Jeff Green

Jeff Green

Frontenac County Council decided not to grant $48,000 each to Rural Frontenac Community Services (RFCS) and Southern Frontenac Community Services (SFCS), to provide transportation services for Frontenac County residents in 2019.

Instead, they put $96,000 aside and tasked warden Ron Higgins with trying to bring the two organisations together to come back to the county with a combined proposal. Higgins has a month to report back to Council on his progress.

Until this year, the two agencies had made a joint application for funding every year since 2011, when Frontenac Transportation Services (FTS) was established. RFCS oversees FTS, provided transportation to SFCS clients under a Memorandum of Understanding that was severed in October of last year.

RFCS had requested $96,000 from Frontenac County in 2019, and committed to transferring $25,600 of that money to SFCSC.

SFCSC made a counter proposal, asking for $62,400 in funding, leaving $33,600 for RFCS.

Noting that both of the agencies may see significant changes in the amount of money they receive for transportation from the Ontario Ministry of Health, due to pending healthcare reform, Frontenac County Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Pender recommended that the county make a one time grant of $48,000 to each agency in 2019, and then consider what to do in the long term in the 2020 budget process. A motion was made to that effect.

Speaking to the motion, Warden Higgins said he did not support the 50/50 split of funds.

“Why should we give them $48,000 each when they have no plan, when we had been supporting an integrated program in the past. They should come to us together,” he said.

South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal agreed.

“We told them last year to come up with a business plan for transportation and instead they came with two competing proposals. Why should we encourage two transportation services in one county,” said Vandewal.

Higgins then proposed amendment to the motion. The amendment said that all of the $96,000 should be held in a reserve fund until the two agencies can agree on a single proposal for transportation.

“I’m concerned that any delay in delivering funding will result in people in need, not getting where they have to go. Besides we know the two organisations aren’t getting along over this. They’ve been trying to work this out and they can’t. What makes us think they will work it out now,” said Central Frontenac Mayor Frances Smith.

“I haven’t tried to make it work yet,” said Higgins.

Higgins said that if the amendment were passed, he would contact the two agencies and meet with them, then report back to Council in short order. Council meets in regular session on February 20 and again on March 20.

The amendment was approved, with Mayor Smith registering the only dissenting vote.

The county budget still reflects a $96,000 expense, just under 1% of the budget requisition.

When Frontenac County Council completed their budget meetings last week, the Councillors seemed to be happy about the result. They wanted to keep the tax increase to the cost of living index, which was 3.1%, and county staff presented them with that number.

The only problem is that 3.1% is not the tax increase for 2019, it is something else entirely.

It is the figure for what county staff call the “total levy impact” of a budget which will result in a 5.2% increase in the amount of money that, collectively, Frontenac County ratepayers will pay this year to finance Frontenac County.

Last year we paid $9.75 million, and this year we will pay $10.25 million (all rounded figures), a 5.2% increase. That’s a pretty simple calculation and that’s the way we have always reported tax increases in this newspaper and that’s the way we are reporting them this year.

So, what is this 3.1% all about?

It is about playing games with numbers to come with a result that sounds better than it really is.

To get to 3.1% you have to start thinking about the way municipal taxes are collected, and how that relates to property values. Every property in Ontario is assessed for value by MPAC, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, and we pay tax by multiplying the tax rate, which is set by our municipalities, by the assessed value of our properties. The total assessed value of Frontenac County properties is up by 2.1% this year over last year. Frontenac County staff deducted that increase from the 5.2% tax increase to come up with a 3.1% “total levy impact”.

The problem is that the “total levy impact” has nothing to do with budgeting, or the actual amount of money we are all going to end up paying.

Property assessments go up in two ways. One is through new construction, new homes, renovations to older homes, new garages and decks, etc. Permits for $45 to $50 million worth of new assessment are sold each year in Frontenac County, and two to three years later those building projects result in new property value, in some cases even brand-new taxpayers. This amount of real growth represents about a 1% increase in assessment.

