October 29, 2014

Erin should promote its Greenbelt identity

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin should aggressively promote itself as a destination within Ontario’s Greenbelt, and express support for the protection it provides when the legislation is reviewed next year.

Local politicians were distressed ten years ago when the province decided to include the east side of the Town, including Hillsburgh and Erin village, in the 1.8 million acre Greenbelt.
Faced with loss of local control over development, they expanded the urban boundary by 300 acres in the north of Erin village, exempting it from the Greenbelt.

In other parts of the Greater Toronto Area, developers are trying to chip away at the Greenbelt to get more land for housing, while environmentalists are trying to expand the Greenbelt through river valleys to ensure long term protection for what has become known as our “natural heritage”.

Here in Erin, we still have plenty of green space, and more acres of urban land for housing development than we can actually use, given the small size of our river. Apart from development issues, the Greenbelt represents a marketing opportunity that we can use to target city dwellers to want to escape, even just for a day.

Part of that is the Greenbelt Route, a cycling route from the Niagara River to Rice Lake (south of Peterborough) that will be launched next year. It is mainly on existing roads, but a key section is the old rail line of the Caledon Trailway running 36 km from Terra Cotta through Inglewood and points north-east.

Every trail needs side loops to make excursions practical and interesting. Erin already has the Trans-Canada Trail (the Elora Cataract Trailway), so it is well positioned to take advantage of that need.

Erin’s rolling countryside is already popular with cyclists, but what if we were to advertise the “Erin Loop”? I’m sure we could pay a consultant to come up with a catchier name, but the idea would be to encourage groups of cyclists to use Erin as the home base for excursions.

They can show up on a weekend morning and have breakfast here. They can cycle down Winston Churchill, and possibly spend time at Terra Cotta Conservation Area. Just south of there, they pick up the Caledon Trailway, travel to Inglewood, then turn north on signed bike routes to get to the McLaren Road entrance of Forks of the Credit Provincial Park.

The Park has many bike trails and it also provides direct access to the Trans-Canada Trail, looping them back to Erin where they can shop and go out for dinner.

At a recent seminar, Shelley Petrie of the Friends of the Greenbelt charitable foundation said the Greenbelt protects a critical mass of farmland from urban sprawl and provides connected lands that allow wildlife to migrate.

“It’s about the rural economy and recreation plays into it,” she said. “It’s about sustainability for the entire region. It’s taken 30 years to get here, but over time, people’s values started to be reflected in these plans – to protect the beauty of nature, to protect local food production, to have a livable region. For the entire farming sector, this is a hotbed from a jobs and economy point of view.”

She said alliances between farmers and environmentalists are needed as the Greenbelt is reviewed. Key discussions will not only be about whether to expand Greenbelt boundaries, but the impact of highway development (which drives urban sprawl), protecting water resources, dealing with contaminated soils (perhaps with a Clean Soils Act) and possibly adding a protected “Foodbelt” zone of agricultural land just outside the Greenbelt.

These are all issues that could affect Erin’s future, so we should be paying attention. Here are a few websites for additional information: greenbeltalliance.ca, walkandrollpeel.ca, greenbelt.ca and greenbeltleaders.ca.

Erin Township starts Patriotic Fund

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
Erin Township Council has voted to start a Patriotic Fund to assist in the war effort. Council has divided the territory and assigned members to do a thorough canvas of residents: J. Binnie in the North, E. Beswick in the East, Jos. Benham in the South and W. Jessop in the West. Welland County Council has donated $5,000 for the purchase of apples and flour for the British Government. Hastings County will send four carloads of fruit, grain, vegetables and clothing to the Belgians.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
The Advocate printed a speech on Page 1 by Energy Minister George Kerr, regarding a provincial plan to subsidize water and sewage works for small municipalities, with sufficient funding to ensure that the annual cost of sewers would not exceed $120 per household. “The Communities requiring such assistance are ones facing unusually high costs because of topography, type of soil or rock, which increases the charge for construction, or those with a small population and low assessment. It is not realistic today to permit a small community, already established for many years, to go without the necessities of pure water supply and treatment of wastes. Downstream users will benefit directly from such projects.” The Advocate noted that the funding “could be of extreme importance to Erin Village in getting underway the several proposed housing development projects.”

Mel Barden of Hillsburgh died suddenly at the age of 66, collapsing at the wheel of a truck after delivering a load of lumber with Ross McKinnon to the home of Joe Baldwin in Erin. He is mourned by his wife Lillian (Steen) and some 1,500 people paid their respects. He had served on Erin Township Council for many years, operated a garage, gas station and clothing store in Hillsburgh and was a well-known participant and judge at horse shows.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
The Community Telephone Company is seeking increases that will mean rate hikes of up to 100 per cent for some customers in Erin and Hillsburgh. Jeanette Cox, president of the Committee for Better Service, said the announcement “is like pouring a can of gas on the fire” and promised vigourous opposition.

MP Perrin Beatty cut the ribbon to officially open the new Graham Fiberglass factory in Erin. The plant will provide about 100 jobs.

The signs have gone up at three locations, saying: “Erin Village protected by Block Parents”. On hand for the event were Cathy McGinnity, Erin Public School Principal Bruce Macpherson, Block Parents Chair Louise Lone, Barbara Crane and her son Robbie, Erin Councillor Evelyn O’Sullivan, Gillian Cantrell and Sharon Rolling.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
In a letter to a local resident, Transportation Minister William Wrye has promised that a traffic light at Brisbane will now be on the ministry’s priority list, but Erin Township Clerk Murray Clark says the municipality had not been informed, and there’s no indication of when the work will be done. He said it would be the Township’s first traffic light. Councillor Doris Topolsek released the exchange of letters with a woman who wants to remain anonymous. The writer noted a fatal accident at the corner on September 1, and many others that have caused a public outcry. The minister said traffic and accident data show that “the requirements for traffic signals have been met”.

A proposal for a four-storey 120-unit seniors complex on Dundas Street drew strong opposition from some area residents. “I don’t want that building in my backyard,” said John Duckworth. Village planning consultant John Logan also said the location is not ideal, since any seniors facility should be closer to downtown Erin.

