December 31, 2014

Chong’s Reform Act could give MPs real power

As published in The Erin Advocate

2015 is shaping up as a momentous year for MP Michael Chong, with his Reform Act expected to come up for Third Reading and a final vote in the House of Commons this month.

It would be turning point in the history of Canadian democracy, tipping the balance of power away from party leaders, in favour of members of parliament.

“I am cautiously optimistic that the Reform Act will be passed into law,” he said. “We are up against the hard deadline of the 2015 federal election. It’s important that the bill be passed into law before the House rises next June.”

The act would reinforce the traditional concept of “responsible government”, making the executive (prime minister and cabinet) more accountable to the legislature and ensure that leaders maintain the confidence of their MPs – similar to systems in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Exchange program reduces fentanyl misuse

As published in The Erin Advocate

In an effort to reduce the black market supply of the lethal prescription drug fentanyl, Wellington County is promoting an exchange program that requires patients to return all their used medication patches before getting new ones from a pharmacist.

Modeled on a successful program in North Bay, it is an initiative of the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy (WGDS), which tries to reduce substance misuse through prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law enforcement.

“There is a lot of concern because of the lethality of the drug,” said WGDS Manager Adrienne Crowder, noting that the patch exchange reduces risks to individuals and the community. “The program creates a partnership between patients, doctors and pharmacists. It’s a more connected care pathway that is good for everyone.”

Use of the program is optional for pharmacists and doctors, but WGDS is urging them to participate. The County has produced a video on the issue, created by Ironcloud Productions of Hillsburgh, which can be accessed at or through a “fentanyl patch” search on YouTube.

It says police and health care providers in Guelph and Wellington are seeing increased misuse of the drug. It includes a first-person account of a recovering addict, an 18-year-old girl who started by taking painkillers from the family medicine cabinet at age 14, then moved on to stronger substances. Addicts may end up selling their possessions and resorting to crime in order to buy more of the drug.

In North Bay, where fentanyl addition was a particularly severe problem, a patch exchange program has made the drug much more difficult to obtain on the street – forcing dealers to import it from other areas.

In October, Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli proposed a private members bill that would mandate the Patch-for-Patch program for pharmacies across Ontario. Patients who do not return their used patches undamaged would have to provide an explanation, and their doctor could refuse to authorize a further supply.

Known by the brand name Duragesic, fentanyl is a painkiller 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. It was originally an operating room drug and a treatment for terminally-ill patients, but is now used for various types of chronic pain.

In 2011, it caused 102 overdose deaths in Ontario. It has come into wider use since then, after the Canadian government pulled OxyContin from pharmacy shelves in 2012, due to its high level of abuse. Fentanyl is intended for slow release through a patch over 72 hours, but addicts remove the drug from the patch so it can be smoked, injected, chewed or made into pills. Police say its potency is dangerously unpredictable.

It has become a street commodity, with some addicts stealing patches from legal users or retrieving used patches from garbage cans to get a residual amount of the drug.

Even legal use of the drug is risky, with 30 million tablets or patches of high-dose opioids (oxycodone and fentanyl) dispensed in Canada annually from 2006 to 2011. Statistics Canada estimates that approximately 1 in 10 Canadians suffers from a chronic pain condition.

A six-year study led by Tara Gomes at St. Michael’s Hospital, reported in the November, 2014 issue of Canadian Family Physician, showed that with Canada and the US leading the world in high-dose opioid prescriptions, Ontario had the highest rate of fentanyl dispensing – 112 patches annually per 1,000 population.

Some researchers believe it is being over-prescribed, with little evidence of safety or effectiveness at high doses, and with wide variations in provincial guidelines for doctors.

Methadone is used to treat addiction to heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl, percocet and morphine, blocking their euphoric effects and reducing withdrawal symptoms. Guelph has four methadone clinics; Orangeville has one and Georgetown will have one this January. Addicts can also be treated in residential rehabilitation programs, but there are waiting lists.

Hillsburgh urges Erin to do its war duty

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
After the people of Hillsburgh raised $800 for Belgian war relief, a correspondent identified only as Uncle Dan issued a challenge in The Advocate: “Come, Erin, come, get in the race, you have no need to hide your face; you’re just as loyal as the rest, it’s up to you to do your best. Come, Erin’s Reeve, pull up your sleeve, and then throw off your sweater; you lead a town that’s sane and sound, come on and lead one better. You’ve citizens of worth and wealth, who all enjoy the best of health; they’ll do their duty, bet your pants, if you will only give the chance. Don’t let the little Hillsburg street, your patriotic spirit beat; your ladies have been good and true, come Erin’s men, now do your do.”

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
4H Achievement Day was held at Erin District High School recently. Receiving Provincial Honours were Susan Burt, Donna Ismond, Elizabeth Jackson, Barbara Smith and Marilyn Winters. County Honours went to Jeannie Simpson, Elaine Winters, Nancy Millson, Karen Sutton, Lillian Hindley, Carolyn Slote, Phyllis Bayne, Diane Beatty, Teresa Morrison and Lois Marshall.

The long-awaited time clock in the Erin arena has become a reality, to the delight of players and fans. Donated by the Erin Lions Club, the clock is painted in their colours and displays the time, score and penalties.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
The Down Memory Lane column recalled the Christmas of 1954, when the residents of Erin village got a new water system as a “present”. Reeve Stanley Leitch made the announcement with Councillors P.J. Sinclair, Cecil Carney, Fred Steen and James Robertson. Leitch said he hoped the system would serve as many as 150 customers by the end of 1955.

Erin Township Council will urge the Wellington County Board of Education to reconsider its decision to cancel bus service for students in the new Hillsburgh subdivision. They do not qualify for transportation under the board’s policy. Council will also ask the province for sidewalks when it resurfaces Highway 25, but Reeve Bert Wheeler said he wants to bus service to continue, regardless of whether sidewalks are built.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Bill Dalley, a former publisher of the Erin Advocate and the Orangeville Banner, died Tuesday night of a heart attack at the age of 67. He came from England in 1954 and worked about 12 years for the Thompson newspaper chain before taking over the Banner in 1962. After five years there, he operated a dress shop in Orangeville for several years. In 1976 he joined The Advocate as publisher and sales manager. He retired in 1987, but continued to do occasional work for the paper until last spring, along with running a photography and framing studio in Orangeville. Friends described him as a happy-go-lucky guy who was dedicated to helping the Big Brothers organization.

The EWAG Toy Lending Library may be asked to vacate the space it now uses at the Township Public Library. Library Board CEO Anne Higginbottom told council that while they appreciate having the toy library in the village of Hillsburgh, the regular library has cramped quarters that limit the services they can offer to the public. Currently, they cannot open the library to the public while Storyhour is in progress. They could also use the space for an Audio Visual Centre, and a Reading and Study Area.

Town to continue discussion on Fill Bylaw

As published in The Erin Advocate

The hot potato known as the Fill Bylaw landed again in the hands of councillors on December 16, but they were not ready to take action and have tossed it back to Town staff.

Recommendations from the Site Alteration Committee, which would make it much tougher for landowners to import tons of soil, will now be examined by a working group made up of CAO Kathryn Ironmonger, Planner Sally Stull, Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck, Mayor Al Alls and Councillor Matt Sammut.

Stull had asked for a Yes or No preference from council on each of 10 detailed committee recommendations, noting that there would be legal costs to review a new bylaw for enforceability.

Councillor John Brennan highlighted a measure that would require the fill hauling operation to provide the Town (or County) with a financial deposit equal to the cost of replacing the haul route road. He said this was so “onerous” that no one would apply, making it more likely that the hauling would be done illegally.

