Robert North — SCDSB trustee Adjala-Tosorontio, Clearview, CFB Borden and Essa

Thanks for the opportunity to share information about my candidacy for English Language Public School Board trustee for the municipalities of Adjala-Tosorontio, CFB Borden, Clearview and Essa.

My educational background is in building operations and I work as a facility manager for a large charity  here in Simcoe County managing a modest budget of $1 million with 15 staff. I have been a resident of Simcoe County for the past 20 years and live in Essa Township with my wife Shelly. We have two daughters who graduated from the public school system and went on to post-secondary studies.

I have had the honour of being a trustee for 13 of the last 15 years, serving as vice-chair and chair of the board, as well as numerous committees. I have a track record of championing significant capital investments in schools including Nottawasaga Pines.

I have an excellent attendance record. I come to meetings prepared and my experience gives me an advantage in understanding how funding and policy flow from the ministry to boards, and how we operate within this framework to maximize services for students. With the recent provincial election now behind us, school boards are bracing for tighter budgets and swings in provincial policy. We need to work within these constraints and make the best long-term decisions for our students and communities as these changes occur.

I would be very grateful to continue to advocate for my local municipalities. I believe we must be fiscally prudent, but not at the expense of programming. I believe we must advocate not only for our existing students, but those who will follow. I believe that we must continue to press other levels of government to recognize that our facilities and programming serve not only students, but society in general.

I can be reached via mail at 121 Raglan St., Angus, Ont., L0M 1B0, through my website at , via email at or telephone at .

Mayor Mary Small Brett is not seeking re-election in Adjala-Tos

Mary Small Brett is bidding adieu to municipal politics.

The one-term mayor of Adjala-Tosorontio, who previously served as deputy mayor and councillor, is not seeking re-election in the October municipal election.

“I believe every season has its time, and there’s times for different things in one’s life, and it’s time for me to spend more time with family,” she said. “I know it’s cliche, but it’s true. There are also health issues in my family, not me thank heavens. But I really enjoyed serving the people of Adjala-Tosorontio. So it’s sad to leave but hopefully it will be in good hands.”

She admitted the turmoil that has consumed council over the past few years was also a factor.

Council has had to deal with the controversy surrounding the CAO’s mileage payments, the gravel pit battle that led to an OMB hearing, the OPP investigation into post-retirement benefits and other enhancements and the code of conduct/harassment investigations involving two members of council, Floyd Pinto and Bob Meadows.

Pinto and Deputy Mayor Doug Little are running for mayor.

New Tecumseth Ward 8 Coun. Chris Ross, who was first elected in 2014, will also not be seeking another term.

He said he enjoyed representing the Tottenham community but has become too busy with his full-time job

“You will have noticed that I have missed some meetings during my term, and those absences were due to the travel obligations that I have as a sales representative at Knoll Inc.,” he said. “As such, I felt it best to let someone who has more time represent the constituents of Tottenham.”

There are four candidates running for Ward 8 in the upcoming election.

“I would like to thank both my supporters and non-supporters for their input over my term,” he said, adding they have helped him evaluate and consider issues over the past three and a half years.

Marc Biss, a one-term councillor for Ward 1 in Alliston, also isn’t seeking re-election.

He announced the decision in April after failing to win the nomination for the federal conservatives for Simcoe-Grey.

Three people have registered to run in Ward 1.

Essa Mayor Terry Dowdall, who won the federal conservative nomination, isn’t seeking a third term as mayor.

Dowdall was first elected mayor in 2010 and previously served as deputy mayor and councillor.

Deputy Mayor Sandie Macdonald and former mayor David Guergis are running to replace him.

Editor’s note: A correction was made to this story on Aug. 8. The original version incorrectly stated councillors Bob Meadows and Floyd Pinto were subject to conflict of interest investigations. Simcoe.com regrets the error.

Beware of scammers collecting for Terry Fox run, Barrie police say

Police are warning Barrie residents about scammers going door-to-door and asking for pledges for the annual Terry Fox run.

Barrie police received reports of individuals canvassing local neighbourhoods throughout the city, under the façade of collecting cash donations on behalf of the annual run, which raises funds for cancer research.

The suspects, described as white males, have been reported using expired health cards for identification and pledge forms downloaded from the internet.

We do not ask volunteers/participants to seek out cash donations by going door-to-door. The majority of the participants in the annual run seek pledges online or approach people they know, when seeking donations,” said Michael F. McDougall, chair of Terry Fox — Barrie. Anyone wishing to make donations to the Terry Fox Run can do so, securely, online at

Anyone who suspects they may have been a victim of fraud is asked to contact police or the at 1-888-495-8501.