Conservation Conversation for rural residents

As published in Sideroads Magazine

A new social media website will allow rural landowners to share their expertise, building a network of people who care about preserving the countryside.

The Countryside Stewardship Connection is a project of Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), supported by a $30,000 grant from the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.

It provides residents with an interactive online tool to engage in dialogue, post events, read success stories and ask for advice. Businesses and community groups can become partners and display information on the site as well.

Shannon Lem, CVC Program Assistant for Landowner Outreach, said there is a need to provide better support for non-farm rural residents, who don’t have the strong organizations that benefit farmers.

“We saw the opportunity to create something on-line for rural landowners within the Credit River watershed where they could really talk to each other and share all the things that they’ve learned over their years of caring for their own properties,” she said. The forum will also make it easy for people to access CVC staff expertise.

“In this age of social media, there’s a growing expectation that we can access people and information in a much faster way. Primarily, it’s intended to be a spot to foster community engagement,” she said.

Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Greenbelt Foundation, says the site will “build strong connections across the Greenbelt”, with CVC making the platform available to other interested conservation authorities.

The address is www.csconnection.ca, accessible via cell phone, tablet or computer. Conversations are grouped into 17 general forums such as Gardens & Landscaping, Wells, Septic Systems, Grasslands, Local Food, Ponds and Wetlands. The first question under Pollinators was about the Rusty-patched bumble bee, an endangered species in Ontario.

The first topic under Grasslands was the Bird-Friendly Certified Hay Program, supporting the declining populations of bobolink and eastern meadowlark, which nest in grasslands and are threatened by habitat loss. Hay growers who agree to delay their first cutting until July 15 enable the young birds to mature and leave their nests.

CVC hosts a web page for hay producers and buyers, promoting certified hay as a niche product that can create an advantage in the marketplace among environment-conscious consumers.

The on-line Connection project is just one part of CVC’s Countryside Stewardship Program. In 2014, there has been a series of Twilight Tours, covering topics such as the benefits of stream restoration and the value of agricultural cover crops. One session at the Ken Whillans Resource Management Area in Caledon dealt with management of invasive plant species, one of many areas where CVC offers free consultation, with financial assistance for plant removal and site restoration.

Another event showed landowners how to create gardens that specifically benefit plant pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies, wasps and beetles.

“Many pollinators, particularly bees, are in decline due to human activity and habitat loss,” said Mike Puddister, Director of Restoration and Stewardship at CVC. “Native plants provide habitat and food for these important species, improving the overall health of the environment.”

CVC also has regulatory authority over land use that affects wetlands and streams, and landowners are sometimes upset when they are restricted in what they can build or change on their property.

“Overcoming distrust or negative impressions is often really about creating a dialogue, and through communication, misunderstandings are very frequently sorted out,” said Lem.

“Our stewardship staff strive to engage with landowners in a meaningful way so that we can build positive relationships. I know people don’t like to be told what they can and can’t do on their property. And it is theirs, but only to the point that we can own something that we all share. Our natural resources are shared, and we all have a shared responsibility to protect those resources. That is always our goal. We’re not trying to put obstacles in people’s way.”

Conservation Authorities are on the front lines when it comes to dealing with the effects of climate change and more frequent severe storms. In urban areas, CVC promotes Low Impact Development to cushion the impact of stormwater, while in rural areas the goals are similar – reducing erosion, stream contamination and surface water volume.

CVC’s stewardship efforts are part of a broader movement, including the Stewardship Network of Ontario and the Ontario Biodiversity Council, dedicated to preserving long-term sustainable use of lands and waters that are threatened by human development and climate change.

With 90% of land in the watershed privately owned, the cooperation of owners is critical to the success of conservation efforts. Farmers have traditionally considered themselves stewards of the land, while many non-farm rural residents have moved to the country with an interest in preserving the attractive natural environment.

CVC can be a partner, providing not only scientific advice, but also funding that can make conservation projects affordable. A new grant program called the Landowner Action Fund is expected this fall, supporting a wide range of improvements not directly related to farming.

There is an ongoing series of workshops where residents get a copy of “Your Guide to Caring for the Credit”, and assistance in creating personalized property plans to protect the integrity of their land and water.

Brian Boyd, CVC Forestry Planting Project Coordinator, takes 
members of the public on a forest tour during a Tree ID Workshop. 
Photo courtesy of CVC.

CVC is known for its tree planting and woodlot management services. With an available subsidy, landowners can get two acres of seedlings planted for $225.

For rural non-farm residents of Erin and north Caledon, the CVC Stewardship contact is Holly Nadalin, while in south Caledon it is Alison Qua-Enno. Extensive information, including a Landowner Resource Centre, is available at the CVC website, www.creditvalleyca.ca, in the section called “Your Land and Water”.

Program Coordinator Mark Eastman is part of the CVC effort to build trusting relationships with farmers. In July, Ontario Nature awarded him the J.R. Dymond Public Service Award for his environmental achievements. He has led numerous private land stewardship initiatives, including pasture and manure management, invasive species control, wetland fencing and wildlife habitat protection. Under Healthy Lands for Healthy Horses, landowners are connected to funding and service providers for the implementation of best management practices.

Mark Eastman
Another of CVC’s longstanding programs is the Peel Rural Water Quality Program, in partnership with the Region of Peel. Farm projects that qualify under best practices criteria can receive grants covering 50% to 100% of total costs.

These include up to $10,000 for barnyard runoff control, irrigation management, milkhouse washwater disposal, erosion control and tree planting, $20,000 for fencing livestock away from environmentally sensitive features, or enhancing natural areas, and $25,000 for manure storage systems. Well capping is available directly through the Region of Peel for all landowners.

The Greenbelt Foundation has also funded the placement of signs along trails in Caledon and Erin in an effort to educate people about the efforts farmers have made to reduce their impact on the environment. These include Nutrient Management Plans, keeping animals out of streams and development of buffer strip vegetation to reduce runoff of soil, manure, fertilizers and pesticides. Learn more at www.caringfortheland.com.

Upper Credit Conservation Area near Alton, showing the
streambank buffer zones of vegetation that reduce erosion. 