Stull said the existing bylaw is already so “heavy in process and expensive for the applicant” that virtually no one is applying for a permit. The issue is further complicated by the fact that many rural lands are controlled by conservation authorities, and that there are exemptions that include normal farm practices and building projects.

Brennan said the “loophole” of the current system is the difficulty and high expense of catching and prosecuting offenders. He wants the haulers or recipients of the fill to pay all of those costs.

Mayor Al Alls said he is determined to find a way to stop the flow of unregulated excess soil, which has sparked concern about contamination and damage to roads. He has seen photos of the Third Line and plans to inspect an area that he calls “a disgusting mess” that will cost the Town money.

“People hauling fill in for profit may be good for them, but it sure as heck isn’t good for the Town,” he said.

The other recommendations on the table include a permanent Site Alteration Committee to advise council. The committee wants fill applications affecting farmland to have a justification report from a qualified agronomist, plus notification of neighbours, with signage and newspaper advertisements noting the quantity of fill, as well as public meetings.

They suggest that the limit on number of loads for exemption from the by law be increased from 20 to 30, as long as there is no impact on water drainage. But then they want every 30th load tested for contamination at a qualified soil chemistry laboratory.

Register for Town info service

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town of Erin has launched ERINinfo, a new Information & Emergency Notification service.

ERINinfo will provide prompt updates on important town information or emergency notices, either by text message or email. Messages could include details on how the Town is responding to events such as an ice storm, or about public meetings hosted by Town Council.

Residents can register for the free service at, and may cancel at any time. The service uses the Hubzio communications tool, which helps organizations deliver messages without violating anti-spam rules. Recipients may need to approve the sender on their computer, if initial emails go to the spam folder.

Closed meeting investigator hired

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town Council has agreed to engage John Maddox of JGM Consulting as its Closed Meeting Investigator, to replace Norm Gamble who is retiring.

Maddox had already been hired by Wellington County, which agreed to pay the $300 retainer for any local municipality that wants to use his services. Erin will still have to pay $100 per hour, plus expenses, for any investigations that are held.

Mayor Al Alls, on the advice of other county councillors, recommended against using the services of the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office, which could provide the service at no charge. Investigations in Erin have been rare.

The Municipal Act allows any person to request an investigation of whether a municipality or local board has followed the rules about going into a session that is closed to the public and media. In general, closed sessions are allowed for council to get legal advice, to deal with staff issues or discuss matters about an identifiable individual.

Maddox has 30 years of experience as a municipal CAO and a Regional Director with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs. Since retiring in 2006, he has been retained by more than 50 municipalities as a Closed Meeting Investigator.

Town gets a low price on Water Rates Study

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town of Erin will gain a substantial saving by switching to a new consultant for its Water Rates Study and Financial Plan.

Councillors approved a contract with GSS Engineering Consultants of Owen Sound at a fixed cost of $13,795.

Financial Analyst Larry Wheeler said there will be “a significant loss of continuity” in not employing Watson & Associates, which has done extensive work for the Town.

The similar water rates project in 2010-2011 cost $39,000. The cost estimate in the 5 Year Capital Plan for 2015 was $29,000. Five bids came in for the job, ranging from GSS at $13,795 to Watson’s at $22,900.

Staff and Mayor Alls have reviewed the qualifications and experience of the new firm, especially with small, rural water systems in Ontario, and are confident in awarding the contract.

December 24, 2014

Town seeks Economic Development volunteers

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin’s new Town Council is appealing for participation from all sectors of the community as it establishes an Economic Development Committee.

Bob Cheetham, the Town’s Economic Development Coordinator, presented the Terms of Reference (TOR) to councillors on December 16, and they gave unanimous support.

“This has got to work,” said Councillor Matt Sammut. “I’m really hoping our community steps forward and we get some really good economic minds that are passionate about this. We need our economy to not only stabilize, but revitalize.”

The committee will help create an action plan and be dedicated to the “economic well-being and future prosperity of the community”. Principles will include enhanced quality of life and “responsible and sustainable growth”.

Councillor Jeff Duncan noted that the local economy consists of residents and businesses, not the Town.

“The government can’t make this stuff happen,” he said. “We can facilitate and try our best to get things to happen, but we really do need some good people to really drive this and make it successful.”

Councillor John Brennan, who has represented Erin at the Wellington County Municipal Economic Development Group and Hills of Headwaters Tourism, said the timing is right for this initiative, with opportunities to leverage funding from various sources.

“What starts out as a relatively modest investment by the Town grows into something that can really make some great change. We’re never going to get a better opportunity,” he said.

Specifics of the mandate include marketing the Town as a destination, enhancing growth in specific sectors, identifying new trends and looking for partnerships.

Cheetham said the TOR follows the general principles of several others he has been worked on, and of earlier consultations in Erin. Calls for expressions of interest will be advertised in local media, and the TOR is available at

“The make-up of the committee is sectoral, with broad-based representation from the community, which is important if you are going to have good collaboration and a bottom-up approach,” said Cheetham.

Although he’s only been on the job for a month, he says, “This is a community with a heart. I’ve seen that. It’s got all kinds of potential. The assets are there. They just need that vehicle to move them forward. And we’ll be coming back to the rest of you in the community to be part of that.”

Mayor Al Alls noted that County Councillor Pierre Brianceau has a seat on the County Economic Development Committee and that the new Warden, George Bridge is a strong supporter of the process.

Members will be appointed to the Town committee by a vote of council. Prospective members will fill out an application by January 15, where they will indicate their interests, experience and priorities. Those will be reviewed by Town staff, who will make recommendations at the next council meeting on who should be appointed.

Initially, one member of council will be appointed as the committee chair. The normal term of committee membership will be three years. The meetings will be open to the public.

The committee will have no binding authority, but will advise and assist council. They will report to Chief Administrative Officer Kathryn Ironmonger or her designate. They will normally communicate to council through staff, but may appear before council as a delegation.

They will be expected to seek consensus and normally the majority opinion would be communicated to council. On matters of significant disagreement, the chair will have the option of reporting minority positions to council.

The committee will have up to 14 members and the Town hopes to include representatives of commercial and industrial businesses, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Improvement Area, agriculture, the equine sector, recreation, culture, tourism, education, health care, information technology, social services and youth (18-24).

Committees need more specific tasks

As published in The Erin Advocate

Councillors divided up their duties in the Town’s committee system at their meeting last week, but they did not deal with a key problem – the system is not working well and needs an overhaul.

One year ago, I reported that committees were in need of new members, but not much has changed. At that time, CAO Kathryn Ironmonger suggested council provide committees with more specific projects to help focus their efforts. She’s given the same good advice to the new council.

Economic Development is only now being restarted after being disbanded more than two years ago. The Environmental Advisory Committee and the Recreation and Culture committees don’t have enough members to operate effectively. There is still useful work being done in some areas, but it could be much better.

It’s the right time for reform, with a new council in place and the Operational Review analyzing the efficiency of Town activities.

Jay Mowat and Liz Armstrong of Transition Erin appeared as a delegation to council on December 16 to suggest a new Citizen’s Committee on Alternative and Renewable Energy. Any time citizens enthusiastically offer to do free work for the Town, council should find a way to take them up on it – but only if they believe the work is really needed and are prepared to give the results some serious consideration.

Councillor Rob Smith pointed out there would be an overlap of interests between this new committee and the Environmental committee. Mowat said Environmental already has many duties, and it would be “too onerous” to add the energy analysis task.

The problem is that the existing committee has a lofty, wide-ranging mandate that sounds wonderful, but in fact, members have ben frustrated by the lack of useful tasks and simply given up after years of being largely ignored by council.

Maybe we don’t need so many committees where members are expected to serve continuously for several years. Committees should not be a window dressing, an attempt to make it look like citizens are being consulted.