This 1% increase reflects a real increase in property values in our county, more garbage, perhaps even more roads. Most of these increases have a minimal effect on the cost of running a municipality in the short run, but over time they will eventually have a measurable impact.

In their budgeting, the South Frontenac Treasury Department calculates this “assessment increase due to growth” and builds in some breathing space for their budget with that money. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but at least this kind of assessment has some relation to the cost of delivering services.

In 2018, Frontenac County used this 1% figure to mitigate against the overall tax increase, in much the same way South Frontenac does.

This rest of the growth in assessment comes from the MPAC four-year assessment cycle, which is essentially a virtual exercise. Once ever four years, MPAC analyses statistical sales data from across the province, and without necessarily visiting properties in person, assigns a new value to every property in the province. Since property values tend to go up, so do the MPAC assessments. These new values are phased in, so most properties in Ontario see their value increase every year by at least a few thousand dollars. These increases do not relate to any real new ‘value’ and they don’t result in any added municipal costs. They do not relate in any way to municipal operations, and they don’t put money in property owner’s pockets either. But they can result in higher taxes because a municipality receives a bump in tax revenue without raising the tax rate.

In their 2019 budget, for the first time, Frontenac County is deducting this increased revenue from their budget increase. They are claiming that these increases are not real, that they have no “total levy impact”. But they are real enough for ratepayers, because they result in more tax to pay.

Municipal councils need to make sure their managers control costs, and can justify any of the inevitable cost increases that they request for their department. They also should be honest, with themselves and with us, about tax increases.

In Frontenac County this year, 5.2% is the real increase. The County could claim that new taxes on real growth mitigates against that 5.2% increase by up to 1%, legitimately report an increase of 4.2%. I would still report it as a 5.2% increase, with a 1% mitigation due to growth, but that is a quibble.

But the 3.1% claim about “total levy impact” is misleading, at best.

When we get our tax bills, we will see the real dollar increases. There is no way to sugar coat that.

Saturday, 09 February 2019 12:46

CBC new story misleading, Gordon Dean says

CBC News as well as Global  and VTC News are reporting on a recall of Betty Bread and Nancy's Fancy products that sell at Mike Dean's Super Food Store in Sharbot Lake.

Gordon Dean, President of Mike Dean's, said that the recall report is misleading because only one Nancy's Fancy product, which has been removed from the shelves at the store, was produced in the plant where the contamination has been foun

"To our valued customers: The bakery in Pointe Claire, Quebec that manufactures our Nancy's Fancy PIZZA CRUST products has recalled the three Pizza Crust products we sell in our stores. These have been removed from sale and anyone that has purchased them we ask that you return them for a full refund. All other Nancy's Fancy Bread and Nancy's Fancy Bun products are not effected and are fully safe to enjoy as they are baked and packaged in completely separate bakeries in Montreal and Saint-Jerome," said Dean in an email to the News, whichi has also been posted on the grocery store website.

The CBC News item, which pasted at 9:30am this morning, reads as follows: "The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for Betty brand and Nancy's Fancy Yummy in the Tummy brand bakery products. The agency says the products may be unsafe due to possible contamination from mice infestation at the manufacturing plant. The affected products were sold in Ontario and Quebec up to and including Feb. 8, and may contain harmful bacteria. Consumers who bought the baked goods are advised to throw them out or return them to the store where they were purchased. The CFIA says there have been no reports of illness linked to the products."

An identical report was posted at Global News

 

They are actually called ice resurfacers, and the Frontenac Community Arena Board has decided to replace their aging 2000 Olympia M propane powered model with a 2019 Engo Wolf Electric model.