A horse farm next to Erin village, with the
Elora-Cataract Trailway running beside it.

Fighting to preserve Belfountain's character

As published in Country Routes

For residents who want to keep Belfountain more or less the way it is, the never-ending battle is heating up once again.

It has been 27 years since they united to successfully oppose construction of a subdivision just south of the hamlet, which is in west Caledon near the Forks of the Credit.

They have been through Ontario Municipal Board hearings, Niagara Escarpment Commission rulings, negotiations with developers, appeals to politicians and a couple of name changes along the way.

With the housing plan recently revived, and Peel Region determined to rebuild roads and add sidewalks in the hamlet, the Belfountain Community Organization (BCO) has elected a new executive, ready to fight tooth and nail to preserve the unique nature of the community.

“We want to keep Belfountain intact so that people can enjoy it,” said President Jenni Le Forestier. During the municipal election campaign, they distributed signs with the message, “STOP SPRAWL”.

Many existing residents have problems with water quantity and quality in their private wells, and fear that a new subdivision could make things worse. BCO has hired a hydrogeologist to review the results of a water study by the developer.

On the roads front, Peel Region has conducted an environmental assessment, with considerable community input. It is pressing ahead with a plan to spend $31.5 million on area roads, including $12 million in the hamlet.

BCO has filed a detailed appeal against the plan with the Ministry of the Environment, including a petition of 338 signatures that can be seen on their website, www.belfountain.ca. 

The petition says, “The Region of Peel plans to completely change the rural charm of the village by installing unnecessary sidewalks, culverts, streetlights and parking. Despite community feedback to ‘leave the roads as they are’, the Region plans to go ahead with these expensive and unwanted ‘improvements’.

Jenni Le Forestier

“This project will further endanger species already at risk and ruin the beauty of the hamlet. This plan was defeated in 2003, so why is this being raised again, against the wishes of the tax paying residents of our hamlet?”

Lynn Wood asks, in a comment published with the petition, “Why is it so impossible for the powers that be in our local government to accept that not every village needs to look like a miniature version of a city streetscape?”

Wade Domet appears to capture the feeling of many residents in his petition comment when he says, “Peel Region, HANDS OFF BELFOUNTAIN”.

At a September 29 community meeting, people were asked, “As a resident of Belfountain, do you want a new paved and urban street scape or a natural rural street scape?” The result was a 98% vote for Rural, said Le Forestier.

The Region’s plan is intended to improve road safety and drainage, but she says, “There have been no pedestrian accidents in five years, and drainage is not a problem.”

Sidewalks were intended for students going to Belfountain School and the Belfountain Conservation Area, but she says but students are bused to the school, and the proposed sidewalks don’t go to the Conservation Area, the prime local tourist attraction.

BCO is also unhappy with a plan to increase parking there to 75 spots from the current 35. Many residents can accept the current number of visitors to the hamlet, but are alarmed at efforts to encourage more.

“All of these things will have a cumulative effect, with a huge impact on residents and even visitors,” said Le Forestier. “Little places are being pressured to be more than they are supposed to be.”

Built on the “Small is Beautiful” motto, BCO is not just about development and politics. Their website provides useful information on community events, local attractions and accommodations, government services and other community groups such as the Belfountain Heritage Society and ecoCaledon.

The big event of the year is the annual Salamander Festival, co-sponsored by BCO and Credit Valley Conservation (CVC). It happens this year on Saturday, September 27 at the Conservation Area, where the West Credit River winds through dramatic Niagara Escarpment terrain. It was once home to three saw mills and a brownstone quarry.

In addition to celebrating the Jefferson Salamander (one of six endangered species that BCO says are threatened by development), the festival is an opportunity to try local food, enjoy family entertainment and learn about river ecology.

The site was once a private park owned by in the early 1900s by philanthropist Charles Mack, inventor of the cushion-back rubber stamp. He built a dam, a suspension bridge, stone walls, scenic lookouts and a fountain topped with a bell to honour the village.

CVC bought it in 1959, and it has become a popular destination for GTA day-trippers – who also frequent the small collection of shops and restaurants near the intersection of Old Main Street (Mississauga Road) and Bush Street.

The hamlet itself has only 106 households and stores, and some who call the place home feel invaded on weekends. They especially resent visitors who drive dangerously, park inappropriately and discard garbage indiscriminately.

In 1994 the Region said area roads needed “immediate” improvements, due to structural deficiencies, missing shoulders, unsafe driving conditions and inadequate stopping sight distances – but the environmental assessment (EA) was never completed.

When it was revived in recent years, studying an area to the south bounded by Mississauga Road, Olde Base Line Road and Winston Churchill Blvd., many residents said sidewalks are not needed in the hamlet for pedestrian safety.

The EA study identified “a need to reduce collisions and improve safety, particularly where there are steep grades, sharp curves, vertical crests, and driveways.” Some residents wouldn’t mind a better road surface, but want the hills and curves to remain as part of the local charm.

They blame bad behaviour by drivers of cars, motorcycles and bicycles for safety issues – not the road design. They fear “improvements” will increase traffic speeds and destroy the atmosphere that made the hamlet attractive in the first place.

One of BCO’s flyers says, “The countryside is under siege by developers, road and highway builders, and the Province’s apparent intention to build on some of our best farmland.” They note that legislation covering the Niagara Escarpment, the Green Belt and the Oak Ridges Moraine will be reviewed in 2015, and feel that natural and historic heritage, animal habitat, water and the beauty of the land are at risk.

The residents’ group was known for many years as the Belfountain Task Force, formed to oppose an application by Enterac Properties Ltd. to build a subdivision of large lots on the old Willis farm lands at the south end of the hamlet. They raised $150,000 and had success when the OMB and the NEC rejected various development proposals, mainly because of water supply issues.

From 1993 to 2007 the group was called the Belfountain Community and Planning Organization (BCPO), with a mandate to address broader local issues. Since 2007 the name has been the Belfountain Community Organization. In June, the new executive held a Lobsterfest fundraiser, expecting to need funds for a renewed fight, but hoping it won’t have to go to the OMB.