Maybe the Energy Committee should be one of several ad-hoc committees – similar to the one that studied issues surrounding the Hillsburgh mill pond.

They had several meetings, and between the meetings they did research. They wrote a report, gave their information and opinions to council, and they were done.

Committee members are not elected, just interested, and their advice should never be binding on the elected council. The politicians already get plenty of advice on how to govern the Town from citizens, businesses, lobby groups and their own staff.

Committee work could be seen as volunteer service to help Town staff with their jobs, doing tasks that don’t require professional qualifications, but for which staff do not have time. This requires some supervision.

Tasks can include organizing and staffing events, gathering and analyzing information, finding out what options are in the marketplace and how other Towns handle similar issues. Shorter term commitments and limited, well-defined projects will yield more participation.

Here are the new assignments for councillors: Matt Sammut on Recreation, Culture and Trails and representative at East Wellington Community Services; Jeff Duncan on Heritage, Let’s Get Hillsburgh Growing, Committee of Adjustment and Property Standards; Rob Smith on Community Oriented Policing and the Business Improvement Area; and John Brennan on the Ballinafad Community Centre board and the Erin representative with Hills of Headwaters Tourism and the Wellington County Municipal Economic Development Group.

John Brennan was also appointed as the Erin member on the Credit Valley Conservation Board of Directors, a posting normally occupied by the mayor. Brennan has recent experience on the Grand River Conservation board, but their territory is so large that small municipalities have to take turns on the board.

For the coming term, Erin’s interests there will be represented by Chris White, Mayor of Guelph-Eramosa.

Afternoon council meetings, and “no surprises”

As published in The Erin Advocate

In an effort to save money and improve efficiency, Erin Town Council plans to hold the second of its two monthly meetings in the afternoon. Council endorsed the idea at its December 16 meeting, but it won’t affect the meeting schedule until February.

Council also approved a recommendation from Clerk Dina Lundy to change the procedure bylaw, so that council rules would prohibit new business being added to the agenda at the beginning of a meeting.

“In keeping with best practices of no surprises, and accountability and transparency, no new items should be added to the agenda without proper notice to the public and other Council members,” said Lundy in a report to council.

Council agendas are normally published on the Town website on the Friday prior to a meeting, providing an opportunity to consider the recommendations and read the background material. Council would still have the authority to add an urgent matter to the agenda at the start of a meeting, but they would have to vote to suspend the provisions of the procedure bylaw.

On the issue of afternoon meetings, council expects to pass a bylaw at its next evening meeting (January 20) to authorize a council meeting to be held at 1 pm on the third Tuesday of each month.

Lundy said the average staff cost for each evening meeting in 2014 was about $1,155, since staff members receive overtime pay when they are required to attend. There were also 14 extra meetings in 2014, with average extra pay totalling $315 for councillors and $1,751 for staff, per meeting.

In 2014, there were a total of 36 evening meetings, with compensation costs totalling $49,945 (not including benefits).

There has also been concern about the length of meetings, which have often gone past the 11 pm curfew. Part of the problem is the length of time needed for delegations, normally limited to three and officially restricted to 15 minutes each, but often taking much longer. Some of these delegations are consultants hired by council, with complex issues to report and many questions being asked.

“A majority of these extra costs can be avoided by incorporating one regular daytime meeting per month, as well as scheduling some of the special meetings during the day,” said Lundy.

The measure would provide greater efficiency, since staff members often have to sit idle at a meeting until their report or issue comes up on the agenda. A daytime meeting would allow them to be called in only when needed. Lundy noted that there would be other savings outside the Town, since many of the presenters are public employees from other levels of government.

She agreed with a suggestion by Councillor Jeff Duncan that when possible, less controversial issues be planned for the afternoon sessions, since the public would expect “barnburner issues” to be dealt with at an evening meeting.

Wellington County holds most of its council and committee meetings during the day, and the Townships of Puslinch, Mapleton and Minto each hold one regular daytime meeting per month.

Main Place group plans new youth programs

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Main Place Optimist Club of Erin is organizing a renewed effort to provide social and recreational activities for local youth.

Mary Shields and Kevin MacPherson from the group appeared as a delegation at the December 16 meeting of Town Council to provide an update and seek ongoing support.

The extensive activities of Main Place and Erin Hoops were severely curtailed last year after the death of organizer Patrick Suessmuth, and the deterioration of the old public school building to an unusable condition.

“We’re finalizing our incorporation and hoping to run a March Break Camp,” said Shields. “We are determined to fill that void. We really can’t have our youth with no place to go outside of school, because they will start looking for their own fun, and that won’t be good.”

They will be arranging activities at new locations. Being an Optimist Club provides them with essential liability insurance.

“I worked 10 years with Pat, and we had 100 kids a week for summer camps,” said MacPherson. “It was a really good thing.”

Councillor John Brennan said, “You have a great deal of dedication and courage – you are treading in the footsteps of a giant.”

Councillor Matt Sammut said, “What you are doing is outstanding. It is important that youth have things to do, especially some of the economically challenged families. I hope we’ll be able to support in different ways.”

Mayor Al Alls said that some funding for the group might be available through East Wellington Community Services.

Good Guys create $500 fund

As published in The Erin Advocate

Members of Erin Town Council will each chip in $100 of their own money for a Good Guys Fund. It will help deal with minor cost issues that are presented to them, but which do not qualify for normal Town funding.

Councillor Jeff Duncan said it is a revival of an idea used by the former Erin Village council to deal with “worthy” endeavours in need of support. “It would not impact the Town,” he said, at the December 16 meeting.

Later in the meeting, councillors considered a motion to accept a tax exemption on one third of their salaries. This is “deemed to be expenses incidental to the discharge of their duties”.

Under a new system approved by the previous council, members earn $15,600 and the mayor $26,000, plus other eligible expenses. The one third tax exemption allowed on federal and provincial taxes is at no cost to the Town. Members only have to vote to accept it, which they did unanimously.

“I didn’t think there’d be a problem with that one,” said Als.

Town to study requests on bottled water

As published in The Erin Advocate

Transition Erin has asked Town council to ban single-use bottled water at the municipal office, to install water bottle refilling stations at the arenas and to discontinue the sale of bottled water.

Councillors were not ready to make any immediate decisions, but they did welcome three Water Rockers from Erin Public School, who presented the politicians with re-usable water bottles.

The told council they are hoping to expand their Blue W campaign to 50 more businesses outside the Erin village core. The program to allow people to fill their own bottles with tap water is already endorsed by downtown stores.

Jay Mowat and Liz Armstrong said that 48 municipalities and five school boards have formal bans on the sale of bottled water, and reminded Mayor Al Alls that during the election campaign he supported a ban on bottled water in municipal facilities.

They suggested that the sulfury taste of well water at the Town office could be eliminated with a filter system. Council made no commitment to study a ban at the office.

Councillor John Brennan liked the idea of filling stations, essentially a high tap with room for a bottle, successfully being used at Erin Public and Erin District High Schools.

“It seems to be a no brainer to give people a choice,” he said.

Councillor Jeff Duncan said he would not support a ban that would restrict people’s freedom of choice, preferring education and persuasion. Council agreed with his suggestion to consider the cost of filling stations as part of the 2015 budget process.

Staff will also report to council on the issue of discontinuing the sale of bottled water at arenas. If that happens, people would still be allowed to bring their own bottled water to the sites.

Transition Erin and other community groups are concerned about the possible impact of Nestlé Waters Canada pumping up to 1.1 million litres of water per day at its Hillsburgh well and that even with up to 70% of bottles being diverted to recycling, huge volumes of plastic are still being dumped into landfill sites and ditches.

Soldiers well-fed at training camp

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
The Government has set aside Sunday, January 3 as a special day of prayer for a speedy end to the war.

