock,” Ms. Rutherford said to Scugog councillors.
Among the developments currently underway is an expansion of the Community Futures Development Corporation into Scugog and Uxbridge Townships. The corporation would supply services such as business development loans, as well as help out with strategic plans and research on economic development in the community. Their previous jurisdiction only went as far as Brock Township.
As well, work will continue on the tri-council Economic Development committee, as well as expanding the Business Ambassador program that has been proven successful in Uxbridge.
“Your township has led the way with business ambassadors, with a lot of excellent booklets and information,” Ms. Rutherford told Uxbridge councillors.
Some of the other projects currently running include Scugog Township’s Broadband project, which is looking to bring citizens wider access to high speed internet, a concern for rural residents across North Durham, as noted by Uxbridge Ward 2 Councillor Pat Molloy.
“Economic development is the key to keeping our kids in town, but without internet service, you’re not being competitive. It’s a huge issue if you’re trying to run a business outside of the downtown core.”
As well, Uxbridge Ward 5 Councillor Gord Highet noted the difficulties businesses attempting to set up shop in North Durham can face due to development charges, as well as added environmental restrictions, such as the Oak Ridges Moraine Act and Greenbelt Plan.
“We are turning away business because it can be too arduous to set up here. It’s like a bat to the side of the head to a potential entrepreneur when we’re in a pre-consulation meeting when the regional representative brings out their fees latest schedule,” commented Councillor Highet.
Uxbridge CAO Ingrid Svelnis also noted that costs associated with Durham Region Transit, as well as an abudance of paperwork can sometimes pose problems to potential businesses looking to set up shop in the area.
“You’re paying transit development charges here the same as in the south, which can be a tough sell,” explained Ms. Svelnis. “We tell them that we have a bus service, you just can’t see it. On top, you’re assigning homework and homework, and it’s still sometimes not enough to get through all of the different levels of bureaucracy.”
One plan, pitched by Uxbridge Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor would see altered guidelines to ease the burden on businesses in North Durham.
“The only way I can see around this is a two tiered system, with one development charge for the south, and another for the north. There are far less restrictions in the southern municipalities and I think the time has come that the Region has to start looking above Hwy. 7,” said Mayor O’Connor.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
UXBRIDGE: The future of the Siloam Hall will be a hot topic next week, as Councillors plan to discuss a possible sale of the historic building at their meeting on the evening of Monday, April 27.
The matter was originally to be part of the agenda for council’s meeting on April 13, before the decision was made to move the report by Clerk Debbie Leroux to the 7 p.m. meeting on April 27, to not only allow for more time to prepare relevant documents, but also allow greater input from local residents.
“We just came out of a difficult budget and, as we learned earlier today, our situation isn’t likely to improve,” said Mayor Gerri Lynn O’Connor. “I need information, such as how much does the hall costs us and how much is it being used before making any decision.”
Ward 3 Councillor Pat Mikuse also endorsed moving the meeting, and noted that while the Siloam Hall does have heritage value, it may be time for the township to cease its ownership, leaving the ultimate decision on its fate to the potential purchaser.
“Personally, I don’t have a problem selling the hall,” commented Councillor Mikuse. “It is the oldest school in the township and heritage designated, which is important. It should stay at least until a potential buyer says to remove it.”
The Siloam Hall, along with the Goodwood Lions Hall have frequently been the subject of great discussion regarding potential sales of township-owned facilities during municipal budget deliberations. Councillors have argued in the past that not only would a potential sale inject cash to township coffers in the short term; it would free up money currently spent on upkeep of facilities on an annual basis.
Council’s meeting on Monday, April 27, will begin at 7 p.m., inside council chamber at Uxbridge Town Hall, located at 51 Toronto St., South.
DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Africycle, an Uxbridge-based charity that sends bicycles to Malawi in Africa is reaching out to residents for donations as part of a Durham-wide initiative this weekend.
With spring cleaning season in full swing, residents can drop off new or used bikes at several locations around Durham Region and Stouffville on Saturday, April 25. In Port Perry, bikes will be collected at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, located at 319 Queen St.
Bikes are also collected at any time at the Habitat for Humaity ReStore in Uxbridge, located in the old Dominion Auto building, at 141 Reach St.
A registered charity since 2007, Africycle has collected thousands of bicycles to send to the African nation of Malawi, where more than 80 per cent of the population lives in rural areas, making bicycles an extremely vital resource for transportation.
According to coordinator Matthew Williams, bicycles collected go to volunteers and doctors in order to provide aid in areas where they would otherwise have to travel on foot.
“These bicycles are a very important thing, especially over there in Malawi, with the infrastructure they have,” said Mr. Williams.
Bicycles of all condition are welcome, and valued, as they are repaired by mechanics, with some parts salvaged to help build other bikes.
In addition, Africylcle also collects financial donations to help offset the cost of shipping, which can be close to $50 per bicycle.
For more information on drop-off locations as well as how to make a financial contribution, please visit Africyle's web site at www.africycle.org.
DARRYL KNIGHT & DAN CEARNS The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: High school teachers across Durham Region traded in their classrooms for the picket lines on Monday, April 20, as local negotiations between the teacher’s union and school board have stalled.
OSSTF District 13 and the Durham District School Board are currently working with a Ministry of Labour mediator to get talks re-scheduled. However, as of The Standard’s press time, no new talks have been scheduled locally.