The developer, now under the name Orb Developments Inc., continues to look for an acceptable way to develop their lands between Shaws Creek Road and Mississauga Road, with an expectation that the Town of Caledon could allow some population growth in hamlets.

There had been some earlier discussion of obtaining water from the Town of Erin, which has municipal wells, or from another area of Peel. BCO says these options are not feasible, and that a municipal well in Belfountain would not be able to generate sufficient volume for a water system.

BCO did a water survey of existing households last year, with about half responding. Hydrologist Hailey Ashworth reported that 13 households, including seven on Old Main Street, had water shortages, and another six required cisterns. Water quality issues including high sulfur, iron content and coliform contamination were listed by 16 of the 48 respondents.

Belfountain Conservation Area

Callaghan fights conflict allegations

As published in The Erin Advocate

Allan Alls Mayor, Pierre Brianceau to County

As published in The Erin Advocate

October 27, 2014

Allan Alls will be Erin's new mayor

As published in The Erin Advocate

Here are the official election results for the Town of Erin, as released by Clerk Dina Lundy. A total of 4,025 ballots were cast. With 8,703 registered voters, the turnout was 46.25%.


2,403 - Allan Alls

1,120 - Rod Finnie

   464 - David Lyver

County Councillor (1)

2,025 - Pierre Brianceau

1,376 - Barb Tocher

   503 - Lou Maieron

Town Councillors (top 4)

1,990 - John Brennan

1,936 - Jeff Duncan

1,735 - Matt Sammut

1,429 - Rob Smith

1,396 - Jamie Cheyne

1,369 - Chris Naraysingh

1,198 - Evelyn McLean

1,009 - Josie Wintersinger

   742 - Shawn Wilson

   679 - Craig Porterfield

   549 - George Silva

Trustee results from the Guelph-Eramosa Township website

Public School Trustee for Erin, Guelph-Eramosa and East Garafraxa

4,437 - Kathryn Cooper

1,516 - Brandon Moyer

Catholic School Trustee for Erin, Guelph-Eramosa and Puslinch

   704 - Cassandra Chornoboy

   432 - Shaun Redmond

October 22, 2014

Return of Homechild highlights local talent

As published in The Erin Advocate

The new production of Homechild – The Musical at Centre 2000 this week is a showcase of local musical and dramatic talent, shining a light on a dark corner of Canadian history and celebrating the power of family ties.

Hillsburgh playwright and composer Barb Perkins remains passionate about telling the story of the hundreds of thousands of impoverished British children who were shipped to colonies including Canada between 1860 and the 1930s. They were promised a better life, but often experienced hardship, abuse and discrimination as indentured farm labourers and domestic servants.

The story of Perkins’ own family history has been transformed into a play that has an evolving life of its own. It centres on Nan and three other children taken from a family of nine in Wales, and their desire to be reunited.

September 28 was British Home Child Day in Ontario and some members of the cast performed songs from the play at a day of special events held at Black Creek Pioneer Village.
Stephanie Baird and Jeff Bathurst share a song of hope. 
Watching a rehearsal on Sunday, it was interested to see that even with the hustle and bustle of set changes and getting the cast of 31 on and off the stage in an efficient manner, the moments of hope and anguish and fighting spirit shone through bright and clear.

The play originally had a workshop staging at the Charlottetown Festival in 1999, but found its home in Erin with a full production in 2005. Since then it has been mounted by groups in Oakville, Ottawa, and in January of 2013 by Orangeville Music Theatre.

Drama teacher Steve Sherry, who helped with the show in 2005, is artistic director this time around. Music is directed by Pam Claridge, Jim Hanenberg and Barb Perkins, who is also co-producer with Chris Bailey. The Stage Manager is Stephanie Giugovaz, assisted by Jim Baker and Nancy Larocque.

Set Design and Construction are by Steve Sherry, Michael Russel and a crew of helpers, with painting by Klara Gooding and Stephanie Baird, who is also the Choreographer. The Dance Captain is Tori Ridley. Props are coordinated by Susan Wilson and costumes created by a team of nine: Barb Perkins, Christine Turnbull, Gillian Bailey, Cecile Bull, Lorraine Fennell, Sue Harvey, Nancy Larocque, Kim Pearson and Jacqueline Pilote.

The cast includes Jeff Bathurst as Will, the father of the family, and Stephanie Baird as his wife Ellyn. Young Nan is played by Paula Turnbull, Young Mary by Sierra Virgin, Young James by Brett English and Young Thomas by Dylan Larocque. The Matron is played by Candace Kelm, Older Nan by Sarah Martin, Older Mary by Racheal Seifried, Older James by Dexter Adkin and Older Thomas by Corey Kalynchuk.

The Male Chorus is Des Baxter, Brad Finch, Jim Hanenberg, Mark Keir, Mark Ladouceur, Dick Murray and Keith Smith. The Female Chorus is Tori Bennett, Karen Heckman, Elyse Hodgson, Kathy O’Shea, Kim Pearson, Tori Ridley, Sierra Virgin and Cathy Waters. The Youth Chorus is Theo Adkin, Tessa Dandy, Klara Gooding, Josie Larocque and Brad Pearson.

Tickets are available at the Brighten Up Toy and Game store in Erin – call 833-9258. More about the show is available at www.homechildmusical.com and about the Child Emigration movement at www.canadianbritishhomechildren.weebly.com.

Gravel pit may become conservation area

As published in The Erin Advocate

A plan to donate 120 acres of land for a possible conservation area and sports park just north of Hillsburgh was presented to Erin Town Council by Strada Aggregates on October 7.

The firm will continue to extract gravel from its Hillsburgh Pit for the next three to five years, said Controller Grant Horan, but they are planning to rehabilitate the site on Eighth Line at 27 Sideroad and donate it to Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) and/or the Town of Erin.

Mayor Lou Maieron suggested that the firm make the donation, instead of possibly filling in the pond there, as a way to restore a natural area at the headwaters of the West Credit River, close to the Caledon Mountain Trout Club.

“We are the only municipality in the watershed without a conservation area,” he said. “It’s a good opportunity, a win-win-win for the environment, the Town and Strada.”