As arena manager, Tim Laprade explained in his report to the board concerning the replacement that the initial cost of the Engo Wolf is much higher than a 2018 Olympia M - $165,000 as compared to $98,000. However, when the projected operational costs over the 16 year estimate lifespan of the two machines are factored in, the Engo Wolf at $211,000 is a cheaper option as compared to the Olympia M at $292,000.

The main saving is in the cost of electricity for the Engo Wolf: $6,000 per year, compared to the propane costs of the Olympia: $38,000 per year.

“We will actually use less electricity for ice-resurfacing with the Engo Wolf than we do now, because we need to run electrical fans at ice level to blow the fumes out of the building when the Olympia is running. We won’t need to power those fans anymore with the electric model.”

Laprade said that the air quality and overall environmental impact of the electric resurfacer are more important factors than the cost savings.

“The propane fumes are heavier than air, so they remain at ice level if we don’t ventilate, right where children are skating. Arena air quality is regulated, and we meet the standards, but with no fumes to clear out and no potential leaks from propane tanks to worry about, air quality is safeguarded with an electric machine,” he said.

The Engo Wolf also has a better blade system than the Olympia, and will save staff time changing blades on the machine- a weekly or even twice weekly one-hour job that will be all but eliminated, Laprade added. The new machine, which is scheduled for delivery in time for the September opening of the arena, will make the Frontenac Arena one of the few small rural arenas to make the leap to a modern, cleaner technology, according to Laprade.

The ice resurfacer purchase will be followed by larger arena upgrades in 2020 and 2021, when the floor and the refrigeration systems are due for replacement.

“Both of those are 45 years old and at the end of their useful lives. Replacing them will put the arena on a good footing,” he said.

The purchase was approved by the arena board last week, to be funded by the arena reserve fund. The arena is jointly owned by South and Central Frontenac, and is overseen by a board that is made up of appoints by the South and Central Frontenac township councils.

Laprade’s report to the arena board was included in the agenda for the South Frontenac Council meeting this week, as an information item.

Wednesday, 06 February 2019 11:55

Frontenac County draft budget

Frontenac County Council is meeting over two days this week to discuss the draft 2019 Frontenac County budget.

Council will look at departmental business plans first before tackling the budget numbers and a proposed 3.6% increase in the dollars to be requisitioned from township councils,

They will also consider a set of project proposals, which, if adopted, would result in further increases.

Much of the 3.6% ($354,000) increase comes from increased wage costs across the various services that the county manages. There are relatively high increases in the budgets for the two largest county-run services: the county-owned Fairmount Home long-term care facility (7.83% - a $96,000 increase in money to be paid by Frontenac County residents) and Frontenac Paramedic Services (3.4% - a $65,000 increase).

There are a series of increases in other county operations in the draft budget.

Among these is governance (11% - a $26,000 increase in the levy), almost entirely due to an increase in council members pay, which was approved by the outgoing council last fall.

The corporate services budget is also up (3.65% - a $73,000 increase in the levy), also mainly due to pay increases.

The Planning and Development budget is also up (10.3% - a $67,000 increase in the levy), again, mainly due to pay increases.

The “total requisition” to county ratepayers is up to $10.1 million in the draft budget. The increase is larger than it appears at first glance, because it comes even after cutting a long-standing $96,000 grant to Frontenac Transportation Services out of the budget. The grant, which has been included in the county budget for that last 8 years, has been moved out of the draft document and is now included as a potential add-on, a “project proposal”.

Treasurer Susan Brant said that the $96,000 has been pulled because there are now competing requests for that money and Council will have a series of options to consider.(see page 2 – Pender recommends King Solomon solution for FTS)

The total county operation will cost over $43 million to run this coming year, but contributions from the Government of Ontario and the City of Kingston, for paramedic services and Fairmount Home, cover much of the overall cost.

County Treasurer Susan Brant has included a list of ‘project proposals’ that different department heads will be pitching to Council this week.