Wasaga Beach deputy mayor: I went to the OPP

Wasaga Beach’s deputy mayor says she took her concerns about the direction the municipality was taking to the Ontario Provincial Police in 2016.

Nina Bifolchi also said she approached the Ontario Ombudsman.

She made the comments during a July 10 special council meeting, during discussion on the non-binding letter of intent between the town and Fram Building Group.

She said she went to the OPP out of “my concern for the taxpayers, the future of our town, and the need to share information.

“The concerns I shared with them that day, and since, are now being realized,” she said.

The OPP has not yet responded to Simcoe.com’s request for a comment.

The statement caught other councillors by surprise — with a couple of councillors demanding Bifolchi explain herself.

“Today is the first day I’ve heard the comment that the OPP anti-rackets squad has been approached … I find that quite disturbing and I’d like to get more information,” said Coun. Bill Stockwell. “I find it hard we just hear that and leave it hanging there without some further information.”

Bifolchi declined to comment further, other than to state that as a resident and a member of council, “I can go to any higher level to share concerns … I’m not accusing anybody. I took my concerns to them because I felt the need to share it with them.”

Mayor Brian Smith requested she provide “full disclosure” of her comments to the chief administrative officer “so the rest of council, staff, and the town’s legal team can review (them).

“I think it’s a very broad statement that implicates many folks, including this whole council, staff, the legal team and the developer,” he said.

Otherwise, said the mayor, comments about going to the OPP were “white noise.”

“To make an accusation that perhaps there is something underhanded happening here is quite frankly uncalled for and is irresponsible, and it is unacceptable in my personal opinion,” Smith said. “I would invite anyone to look into process to do so because I’m confident … that nothing happened (that was) underhanded. I believe wholeheartedly in what we’re doing.”

Highway 12 bridge in Midland getting rehabilitated

While Penetanguishene dollars are going into the overhaul of Main Street, and Midland is using funds to tear up Norene Street, it is the provincial government that is funding the full rehabilitation of the bridge on .

JUST THE FACTS:

• The work is taking place to the east of Wye Valley Road and west of the entrance to the Martyrs’ Shrine.

• The contract was awarded to Clearwater Structures at a value of $3.5 million and also includes the rehabilitation of the Highway 12 bridge over the Coldwater River in Coldwater.

• Crews started work this spring, and the project is expected to be completed by fall 2019.

• The work on the top of the bridge is being completed in two stages — one half at a time — to minimize the impact on traffic and allow for efficient construction operations.

• One lane in each direction will be maintained and open to the traffic at all times.

• No full closures of that section of Highway 12 are anticipated during the duration of the project.

• The Ministry of Transportation owns approximately 2,800 bridges. General maintenance inspections are conducted on all bridges at least twice a year, with a full detailed inspection mandated every two years.

• The Ontario government is funding repairs and rehabilitation work on 221 bridges across the province, between 2016 and 2020.

• In 2014-15 the Ontario government committed to spending $190 billion over 13 years to expand and renew Ontario’s infrastructure.

How Barrie and Innisfil residents have adapted to Ontario’s minimum-wage increase

Stroud’s Jess Lee didn’t have any problems finding a landscaping job this summer.

While the teenager was able to secure employment with a relative, she said there are still plenty of jobs for younger people in the Barrie and Innisfil area.

“There are a lot of good first-time jobs here and you don’t need to have any experience,” Lee said. “You have to have some motivation, which comes with getting a job, no matter what. You just have to know where to go.”

Alcona’s Marco D’Orazio found two part-time jobs this summer.

“It’s not hard to look for a job,” he said, noting plans to use his summer income to pay for gasoline and car insurance. “There are places that are always hiring.”

On Jan. 1, as part of a series of changes to the Employment Standards Act, Ontario’s minimum wage increased from $11.60 per hour to $14.

Along with a hike in the general minimum wage, the student rate jumped from $10.70 to $13.15, and the liquor servers’ wage went from $9.90 to $12.20.

Leading up to the bump, there was speculation an increase would affect the number of seasonal jobs available to students, with Ontario Convenience Stores Association CEO Dave Bryans suggesting the wage increase would “undoubtedly mean fewer retail jobs, particularly for students and other part-time workers.”

