Month: March 2021

Restoring power in the wake of the ice storm

INNISFIL – The storm that swept through southern Ontario on Thursday brought mixed precipitation, and hours of freezing rain in a broad swath across the GTA, north to Barrie and Orillia.

Reports of trees and power lines down began coming in on Thursday evening, March 24, with some roads blocked and traffic lights out in both Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil, and local utilities Hydro One, PowerStream and InnPower Services all reporting outages.

Outages continued on Friday, as winds gusting up to 50 km/h brought down more tree limbs, snapping under the weight of up to 20-25 mm of ice.

“At one point we were close to having all of our customers without service. We had a loss of supply,” said Shannon Brown, InnPower vice-president of Corporate Services. “The ice storm obviously caused a lot of damage. The crews have been working since Thursday, when the outage began.”

By Friday night, an estimated 70% of InnPower customers in Innisfil and south Barrie had had their power restored, with isolated pockets remaining where downed poles, wires, and damaged transformers were reported.

“We’re hopeful to have a large percentage repaired today,” Brown said on Saturday, but some of the damage will take days to repair, while homeowners who have experienced damage to their private lines and masts will have to call in private electricians before service can be restored.

InnPower worked closely with the Town of Innisfil, which opened  “warming centres”, at the Lakeshore Public Library and Cookstown Fire Station, where residents without heat or power could stay during the outage.

Brown also had a warning.

“We still have trees full of ice. There’s still a chance there will be more trees down resulting in more outages."

In Bradford West Gwillimbury, PowerStream reported widespread power outages within the urban area of Bradford.

On Thursday night, approximately 6,800 Bradford customers were without power – but service was entirely restored by 5:26 a.m. on Friday, with the exception of isolated equipment failures.

Hydro One reported 105,000 customers without power across the path of the storm, at the peak of the outage, and by Saturday morning had restored power to an estimated 62,000 customers.

“We have a huge restoration underway,” said spokesperson Ani Bekmezian, as 1,200 hydro workers were deployed, responding to nearly 1,000 reported incidents.

“We are working through, “ Bekmezian said, with mutual aid from utilities in centres that included Midland, and Newmarket.

Among the worst-hit areas were Alliston, Bolton, Guelph, Orangeville, and Barrie.

Hydro One provides distribution service to the rural portions of Bradford West Gwillimbury, and had crews working to restore power, especially in the Bond Head area, and the neighbouring Town of New Tecumseth – but Bekmezian was unable to provide an estimated time for restoration of service for all of its rural customers.

“It really depends, on where they live, the nature and extent of the damage,” she said, noting that milder weather is causing some of the overhanging tree limbs to bounce back, affecting the wires and causing new problems. “It’s basically a fight against Mother Nature.”

She assured customers that Hydro One was working as quickly as possible, keeping safety in mind. And by March 29, power was restored.

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Mayors continue talking about future of Midland’s Georgian Bay General Hospital

NORTH SIMCOE – Midland Mayor Gord McKay said local officials are on the same page when it comes to ensuring Georgian Bay General Hospital doesn’t become a “glorified emergency room.”

McKay and the mayors of the three other north Simcoe municipalities have held a series of meetings since March 15 to discuss the issues plaguing GBGH.

The mayors have met with representatives of the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) and GBGH to share their concerns about the future of the hospital.

McKay said the recent report on the raised questions about where the hospital is headed.

“People fear it’s just going to be a glorified emergency room,” he said. “The mayors don’t see it that way and neither do representatives of the hospital.”

McKay said the provincial funding formula hasn’t worked for the hospital for a long time.

“We want to see a modification in that funding formula that will ensure a sustainable hospital,” he said.

As for the recent discussions on the future of the hospital, McKay said he rejects any suggestion they are a waste of time.

“I don’t believe that,” he said. “You’ve got to talk, and I think we’ll get to have the hospital we need in our area.”

Southern Georgian Bay Chamber of Commerce hands out business awards

NORTH SIMCOE – The Southern Georgian Bay Chamber of Commerce handed out its 2016 Business Achievement Awards on Tuesday at Brooklea Golf and Country Club.

The winners were: Graffiti Art (small business of the year); LabX Media Group Inc. (large business of the year); A Passion for Fashion (Community Support Award); 104.1 The Dock and KICX 106 (Ambassador Award); Forte EPS Solutions (new business); Advanced Foot & Orthotic Clinic (President’s Award); Mom’s Restaurant (President’s Award); Jaime Crouch and Splash Events Inc. (Award of Distinction).

Alliston church starting free after-school program for girls

The age old saying it takes a village to raise a kid has inspired an Alliston church to create a new initiative to teach girls valuable skills and life lessons.

Next month, St. Andrew’s Anglican Church is starting up a free after-school program for girls age seven to 13 called the Village Kids Club.

Rev. Kim McArthur said the goal of the club is to offer children an “upbeat and inspiring” experience through a variety of activities taught by mentors, such as cooking, scrap booking, woodworking, jewelry making, crafts, and even etiquette lessons.

The children will also receive help with their homework and class assignments if needed.

McArthur said the program is designed to give parents a helping hand as well.

