March 23, 2016

New signs will boost Wellington County identity

As published in The Erin Advocate

Erin will be getting some fancy new signs at its borders, as Wellington County tries to offer a friendlier welcome to visitors.

A new signage strategy called This Way to Wellington was approved by County Council last month. It was developed with local focus groups and a public survey by Stempski Kelly Associates, the same consulting firm that is doing Erin’s Riverwalk Feasibility Study.

The Wellington County Coat of Arms

The signage is expected to cost at least $200,000 over the next three years.

New “gateway” welcome signs will replace the simple blue ones, informing drivers on major roads that they are entering Wellington County. They will be 2.7 metres (9 feet) wide with a curved top, and Welcome to Wellington County in large letters. The background is blue, with images of growing grain, and the County Coat of Arms inset.

In case you have not paid much attention to the Coat of Arms, which is at the centre of the County logo, it features Arthur Wellesley, the First Duke of Wellington, holding a sword and riding a white horse. Below that is a red cross dividing a blue background with five white dots in each quadrant, surrounded by golden sheaves of wheat. The motto is VISION VALOUR.

The welcome signs will have the name of the local municipality, such as Erin, in the lower right corner on a grey background. They are intended to complement existing local welcome signs.

Erin will get two primary signs, which means they will be mounted in an attractive rock landscaping. One will be on County Road 124 as drivers enter from Caledon, and the other will be on Trafalgar Road as drivers from Halton Hills cross the county line in Ballinafad. Each installation will cost about $6,000.

Secondary welcome signs will be the same size and design, but simply mounted on posts, and will cost $3,500 each. When the project is complete, Erin will have one of these on County Road 125 just north of Acton at the Halton Hills border, and another on Trafalgar Road north of Hillsburgh, at the East Garafraxa Township border.

There are 62 roads entering the county, but the smaller ones will not get signs. There will be 13 primary signs and 18 secondary ones.

There will also be directional signs of the same style near Erin village and Ballinafad, pointing towards other destinations. There would only be 18 of these throughout the county.

Another type of sign is called “Pay-to-Play”, meaning that businesses will pay a proposed annual fee of $250 to have their attraction featured. The number of these has not been determined, but each will cost $2,500. They provide classy-looking tourism promotion to local towns, without cluttering up the countryside with a wide variety of signs.

March 16, 2016

Refugee group launched to sponsor a Syrian family

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Erin Refugee Action group was launched on March 3, with the goal of bringing a Syrian family of four to live in the community.

A fundraising target of $40,000 has been set, to provide for various needs during the family’s first year in Canada. That’s more than the minimum of $27,000, since the group wants to have a contingency fund for unexpected costs.

“We’ve raised $9,500 so far, and have an anonymous donor matching funds – we’re almost halfway there,” said Chair Barbara Harrison. “We have heard that many of the Syrian refugees are from rural areas. We hope to be matched with one of those families.”

The timing is still uncertain. The family could arrive within three months of a match being made, or it could take up to a year, said Harrison.

Support for the project has been provided by Transition Erin and local churches. The application for the sponsorship is being done through the Anglican Diocese of Niagara with local charitable donations processed by All Saints Church in Erin.

The money raised so far is in addition to about $10,000 raised in December with an event at Erin United Church, mainly to support the First Line for Syria sponsorship in Mono. That group has now welcomed a Syrian family of three. Khaleel Huseyin Alos, his wife Sabah Abdulkadir, and their seventeen-year-old daughter Helin had to move from their home city of Damascus to a refugee camp in Turkey. Now they have moved into an apartment in Shelburne.

Erin Refugee Action has set up a steering committee and has a broader group of volunteers. Drivers will be needed to help a family get to shopping, employment, appointments and English language classes.

“We'd love to get the service groups involved as well as other churches, local businesses and any community groups,” said Harrison. “One of our goals is to create community connections. We are hoping that other groups will take on some of the fundraising.”

The plan is to start off with temporary housing in Erin, then arrange longer-term accommodation either in the Town or within a practical distance, depending on the needs and preferences of the family.

Anyone who wants to volunteer, or find out what is happening, is welcome at the next meeting on April 6, from 7 to 9 pm (or come at 6 pm to be part of the fundraising team meeting). The location is All Saints Anglican Church Hall, on Main Street, Erin. Two immigrants from Syria will be leading a discussion on Syrian culture and resettlement.