According to Statistics Canada, Ontario’s unemployment rate has remained relatively stable in recent months, climbing from 5.5 per cent in December 2017 to 5.7 per cent in June. Barrie’s has fluctuated greatly, though, going from 3.4 per cent in December to 6.9 in June, leaving the city with one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada.

However, counsellors at the Simcoe County District School Board’s Career Centre say there has been no tangible uptick in requests for service since the wage increase took effect.

“(We’re) not seeing an increase or decrease in the number of vacant postings, so no difference from the increase,” Career Centre co-ordinator Louise Woodrow said. “Employers are still hiring and, in many sectors, they are reporting struggles with getting sufficient applicants in order to fulfil their vacancies. The Career Centre can assess an employer’s eligibility to receive government-funded wage incentives for new hires. There has not been an increase in employers seeking wage incentives since the increase in the minimum wage.”

But there are indications employers aren’t hiring as many seasonal workers, and some small businesses in the food sector have laid off staff. A few retailers, specifically grocery stores, also cut back hours of operation, she said.

It seems job expectations and workloads also increased, while some positions have been consolidated, Woodrow said.

“photo"

Barrie Olive Oil owner Denise Tucker retained all 10 employees without dramatically increasing prices.

A few adjustments were made — some shifts are staggered based on peak service times, and she’s approached suppliers about more flexible payment schedules, bulk buying and better box and bottle prices — but the downtown location began operating on Sundays earlier this year. And there are plans to hire six new staffers when the company expands into Newmarket’s Upper Canada Mall this fall.

“It hasn’t changed too much for us; we had very minimal price increases, but we didn’t implement them on Jan. 1,” she said. “I started creating efficiencies in July of last year, knowing this was coming. It doesn’t matter what the government says: I would love to pay everyone twice what they’re making. But we’re a three-year-old business that’s still trying to grow. The owner does some sacrificing. I get paid what I get paid and that hasn’t changed in three years.”

Tucker said she makes less income than some of her employees and admits any expectation that people can live off minimum wage is unrealistic and “disgusting.”  

Each staffer received a pay bump this year, regardless of what they were making prior to Jan. 1. But she’s also added to their responsibilities and reduced employee incentives.

Tucker warned consumers should be prepared to pay higher prices and see reduced services at other businesses.

“You try to make decisions based on keeping your consumer and employee,” she said. “It’s a balance.”

While many businesses adjusted operations in recent months, area food banks have yet to feel the pinch.  

“When it first happened, we heard a couple of stories of people being laid off,” Barrie Food Bank community relations manager Michelle Simons said. “Whether that was because of the increase of not, we’re not sure. But since that time, we haven’t heard anything or seen differences in our numbers (compared to last year).”

Innisfil Community Church’s Rev. Howard Courtney agrees.

“We’ve been pretty consistent here,” said Courtney, who operates the food bank out of the church.

In May, the Innisfil facility provided food boxes to 62 families. In June, 61 were assisted, and the facility is aiming for the same target in July, he said.

New Midland high school won’t be ready for September

The new Georgian Bay District Secondary School will not meet its September opening.

“At this point, the target is not to move into in the fall,” said Sarah Kekewich, manager of communications for the Simcoe County District School Board.

Students will be returning to the old high school in September.

Kim Pickett, manager of design and construction for the board, said a move-in date hasn’t been finalized.

“Once it’s ready, we will make an announcement and have a move-in process. We will try to do that at a school break if it’s ahead of the end of the school year,” she said.

The move will be done all at once, rather than staggered to finished parts of the building.

“We find it less confusing that way,” said Pickett.

The new high school is being built at on what was the athletic field of the old Midland Secondary School.

The Midland school was renamed in September 2016 when students from Midland and Penetanguishene secondary schools were merged and Penetanguishene Secondary School was closed. The name Georgian Bay will stand when the new school opens.

The school will be 12,873 square metres (138,564 square feet) and will accommodate 984 students. The GBDSS website listed the population of the existing school to be 807.

The groundbreaking for the new school was held in early June, 2016 and construction started that September. It was scheduled to open September 2018.

The election of Premier Doug Ford will not affect the construction, said Pickett.

“We were fully approved and funded before we put a shovel in the ground,” she said.

Similar to other new secondary school builds, the new high school will have specialized areas for hospitality and cosmetology and have a double gym.

“It’s going to be more modern than what was there before. The design is making efficient use of space,” Pickett said.

The consulting team includes Allen and Sherriff Architects Inc., DEI & Associates Inc., Stephenson Engineering Ltd. and WMI & Associates Ltd.

Once the school is open, the old building will be demolished, said Pickett.

