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.

Caledon Tourism Study has ideas for Erin

As published in The Erin Advocate

If Erin wants to generate more tourist dollars, maybe it should borrow Caledon’s new Tourism Study. By replacing the word Caledon with Erin, we would be well on our way to our very own tourism strategy.

As Erin’s former CAO Frank Miele once said, “We don’t have to re-invent the wheel, especially when resources are very, very minimal.”

I’m just kidding about copying the report, of course. But since the Town of Erin is probably not ready to hire a consultant to create a local tourism plan, maybe our new council and anyone thinking about serving on the Economic Development Committee could get a few ideas by visiting

Caledon spent $40,000 on this project, with $15,000 covered by a provincial grant from the Rural Economic Development Program. Caledon has a population of 60,000, compared to Erin’s 11,000, and spends money on projects that we could never dream of.

Still, tourism could be chosen as one of our priorities. With Bob Cheetham being hired recently as Erin’s first Economic Development professional, we can expect a more organized approach on various initiatives.

It’s fine to support and get some help from larger entities including Wellington County, Hills of Headwaters Tourism, and the provincial agencies for our area, Central Counties Tourism and Huron-Perth-Waterloo-Wellington.

But we can’t expect them to do our job for us – aggressively promoting Erin and figuring out how to make it a more attractive destination for people. If council sets tourism enhancement as an important goal, it should be worthy of some investment.

The Caledon study says the Town should enable an “appropriate scale of tourism by enabling the natural evolution of tourism opportunities principally through private capital”.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, every 1,000 visitors is expected to generate $108,000 in visitor spending and $38,000 in labour income, generating one additional job.

The study recommends full collaboration and consultation with tourism organizations, conservation authorities, business operators, land owners and community members. It promotes “Geo-Tourism” that enhances the geographical character of a place – its environment, culture and heritage.

It seeks a balance between benefits for existing residents and tourists, and promotes a strategy of measuring visitation, maximizing opportunities for each season of the year and a focus not just on the number of visits, but on their economic yield. The key to higher yield is more overnight stays.

Municipal leadership is recommended in promotion and marketing of local assets, targeted provision of incentives, signage, wayfinding and visitor information within the town and infrastructure development, maintenance and enhancement. When deciding how to spend the capital budget, the tourism value of the project should be a factor.

Specific initiatives can include development of festivals, art events, sports events, culinary events and farm events, the attraction of specific groups such as cyclists, hikers, horse riders, and promotion of more “fixed roof accommodation” (Bed & Breakfast and Motel/Hotel units). The rehabilitation of gravel pits is also important.

Erin should also look at the extensive work done by nearby Towns in the area of trails. I may be somewhat biased on this point after being involved with the Erin Trails Committee, but there is no doubt that a well-developed network of public trails would be a valuable asset for residents, visitors, prospective residents and prospective business investors.

Caledon is supporting development of a Credit Valley Heritage Tourism Trail. Erin could do the same, looking to see what attractions can be promoted on the West Credit River as part of this inter-regional project.

Erin has a huge potential to develop public land and trails in the interests of local business, heritage, recreation and education – not to mention protection and enjoyment of our natural environment. Let’s look at what our neighbours are doing and get in the game.

November 19, 2014

Anti-British papers considered criminal

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)
Mr. and Mrs. John Green of the 9th Line of Erin have lately received a long letter from their son Elmer, who is with the first Canadian Contingent of the 48th Highlanders on the Salisbury Plains. They expect to move shortly from tents to huts that will each house 35 men. He says they are treated very kindly by the English and that they expect to visit London in a few days.

By an order-in-council, the Canadian government has made it a criminal offence to circulate or possess anti-British papers, which are apparently popular in Montreal. Offenders could face a $5,000 fine or two years in prison.

Economist Sir Henry Pellatt predicts that after a declaration of peace there will be a doubling of Canadian industries within five years. “We must build up enough industries to meet the needs of an ever-increasing agricultural population,” he said. “The close of the war will let loose the stream of emigration, and we shall see three or four hundred thousand people a year from Great Britain and Europe take their places as Canadian farmers.”

Remembrance Day in Erin, 2014
From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)
Harry Smith has been unanimously elected as the chairman of the newly formed Recreation Board, with Mrs. H.P. O’Sullivan as the Secretary. They decided to do a survey through the Erin Advocate to see what services are desired by people of all ages and what can be provided with existing facilities. The survey on page 7 includes choices ranging from a Rifle Club and Field Hockey to a Community Theatre and a Bridge Club. Choices for a new major facility include a swimming pool, a community park, tennis courts and a lawn bowling green.

Tenders are invited for the removal of the Erin Station of the Canadian Pacific Railway – one of 20 to be demolished as part of a consolidation project. CPR acquired the Erin line in 1880, and up to four passenger trains per day plus freight trains served the community. There were once special train excursions to the Erin Fair and Stanley Park, but passenger service was discontinued in 1958. The last regular agent at the station was Bill Weber.

