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.


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.

95-suite Hampton Inn coming to Bradford

A 95-suite Hampton Inn should soon be welcoming guests — and helping generate spinoff economic benefits — in Bradford West Gwillimbury after council agreed this week to defer the town’s development charges for the multimillion project.

“This is a big thing for us,” said Coun. Peter Ferragine, who was on board with deferring the town’s development charges to kick-start the project.

“When you’re talking about a major project like this, you’re talking millions of dollars to get this going,” he added.

For several months the town has been in discussions with representatives of 2477034 Ontario Ltd. who want to build a hotel under the Hampton Inn and Suites brand and stand alone drive-thru restaurant at the West Gwillimbury Power Centre Inc. site on the southwest corner of County Road 88 and Hwy. 400.

Developers had requested a 10-year deferral of the town’s development charges to make the project “viable”, according to a report tabled at council Aug. 7.

While town staff did not oppose a deferral agreement, the 10-year time frame was considered “too great of a burden for the town to carry” since the town’s investment of millions of dollars over the past few years in order to service the Hwy. 400 corridor was predicated on being repaid through the collection of development charges.

Staff, therefore, recommended a one-year time frame for the deferral instead.

Council, however, agreed with Coun. Raj Sandhu, who said the town could “do more”, especially since the project would be entitled to either $600,000 in CIP grants if it were being built in the downtown core or just over $1.2 million if slated for the town’s industrial area, according to rough “guesstimates”.

“We’re looking to defer this, not waive it,” Sandhu added.

Council approved a four-year deferral agreement with fees payable being split into 1/3 instalments collected in years two, three and four from date of occupancy.

“This is a good win-win because this will (show) that this town is willing to work and open for business on our employment lands,” Sandhu said.

The move also addresses the issue of lodging in BWG or, more precisely, lack thereof.

The complaint has been raised by numerous residents, particularly those associated with sports clubs and organizations, who hesitate to bid on tournaments since people have to travel to neighbouring municipalities for accommodations.

“Nobody stays in Bradford. Nobody spends any money in Bradford,” Ferragine said, adding the issue has been brought to his attention on numerous occasions.

Every sports team in the community had to go and spend their money elsewhere, Coun. Mark Contois agreed.

“Every councillor will agree this is wanted and needed in Bradford, whether it is for sports teams or weddings or anything else,” Coun. Peter Dykie said, adding there was virtually no risk to the agreement since should the developer default on the agreement, any outstanding amounts would be added to the property tax roll and collected in taxes.

While the agreement would defer the town’s development charges, those owed to the school boards and county are still payable at the building permit stage.

Noting BWG’s development charges for its employment lands at just over $14 a square foot is considerably lower than what is being considered in Innisfil and New Tecumseth, Mayor Rob Keffer said “we can hold our heads high with any further development that comes if we’re lower than our neighbouring municipalities”.

The estimated construction timeline for the project is one year.

Residents assaulted in their Midland home: Updated

The lone man who broke into a Midland home Monday night and robbed the residents after assaulting and threatening them with a weapon has been identified as Ryan Dicks, 35, of Midland.

Dicks was arrested by Southern Georgian Bay OPP officers and taken into police custody. He was held in custody until an Aug. 23 bail hearing. He will continue to remain in custody until a Sept. 6 Ontario Court of Justice appearance in Midland.

When Southern Georgian Bay OPP officers arrived at the home after 7:35 p.m. on Aug. 20 to investigate the robbery, they discovered one person with non-life threatening injuries from the altercation.  

The Southern Georgian Bay crime unit, Southern Georgian Bay scenes of crime officer and K-9 unit were called in to assist in the investigation.  

One person has been arrested and charged with robbery with weapon, assault with a weapon, assault, uttering threats to cause death or bodily harm, break and enter and fail to comply with probation order.

Barrie’s 2018 municipal election candidates


Jeff Lehman –  .  

Ram Faerber – or .

Ward 1

— or .

—  , or .

Cole Walsh —  or . 

Ryan Cardwell — or

— , or . 

, or .

Ann-Marie Kungl — :  or .  

Erin Hennigar — or .

Dusko Jankov — or .

Ward 2

Yolanda T. Gallo — or

Richard Forward — . 