Horan said the mayor’s idea was “to establish a joint venture between the Town and the CVC that would offer the community a sports complex facility, including soccer fields and ball diamonds, as well as hiking trails and natural areas.”

In exchange, Strada Aggregates is seeking consent to develop four residential building lots on 27 Sideroad, away from the stream and prime natural land, as well as a tax receipt for the donation.

In a letter to Strada, CVC Manager of Land Planning & Management Eric Baldin welcomed the plan as a strong contribution to the community, saying CVC is always looking for beneficial uses for retired pits.

“This site provides a great opportunity to restore and enhance the natural heritage features and functions in this area,” he said. “CVC has technical expertise that could be helpful.”

The site would not necessarily become a conservation area. It is an opportunity for trails, a constructed wetland and retention of stormwater, as well as an attraction for tourists.

Maieron is suggesting that most of the land, including the pond and stream, become a conservation area, but that the Town get 40 acres of relatively flat land to develop for recreation.

Several years ago the Town purchased land near Barbour Field for future recreational use, but that land could be declared surplus and sold once the Strada lands are ready, he said and the proceeds of perhaps $300,000 used for another project, such as the sidewalk to Tim Hortons.

Strada had approval in 2006 to extract an estimated 1.6 million tonnes of aggregate below the water table. An estimated 450,000 tonnes were excavated in Phase 1, ending in 2008. A 30-acre expansion was planned, but after further study, and discussions with the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR), the expansion was withdrawn. The MNR will now work with Strada on a revised rehabilitation plan, while extracting the remaining 750,000 tonnes of gravel.

“Strada is committed to a best restoration and management plan that will achieve a goal of maximizing biodiversity value while minimizing maintenance costs,” said Horan.

10,000 men per month sent to war front

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
The Canadian government plans to keep 30,000 men continuously in military training, sending 10,000 to the front each month and bringing in 10,000 more trainees, until the War Office in London advises discontinuance. There is no shortage of volunteers.

A despatch from Nanaimo, British Columbia says a launch called the Empress Ninth was captured in Union Bay, and the crew of two men and a woman were charged with being German spies. The boat had provisions for nine months, three auxiliary engines and wireless apparatus believed to be intercepting messages from Cape Lazo.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
The Hillsburgh Juvenile Girls Baseball team took the Western Ontario Championship with a come-from-behind victory over St. Mary’s in the final inning. Hillsburgh went ahead 8-6 in the 6th inning, only to fall behind 10-8 in the top of the 7th. When Hillsburgh came to bat, Judy Bulloch made it to 3rd base, and Sandra McDonald hit her home. Susan Bayne reached 1st, and a double steal put the tying run at 3rd and the winning run at 2nd. Bev Sinclair hit a double up the centre and the game was over.

Members of Erin Village council met recently with the Chamber of Commerce to discuss plans for a Recreation, Parks and Community Centres Board. It would be responsible for organizing a wide range of activities, including sports, hobbies, arts and crafts.

The Erin Badminton Club has launched its new season at the high school, electing Reina Dickson as President.

The Hillsburgh Volunteer Fire Department is holding a Turkey Shoot at the Feed Mill, with proceeds to Muscular Dystrophy. 12 gauge shotgun shells will be supplied, and guns as well for those who don’t have one.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Erin Township hasn’t had time to organize a protest of the 26% property tax increase announced last week – it has already been cut to 5%. A new assessment system was to blame for the large proposed increase, but the provincial government has announced that it will cap increases to a maximum of 5%.

Mary Lou Bradley of RR4 Rockwood was shocked to see horseback riders go through her rural mailbox and make off with an envelope containing $40. The Advocate noted that while it seemed like a case for the mounted police, Guelph OPP are investigating.

EDHS teacher Don Jonescu presented Beth Graham, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ken Graham of Hillsburgh, with the Norman Finnie Memorial Trophy. The award is in honour of the former principal, given to a student with high academic standing, plus exceptional conduct, community achievement and school spirit.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
The CHICKEN Club for Grade 4 and 5 students, sponsored by the Erin Optimist Club, had its first meeting of the year at Erin District High School. The letters stand for: Cool, Honest, Intelligent, Clear-headed, Keen, Energetic and Not interested in drugs and alcohol.

The Hillsburgh Community Centre has been re-opened. It sustained major damage when a tractor trailer carrying 7,500 gallons of apple juice slammed into it. The big rig had swerved to miss a pick-up pulling out from Mill Street. It jackknifed, rolled on its side and took out a utility pole as it hit the building – without injuring the truck driver. Douglas Gregson of RR1 Hillsburgh, the driver of the pick-up, was taken to Orangeville hospital with minor injuries.

October 15, 2014

Mayoral candidates seek wastewater solutions

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin’s mayoral candidates pitched lots of ideas for improving the local economy, increasing efficiency, restoring civility and dealing with wastewater at the All Candidates’ Meeting held on October 8 by Transition Erin.

There was unanimous support for a sewer system (of some sort) and for efforts to attract and retain business in the Town. The first question was about their vision for the residential sector.

David Lyver said he wants to see assisted-living housing for seniors, which would help free up other homes. He is concerned that high taxes and lack of housing are driving them out.

Rod Finnie said it is possible to build “very beautiful” compact housing for seniors and young people. He wants development to be “community-friendly”, including walking and biking trails, and supports credits to developers for “green” features in their projects.

Allan Alls said sufficient sewage capacity should be reserved for existing homeowners, but that once the remaining capacity is used up, further development could take place using private septic tank wastewater treatment.

Regarding the business sector, Finnie said more jobs and tourism are needed. “We’ve got to be more positive and find ways to make it happen,” he said.

Alls said a sewage system is essential to any significant business development, while Lyver wants to reduce development charges compared to neighbouring municipalities.

For improved council operations, Alls would like to see a Mayor’s Advisory Committee where citizens could provide input. Finnie would stress the need for respect and compromise, and would like to hold council meetings in different parts of the Town. Both like the idea of an open question period for the public at the start of each meeting.