The Wellington Board of Education has approved new facilities worth $100,000 at Ross R. MacKay School and $88,000 at Brisbane School. Each will get a general purpose room - gymnasium, two change rooms, a stage, storage rooms, a kitchen and a new entrance foyer, and MacKay will also get a teachers’ room.

The As We Were column recalled the Advocate of November 1910, in which it was reported that the population of Erin village was 526, while Orangeville had 2,351 and Grand Valley 759.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)
Erin Village Bylaw Enforcement Officer Robert Stewart had his tires slashed by vandals last week. In another incident, stop signs were removed at the intersection of 17 Sideroad and Second Line, leaving drivers unprotected.

Judy Andrews, originally from Florida, has set up shop at 2 Union Street in Erin, operating The Craft Menagerie. She does her own designs of home decorating items such as pillows, table cloths and stuffed animals.

Doris Fines, in her Dateline Ospringe column, reports that the Mimosa Metric Munchers had a Halloween party at Linda Moore’s house. The 4H girls made their own submarine sandwiches, and Brian Moore took them all for a hay ride, where there was much talking, laughing and singing.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)
Erin Village Bylaw Enforcement Officer Robert Stewart has responded to an anonymous Letter to the Editor, which complains that he is not doing his job by not enforcing the loitering bylaw. He said that Village Council has arranged with the OPP that charges would only be laid if the OPP provide the names and addresses of a group of people who do not disburse when told to do so by police. A follow-up Letter to the Editor was published from Kari-Ann Puckering, a young person who is part of the so-called “Becker’s Gang”. She says the group is unfairly blamed for downtown vandalism, and says the village has failed its youth by not delivering promised recreation such as a swimming pool, roller skating and teen dances.

Local focus will help build up community

As published in The Erin Advocate

There was a lot of talk during the election campaign about kicking some fresh energy into the Erin economy. With Christmas approaching, there are opportunities to take action that will strengthen the community.

One aspect is local shopping. You can only have a quaint shopping district if there is a critical mass of activity and the stores have enough revenue to survive. It is not a matter of charity, but of giving them the chance to compete.

So I urge people to walk around, talk to business owners, check out what’s available, go out for dinner, and try to do at least $50 worth of Christmas shopping within Erin. It’s all well and good to bring in new business investment, but the top priority has to be preserving and expanding what we have.

Another aspect may be called charity, but that too is really a local investment. By helping people through hard times, we improve everyone’s quality of life, build community awareness and cycle money through the local economy. And when our economy gets stronger, there will be less need for services like food banks.

There are lots of ways to volunteer and make donations, many of them organized by East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) and the various clubs and churches that contribute to its programs.

Despite living in a wealthy nation, some 842,000 Canadians got help from a food bank in March this year. That’s up only 1% since last year, but up 25% since 2008. Click here to access HungerCount 2014.

Demand continues to increase at the local Food Bank. They have helped 1,088 people (including family members) so far this year, distributing 39,596 pounds of food – the equivalent of $99,000 at the grocery store – and the year is far from over.

Station 10 Firefighters are holding their 10th Annual Food Drive and Barbecue on November 22 and 23, 10 am to 2 pm at Marc’s Valu-mart.

The Brighten Up Toy and Game Shop at 67 Main Street is holding its 3rd Annual Toy Drive on November 22, 11 am to 3 pm, supporting EWCS efforts to provide Christmas cheer to local families, seniors and single people in need.

“Times are definitely tough at Christmas for many of our client families who are already struggling with a limited budget,” said Erika Westcott, EWCS Manager of Marketing and Fund Development.

EWCS will launch its annual Christmas appeal on December 2. Last year they surpassed their target of $25,000, and will be shooting for the same amount this year. They’ll also be promoting their new, more accessible website.

The agency had been investigating the idea of a community kitchen, but it was an expensive project that really wasn’t wanted by clients. They have been able to follow through with some workshops on how to make nutritious meals at low cost.

The Adopt-A-Family Christmas program provides donors with several ways to help. Anonymous sponsorship of families with children 16 and under is coordinated by The Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington. Clients provide a wish list and donors are asked to provide some gifts (including something small for the parents) and a $25 grocery gift card for each family member.

The EWCS office coordinates sponsorship of seniors, adults of youths over 16. Donors can team up with friends or fellow members of various groups to co-sponsor a family. People can also contribute to food hampers that ensure clients get a Christmas dinner and Christmas morning breakfast. And of course, donations of food or any amount of money are appreciated at any time of the year.

“Everything that comes in is used – the focus is on the clients,” said Westcott. There’s more information at, or call 519-833-9696.

‘Tis the season for shopping close to home

As published in Country Routes

Whether you are looking for toys, clothing, food, practical supplies or indulgent specialty products, shops in the Erin area offer a wide selection for Christmas shoppers, with competitive prices and plenty of friendly personal service.

“We’re not just here to make the Town look nice,” said Chris Bailey of Brighten Up Toys and Games, the new chair of the Business Improvement Area (BIA).

Stores were beautifully decorated and very busy during Erin’s 12th Annual Window Wonderland last Friday night. They are ready to compete not just for tourist shoppers, but also for the business of Erin residents.

Here are a few gift ideas.