“There’s so much stress in life in trying to keep a roof over your head, in clothing and feeding your children,” she said. “We can’t do everything.”

The club is run by a number of volunteer retired professionals, from former teachers, a police officer, a lawyer and even a butler instructor.

McArthur said there is going to be two mentors for every four children to ensure they get one-on-one attention.

Each session will end with home-cooked meal, prepared by the students and their mentor.

“These are practical things that are fun and good to learn,” she said.

When organizers came up with the idea, she said they took a “back to basics” approach.

“Years ago, everybody looked out for everyone else and took care of each other’s kids,” she said.

The club starts April 6 and runs for four months, with sessions taking place Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Registration is March 30 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the church located at 125 Wellington St. W.

The program has a capacity for 20 girls and spaces will be filled on first come, first serve basis.

The church also plans to start a similar program for boys in the fall.

Organizers are also interested in speaking with other professionals in the community that can volunteer as mentors.

For more information, call the church at 705-435-9711 or visit .

Innisfil retiree pays off new truck with $100,000 win

Cookstown’s John Hepburn won $100,000 with his ENCORE ticket.

Hepburn matched six of seven winning numbers on his selection, making him a happy man.

“I checked my tickets a number of times before I realized I won,” he said, while at the OLG Prize Centre in Toronto to pick up his cheque. “I was in disbelief. And when I told the retailer, even she didn’t believe me!”  

The retiree is a regular LOTTO 6/49 and LOTTO MAX player.

“I have been playing the same numbers since 1993.”

Hepburn, a 62-year-old father of two and grandfather of four, has some immediate plans for his big win.

“I just bought a new truck. I will pay it off right away!” he said with a smile.

The winning ticket was purchased at Pioneer on Yonge Street in Barrie.

Online Easter dessert auction being held to raise money for Bradford man

If you’re a fan of sweet treats, be sure to log onto Facebook this weekend for a great cause.

On March 24, 25 and 26, and online Easter dessert auction will take place in support of Bradford resident James Franckzyk, 23, who suffers from Hydro Cephalous and Cerebral Palsy – bounding him to the use of a wheelchair.

Franckzyk’s family is currently trying to purchase a new accessible van, as theirs is now 16 years old and becoming quite unsafe, according to mom Lisa.

So, that’s where event organizer Theresa Worthington comes in. After hearing about Franckzyk’s story and his needs, she felt it was only right to try and help in any way she could. Having known the family for a number of years, Worthington though that an online Easter auction would be a great way to involve the community, while giving away some yummy treats donated through Bonnie Agiuar of Sweet B’s Catering and Confectionary.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on each day this Easter weekend, participants can bid on an Easter cake and dessert tray, with all proceeds going toward a new van for Franckzyk.

On March 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Worthington will host another auction with additional donated items, as the response from local businesses has been overwhelming.

“I am so excited to do this and help out amazing friends of mine,” said Worthington.

This is the second fundraiser that Worthington has taken on within nine months – the first being in September for Bradford’s Arjoon family, who were raising funds to build an accessible home for their daughter, Millie.

“I just love to help out in anyway that I can and I will always put someone else before me. If there is anything I can possibly do to help out in any situation, I am always here.”

Worthington says a big thank you is deserved to Agiuar for all of the donated desserts, Ad-Dictive Designs for the donation of flyers and posters and to all of the sponsors that are making the event possible.

If you would like to take part in this weekend’s auction, visit Facebook and search “Easter Dessert Auction” to get your hands on some great food, while giving back to a deserving family.

Billboard raising profile of Barrie Historical Archive

The Barrie Historical Archive is spreading a message in a big way thanks to the donation of a downtown billboard.

The billboard, on loan to the group from Paul Lynch for three months, is located at 35 Dunlop St. E..

The property is home to Joshua’s Greenery and three residential suites which are currently being renovated.

“Although all of Barrie’s history is important, this sign in the heart of the downtown core where so many fondly-remembered buildings have stood, is particularly meaningful,” says Deb Exel, vice-chair of the Barrie Historical Archive. “We’re really hoping that this tangible reminder of our past will prompt people to come forward with stories, photos and donations to help further this cause.”

Dr. Travis Doucette, who heads the group, agrees.

"We are excited to get the word out about this incredible initiative that will celebrate and centralize Barrie’s history in a way like never before.  We’re looking for community members to link arms with us as we continue to raise funds to make this exciting project happen. We are hoping the billboard will generate curiosity and draw people to our webpage where they can learn more and help support this incredible cause."

To learn more about the group, or how you can help, visit www.facebook.com/BarrieHistoricalArchive.

Jian Ghomeshi found not guilty on all charges

A judge has found former CBC Radio host Jian Ghomeshi not guilty of sex assault and choking charges.

Ontario Court Justice William Horkins delivered his decision at the Old City Hall courthouse this morning.

Ghomeshi had pleaded not guilty to four counts of sexual assault and one count choking to overcome resistance.

In his decision, Horkins pointed to what he said were serious inconsistencies in the complainants’ testimony, and a “carelessness with the truth.”

He said he had no hesitation in concluding that Ghomeshi was not guilty.