Members of the second contingent in camp at the Exhibition Grounds, Toronto, number about 4,000 men. In the matter of food they are well provided for. Nine tons of food are disposed of every day. Each man receives daily 1 lb of meat, 1.25 lb of bread, 1 lb of potatoes, 6 ozs of fresh vegetables, 2.5 ozs of bacon, beans, butter, sugar and jam, 1.5 oz of cheese and split peas, 1.25 oz of tea, and 1.125 oz of coffee, salt and pepper. An increase of bacon and sugar and an allowance of one pint of milk per man will be made in a day or two as soon as authority is sent in from Ottawa.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Charles Hull, Publisher and Editor of The Advocate, along with staff members Corey Herrington, Freda Hull, George Ware and Jeff Barry, wish everyone in the community the peace and happiness of Christmas. Greetings also from the correspondents: Dorothy McKinnon in Hillsburgh, Mrs. R. McCreary in Cedar Valley, Mrs. Robert Sloan in North Erin, Mrs. D.C. Kirkwood in Erin, Mrs. John Trimble in Belfountain, Mrs. D.G. Robertson in Ospringe, Mrs. K. Raeburn in Caledon, Mrs. F. MacArthur in Churchill, Mrs. H. Thompson in Marsville and Judi Petherick in Alton.

A proposal by Peel County Council to straighten and widen Winston Churchill Boulevard north of Terra Cotta to promote safety in the area has been temporarily stopped after objections from the Credit Valley Conservation Authority. Chairman R.K. McMillan said CVC must be notified of any future plans for the road.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Al Johnson’s 22-month-old bull terrier Gus won two competitions at the Credit Valley Dog Show held at the Canadian National Exhibition site. The Erin dog was the best male, and the best of both males and females in his class.

Many Erin residents were surprised on Sunday morning to discover they had been without power for up to four hours. Erin Hydro spokesman Weir Winter said workers had to shut off power to repair wires near the Greening Donald plant that were damaged in a wind storm last Tuesday.

Erin Village Fire Chief Wib Scott told council recently that the department needs a new $35,000 pumper to meet its obligations to fight fires in sections of Erin Township. The Township currently pays $11,000 a year for the service, but it is being renegotiated and the Ontario Fire Marshall’s office is investigating the situation. Scott says two reliable pumpers are needed so the village is not left unprotected while fighting a fire in the Township. If the Village gets out of the rural service, the Township could be forced to set up a substation, possibly in Ballinafad.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
About 40 residents of Cedar Valley expressed their displeasure with a development proposal that would double the size of their hamlet. Sue Orr of R.J. Burnside and Associates, representing developer Don Kilgour, said 41 lots are proposed for the 75-acre site. A letter from Triton Engineering said limited development could be done with private wells, plus a possible fire-fighting storage reservoir, but that if there is to be even more development there in the future, the new homes should be on a communal water system. Residents were concerned about changes to the rural character of the area, the loss of farmland, the strain on already overcrowded schools and increased traffic flow. The land is currently agricultural. Council will decide on rezoning in about eight weeks.

December 22, 2014

On-line votes needed for book store grant

East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) is hoping for community support to win a $10,000 grant to improve its Bookends Store.

The $10,000 competition is sponsored by ADP, a company that provides payroll and human resource services to small business. EWCS supporters can go to, register in the Entries section, and vote up to once a day for the local project.

Councillor John Brennan urged Erin residents to participate, at last week’s council meeting. 
The five businesses getting the most votes will have a chance to get the grant.

EWCS would use the $10,000 for new flooring, a desk and other improvements to the Bookends used book store (and on-line store) on Main Street in Erin.

For more information, visit the EWCS Facebook page, or read about Bookends at

December 17, 2014

The Art of Believing an evening of fun

As published in The Erin Advocate

The quality of fun is not strain'd. It droppeth – not unlike a gentle rain – among those that seek it.

And thusly doth it go in the current Erin Theatre production, entitled The Art of Believing, served up with a nice buffet dinner at David’s Restaurant until this Friday.

It is their 8th Annual Christmas Dinner Theatre, written by Susanna Lamy and directed by Kathryn DeLory. It’s a comedy, ostensibly about a ritzy art auction attended by the audience, but mainly about the antics of the auction house staff and several art buyers.

It could be characterized as an art forgery who-dunnit mystery, in which the plot can be put on hold at any time for some light-hearted singing and choreography. Audience members get to fill out a form to guess the culprit, with the correct answers entered in a prize draw. (Beware of cast members mingling with the crowd, and avoid choosing the obvious suspects.)

There is a real art auction involved as well. The pieces used on stage (famous Impressionist and early 20th Century Modernist works) were created by local artists Susanna Lamy, Jayne Reid, Melissa Staples, Richard Day, Barb McKee and Rhonda Williamson. They are being auctioned off silently, with proceeds to East Wellington Community Services.

Bids can be made in person at the shows or by phone. Go to to see the images, check the auction procedures and learn about the local artists. As of Monday, bids were in the $50 to $225 range.

The play is also a crash course in Art History, presented in the unstuffiest of manners by the frugal Cora Moneypenny (Carol McCone Day). She and her ever-complaining husband John Carp (Peter King) have many hilarious bits, sparked mainly by his poor hearing.

Helena Beckett (Susanna Lamy) is an art gallery curator of speckled reputation who has rounded up some multi-million dollar masterpieces for auction. She and uptight art historian Nellie Holt (Denise Rowe) try to figure out how they ended up with a fake Monet.

They work their shticks with panache, as does Christina Penner (Laura Schnablegger) a nosey reporter, eager for scandal and ready to twist people’s words against them. So unrealistic.

Bob Holler (Howard Lopez) is a used car salesman who brings a delightful sprinkle of lechery and lowbrow art commentary to the mix. His attentions are directed to the slightly disreputable auctioneer Jamie Gavel (Pamela Keyes), whose frantic live auction routine adds a generous bolt of energy to the show.

The mysterious Brother Bruno (John Carter), delivering a Van Gogh from a French monastery, tries valiantly to honour his vow of silence by communicating with a very humourous series of mimed messages.

The crew list for the production features many of the cast, along with Richard Day, Mike Russell, Jill Rogers, Melissa Staples, Barb McKee, Paulina Grant, Brenda Wainman and Katherine DeLory.

Together, cast and crew have produced a delightful diversion, a lighthearted lark, a respite from reality, a thespianic thpectacle. Label it as you like – it was fun.

Ten Nights in a Bar-Room

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
The Women’s Christian Temperance Union will hold an Entertainment in aid of the Patriotic Fund, in the Erin Town Hall, on December 29, 1914, at which the play entitled “Ten Nights in a Bar-Room” will be given. Full particulars in Bills later.

Mr. G. Arnett of Erin received a letter on Monday from his son, who is on the firing line with a detachment of the Royal Horse Artillery, in which he says, “I am well. This is different from the Boer War. It is only the big guns we care for. We call them ‘Jack Johnsons’. Where they burst it tears up the ground making a hole large enough to put four horses in. We are losing a few men.”

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Students from Erin Public School took the first prize Co-op trophy for their float in the Santa Claus parade, with an entry called Christmas in Mexico. Second was Hillbilly Christmas by “The Gang” and third was the Erin Boy Scouts float. The parade featured 20 floats, new model cars, snowmobiles, comic characters, Alton’s new band and majorettes and of course Santa, surrounded by elves.