Donation cheques should be made out to All Saints Anglican Church (with Erin Refugees in the memo line). Tax receipts will be issued for donations $10 and over. Donations can be mailed to Erin Refugee Action, PO Box 308, Erin, N0B 1T0. On-line giving options are being arranged, and donations of furniture, clothes and food will eventually be needed.

“We'll keep fundraising even after reaching our $40,000 goal,” said Harrison. “We may end up being matched with a family larger than 4 members (and therefore need more money) or might even consider sponsoring a second family, perhaps related to the first.”

More information is available on the Erin Refugee Action Facebook page. Email contact can be made at

In addition to the 25,000 Syrians the Canadian government had committed to resettling, it has announced a plan to increase the number of privately sponsored refugees this year. The number had previously been about 6,000 per year, but now they are setting aside up to 18,000 spaces for them.

Immigration officials have told private sponsorship groups that Syrian refugees who arrive after March 1 will have to pay back the costs of their airfares and medical exams — about $1,000 for each plane ticket and several hundred dollars per person for health screening. Sponsorship groups would not be obligated to cover that cost, but they could end up doing so.

However, Syrians being sponsored through the government-assisted “Blended Visa Office Referred” program – the joint sponsorship that the Erin group hopes to be part of – will continue to have those expenses paid by the government.

Overall, Canada plans to admit between 280,000 and 305,000 new permanent residents this year, the highest projected level in decades. There will be a priority on reuniting families. Those coming primarily to seek work in Canada will make up the largest block of the 2016 immigrants, estimated at 162,400 people.

March 02, 2016

What are the top things you’d like to see in Erin?

As published in The Erin Advocate

The list could be quite long, but let’s start with the top three. What things would you like to see in Erin? The question is being asked by Robyn Mulder, the Town’s Economic Development Officer.

Of course, we already have some great stores, restaurants and services, but more economic activity is clearly needed. There has been some gloom and doom talk lately due to a number of vacant storefronts, especially Mundell Lumber.

We’ve been suffering from a lack of new population and affordable housing, which is impacting businesses, schools and non-profit organizations. The community remains very attractive and resilient, though and I believe that moderate growth will resume in the next few years.

Some new businesses are moving into downtown Erin village. Mejores Foods is selling meats, cheeses, baking supplies and bulk foods. Brighten Up Toys and Games has expanded its educational camp facilities.

A Benjamin Moore Paints outlet has opened at Decor Solutions. The Busholme Inn is being renovated and will reopen soon. Snowberry Botanicals has moved in beside Treehaven Natural Foods, offering floral arrangements and bouquets, plus event planning and rentals.

The former Renaissance location will soon have a store called Epiphany – a second location for Laura Demers who has operated the Epiphany store in Elora for the last five years. It is a boutique specializing in affordable clothing, plus accessories, books, cards and gifts.

I’ve been hearing rumours of new developments at the old Guardian Fiberglass plant, and the old elementary school, so some good news would be welcome at those locations.

Erin needs a full-fledged trail system to help attract visitors and residents to our stores and natural areas. We have some good trails now, but a riverside boardwalk in Erin village and a trail around the Hillsburgh pond would be huge steps forward.

A retirement home would be a perfect fit, and more children in the community would be a welcome boost to the daycare / nursery school sector.

There have been efforts to create an outlet for reusable household goods (similar to Wastewise in Georgetown), and I remain hopeful that it will happen some day. It would be nice to have electronics and sporting goods stores, but we need the right population and market conditions to make them financially viable.

In 2012, I proposed building a Big Shamrock, a huge, green icon of our identity that could be known around the world – in the same way that the Big Nickel has put Sudbury on the map. Read more by Googling: erin “big shamrock”.

Revitalizing our commercial areas with more of what people want and need all year round will add value to the “buy local” proposition. Progress will be built on confidence in the town’s future, so it is in everyone’s interest to be salespeople for the community – building it up and talking it up.

“I’m focusing on small, independent businesses,” said Mulder. “The biggest part of my job is connecting with people.” You can call her with your comments at 519-855-4407 ext. 241, email, or drop in for a chat at the Town office.

It was a big step for the Town to hire someone with the expertise to help retain existing businesses and recruit new ones. The least we can do is tell her what we want.