“What we are focusing on currently is just the ability to bargain a contract,” District 13 President Dave Barrowclough said in an interview with The Standard. “We moved off a few of our positions as a sign of good faith, but they are not moving, they are not bargaining.”
DDSB chairperson Michael Barrett told media in Toronto on Monday, April 20 that they are still “reaching out to the union” in hopes that talks will resume.
However, provincial talks between the OSSTF and the Ontario government have started back up, with both sides optimistic that a deal can be reached.
Education Minister Liz Sandals noted on Monday that she is “perplexed” by strike action taken by Durham teachers, and added that the matter is a local issue.
“I’ve been very perplexed as to why there is a strike in Durham because I haven’t heard a coherent explanation as to what the local issues are that have prompted a local strike,” Ms. Sandals told media members in Queen’s Park on Monday. “So, I think I’m like a lot of parents, quite frankly, and a lot of students and I suspect a lot of teachers — that we’re all a little bit mystified as to what is the local issue that has prompted this strike.”
An OSSTF spokesperson was not available as of The Standard’s press time to address Minister Sandals’ comments.
However, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath countered that the issue is not merely a “local” strike by the OSSTF, and laid blame with the Liberal government for removing resources from the education system.
“This is the first time the teachers have been on the picket line since Mike Harris and it is because the Liberals are cutting back education,” Horwath told the Toronto Sun. “It’s because the teachers are seeing, education workers are seeing, the impacts of Liberal cuts on the quality of education... It’s shameful and it’s a black eye, I believe, on Kathleen Wynne.”
This is the first time that a two tiered approach has been used in this kind of labour negotiation. A teacher’s strike in 2012, that ended with a new contract imposed on the teacher’s union by the province, leading to the current labour unrest, which may lead to teachers with other school boards striking next week.
Class sizes and salary issues will be handled by provincial talks, while issues such as teacher transfers and unpaid leave will be handled by local talks between District 13 and the DDSB.
(Listen here for an extended version of the interview with Jasmine Rutschmann)
DAN CEARNS The Standard
SCUGOG: Local artist Jasmine Rutschmann’s love affair with metal art work began in her father Rob’s shop during her first year in high school.
The 18-year-old Port Perry native was looking for an original idea for her final art project and saw an opportunity.
“My dad owns Rahm industries, so I had all the equipment I needed in the shop,”Rutschmann said. “I had seen my dad’s friend doing something in the shop, so naturally I went out to him and he helped me out with the piece and I got 100 per cent on it.”
Since then, she has begun work on a new project; creating a gallery that will allow young artists such as herself a chance to show off and sell their work.
Jasmine noticed the hard way that there was a need in the community for what she hopes to call The Golden Gallery. Rutschmann applied to have some of her metalwork shown at an established gallery in January, but was rejected because she was too young and was not established.
“I really was disappointed because I knew my artwork was good enough to be put in it and the reasons they gave me for why they wouldn’t put my stuff in their gallery did not make sense to me,” she said. ”So then I started thinking ‘how many other young artists felt the same way I did because they are unestablished? and ‘how do you become established to be able to get into a gallery?”
Looking back however, she wouldn’t change a thing about her experience, because it proved to be the catalyst for her latest project.
“If I could go back and thank them I would because if they hadn’t have, would I have thought of my idea to help other artists? I don’t think so,” Rutschmann said.
She was referred to the Brock Youth Centre by her Business leadership teacher Alan Bailey, after she showed him some examples of her artwork. He says she has grown a lot through the experience of creating the gallery, and bringing her vision to life.
“I’m very impressed with Jasmine’s vision as well as her motivation,” Mr. Bailey told The Standard. “She thinks big and she thinks long term. She also always has time to spend with other people and share the goals that she is trying to accomplish.”
Through the youth centre, she was able to enter and win a business pitch competition, which gave her $1,250 towards her gallery.
Jasmine feels that she is doing this more for the niche market of young artists than for herself.
“I know there are so many other young artists in the community that don’t have a place to put their work and I’m filling a need with them,” she said. ”The thing with young artists is their possibilities are endless, you don’t know where they’re going to go.”
Jasmine is not finished innovating yet. She also hopes to create an association for young artists in the community.
She wants to have her gallery ready to open by early May. Currently eight artists have signed up to have their works shown at the grand opening and Rutschmann is still looking for more. Young artists interested in joining the association and displaying their work at an upcoming show can contact Jasmine at Jasmine_Rutschmann@ hotmail.com or by phone at 905-431-9038.
DAN CEARNS The Standard
SCUGOG: Scugog Council voted unanimously on Monday, April 13 to grant a site alteration permit to the Port Perry Agricultural Society so they can add undertake a project that will see fill added to the Port Perry Fairgrounds.
The fill will be used to level the ground in front of the grandstand with the track to prepare for the Port Perry rodeo in September. There will be other benefits to it as well, as was explained in a presentation to council by the fair board president.
“It’ll allow us to expand not just for the rodeo but bring different events and more events in front of the grandstand,” said Port Perry Fair board president Frank Mackey. “The drainage will also be better in that area of the fairgrounds.”
The society plans to get fill from pool and excavation companies. One concern council had with the idea was whether or not it was going to be clean fill, but Mr. Mackey assured them that the society will not take any risks.
“We will do our due diligence and find out where the fill is coming from,” he said.