The responsibilities of Wellington County Council are being whittled away by the Ontario government, according to Warden Norman Roszell. The province recently took over property assessment. With many nearby areas planning to switch to “regional” government, and a study of the same concept between Guelph and Wellington, Roszell said the county would have to prove its validity if it hopes to remain intact.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
A Toronto-based electronics firm says it could provide Erin residents with 24 channels of high-quality colour television using the space-age technology of satellites. Since Erin village is not served by cable TV, the company would install a satellite receiver for about $50,000 and broadcast the signal through the village, if enough residents are interested to make it viable. Terry Howes said 200 families could maintain the system for $6 to $8 per month, about the same cost as cable. He said once the debt is paid off, the service would be free. Many communities use such satellites, even though they are illegal. More liberal regulations are expected soon. Howes said a community group would have to operate the service, and he warned that “freeloaders” tapping into the system without paying could hurt its viability.

The Erin Church of Christ held a special reception as a Christmas gift to the Ly family, which arrived recently as refugees from Vietnam. Annie Cook chaired the service of songs and messages, which included a talk by Mrs. S. Spencer of Marsville, who had come to Canada from Holland unable to speak English. A musical program was provided by Marj Sinclair, Jean Robinson, Kathleen Kirkwood, Maureen Wood and Darlene Fallon.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Erin Township has applied for 50% funding of community projects through the provincial PRIDE (Program for Renewal, Improvement, Development and Economic Revitalization) Program. Residents have been given a list a possible projects and are being asked to indicate their priorities. It includes replacing the façade of the community centre ($35,000), burying overhead wires ($150,000), decorative streetlighting ($50,000), retrofitting light standards ($10,000), replacing concrete sidewalks with paving stones ($20,000) and cleaning up the river front and developing parkland ($25,000).

Township Council unanimously rejected a suggestion from Erin resident R.E. Oliver that it investigate the use of depleted gravel pits as possible dumpsites for Toronto’s garbage. He referred to an ad in the Toronto Sun from a company looking to buy pits for that purpose, and said the coming waste management crisis could be an opportunity for industrial growth and tax revenues.

Environmental Assessment for Hillsburgh dam

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town of Erin has announced the start of the Environmental Assessment for the Station Street dam and bridge in Hillsburgh. Triton Engineering was hired last June for the process, which will study options for long-term safety.

Emergency repairs were done in 2012 after an outlet pipe failed, and the bridge is nearing the end of its design life. Completion of the EA is not expected until 2016.

Anyone wanting to be added to the contact list, to provide comments or request more information, should contact Roads Superintendent Larry Van Wyck at the Town office or Triton Project Manager Paul Ziegler at Project updates will be posted at

There has been ongoing debate about whether to retain the 19th Century mill pond. Council has allocated $190,000 in its 2014 budget for the EA, but the full project is expected to cost well over $2 million.

December 10, 2014

Grass looks greener on the other side

As published in The Erin Advocate

I had to laugh a few days ago when a Caledon resident said some people there would like to join Erin as part of Wellington County, since it would better match their rural character. I told him some people in Erin would like to join Peel or Halton Region, to be supported by a huge commercial and industrial tax base.

The Belfountain Community Organization (BCO) is actively fighting efforts to increase tourism and a plan by Peel Region to spend $31.5 million on new infrastructure in their area. They are feeling overwhelmed and want to be left alone.

I’ve told them that if they could just forward any unwanted money down the road, Erin could put it to good use. We won’t hold our breath for that, but it’s interesting to see the contrast, as Erin tries to figure out if it wants to increasingly base its economy on tourism. Communities have to be careful what they wish for.

A number of Belfountainites were quite skeptical, at a public consultation meeting last week, when Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) asked for their opinions as part of a Master Planning Process to refurbish Belfountain Conservation Area (BCA). Some wondered how the area could be made more attractive without attracting more tourists.

A new Management Plan could see about $3 million spent over several years to create a new Visitor Welcome Centre (including office, meeting and workshop space), more efficient parking, improved accessibility, better education on natural and cultural features, a redesigned central pumphouse (with washrooms), a covered picnic pavilion and fresh landscaping.

“We have to plan for the future, so the area can be used safely,” said CVC Chief Administrative Officer Deborah Martin-Downs. She suggested that instead of doing minor repairs annually to the deteriorating facilities, it would be better that this jewel in the CVC system be “reset and polished”.

The park gets about 25,000 visitors a year, but the parking lot has only 45 spots. When it is full, visitors look for scarce parking spots in the hamlet. Laura McDonald, Conservation Lands Planner with CVC, said no targets have been set, and that they simply want to make the best use of limited space, not generate more visitors. And while more revenue is always welcome, it is also not one of the objectives, she said.

Jenni Le Forestier, President of the Community Organization, called for a Social Impact Study, saying use of the conservation lands cannot be considered in isolation from the effect on nearby residents. She also said it is important to know whether the Visitor Centre would be a rentable space that would generate extra visitors, and to what extent visitor hours might be increased in the future.

Senior Conservation Lands Planner Eric Baldin said traffic and other impacts on the community will be studied, and that the uses of the visitor centre have not been decided.

Caledon Ward 1 Regional Councillor Doug Beffort has advocated a new pathway from the hamlet’s businesses to the conservation area, away from the road, and an arrangement that would allow visitors to use the washrooms there. He said while CVC seems to be doing a good job of planning improvements, he cautioned that, “Maybe what you’re doing doesn’t fit with the overriding concerns of the community.”

An Environmental Assessment (EA) is being done on the dam, which is central to the conservation area, and on the pond that is filling with sediment. All options, including removal of the dam, will be considered. A previous EA in 2003 was shelved when no agreement could be reached on possible actions.

Entrepreneur Charles Mack first opened the park to the public 100 years ago, and CVC hopes to preserve the early 20th Century style of the facilities. The current vision is to make it an “iconic destination” for “sustainable” escarpment experiences such as hiking, photography and picnicking. CVC has identified 534 species in the area, 10 of which are at risk.

Wellington could raise half a regiment

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
Wellington will consider raising half a regiment of soldiers, consisting of 500 men, and fully equipping them for war service. Warden R.F. Bale has given the matter serious consideration and will soon recommend it County Council in the current session. He estimates the scheme will cost $90 per man, amounting to an expenditure of $45,000.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
A fight is shaping up over a $3 million plant Canada Brick plans to build near Cheltenham on the Credit River. Chris Yaneff, who owns 140 acres next to the proposed 254-acre site, and a neighbour, David Buxton, say they are ready to fight Chinguacousy Township, whose planning board has already approved the project. Other residents are complaining about possible pollution of the Credit River, noise and dust, and the cost of rebuilding roads. “It’s zoned agricultural and estate residential and on the official plan this area is designated green belt,” said Buxton. “It’s inconceivable the township would allow spot zoning for industry and that the wishes of so many people can be ignored by council.”

A report to the Ontario government recommends purchasing 610 square miles of Niagara Escarpment lands for $31 million, leasing other nearby lands and restricting development through zoning controls on another 300,000 acres. New gravel pits would be banned within 2 miles of the escarpment face, while old pits would be restored as parks. Premier John Robarts said the government has not necessarily accepted all the recommendations, but agreed that escarpment lands are a recreational wonderland that should be preserved.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Erin Village’s 100th birthday celebration got off to an enthusiastic start Saturday. On hand to unveil a plaque on The Founding of Erin were Lieutenant Governor Pauline McGibbon, MP Perrin Beatty, MPP Jack Johnson, Township Reeve Bert Wheeler, Ruth Schatz of the Ontario Heritage Foundation (which provided the plaque), and Erin Reeve (County Warden) Larry MacKenzie. Sarah Kiteley, President of the Shamrock Senior Citizens group, presented Mrs. McGibbon with a porcelain doll dressed in a 19th century costume made by former village resident Vera Brown.

Laurie Graham, 19, of Inglewood, daughter of David Graham who owns Graham Fibreglass in Erin, had a third-place finish in a World Cup ski race at Val d’Isere, France.