North Simcoe municipalities attempting to address horrible Internet speeds

Some local councillors worry the below average Internet speeds in North Simcoe are negatively impacting the region’s ability to attract new business.

A recent broadband analysis revealed what many in the area already know — local access to high-quality high-speed internet is few and far between.

“There is a huge amount of businesses that won’t relocate to our area because they have researched this and found out we don’t have the download capacity (they need) and so they decide not to relocate here,” said Midland Coun. George MacDonald.

In 2011 the CRTC said all Canadians should have access to minimum download speeds of five Mbps and upload speeds of one Mbps. In 2016 this standard changed and minimum speeds of 50 Mbps and upload speeds of 10 Mbps are now considered the basic level that should be available to all Canadians.

In north Simcoe, more than 94 per cent of commercial buildings don’t have access to this basic high-speed internet, with 21 per cent not having access to even the 2011 standards.

“It is not that high speed is not available. It’s that it’s cost prohibitive for some commercial businesses to bring in the level of service they require,” said Chris McLaughlin, of North Simcoe Community Futures Development Corporation. “Depending on the commercial building and its location the costs can be quite significant in having the service brought in.”

McLaughlin says running fibre optic cable costs a minimum of $5,000 per kilometre and that doesn’t include engineering and other associated costs. With fibre infrastructure lacking in the region some business might have to run cable a long way to connect to a fibre network.

“It is almost a given that a business is going to require internet conductivity that is reliable and provides the ability for them to download or upload as much information as they need,” said McLaughlin. “It’s important to have the infrastructure in place to reduce the cost of getting fibre to commercial buildings.”

North Simcoe Community Futures Development Corporation partnered with the Midland, Penetanguishene, Tay, Tiny and Beausoleil First Nation to carry out the recent analysis and collected data that paints a detailed picture of the quality of internet in the region.

The current picture isn’t pretty, with Internet speeds on Beausoleil First Nation ranking second last in all of Canada.

More than 88 per cent of residents across the region don’t have access to basic high-speed internet. Of those, 22 per cent of permanent residents and 33 per cent of seasonal residents don’t even have access to the 2011 standards.

“We rely upon our Internet and I think increasingly high-speed is what is going to drive the economy,” said Midland Mayor Gord McKay. “We have a lot of work to do to get ourselves up to a modern standard.”

All five local communities rank in the bottom 25th percentile in the country for high speed internet connectivity. Out of 168 communities, Midland ranked 113, Tay sits 127, Penetanguishene is 130 and Tiny is 158.

“We were a little surprised at the level of residents who don’t have the infrastructure available to get the 50 mbps download speed,” said McLaughlin. “Some of the technology in the area is dated and doesn’t even have the capacity to reach that level.”

He suggested local councils work with developers to ensure fibre infrastructure is in place for any new developments.

“(High speed internet) is as important as your streets and your sewers. It’s key infrastructure municipalities need to keep themselves competitive,” said McLaughlin.

McLaughlin plans to use the local data as the foundation for funding applications in hopes of seeking out grants for broadband infrastructure projects.

Organizations such as SWIFT (Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology Network) and the federally funded Connect to Innovate have funding specifically set aside for broadband infrastructure projects.

“We have identified where our broadband gaps are … and we want to be able to present north Simcoe as a viable first phase through SWIFT,” said McLaughlin.

The CRTC is in the process of setting up a $750 million fund over five years to support infrastructure projects in areas that currently don’t meet the basic standard. The goal is to get 90 per cent of communities in Canada access to download speeds of 50 Mbps and download speeds of 10 Mbps by the end of 2021.

“The CRTC shouldn’t be moving to target to 2021 now, they should be looking at the end of 2018,” said MacDonald. “Businesses are not going to wait until 2021. They are making decisions today.”

Officials are planning on meeting in September to discuss next steps and continue efforts to improve broadband infrastructure in the region.

“This is great data and it will be very important over the next few years in trying to increase high speed internet for both commercial and residential,” said Coun. Jonathan Main.


Scathing report finds Adjala-Tos councillor harassed planner, broke code of conduct

For the second time in less than a month, an integrity investigation has found Adjala-Tosorontio Coun. Floyd Pinto guilty of breaking council’s code of conduct.

The report prepared by Harold Elston of Elston Watt Barristers and Solicitors also found Pinto guilty of harassing the township’s director of planning, Jacquie Tschekalin, who initiated the investigation after making formal complaints about Pinto and Coun. Bob Meadows earlier this year.

The complaints about Meadows will be dealt with in a separate report.