These include two positions at Fairmount Home: a new evening personal support worker and a part time recreationist. The cost to the county budget for this position is $24,500 for the personal support worker and $15,000 for the recreationist position. Fairmount is also asking for $1,500 from the county budget for parking lot repairs. The other major project proposal is coming from Frontenac Paramedic Services: $8,400 from the county budget for a paramedic wellness position. Together with some smaller projects from corporate services, the project proposals (if they are all adopted) would add an additional $59,000 (or 0.6%) to the increase.

Among the project proposals from external agencies is a $10,000 grant to Central Frontenac Housing Corporation, and a $600,000 estimated annual cost for a night shift at the Robertsville paramedic station in North Frontenac.

Finally, Council will be looking at the $96,000 proposal for transportation services.

If Council approves all of the internally generated project proposals as well as the transportation funding, without making cuts elsewhere in the budget, ratepayers will see a 5% increase in county taxes. The added paramedic shift in North Frontenac would result in a 6% budget increase on its own, bringing the total increase to over 11%.

Council is considering the budget on Wednesday and Thursday of this week, and a tentative third date has been set aside on Wednesday, February 13th if they don’t get it done in two days.

It is anticipated that the budget document will come to the regularly scheduled February Council meeting (Wednesday, February 20) for final approval.

Frontenac Transportation Services (FTS), which is operated by Rural Frontenac Community Services (RFCS), has been funded by Frontenac County under the heading of “grants to others” since FTS was established in May of 2011.

County support for rural transportation goes further back however, to 2003 or even earlier. The agencies that are now known as Southern Frontenac Community Services (SFCS) and Rural Frontenac Community Services (RFCS) received support from Frontenac County to help transport their far-flung clientele to their service centres in Sharbot Lake and Sydenham. A few years later, RFCS set up a transportation service, called Rural Routes, to consolidate its existing transportation operations for children, families, and seniors under one service. Rural Routes also offered transportation to the general public and to clientele who are supported by social service agencies within the catchment area of Central and North Frontenac.

As early as 2006, RFCS approached Frontenac County for secure, year over year funding to support Rural Routes. Meanwhile, SFCS also continued to approach the county each year for transportation funding.

At that time, County Council, and particularly South Frontenac Mayor Gary Davison, took the view that Frontenac County should be supporting one transportation service, that was offered on an equal basis throughout at least the mainland portion of the county. RFCS, as the operator of Rural Routes, and SFCS, were told that they needed to work together and come to the county for a single grant.

A couple of consultations later, arrangements were made between the two agencies for the formation of Frontenac Transportation Services (FTS) in May of 2011. FTS was and is still run by RFCS. It provides service to Frontenac County residents using volunteer drivers who receive mileage payments but no money for their volunteer hours. It provides rides to RFCS clients and the general public in Frontenac County for a fee. Until recently, FTS also provided service to SFCS clients under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between SFCS and RFCS. Despite ongoing challenges, that MOU held for over 7 years, until late last fall.

For several years Frontenac Transportation Service received steady funding from Frontenac County, starting at $86,000 per year in 2011 and eventually rising to $96,000 per year.

In 2017, FTS ran a deficit for the first time, and asked for an increase in funding from Frontenac County for the 2018 budget year. In their 2018 budget, Frontenac County provided some extra funding, on a one-time basis, and RFCS was instructed to prepare a comprehensive business case within one-year in order to justify a permanent increase. Meanwhile, in February, 2018, SFCS signaled its intention to terminate its MOU effective April 1/2018 because it found the program was costing the agency too much money. After RFCS and FTS attempted, unsuccessfully, to satisfy the concerns of SFCS over the summer, the MOU was terminated in October of 2018.

Part of the complicated backdrop for this outcome relates to the differences in the scope of services offered by the two agencies. SFCS receives the bulk of its funding from the Ministry of Health to provide services for seniors. In addition, it receives provincial funding, filtered through the City of Kingston, for homelessness prevention throughout Frontenac County. It also runs the Grace Hall and the South Frontenac Food Bank, using mostly locally fundraised dollars.