David Graham told village councillors and Stanley Park residents protesting noise levels at his plant that he hopes to reduce the levels to within Ontario environment standards within a year. Councillor Evelyn O’Sullivan said she has been forced to sleep at a friend’s house to seek relief from the noise, and others are concerned about property values.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Village Councillors had many questions and reservations about a proposed four-storey, 120-unit retirement home on Dundas Street in Erin. Sanvac Investments urged them to approve the project, but they deferred the decision. At a recent public meeting, area residents said it did not fit the neighbourhood. Councillor John Pritoula said firefighters would have difficulty fighting a fire on the fourth floor. Councillor Deborah Sutherland said the building would be too far from the downtown core. Councillor John McDougall was concerned about increased traffic, and Deputy Reeve Carolann Osborne said water problems in the area would be made worse, and Reeve Terry Mundell said there was not enough information to pass the zoning bylaw.

The Belfountain Task Force residents’ group is working with Caledon’s mayor, members of the Niagara Escarpment Commission and Credit Valley Conservation to oppose a 600-acre housing plan by the Enterac company. A 10-day hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board is planned for March, and the residents group has hired a hydrogeologist, a planner and a lawyer to present their concerns. Issues include threats to Belfountain’s rural heritage and existing wells, to the Credit River, to farmland and environmentally sensitive land near the escarpment.

December 03, 2014

Emergency Info Vials save time in a crisis

As published in The Erin Advocate

Storing a vial of crucial medical information in your refrigerator could help paramedics to quickly provide the care needed in a crisis – and perhaps save your life.

The Emergency Information Vials are being offered free of charge to residents in the Erin-Eramosa area through the efforts of volunteers with the Town of Erin Community Oriented Policing Committee.

Allen Welke of Erin’s Community Oriented Policing Committee 
(at back) joined participants in the Centre 2000 Adult Day Program 
and Sherri Plourde, Manager of Senior Services with 
East Wellington Community Services for the launch 
of the Emergency Information Vial program.
The program is of special interest to seniors who may be at a greater risk of a medical emergency, but could also be valuable for anyone who lives or works alone, people with disabling conditions or allergies and those whose first language is not English.

The free kits contain a plastic bottle, special stickers for the refrigerator and front door, and a medical form where you would list your emergency contact person and details about your medications and medical conditions.

Having the vial accessible on the door inside the refrigerator will give police and ambulance personnel a head start in assessing the situation and arranging the treatment you need. The information will also save time for hospital emergency room staff.

Each person in the household would fill out their own copy of the medical form, which could include details about having diabetes, an allergy to penicillin or use of a pacemaker.

Allen Welke of the COP Committee said that Jones Packaging of London, which manufacturers the vials, has donated 500 of them to help get the program started.

The Committee will be arranging to distribute the kits through various community sources, but anyone wanting one now should phone East Wellington Community Services at 519-833-9696 or drop in at 45 Main Street in Erin.

Erin’s COP Committee deals with various issues of safety and protection of property, and normally meets on the first Wednesday of each month at Centre 2000 at 7pm. All meetings are open to the public. Go to to confirm meeting dates and access links to a wide variety of Ontario Provincial Police resources.

Patriotic Assembly a major social event

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
The Patriotic Assembly in the Town Hall on Thursday evening last, given by the young Ladies of Erin, was a big success, and is conceded by all who took part in it, as being one of the best social events ever held here. There was a large number present, including many from the neighbouring towns and cities. The music by Markle’s Orchestra, Elora, was of the best variety. The hall was prettily decorated with flags and bunting, showing the patriotism of the young ladies. A choice lunch was served. The nice sum of $56 was cleared, which was presented to the Belgian Relief Fund.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Starting January 1, 1970, sex education will be a compulsory course in all schools under the Wellington Board of Education. The school board was informed that a family life program in Guelph last year was well received by teachers, parents and students. Regular teachers will handle the course unless they feel they cannot properly teach it, in which case another teacher, a doctor or a Health Unit staff person will do it. The plan covers kindergarten through Grade 12. Parents will have the right to withdraw their child from any family life class.

New parking signs have been erected in the Village of Erin, after a bylaw that came into effect last week. During the winter months, parking on the streets of the village is prohibited between 1 am and 7 am.

The As We Were column recalled an article 50 years earlier, in The Advocate of 1919. J.M. Dods & Co. of Alton had leased the large brick building owned by C.E. McMillan in Erin. In 1969 it was the site of a Laundromat and tuck shop. They also leased C.H. Walkers wagon manufacturing shop, which later became the site of the public school. At these Erin locations they would manufacture finished cotton products, employing 50 people.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
A delegation to Village Council has complained about noise from the new Graham Fiberglass factory. Stanley Park resident Yolanda Reimann said residents of that area and Erin Heights are upset about a continual high-pitched noise and its possible health effects, and 31 residents have signed a letter to the company. The Ministry of the Environment will be taking measurements. Graham’s Marketing Manager Roy Ralph said the firm wants to be a good neighbour and has hired a consultant to advise them. Council member Evelyn O’Sullivan said she has been complaining to the company since August without success.

Wellington County Council plans to spend $1.6 million to rehabilitate and restore the 1843 court house on Woolwich Street in Guelph. With a new addition, the complex will provide a headquarters for administration of county business. Architect Carlos Ventin said it is “probably the most historic building in this part of Ontario.”

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
After using Tanker #2 for more than 20 years, Hillsburgh Fire Chief Wayne McIsaac has purchased a new tanker truck. Erin Township Council considered several tenders, and agreed to a purchase of $92,000. The truck will be manufactured by Dependable Emergency Vehicles of Brampton, with a 240-horse diesel engine and a 1,600-litre aluminum tank.

The AIDS committee of Guelph and Wellington opened its new information office in Guelph last week, and welcomed an announcement from local MP Perrin Beatty, Minister of National Health and Welfare, that they would receive a grant of $150,000. The centre will help small rural communities to provide accurate AIDS information, considered essential in defeating the disease.

Council wants involvement in EA study

As published in The Erin Advocate

Some members of Town Council should be attending meetings to plan the next phase of the Environmental Assessment (EA) on Erin’s wastewater system, according to Councillor John Brennan.

Council received a report from Christine Furlong of Triton Engineering on an October 28 meeting to discuss Phase 3 of the EA, following from the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan study. The meeting included Erin’s CAO, lawyer and financial consultant, plus Triton, Infrastructure Ontario and the Ministry of the Environment – but no one from council.

“As we go into the EA, I would certainly like to see that that process includes some or all of the members of council in the deliberations,” said Brennan.

“Council should be directly involved in this – there are some weighty decisions to be made at the end of the EA process or through the EA process, and having council as well informed as possible is only to our advantage. I would suggest that for the new council, we have Triton provide us with an outline of the activities and consultations that they are undertaking in developing the Terms of Reference, along with regular updates on progress.”

CAO Kathryn Ironmonger said that Triton would be updating council on the activities, but that it was important to consult with provincial officials to make sure the Terms of Reference (TOR) would meet their requirements. Once the TOR is approved by Council and the MOE, the Town can hire a firm to conduct the EA.

Council voted unanimously to accept the update letter from Triton – its last decision before the new council takes office this week. There was discussion during the election campaign of a “performance-based” EA process, which has general support on the new council.

This could include not only Public-Private Partnership (P3) financing, which would come late in the process, but competitive bidding by private firms to manage the process and competition among other firms to provide the best technology.

Furlong said it was agreed by all in attendance at the October 28 meeting, that “it is premature to undertake a P3 procurement model at this time as the project is not defined (facility sites have not been determined, the division of growth between Hillsburgh has not been decided, etc.) During Phase 3 of the Class EA, P3 procurement can be considered and evaluated as a financing alternative.”