Rose Romita  — , or .  

— , or .

Ward 3

Doug Shipley – .   

Lynn-Anne Hill — or .

Tanya Saari — or .

Ward 4

Bryan Harris — or . 

Barry Ward – , or .  

or .

Ward 5

Peter Silveira

Robert Thomson — .   

Harry Ahmed — or .  

Brandon Cassidy — or .

Ward 6

— , or .  

Steve Trotter

— ,  or .  

Colin Nelthorpe — or .

Ward 7

— , or .   

Andrew Prince – , or

Bonnie North — , or .   

John McEachern — or .

Ward 8

— or .  

Jim Harris — or .

—  or .   

Shelly Skinner — .

Ward 9

Sergio Morales –  , or . 

Ward 10

Mike McCann –  or .  

Peter Culyer — or .

John Olthuis — or .

Simcoe County District School Board trustee (representing wards 1 to 3)

David William O’Brien — or .

Neli Trevisan — , or .   

Amanda Trinacty — or .   

Gillian MacLean — or .

SCDSB trustee (representing wards 4 to 6)

Beth Mouratidis — or .

Mike Washburn — , or .  

SCDSB trustee (representing wards 7 to 10)

Heidi MacNeil — or .    

Ajmal Noushahi — or .  

David Quigley —  or .  

Derek Dath — or .

Lisa-Marie Wilson — or .

Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board trustee (representing wards 1 to 5)

Robert Matthew LeCollier — or .   

Paul Rasiulis — or .  

Nathaniel Brown — or .

SMCDSB trustee (representing wards 6 to 10)

Andrew Hall — or .

Maria Hardie –  or .   

Corey James Henderson — or .

Member, Mon Avenir scolaire catholique

Claire Thibideau — or .  

Ryan Malenfant —

Member, Conseil scolaire Viamonde, Sector 5

Eric Lapointe — or .  

Guy Belcourt –  or .  

Saveria Caruso — or .

Collingwood staff focus on good planning as they aim to hit growth targets

Collingwood is one of the 25 fastest-growing communities in Canada.

The most recent census showed the municipality has a population of about 22,000 and the town also saw more than $100 million in construction value in 2017.

It’s no surprise that the community has been designated a growth node in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, which was released in 2017 and outlines a long term plan for growth.

The plan has a series of targets for Collingwood that it must achieve by 2031. The town is expected to have a population of 33,400 and have a density of 50 people per hectare.

Collingwood’s planning department is tasked with guiding the municipality so it can achieve those growth targets.

Director of planning Nancy Farrer said planning staff are working with potential developers on proposals before they come to the council table.

She said many don’t meet the town’s targets when first proposed.

“There is a lot of initial meetings to change, modify the plan that we receive, so we get it to the vicinity of where we think this makes sense,” she said.

She said they are always looking at the density targets to see if they will help the town reach its goals.

“We have to get to 50 people per hectare,” she said.  “We’ll have some that are down at 20 or 30, but we’ll also have some that are up at 70 in order to balance the whole thing out.”

This means planners are looking for a mix of housing, including single detached homes, town houses, semi-detached homes and even apartments.

She said the days of single-family homes on large lots are long gone.

“If you do not have smaller lots, you’re never going to get close,” she said.

Planners are also looking at how the development that incorporates trails, active transportation and parks.

There are also provisions for smaller commercial operations in subdivisions so residents don’t have to drive to get certain items.

“They (guidelines) also indicate, we’re to achieve complete communities,” said community planner Mark Bryan. “Services and amenities should be provided in close proximity to where people live.”

With most developments, public meetings are held and many residents have raised concerns about the increase in traffic as a result. She said the town attempts to have a logical plan for roads and how people are going to get around, but an increase in traffic isn’t a reason to not recommend a development.

“The engineers are always looking at how we can best accommodate traffic,” she said. “We can’t stop people from driving cars, or from moving to town or getting where they need to go. We can’t say don’t develop because we’re going to have cars.”

What happens if the town doesn’t hit these growth targets?

“In theory, the government is going to be putting more resources, spending more money and giving more goods to the communities that are doing they are supposed to be doing,” Farrer said. “We don’t have an options for hitting those targets.”

Collingwood students bring high school story to the big screen

A group of high school students are hoping to light up the big screen.