The report recommends reprimanding Pinto for “having injured the reputation of staff and for having causes harassment in the workplace” by removing him from the role as the chair of the land use planning and development committee.

The investigator came to his conclusion after conducting extensive interviews with both parties and witnesses. He also reviewed Pinto’s blog posts, newsletters and emails, and evidence he provided at the Ontario Municipal Board hearing for the Everett gravel pit appeal.

Tschekalin, who has worked at the township since 2010, alleged the councillors of making defamatory statements about her over the past several years aimed at “undermining her professional credibility.”

“These activities are creating an intolerable, toxic workplace environment and placing my professional credibility in jeopardy; the harassment needs to stop,” she wrote.

Tschekalin accused Pinto of providing false and misleading information to the public on a number of issues, such as the Colgan development, the gravel pit and various other planning matters.

While a number of the complaints predated the code of conduct being passed in June 2016, the investigator said he was “entitled to consider a pattern of behavior.”

When reached for comment, Pinto said he wasn’t given enough specifics about the allegations and was under the impression he would be meeting with the investigator again before the report was made public.

But in his report, Elston said Pinto “was provided sufficient details.”

The report notes that Pinto, who was first election in 2010 and is currently running for mayor, stopped speaking to Tschekalin for about 3.5 years ago.

During the investigation, Pinto raised a number of concerns with Elston. Pinto complained about residents not getting answers at public meetings, along with other issues, like him not getting technical documents and meeting minutes when requested.

According to Elston, Pinto believes people have the perception that the planner “is not taking up their cause” and that “they come to him for answers.”

He said Pinto also denied ever saying she was wrong, but said “at every meeting the public has questions that the complainant (Tschekalin) won’t answer.”

As part of the evidence submission, Elston said the treatment Tschekalin has received from Pinto “has been a source of dismay and frustration for several years.”

In November 2015, she wrote a letter to Pinto to express the concerns and asked to him make sure everything he was writing in his blog and flyers was correct, and to stop making false accusations about the performance of her duties as the planner.

She asked him to keep the letter confidential, but Pinto ignored the request and posted it to his blog.

Pinto’s close association with Concerned Citizens of Adjala-Tosorontio, a residents group opposed to the gravel pit, is also noted in the report.

“The complainant knew of Councillor Pinto’s position and his connection to the CCAT, but felt it was her job to render an objective, professional opinion, notwithstanding Councillor Pinto’s opposition to the Nelson (gravel pit) proposal,” wrote Elston.

Since the Nelson issue, Tschekalin said she believes Pinto thinks that “everything she says or does is wrong.”

“In connection with these, as well as several other more minor matters, the complainant feels that she has been under attack by Coun. Pinto,” wrote Elston. “He has consistently, in public, argued with the complainant and asserted that her facts and opinions are wrong. It is, in her words, much beyond simply irritating.”

Tschekalin told Elston that Pinto is known to “misstate or misrepresent the true status of developments, the township’s procedures, or her responses to the public, in order to undermine her opinion, and often, council’s position, to advance his private agenda.”

Tschekalin described a meeting with Pinto in her office, where he allegedly told her “he didn’t care about her professional planning opinion, because he was a professional councillor.”

She also accused him trying to blindside her at meetings by not asking for information beforehand.

“Over the past few years, Councillor Pinto no longer comes to talk to staff to understand the background and applicable policies concerning an issue or community concern, but instead, he raises the matter directly at a meeting of council, taking staff and their fellow councillors off guard,” Elston wrote. “Last minute items are added to the agenda and council meeting have become theatre.”

Tschekalin told the investigator she is “unable to sleep” and has been “made sick by the stress”, which has “reduced her effectiveness.”

And when Pinto doesn’t get his way, Tschekalin said he resorts to his blog.

“There is never a positive or constructive solution offered,” Elston wrote. “Morale has declined and staff at all levels are disenchanted with the dysfunction of council. Good people have left and more will be leaving.”

Pinto was also accused of being “openly disrespectful” to the mayor and other women in management positions.

To read the full report

Council will vote on the recommendations of the report at a special meeting taking place Monday, July 9 at 5:30 p.m.


Correction

In the July 26 edition of the Herald, the story “Oddballs take centre stage at annual Georgian Bay Steam Show” contained an error. One of the featured tractors in this year’s event, happening Aug. 3 to 6 in Cookstown, is actually the Minneapolis Moline, along with other rare brands. The story misquoted 2018 feature chair Jeff Blaney. The Herald regrets the error.