RFCS also receives Ministry of Health funding to provide services for seniors, and operates the Child Centre, providing daycare services in Sharbot Lake. RFCS also operates the EarlyOn childhood education program throughout Frontenac County, and family and youth programming for residents of Central and North Frontenac. It considers itself a “cradle to grave” agency, serving children, youth, adults, families, and seniors.

These differences are relevant to transportation. As of October of 2017, SFCS is offering transportation only to seniors in South Frontenac. This reflects the agencies overall service mandate. And the only transportation funding support that SFCS receives, which comes from the Ministry of Health, is earmarked specifically for seniors.

RFCS and its offshoot FTS remain committed to providing transportation services for all ages in South, Central and North Frontenac.

The two agencies also take different views about volunteer mileage payments. RFCS and FTS believes it is fair to pay mileage on the same basis as it is paid by employers, taking into account the life cycle costs for vehicles as well as fuel costs.

SFCS believes that volunteer drivers are not like employees using their own vehicle to drive within the working day. They believe it fair to pay volunteer drivers only enough to cover gas, and regular maintenance costs and not take major repair and vehicle replacement costs into account.

Since mileage payments are the largest component in the cost of rides, this philosophical difference has major cost implications for the cost of transportation services.

As Frontenac County Council considers their 2019 budget this week, they are faced with competing proposals for $96,000 in funding.

RFCS proposes that FTS receive the $96,000 as in other years, and they will transfer about $25,600 of that money to SFCS to subsidise rides (which is how the money has been divvied out since 2011.)

SFCS has made a counter–proposal, asking for 65% of the $96,000, or $62,400, leaving $33,600 for FTS

In support of their submission, SFCS points to the Strategic Plan that was adopted by Frontenac County Council in 2014. One of the “wildly important goals” that was identified in that document was to ensure that seniors in Frontenac County have secure transportation to necessary medical and other appointments. This, according to SFCS, makes its own focus on seniors’ rides consistent with the county’s own direction. As well, South Frontenac is the home of 65% of Frontenac County residents.

In a staff report, signed off by Chief Administrative Officer Kelly Pender, Frontenac County Council is being presented with 5 options regarding transportation. Option 1: pull back from supporting transportation entirely and save $96,000. Option 2: put out a new Request for Proposal for transportation services. Option 3: accept the RFCS submission. Option 4: accept the SFCS proposal. The final option (option 5) which Pender is recommending, is to split the $96,000 in two and give $48,000 to each agency in 2019, subject to negotiating acceptable terms and conditions with each of them for a one-year contract.

For those who are unfamiliar with the old testament, here is the Wikipedia version of King Solomon’ solution story: “The Judgment of Solomon is a story from the Hebrew Bible in which King Solomon of Israel ruled between two women both claiming to be the mother of a child. Solomon revealed their true feelings and relationship to the child by suggesting to cut the baby in two, with each woman to receive half” – The first woman accepted the solution and the second said she would rather let the first woman have the baby rather than see it cut in half, Solomon gave the baby to the second women. As to the first woman, things did not go well for her.

This King Solomon option might not provide enough money for either agency to continue offering transportation services, but it has the advantage of not showing favour to either agency.

One of the risks that comes from the two agencies’ inability to present a common front to the county on transportation is that the $96,000 has been pulled from the budget, where it has been for the last 7 years. It is now an optional add on.

To extend a metaphor well beyond recognition, all of this makes for a greater chance that Frontenac County Council may decide on option 1, to abandon the transportation baby at the side of the road, rather than splitting it in two and offering one half each to RFCS and SFCS.

The strongest deterrent against option 1 is the fact that by supporting the efforts of the two agencies in the past, the county has been able to help provide publicly available transportation to its residents for a minor cost, about 1% of the money it collects from Frontenac County residents each year.