Senior Year is the story of Cole, who is struggling to fit in during his last year of high school, and it’s the first full-length feature film produced solely by high school students.

The film is the brainchild of Collingwood Collegiate Institute student John Cardillo, Jr. and Pretty River Academy student Zane Frantzen.

After hearing there would not be a drama production at CCI, the pair connected with a group of friends and decided to make a movie.

“We spent about four weeks putting together an 88-page script,” said Cardillo, Jr.

“We ended up making something pretty great.”

Filming started in March and saw them shoot in a variety of locales across Simcoe County and Muskoka.

The cast and crew featured 80 students who volunteered from five area high schools including CCI, Stayer Collegiate Institute, Georgian Bay Community School, Pretty River and Jean Vanier.

The film will be screened at the Gayety Theatre on June 29 at 8 p.m., June, 30 at 10 a.m., and July 1 4 p.m.

All money raised will support My Friend’s House.

How much is that? Wasaga Beach wants to know

Wasaga Beach is hiring an appraiser to determine the value of land identified as the site of the municipality’s proposed community hub.

In a special committee of the whole meeting, July 6, councillors accepted a recommendation to advertise for an appraiser, after concerns were raised about sole-sourcing the appraisal service to a Barrie firm proposed by the town’s chief administrative officer.

George Vadeboncoeur said seven Main Street landowners have been informed the town is interested in buying the properties for a facility that could include a double rink, library, and cultural space.

The appraisals, he said, would form the basis for a negotiation of a purchase and sale agreement.

He said the appraisals of the properties would be a “complex process” as they involved businesses — notably two campgrounds, a motel, and one other mixed-use property.

Barrie man says his wheelchair cushions were taken from a Rona parking lot

Walter Gyselinck was finally over the stress of leaving his house.

About a month ago, the Barrie resident — who can walk short distances but has consistent pain stemming from severe burns to his legs — was given a wheelchair by an Orillia business owner. But the equipment is virtually useless for now following an incident at the Rona store in the city’s south-end June 14, sometime between 5 and 6 p.m.

Gyselinck and his family had just finished shopping at the store. They folded the wheelchair and placed the device’s removable back and bottom cushions against their car. Walter’s wife then helped him get in the vehicle, a process that takes about “two to three minutes”, he said.

She then packed the purchases and wheelchair in the car and drove away. When he went to use the chair about two days later, he noticed the cushions had gone missing.

Gyselinck said the cushions were too heavy to be carried off by a strong wind and says they would have been picked up by someone. He can’t confirm whether they were taken while he was getting into the car, or grabbed after being mistakenly left behind.

He returned to Rona once the discovery was made but staff were unable to find the cushions.

“We’re still trying to get used to me being in a wheelchair,” he said, sitting on a couch in his living room recently. “Even if they were forgotten, at the end of the day, someone still took them. If you see medical equipment beside a wheelchair space, you’d think somebody left that behind.”

Both cushions are black, had labels sewn on that indicated their purpose as medical equipment, and will likely cost about $300 to $400 to replace. But the wheelchair is also an older model and cushions with an exact fit are difficult to find, Gyselinck said.

“I really started to enjoy going out again,” he said. “It was always such a chore; I’d have to mentally prepare myself to endure the pain. With the wheelchair, I could be around with my family.”

Gyselinck sustained third and fourth degree burns on his legs more than 20 years ago. He has severe nerve and muscle damage, drop foot, fibromyalgia and poor circulation. There is only a thin layer of skin left on his legs, and neither limb has sweat glands. He overheats easily and already wears a knee brace.

If he can’t find replacement cushions, he’ll either have to buy a new wheelchair or become reclusive again. The device can’t function properly without the missing pieces.

“For the past four or five years, I’ve been a complete shut-in,” he said. “I don’t like going out. It’s too hard and stressful.”

While Gyselinck is considering filing a police report, he’d just prefer to get the cushions back.

“I don’t want their story,” he said. “I wouldn’t go to the police if they just gave it back. They can just walk away and I’d be more than happy.”

Anyone with information on this incident can call Gyselinck at .

Closing driveway would drive away boat traffic: Orillia councillor

Size does matter.