For greater efficiency, Lyver would try to merge duplicate services. Finnie said the Operational Review would be critical, but that he does not believe there is a lot of waste. Alls said he would take a hard look at staffing after the Review, but that it is “probably OK”.

Finnie said bringing a sewer system to Erin is the reason he wants to return to the position of mayor, which he held from 2000 to 2010. “We are not going to survive as a community without it,” he said. He favours working with Infrastructure Ontario and the private sector so that taxpayers will not be hit with high construction costs

Alls said the Environmental Assessment will help determine the best technology, and that it’s not going to cost Erin residents $60 million. Without senior government help, the project can’t go forward, he said.

Lyver said we might need two small systems, plus homes on septics. He said Peel Region might be willing to provide a loan to Erin, since they have a vested interest in the quality of water in the Credit River.

All three agreed in principle with incentives for developers to build more energy-efficient homes, and Lyver suggested extending that to homeowners, with building permit credits for additions and renovations.

To attract more businesses, Alls supports reduction of taxes and development charges. Lyver said this should be based on benefits to the community, such as jobs, and that the Town could set up an area of serviced land for industry. Finnie said instead of cutting taxes and charges, the Town could set up the infrastructure that businesses need in order to succeed – such as ultra high speed internet.

Alls and Lyver agreed with a suggestion to ban bottled water at the Town. Finnie said he doesn’t believe in banning things, but that perhaps NestlĂ© could pay for product placement – $10,000 for every bottle on the council table.

Regarding the impact of climate change, Alls and Lyver both promoted improved access to GO buses and trains. Finnie said he would promote the county’s Active Transportation Plan (including more paved shoulders on roads), and he would seek partners to help with the cost of improving dams – the most vulnerable part of Erin’s infrastructure.

All three agreed that better communication would improve the advisory committee system, and that an energy conservation committee would be a good idea. Finnie said committees should be given more specific tasks, and Alls called for investigation of recreation levels to learn what more is needed.

County candidates stress need for collaboration

As published in The Erin Advocate

Candidates for Wellington County Council agree that Erin needs to get its fair share of benefits from the senior municipal government, with each claiming to have the best skills and strategy to make that happen.

They explained their positions at the All Candidates’ Meeting held on October 8 by Transition Erin. Candidates gave one-minute answers to questions from moderator Jay Mowat in a randomly selected order. Written answers to selected questions (from all election candidates) are available at http://www.transitionerin.ca.

Former public school trustee Pierre Brianceau said the failure of current representatives to get along with other members of county council has resulted in Erin not getting its fair share. He said he has the experience in working with various governments and agencies to bring funding to the community.

“I can work with others and you will get your money back,” he said. He noted the current Code of Ethics complaints at the Town level, and said his competitors “have spent their time fighting instead of minding your interests.”

Barb Tocher, a current Town Councillor and former Mayor and County Warden, said that while Erin gets standard services from the county, she will always bargain for better service and to get Erin’s share of various initiatives. She said the current mayor has been the root cause of malfunction at Town Council, and that his failure to earn respect at County Council has been a disadvantage to Erin.

“It’s time to restore and enhance the collaborative partnership between the Town of Erin and the County of Wellington,” she said.

Mayor Lou Maieron, formerly a County Councillor and now running again for that position, said in response that Erin actually has a “good relationship” with the county. He said Erin has got a part-time ambulance, rural garbage pick-up and a commitment for a new Hillsburgh library in 2016.

He said he has “great relationships with some hard-working efficiency-based councillors” but not with some “back room” politicians. He continues to protest the province’s assessment-based tax system, which puts a heavier burden on Erin compared to some parts of the county.

“I’ve been fighting to get our fair share. The representation at the county is neither based on population nor assessment. If you look at the three southern municipalities, we’re the highest assessment and the highest population, but we don’t have the majority of votes.”

Brianceau stressed his commitment to protect the environment, strengthen delivery of existing health care services, promote economic development and enhance rural transportation. He also favours reform of the tax system, would look for an environmentally responsible way to get a waste transfer station in Erin and would produce a quarterly newsletter to inform people and encourage their participation.

Tocher would support “Green Development Charges”, providing developers with discounts based on their environmental initiatives. She supports a county plan to track climate change and reduce its impact on infrastructure, and suggests that the County pay for all road construction while the Town covers all maintenance. She would write monthly updates for the news media and employ on-line surveys to get more feedback from residents.

Maieron said as Chair of County Planning he has backed plans for resilience to climate change. He wants more Erin roads to become the county’s responsibility. He supports establishment of a Re-Use Centre in Erin and weekly rural garbage collection (instead of every two weeks). He will push again for an Operational Review to improve efficiency, and would like to see on-line video of county meetings and some meetings held in the evening.

All of the candidates support establishment of a Community Safety Zone (higher speeding fines) in front of Brisbane Public School.

Candidates' ideas on environment and growth

As published in The Erin Advocate

Candidates for Town Council had a chance on October 6 to share their ideas on how the Town can be environmentally responsible in dealing with demands for efficiency and growth.

An All Candidates’ Meeting, hosted by Transition Erin and moderated by Jay Mowat, was held at the Legion hall with almost 200 residents attending. Candidates gave one-minute answers in a randomly selected order, drawn by lot.

Dealing with areas where growth should be allowed, candidates seemed reluctant to be specific, but when asked about a large centralized sewage treatment plant, most were opposed – preferring some form of alternative technology. Everyone was concerned about climate change, but ideas on what to do about it locally were varied.

Jeff Duncan said before proceeding further on sewers, the current limit of 1,500 new urban residents over 25 years has to raised – providing service to some areas including downtown and industrial zones, but not providing sewers to areas with good septic systems. He stressed removing roadblocks to business, abolition of the Code of Ethics, pressing for revenue from water bottling and putting clear policies in place for developers.

Craig Porterfield said a Small Bore system (septic tanks, with small pipes for effluent) is the most flexible, with lower costs and less disruption to roads. He stressed the need for rural agricultural development, a better shared use agreement at Centre 2000, an inventory of vulnerable infrastructure and that imported fill should be revenue neutral, monitored and tested to MOE standards.