Wastewater EAs always have target performance criteria, especially regarding the quality of the effluent going into the river. A traditional Class EA report would specify in detail the technology selected to meet those targets. Furlong said Infrastructure Ontario (IO) is suggesting that the report not be too detailed.

“For a project to be more compatible for P3 procurement and to allow for design and construction flexibility/innovation, specific treatment equipment should not be included in the Environment Study Report (ESR). For example, there are several types of filters on the market for tertiary treatment of wastewater and IO is suggesting that the ESR should simply indicate the need for filtration and not be specific on the type of filtration.”

Council supports call for Clean Soil Act

As published in The Erin Advocate

The difficulty of regulating the disposal of excess soil from construction projects in the Greater Toronto Area has Erin Town Council supporting a call for the province to enact a Clean Soil Act.

While municipalities and conservation authorities have responsibility for the actual dumping of soil on rural lands, it is difficult to control without provincial regulations to ensure that the fill is not contaminated, that the activity does not cause excessive disruption to rural residents and that the businesses involved pay the full costs of regulation, enforcement and road damage.

Anna Spiteri of Citizens Against Fill Dumping appeared as a delegation to council Nov. 25, and they voted in favour of a resolution she proposed, asking the provincial government to “develop a comprehensive strategy to regulate fill”, including new legislation to assist municipalities.

“Fill dumping is an ever-increasing problem in Ontario,” said Spiteri. “We all know that ultimately the provincial government must take leadership in dealing with it.”

She thanked council for setting up a committee that is working on a new Site Alteration Bylaw, and Councillor Deb Callaghan for chairing that committee.

Councillor John Brennan spoke in favour of the resolution, saying the Good Roads Association has an interest in the issue. “A lot of other communities like us are finding a heavy toll being taken on our roads,” he said.

The resolution says that the provincial policy of intensifying development within urban areas, to reduce the sprawl of development into farmlands, has created the fill problem. It urges the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to work with conservation authorities, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and other provincial ministries to deal with compromised soil. The MOE has already been reviewing provincial policy on this issue.

The citizen group wanted support from its home council before meeting this week with MPP Ted Arnott and Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Gord Miller, who reports on the government’s compliance with the Environmental Bill of Rights.

The new Erin Council will be asked to confirm its agreement with the effort, and support will be sought from Wellington County, other municipalities, and groups such as AMO, the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) and the Greater Toronto Countryside Mayors’ Alliance.

The soil issue has attracted considerable media attention recently, with other citizen groups demanding provincial action and the Toronto Star investigating irregularities in the disposal of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of soil from the Pan Am Athletes’ Village project.

Environment Minister Glen Murray told The Star in October that better controls are needed to deal with what he termed a “serious issue” that for him is at the “top of environmental and economic concerns” in Ontario.

Council bids farewell to a stormy four years

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin Town Council members bid each other some polite farewells at the end of their tumultuous four-year term of office.

Councillor Barb Tocher presented Mayor Lou Maieron with the council gavel as a souvenir of his service. It had been donated to Erin Township by Henry Wheeler in 1973.

“I’ve had the opportunity to serve this municipality as a councillor, mayor, county councillor and warden over the last 20 years,” said Tocher, who presented the others with stuffed Erin beany-baby bears. “It’s been an honour, it’s been a privilege. I will miss it, there’s no doubt. There isn’t a more interesting line of work. I’m looking forward to relaxing.”

Councillor John Brennan is the only member who is continuing in public office.

“The past four years haven’t been the most joyous for any of us, but despite that we have accomplished a lot, and I’m sure that we were acting from the best of intentions,” he said. “My thanks to all of you. It’s been not always enjoyable, but it’s been very real and also gratifying to work with you and overcome the obstacles that we did.”

Councillor Deb Callaghan, the only member not standing for office in the recent election, said her experience on council was not as enjoyable for her as for others.

“I would like to thank staff for their hard work, dedication and professionalism. I also want to thank my fellow council members – it has been a pleasure working with you this term. It has certainly been a challenging year – words like frustrating, trying, exasperating and discouraging definitely come to mind.”

She advised the new council to “look head, not behind; learn from the past, but do not focus on trying to place blame; you need to be cohesive and treat each other with respect; the mayor frequently said we need to paddle the canoe in the same direction – unfortunately we were not even in the same canoe.”

Councillor Josie Wintersinger was not at the meeting.

Mayor Maieron said it had been an “arduous” term but felt they had accomplished the majority of goals in his platform and that the new council has “a cleaner ship to sail”. He said he was frustrated when people had complaints about the Town, but were afraid to make them public.

“You elected a mayor for change, but did not bring a council with that much ambition for change. There are some great staff that work here, but there was also a sense of entitle-ism that needs to change.

“I sleep well at nights, because I did what I thought needed to be done. The incoming county councillor wishes to build bridges and I wish him the best of luck. But you’re going to find it difficult when the county takes a big portion of our taxes.

“I’ve kept my promise to the taxpayers and I’m proud of the job I did. It was a pleasure serving you.”

Looking for clues in the funding puzzle

As published in The Erin Advocate

Is Erin truly being cheated in the financial shell game operated by the Ontario government with its municipalities, or are we just feeling hard done by when money is dangled before us, and then snatched away?

The complexity of the system makes it difficult to tell, so the best we can do is look for clues.

The latest disappointment at Town Hall is the denial of two grant applications: $1.8 million from the $50 million competitive section of the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) for the Daniel Street Infrastructure Renewal Project, and $1.6 million from the Small Communities Fund for the Station Street Rehabilitation project.

Senior governments like to take credit for offering millions of dollars in funding, but when more than 350 municipalities in Ontario want a slice of the pie, the odds of getting a large piece are slim. They’ve told us our projects were not deficient, but won’t say how they were ranked, only that “other applicants with highly critical projects had more challenging economic conditions and fiscal situations.”

Seems it doesn’t pay to keep your debt low. The province is saying that with Erin’s assessment and average income, it can well afford to pay (that is, borrow) for the things it wants. Financial Analyst Larry Wheeler called the criteria “absurd”, in a report to council.

“Being a municipality on the fringe of the GTA brings with it two hugely detrimental characteristics when it comes to winning prospective provincial and federal grant funding: i) Erin household income almost 60% higher than the provincial median, ii) Erin weighted assessment per household 94% higher than the provincial median,” he said.

“Infrastructure funding is not a social welfare program, so why therefore is ‘household income’ being used as a key determining factor? It is paradoxical that ‘weighted assessment’ is being used to steer and channel infrastructure funding in the opposite direction to where it is most crucially required.”

This competitive situation is just one piece of the funding puzzle. Here are a few other recent examples.

• Erin will get $179,100 over three years from the non-competitive section of the OCIF, according to a complex formula to divide up $50 million.

• Erin will get unconditional Ontario funding of $585,800 in 2015 through the regular Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF). That is up $2,200 over 2014, but way down from the $654,000 we got in 2012. The province is eager to point out that while it is reducing that funding overall, it is busy “uploading” various costs to the provincial level including Ontario Works benefits, Disability Support, Drug Benefits, and Court Security.

The Town of Erin has never paid for these services, but the uploading will provide $4.8 million in savings for Wellington County next year, the equivalent of 4% of all municipal property tax revenue in the County. That will more than offset the reduction of the County’s OMPF grant from $3.6 million to $2.9 million.

For OPP service, Wellington expects to save more than $2 million per year under a new billing system that is based more on actual calls for service.

Erin residents and politicians need to find out just how much of these County savings will trickle down locally. Let’s hope they are not all siphoned off to pay for hospitals that we don’t use.

It is not surprising that Erin councillors have been treating Town taxes and County taxes as a package deal. The County is so well off financially that it should be able to adopt minimal tax increases – allowing the Town room to tax for what it needs while keeping the overall increase reasonable. Or perhaps the County could do some uploading of its own, essentially paying for more of what the Town now covers.