Brighten Up is always on the lookout for toys, games and puzzles that are a little bit different, but still meet the essential criteria – fun, durable, easy to learn and use, promoting creativity and reasonably priced.

He likes products such as the Imagine I Can Magnetic Play Sets, which have abstract shapes that kids use to create scenes and dress up characters. A float-along bath book for young children, with an attached collection of bath toys has also caught his attention.

“It’s popular with grandparents,” he said.

For older kids, teens and adults, one of his favourite games is Magic Labyrinth. Players are on a quest for rewards, with the game pieces guiding a magnetic ball through a hidden, changeable maze. Drop the ball and you’re back to square one.

“We look for games that are challenging, but still accessible,” he said. They sell traditional products such as Monopoly, wooden toys and building sets – including Lego at the same price you’d pay at Walmart.
Chris Bailey of Brighten Up Toys and Games    
Just down the street, Budson Farm and Feed is known for providing a wide selection of products, going beyond the needs of the farm community. Owner Alf Budweth wants to “bring people back to a traditional feeling” with practical gifts such as riding boots, toboggans and bird feeders (plus bird seed, of course), and clothing that ranges from whimsical onesie pyjamas to warm mitts, stylish hats and durable winter coats.

“We make a conscious effort to be different from the big stores,” said Manager Carol Wetering. They’ve created a farm store meeting place atmosphere and set up pathways of animal tracks on the floor that kids can follow to colouring stations. They got kindergarten and Grade 1 kids from Erin Public School to decorate their Christmas tree, and provide a stable full of animals to a village in Africa instead of buying gifts for their business associates.

Budson’s also offers a wide array of supplies for Erin’s many horse farms, while household gifts include dish towels, pet supplies, eco-soy candles and farm-themed toys.
Carol Wetering and Alf Budweth of Budson Farm and Feed    

On Old Main Street in Belfountain, Credit Creek Country Store provides a good browsing experience, with lots of affordable clothing, home decor and jewellery. Over the past 25 years, owner Linda Lewis has perfected the art of choosing products that move well in the Christmas gift-buying season.

These include Canadian-made sweaters, novelty gift books, floor puzzles and cute Jellycat stuffed animals. Clothing is the primary focus, with stocking stuffers such as pepperoni-print socks, plus unique scarves, hats, mitts and handbags.

There are gifts tailored to people with special hobbies such as cycling or golf, and themed earrings that you won’t find at the mall. In the personal care section there are coordinated soap products that can be combined as gifts, and hand sanitizers with funny sayings.

Decoration needs are well met, not just for the Christmas tree, but for various areas of the home, with flour sack tea towels, many types of candles, objects of art and craft creations that are suitable for any season.
Linda Lewis of Credit Creek Country Store    

November 12, 2014

Fab Four make a splash at David’s

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Fab Four band took Erin on a colourful trip down memory lane Saturday night, lighting up David’s Restaurant with their tribute to The Beatles.

It wasn’t exactly the Ed Sullivan Theatre, but there was plenty to stimulate the nostalgic imagination of a room packed with fans old enough to remember the original band’s New York appearances on three consecutive Sundays in February 1964.

It was part of a plan by restaurateur David Netherton to make dinner entertainment a bigger part of Erin’s image, by bringing in bigger acts like ones that used to be popular when Stage West Dinner Theatre operated in Mississauga.

“There’s only so many entertainment dollars, but people will pay for quality,” said Netherton, who tries to do something special about once a month. It has ranged from Yuk Yuk’s comedy and musicians of good repute to dinner shows by Erin Community Theatre – their 8th annual Christmas show, The Art of Believing, runs December 10-19, with details at

Restaurant owner David Netherton with members of the Fab Four tribute
band (left to right) Mark Harrison as Paul, John McDonald as John,
John Turfryer as Ringo and Tom Walsh as George.
As Erin builds up its destination profile, Netherton is hoping to schedule a series of shows and perhaps work with other local businesses to sponsor bus trips to the area that would combine the town’s natural beauty with shopping, dining and entertainment.

Century Church Theatre in Hillsburgh has been attracting customers from far afield for many years, with an annual brochure packed with theatre and music, both professional and amateur. Their 10th annual traditional English pantomime, Snow White and the Famous Seven, runs November 21-30, and singer Debbie BeChamp leads A Country Christmas matinee on December 7. Details are at

Netherton is able to fill his banquet room using posters in the restaurant and around town, website and Facebook promotion, a monthly e-newsletter and flyers in The Advocate to get the word out.

The Toronto based Fab Four put on an energetic performance, with lots of attention to detail in Beatles costumes, hair, instruments and re-creation of the music without any pre-recorded sound or digital tricks.

Naturally, they follow a timeline, starting with simple early hits like All My Loving and She Loves You, progressing to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Hard Day’s Night, and mellowing out with Imagine and Hey Jude.

There was lots of audience participation with dancing, clapping and, when requested, screaming women. Stand-out vocals and stage presence were provided by Mark Harrison on the left-handed bass as Paul and John McDonald as John, with Tom Walsh as George and John Turfryer as Ringo taking their turns to make sure that a good time was had by all.