Jamie Cheyne said a dual wastewater system may be practical, with some areas served with a technology like Small Bore, and others on septic systems. He said the Town needs to have control of new growth, and stressed the need for a cooperative council, a Community Liaison Committee, promotion of home-based business, rural economic development, eliminating duplication in municipal services and protecting natural areas.

Matt Sammut said alternative technologies and a performance-based process are essential to lowering the cost of sewers, and to avoid digging up Main Street, and that Erin needs a strong plan to present to senior governments. He says infill development is needed in both Hillsburgh and Erin village and he wants better fiscal planning, better school safety zones, better trails, parks, and recreational facilities and more public access to the river.

Shawn Wilson is opposed to a centralized system, preferring to service downtown and industrial areas without putting it on the back of the taxpayer, and he suggests investigating ozone water treatment. He stressed growth of the commercial sector to broaden the tax base, more productive use of the fair grounds, paving gravel roads to save money and promotion of solar power. He wants to eliminate the “stench” of conflict of interest in Town business.

George Silva said a centralized plant is the last resort, suggesting investigation of treatment using wetlands, and of using the waste to produce fuel. He would study a reduction of Town staff, making people welcome at the Town office, making Erin a destination, imposing a levy on owners of vacant stores, reducing of light pollution and adopting a climate plan that includes solar power, use of greywater, permeable paving and other elements of Low Impact Development (LID).

Josie Wintersinger is opposed to a central system, saying that alternative technologies could reduce household costs to “just a few thousand dollars maximum”. She stressed affordable housing, especially for seniors, paving of rural roads, the benefits of the Operational Review (including better efficiency in the recreation department), the use of solar water heating and greywater and an effective committee system.

Rob Smith said once key areas are serviced, many homes could continue on private septic systems – with a monitoring program to ensure they are working properly. He stressed development of tourism and a reputation as a retirement community, staging development so people can assimilate, use of solar power at Centre 2000, broad expansion of recycling programs, efficiency through the Operational Review and stronger terms of reference for Town committees.

John Brennan said a performance based bidding process will help determine the best wastewater technology, and that he is open to having some new housing growth on septic systems once the capacity of the West Credit River to accept sewage effluent is used up. He wants the savings from small energy conservation projects reinvested in larger ones. He stressed working with the county on economic development and on emergency preparedness.

Chris Naraysingh said he doesn’t believe in large-scale treatment, wants alternatives considered and wants costs shared by senior governments and developers. He stressed the need for controlled development in all areas of the Town, for seniors housing, improved tax revenue from industrial and commercial activity, elimination of staff duplication, energy conservation (including improved lighting) and creating a resilient infrastructure without a tax burden.

Evelyn McLean said we do need a centralized sewage plant, but that it still needs investigation of the methods and costs, with a preference for using green technology. She stressed the need for business growth, better services for seniors, improved family recreation, more retail services in rural areas, a deterrent against those who dump garbage in the river, attention to roads that have been “sadly neglected” and promotion of local shopping.

Trustee candidates promote student benefits

As published in The Erin Advocate

Candidates for school trustee positions showed their enthusiasm and shared details of their skills and experience with Erin voters at a meeting on October 8, hosted by Transition Erin.

For the English Public School Trustee position, incumbent Kathryn Cooper of Erin was in attendance, while Brandon Moyer of Guelph could not attend and submitted a statement that was read by moderator Jay Mowat.

For the English Separate School Trustee position, candidates Cassandra Chornoboy of Rockwood and Shaun Redmond of Guelph were on hand. None of the candidates attended for the French Public or French Separate Trustee positions – their contact information is available on the Town website.

Kathryn Cooper favours a whole child approach to education and stressed her role as an environmental trustee on the Upper Grand District School Board, bringing in reforms for “eco-efficient facilities” and a vision that “inspires students to lead with new and sustainable ways of thinking”.

The board’s new environmental policy includes sustainability plans by each school, affecting all areas of learning, administration and maintenance. Solar panels have been installed at 41 schools, including Brisbane and Erin Public, feeding power into the Hydro grid and generating revenue of $375,000 per year for the board – which has an overall budget of $351 million.

She is proud of investments totalling $9 million in East Wellington schools, including Full-Day Kindergarten and improvements to French Immersion, and about the agreement to resolve long-standing problems with the Shared Use Agreement at Centre 2000. She has helped parents organize their campaign for a Community Safety Zone at Brisbane.

Brandon Moyer works for Bell Technical Solutions and has done community service with St. John’s Ambulance, raising funds to fight leukemia and the Hillside Festival. He is running for trustee because, “Although we have a great education system, there are still gaps and areas that need attention.”

He believes many students are not well prepared for transitions, and that the prime role of education is to teach them the “basics to succeed in life”. He promises to bring parents concerns to the board “in an open and transparent manner”. He would “provide fiscal accountability and honesty”, and explore “new ways of making the curricula easier for students to learn”.

Cassandra Chornoboy is a recent graduate of the separate school system, now working as a program coordinator at the Agricultural Adaptation Council in Guelph. She was elected by her peers and served for two years as a Student Trustee on the Wellington Catholic District School Board.

“If we want the Catholic faith to be protected, we have to get the youth involved,” she said, adding that agriculture should play a larger role in student learning. She said when educational assistants are not available to help struggling students, peer help should be organized to supplement the funded programs.

Her other experiences include serving as the Erin Fall Fair Ambassador, being a 4H leader and being elected to the Operations Committee at St. Peter’s Church in Oustic.

Shaun Redmond worked 12 years for the Wellington Catholic District School Board in technology roles, and said his “deep understanding of the organizational processes, and the social and psychological aspects that influence them are the core of what I bring to the table.”

His top priority is promoting leadership among youth, and said it is important to identify student problems early, in order to help them succeed.

He has been president of the Ontario Catholic School Business Officials Association, been involved in the Sacred Heart Parish Community and served at the board level with the Wellington Catholic Parent Involvement Committee “to gain a broader perspective across schools and join forces for the betterment of parents through workshops and conferences.”