When he delivered the decision, Ghomeshi and defence lawyer Marie Heinen hugged Ghomeshi’s mother and sister, who had both attended the entire trial.

The three complainants all left the courtroom with tears in their eyes.

Two of the complainants have their identities protected by a publication ban. The other is Lucy DeCoutere, the Trailer Park Boys actor and a captain in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

At the heart of the case, Horkins said, was the reliability of the witnesses and the assumption of innocence at the start of trial. Probably guilty is not enough, he told the court.

Horkins went through the accounts of the three complainants, who said Ghomeshi punched them, pulled their hair, or choked them during dates. Significant inconsistencies clouded their evidence, Horkins said.

The first complainant, who met Ghomeshi in 2002-2003, recalled Ghomeshi drove a “love bug”-style Volkswagen Beetle — an account later shown to be “demonstrably wrong,” Horkins said.

“In a case that turns entirely on the reliability of complainant this otherwise innocuous error takes on great significance,” Horkins said.

The judge said he found it difficult to believe DeCoutere, who he said showed a “carelessness with the truth.”

DeCoutere did not reveal information about emails, love letters and kissing after the alleged choking until right before her day in court.

“What is troubling is not lack of clarity but the shifting of facts from one telling to the next,” Horkins said.

Horkins said the third complainant was imprecise, unable to recollect whether Ghomeshi had his hands on her neck for a few seconds or 10 seconds. The third complainant had also exchanged about 5,000 messages with DeCoutere, where they said they wanted to “sink the prick.”

She also failed to tell police about a sexual encounter with Ghomeshi after the alleged assault, Horkins noted.

Not even freezing rain could put a damper on the intense interest surrounding the trial.

Dozens of journalists and bystanders lined up outside the court early this morning, hoping to get a seat.

Demonstrators outside the courthouse carried signs that read “Stop victim blaming” and police are on hand to keep the peace.

Some said the complainants were unfairly scrutinized by Ghomeshi’s lawyer, who used correspondence between the complainants and Ghomeshi following the alleged assaults to contradict their testimony and undermine their credibility.

The demonstrators said they had hoped to block Ghomeshi’s entrance into the court.

“We don’t want to make it easy for him,” said protester Cynamin Maxwell.

Horkins delivered his ruling on five charges related to incidents that the complainants had alleged occurred between 2002 and 2003:

Count 1, sexual assault: The first complainant testified Ghomeshi forcefully pulled her hair as they were kissing in his car after she attended a taping of his CBC TV show.

Count 2, sexual assault: She also testified Ghomeshi pulled her hair again and struck her on the side of her head while they were kissing at his home on another occasion weeks later.

Count 3, sexual assault: DeCoutere testified that while at his home, Ghomeshi suddenly began kissing her and almost immediately put his hands on her throat, pushed her against the wall and slapped her twice, paused, then slapped her again.

Count 4, choking to overcome resistance: DeCoutere testified the choking left her struggling to breathe.

Count 5, sexual assault: The third complainant testified she and Ghomeshi were kissing on a park bench when he suddenly began roughly squeezing her neck.

Horkins was not asked to find a pattern between the accounts of the three women as the Crown did not make a similar-fact application, likely due to communication between two of the complainants.

Ghomeshi initially faced a total of eight charges.

Two sexual assault charges were withdrawn ahead of the trial after the Crown found no reasonable prospect of conviction.

Ghomeshi faces another trial in June on the one remaining count of sexual assault relating to a workplace incident.

Torstar News Service

Midland property taxes likely going up

MIDLAND – Midland residents will likely see an increase in their property taxes this year.

Midland council met March 23 to discuss the final draft of the 2016 budget, which contains a 0.59 per cent tax increase for an average family home in Midland. This means an average increase of $16 annually, of which $10 will go to the municipality. The remainder will go to Simcoe County and the school boards.

Town treasurer Marc Villeneuve pointed out the figure is just the “median” increase for Midland residents.

“Some people will pay more and some people will pay less,” he said.

Coun. Pat File said looking at the median increase is a “bit misleading” for the public.

“I’d caution against using those numbers,” she said. “Sometimes it gets reported that everybody is paying the same amount and people get upset.”

The total 2016 tax levy – taking into account all of the property-tax levels across the municipality – will be one per cent higher than last year.

Villeneuve said there was a $29,000 shortfall in estimates from the 2015 budget, which needed to be made up by taxpayers. The recent contract settlement for also added $137,000 in spending.

Deputy Mayor Mike Ross, who characterized himself as “Mr. Zero” when it comes to property-tax increases, said he hopes additions to future budgets will be offset by an equal amount removed in order to make it revenue neutral.

“I look at it as being like balancing our household budget,” he said. “We’ve got to draw a line in the sand somewhere.”

Ross said council spends “a lot of money on a lot of different things” compared to most communities in Simcoe County.

“We are a very generous people and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “But, when we bring our projects forward, we need to make it revenue neutral.”

Council did make some cuts to the budget, removing $45,000 for economic development and a planned records-management system.

The budget has not been finalized. It will be reviewed and voted on by council March 29.