At least it could if one of two driveways at the city’s boat launch parking lot is eliminated in tandem with proposed changes to .  

Vehicles hauling boats of more than 30 feet in length would be hard pressed to manoeuvre the parking lot using the sole remaining entrance/exit, councillors heard this week.

That could prove a potential blow to Orillia’s tourist trade, Coun. Rob Kloostra argued.

“In doing this we are limiting who can come down to launch their boat there with a certain size,” Kloostra said.

The waterfront parking lot currently has two driveways, with the southerly driveway serving exclusively as an entry and the northerly driveway as the exit.

Staff is recommending closing the northerly portion and widening the southerly driveway to accommodate two-way traffic.

The closure would be undertaken in conjunction with a realignment of Centennial Drive in 2021/2022.

The realigned Centennial Drive would run behind French’s stand, which would become part of the park.

Shutting the north driveway avoids grading challenges that would otherwise arise, with an extension of the north entrance required to meet the newly realigned road behind the restaurant, staff added.   

 “If the parking lot is empty, (a boat of) greater than 30 foot is no problem,” said Stan Martinello, project engineer. “But if there is other boats at the boat launch waiting to go in or out, greater than 30-foot boats start becoming an issue.”

Closing the driveway would also result in the loss of about 10 parking spaces to accommodate traffic between the lot’s “islands” and the grassed area.

“The marinas like the bigger boats, but we still have people with large boats coming down,” Kloostra said.

The committee supported a motion that the environmental study report for the environmental assessment for the Centennial Drive-area improvements project be published based on closing the northerly driveway.

Once that report is filed with the province, a review period follows with the potential for appeals from the public.

“(The province) could recommend further study or they could recommend modifications to the design solution we came up with or other things,” said Ian Sugden, director of development services and engineering.

From a basement to Orillia’s main street, Gilbert Guitars rocks on

Jeff Gilbert had a dream.

“I wanted to be a rock star, like everybody else,” said Gilbert, whose namesake guitar store occupies a prominent place in Orillia’s downtown.

Although youthful visions of world tours and sold-out concerts would never materialize, the local man found other avenues to satisfy his passion for music and the gleaming six-string beauties that today adorn the walls of his shop.

“There are lots of other guitar players that are way better than me,” he said. “This still keeps me in that realm.”

It was time in a Grade 10 wood-shop class at the former Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute that first nudged Gilbert toward his chosen path.

Building an electric guitar based on the hot-rodded, whammy-bar-equipped, solid bodies that were all the rage at the time proved he had a knack for creating and, eventually, fixing these sleek instruments.

The guitar was finished in an eye-catching hue of red and today occupies pride of place on a wall at his store, alongside models by the likes of Fender and other big-name builders.

“It’s not a wicked guitar, but I built it,” he said.

After high school, he enrolled in a business program at Georgian College and, as part of a class project, registered Gilbert Guitars as a business.

That set him on the road to building and selling his creations from home.

Customers came calling. Among them was local blues master Ronnie Douglas, for whom Gilbert would build a Telecaster-style model with Fender pickups ordered directly from the manufacturer.

Opening an account with Fender allowed him to bring in the parts players sought and, later, guitars.

After selling instruments out of his basement — by day he had a job cutting lenses for an optometrist — Gilbert would set up shop along Mississaga Street East, in the mid-1990s.

Initially, the store shared space with Round Again Records in the lower floor of the building that houses Becker Shoes.

He moved twice again within the same block, before a fire in an apartment above his store precipitated yet another move.

He remembers, vividly, local firefighters pitching in to rescue guitars from the walls of his shop and forming a human chain to pass the instruments to the crowd of onlookers who offered help.

“They put a helmet on me, I started grabbing guitars and giving them to the firefighters,” he said.

Gilbert then relocated to his current location, at , buying the building and doubling his floor space.

Although guitar retailers face increasingly stiff competition, as many buyers turn to online sales, commitment to service and a diverse range of offerings  — from high-end and limited edition guitars to budget-friendly student models, along with an array of other offerings — has stood Gilbert in good stead.

“You can buy it here; you can take lessons here,” he said. “You come in, and you need your strings changed — we do that.”

The business remains family-run, with Gilbert’s wife and one of four sons helping out part time, along with a nephew.