Mayor launches Code of Ethics court challenge

As published in The Erin Advocate

As soon as Erin’s Integrity Commissioner had dismissed a series of complaints under the Council Code of Ethics by Mayor Lou Maieron last week, calling them unfounded and in some cases “vexatious”, the mayor announced that he would launch a formal challenge of the process in Ontario Superior Court.

The mayor declared a conflict of interest and vacated his seat at the council table as Integrity Commissioner Robert Williams presented his findings – summarized in last week’s Erin Advocate.

The four other councillors, who were all subjects of Maieron’s complaints, received the reports without comment. The full text of the reports is in the October 7 agenda, at www.erin.ca.

The mayor is launching the judicial review at his own cost, and demanding that fees charged by the Integrity Commissioner during this term of council be refunded to taxpayers. The current case will cost the Town about $7,000 and previous ones have cost up to $18,000. In addition, the commissioner’s contract guarantees that the Town will pay all of his costs, including legal fees and damages, if he is taken to court.

In a flyer distributed inside the council chambers, Maieron says that by submitting affidavits to the court on each complaint and report, he expects that, “The Truth will be revealed to all and a Judge will decide what’s fair and what’s not!”

Although he was the author of 15 out of the 17 current complaints, Maieron said he is the victim of “government bullying”, and complains that the Code has been used “to attack a person’s good name with no substantial evidence or validating court process”.

In Erin’s first Code case last year, an Integrity Commissioner ruled that Maieron was a “bully” who had violated the Code by abusing Town staff and improperly leaving a council meeting. In a case this year, he was found in violation on seven complaints, including improper handling of conflicts of interest linked to his lawsuit against the Town and improperly revealing confidential information. In each case, council imposed a penalty of one month’s pay.

He hopes the new council will abolish use of the optional Code of Ethics, which he calls a “kangaroo court”, and that it is ultimately removed from the Municipal Act, “so small town municipalities do not needlessly suffer as Erin has.”

Commissioner Williams admitted that there are uncertainties in Erin’s Code and provincial law, including right of reply for the defendant and how a council would decide on penalties if several of them were found to have violated the Code. He plans to write a report on the issues.

Williams suggested a blackout period so complaints could not interfere with an election campaign. He also said council should consider a “chargeback” provision, so that anyone making unsupported allegations could be forced to pay for the cost of the process.

He said a Code complaint involves an affidavit, essentially swearing an oath that the evidence supplied is true. The current complaints were largely without evidence and composed of broad allegations that did not even identify how the Code may have been violated, Williams said. The mayor contends that his complaints were “backed up by solid evidence”.

As soon as council had received Williams’ reports, Maieron accused him publicly of violating the Municipal Act by not maintaining confidentiality in a previous case, by naming an individual in his report. Williams disagreed, saying that he had acted properly with the powers granted to him by the Municipal Act, and that the identity of that individual had already been made public in court documents related to the complaint.

The Code of Ethics is intended to set behaviour standards for elected council members only. Complaints can be made by anyone, with the name of the complainant and defendant remaining confidential until the Integrity Commissioner makes a public report.

The commissioner has broad powers to conduct an inquiry, but it is an informal process of private interviews and non-public examination of evidence. After the report is made, the complaint itself and any evidence not reported by the commissioner remain confidential.

Council meeting postponed

As published in The Erin Advocate

There will be no more meetings of Town Council until after the October 27 election, since the October 21 meeting has been rescheduled for October 30.

At that meeting there will be two presentations, one from the recommended Economic Development Consultant, and one from the recommended Operational Review Consultant.

The actual hiring of the Economic Development professional is in the budget, but remains contingent on receipt of a $25,000 grant from Wellington County to offset the cost. Interviews were conducted recently, and CAO Kathryn Ironmonger told council she has received assurances that the grant will be forthcoming.

Timmy's sidewalk gets higher priority

As published in The Erin Advocate

A sidewalk from Ross Street to Tim Hortons has been bumped up to priority status for 2015, and the Town will ask Wellington County to pay 35% of the cost, Council decided on October 7.

Several years ago the project was estimated to cost $310,000, but now it is up to $370,000, according to a report by Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck.

“Major physical changes in the right of way will be necessary,” he said. Main Street is a County Road, so their permission is needed, but sidewalks are primarily a Town responsibility. One of the two ditches running to a stormwater pond in that section is on private property.

Town Councillor Barb Tocher, now running for County Council, said, “We need to have a partnership with the county and the landowners.”

Shane Baghai, developer of the medical centre and commercial properties including Tim Horton's, has already contributed $100,000 towards the sidewalk and wants the project to proceed. Council has expressed concerns about safety due to the large number of students walking in the area.

The project will require 550 metres of sidewalk, plus storm sewers or catch basins, a curb and gutter or physical separation to protect pedestrians and the filling of one of the ditches. It is not included in the capital budget or five-year forecast. Plans for the location of a sanitary sewer pipe may also have to be considered.

Land surveyor Rod Finnie, a former mayor now running to return to that same position, suggests that the easterly ditch on private land be filled in and the sidewalk built there, reducing the need for construction along the roadway. He has offered his services for free to prepare a topographical plan showing elevations of the land between the road and the east side of the second ditch. He would also survey any easements required.

“I believe that we could create a sidewalk that would provide safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists well away from the road,” he said.

Students help Habitat for Humanity

Students at Erin Public School put their painting talents to work on October 10, helping Habitat for Humanity refurbish unwanted items into valuable products. Habitat helps keep material out of landfill sites, selling a wide range of merchandise at its ReStore locations, including 104 Dawson Road in Guelph. This raises funds for its primary activity – mobilizing volunteers to build affordable housing. 

Nancy Fraser, Associate Director of Volunteer Services with
Habitat for Humanity, helps Meghan Allison use a hack saw
to chop the head off a golf club. The heads are inserted into
backer boards to create unique coat racks. 
Other projects
included converting old cupboard doors into serving trays
and old picture frames into miniature blackboards.

Colin Brownlow gets very precise with the yellow
paint on the back of his chair project.
Stenciled designs were added later.

Simon Wharton gave up on the paint brush and
used his hands to paint this chair yellow.

Braiden Reilley and Kole Wigfield apply pink paint
to coat rack boards.