In a report to council, Director of Finance Sharon Marshall highlighted a statement in a recent letter from the Minister of Finance Charles Sousa and Municipal Affairs Minister Ted McMeekin concerning the upload savings for upper tier governments like Wellington County:

“It is important to acknowledge that in two-tier systems, the removal of these costs off the property tax base benefits all local taxpayers including those residing in lower-tier municipalities. We encourage upper and lower tier municipalities to engage in discussions to ensure that the savings resulting from the uploads benefit their shared taxpayers in the most effective way possible.”

November 26, 2014

Police advise seniors to beware of scams

As published in The Erin Advocate

Last week, an email went out to a number of Erin residents from Town Councillor Josie Wintersinger. It said she had been injured in a car accident while on vacation in The Philippines and was desperate for assistance.

She was, of course, safe at home, but quite annoyed at being the victim of a hacker trying to trick people on her email contact list into sending money.

“I have no idea how it happened – I reported it to the police,” said Wintersinger, who was inundated with phone calls from people on the list. She has now changed a number of passwords, to reduce the risk of intrusion into her personal affairs.

“It caused a lot of concern, and one day of wasted time. Once they have your password, you’re in trouble, especially if you’ve used that same password for other things.”

It is called the Emergency Scam, or in cases where a senior is convinced to send money to help a grandchild in trouble, it is known as the Grandparent Scam. Since 2009, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has received 17,132 such complaints, with more than $24 million in reported losses. The average loss per victim was $3,743.

Also last week, Constable Dan MacDonald and Detective Constable Heidi Pautsch of the Guelph OPP were at the Erin Legion with a presentation for the Extended Leaning Opportunities (ELO) lecture series on the wide array of scams that criminals are cooking up to relieve citizens of their hard-earned cash.

“This is their full-time job – they are so sophisticated,” said MacDonald. “I’m sorry to scare you, but you have to be vigilant.”

He says people should reduce the amount of personal information available to identity thieves by shedding paper garbage, picking up their mail promptly and even ripping the labels off prescription medicine bottles. He also suggests that people avoid carrying their Social Insurance card in their wallets.

When you pay with a credit card, he says don’t use the swipe or tap options – these are less secure than using the card chip and PIN. Fraudsters now have devices that allow them to sit in a parking lot and electronically pick up credit card numbers and PINs from inside a store. The chip enhances security by scrambling your PIN number.

When emails from strangers make it through your spam filter and invite you to “Click Here”, don’t do it – unless you want to invite malicious software to mine your hard drive for personal information.

Seniors (who make up the majority of the ELO audience) are often targeted by phone or at their doorways by people who know they may be vulnerable.

“Seniors are trusting. They see the best in people, and they often have a nestegg of savings,” said Pautsch, urging people not to send money to anyone without confirming their identity through family members or independent sources. “Usually once the money is gone, it’s gone. We try, but it is really hard for us to get it back.”

Many of these criminals are operating out of other countries, using proxy phone numbers or computer IDs to make them appear local. Police urge people to be aware of common warning signs:

If the deal seems too good to be true, it’s usually not. If a stranger suddenly wants to be your friend, give you something for free, supply a prize for a contest you don’t recall entering or is applying pressure for a quick decision, it is time to bail out.

Never provide your Social Insurance Number (SIN), bank account numbers, credit card numbers or other personal information to callers you don’t know personally, or send those numbers to anyone by email.

Many scams require you to wire money up front, but others involve paying inflated prices or signing long-term contracts for things you may not need, such as paving, a new furnace or water heater, internet services or home renovations.

Pautsch described a case in Wellington County of a well-educated CEO of a company who “lacked romance” and met someone from another country though a dating website. After building up a relationship over a considerable time, this person started asking for increasingly large amounts of money. By the time the victim realized she had fallen in love with a falsely created “person” that she would never meet, she was out $30,000.

“She was very embarrassed and it was hard emotionally, but we couldn’t help her. We could not track this person,” Pautsch said.

The Bank Manager Scam is another trick that is aimed at seniors, with a caller who claims to be from the bank and needs a customer’s help to catch a teller who is stealing money. The senior is asked to withdraw about $5,000 in cash, put it in an envelope and turn it over to the “manager” in a nearby parking lot.

They are told to come in to the branch the next day for a meeting with the manager, which is when they discover it was a scam – one that works more than half the time, according to the Anti-Fraud Centre.

One last tip from the OPP: get a free credit report on yourself from one of Canada’s two credit bureaus (Equifax or TransUnion). Not only will you be able to correct any errors on your file, but also you can check for suspicious activity if someone is using your identity.

More information is available in the fraud prevention section at or at

War forces smoking and drinking cutbacks

As published in The Erin Advocate

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
Canadians have cut back their smoking and drinking as a result of the war, the federal government reports. The total of the Inland Revenue Report, made up largely of excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol, was down by $316,000 to $1,726,197 for October. In August, a war tax on these products initially produced extra revenue, but cutbacks by consumers have more than erased those gains.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Anger over water rates that have skyrocketed from $36 a year to $84 a year has prompted residents of Mountainview subdivision to ask for annexation to the Village of Erin. The homes just south of the village are part of Erin Township and have a privately operated water system. Spokesman Fred Berry said a petition will be presented to the two councils, with 99% of homeowners in favour of annexation. If approved by the councils and the Ontario Municipal Board, the move would allow residents to be part of the village water system.

A Folk Service of old time spirituals and modern upbeat songs sponsored by the Erin United Church Choir was hosted by Rev. G. Howse and enjoyed by a large audience. Choir numbers included When the Saints Go Marching In and O Mary Don’t You Weep, with solo parts by Mrs. R. Sherwood, Mrs. C. Robinson and Mrs. L. Davidson. The trio of Mrs. C. Hull, Mrs. C. Justice and Mrs. N. Sinclair sang Rock-a-Ma-Soul and Just a Closer Walk with Thee, and Miss Linda McKenzie of Ospringe demonstrated her piano skills. The Friendly Four quartette from Hillsburgh, Harry Burt and the Graham brothers Howard, Donald and Ken, with their sister Mrs. Ruth Oliver as accompanist, did a series of gospel songs.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Cy Finn’s dog Rex was saved from drowning by the help of three residents who came to his aid. Rex was crossing the pond at Hull’s Dam on thin ice and fell through. Willie Hall, 13, heard his howls and called for help from high school student Rob MacKenzie and village employee Ivan Underhill. They brought a canoe and used a shovel to cut a path to the dog through the ice and coaxed it to shore.

Some Hillsburgh students at Ross R. MacKay school will lose their bus ride to school next year, the school board has decided. Bus service has been provided for younger children in the Armstrong subdivision north of the village for the past three years, even though it is within the walking area set by the board’s policy. Township Council is being urged to improve the sidewalks, the condition of which is forcing some children to walk on the highway.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Jim Craig, Community Affairs Officer for Canada Post, told Erin Village Council that he expects a Retail Postal Outlet to be operating in Erin by next year. He said while there are no plans to close the main Erin Post Office, it could happen eventually. Moving the functions of a post office to a retail store can only happen when a postmaster/mistress resigns. The Erin Post Office has 850 lockboxes, and about 400 people on general delivery. Some of the lockboxes are “gangloaded” for two or three families. Craig predicted that community mailboxes would come to Erin, since Canada Post wants to get people off general delivery.

The Wellington County School Board will hire a Race and Ethnocultural Equity Project Leader. The staff person will make principals, teachers and students more aware of the need to provide quality educational opportunities regardless of race or ethnicity. The cost of the project will be partly covered by a $35,000 grant from the Ministry of Citizenship.