Pulling back from that commitment would leave those needy residents out in the cold.

Editors note – As a Board member of RFCS (Rural Frontenac Community Services) – formerly known as Northern Frontenac Community Services, I represented RFCS on the committee overseeing Frontenac Transportation Services (FTS) along with staff and board members from Southern Frontenac Community Services, between 2011 and October, 2018, when I left the RFCS board. The above article is intended as an overview of the stakes in the debate that is before Frontenac County Council this week as they consider their 2019 budget. JG)

It’s become routine now. A dozen or so members and supporters of the Maberly Fair Board trooped into courtroom 2 at the town of Perth Courthouse on Monday morning at 9:30, just like they have on five previous occasions since last September. The case that interests them is a charge of Fraud over $5,000 against Bonnie Palmer, a Maberly-based business owner who, at one time, served as the Fair’s treasurer.

Palmer has not appeared in court as of yet, but her lawyer, Mark MacDonald, has been working with the Crown on a proposed resolution of the case. Two weeks ago, on January 21, MacDonald arrived in court well after the 9:30 start time, much to the consternation of the assembled fair supporters. At that time, MacDonald told Judge Peter Wright that he was close to arranging a plea deal with the Crown on behalf of his client. The only remaining sticking point was the “quantum”, he said, the amount of money that Palmer will pay in restitution to the Fair Board by Palmer in exchange for a diminished sentence, at the time of a guilty plea.

While the Fair Board has been careful about what they have said in public, the News can confirm that the Board considers that about $25,000 has gone missing, but the expectation is that only a percentage will be paid back in restitution, something in the $10,000 range.

As the case came back to court this week, Maberly Fair President Bill Cameron, who is an ex police officer and is familiar with court proceedings, said that he had been in touch with the Crown late last week, and at that point the Crown had not heard back from MacDonald’s office about final figures for restitution.

But that changed sometime after Friday morning (February 1st) and Monday’s court date. Bonnie Palmer was not in court, and in fact she has not appeared on any of the scheduled appearances thus far. Mike MacDonald was there, however. He told Judge Wright that his client needs another 3 weeks in order to pay restitution before the plea is entered, as it seems one of the conditions the Crown is seeking is for payment before the case is resolved. On those grounds, another 3-week extension was granted in the case, which is now set for an anticipated resolution on February 25 at 9:30am.

Taking note of the contingent from the Fair, Judge Wright advised the Crown to be in touch with a representative from the Board in case the expected resolution of the case on the 25th is delayed once more to save them another trip to Perth.

As they gathered in the hallway after leaving the courtroom, members of the board expressed frustration that the case is taking so long, and at the fact that Palmer has not yet been present in the court for any of the hearings.

“She will need to be in court for the plea,” said Cameron, “her lawyer cannot do that for her.”

A guilty plea is not a certainty on February 25th. If arrangements for payment can’t be made, or the deal falls apart for any other reason, it will result in a trial date being set for later this year, unless the Crown decides to drop the charges.

(The News reached out to Bonnie Palmer for comment on Tuesday morning (February 5), by calling her place of business. We reached an answering machine and left a message. We have not heard back as of yet. If and when we do, this article will be updated.)

 

 

 

Wednesday, 30 January 2019 14:36

Open for business bylaws pulled from Bill 66

Among the broad implications of Bill 66, the Restoring Ontario’s Competitiveness Act, which was released in December and will be debated in the legislature, were changes to the Municipal Act which would have allowed municipalities to pass “Open for Business” bylaws.

These bylaws, according to Schedule 10 of Bill 66, would have allowed municipalities to suspend the normal planning rules in cases where a planning proposal is tied to job creation.

Claire Dodds, the Director of Development Services in South Frontenac Township, said that it was unclear, based on the preliminary wording of Schedule 10, how it would impact rural municipalities.

In the end, it turned out to be an academic question. Rural municipalities facing pressure from urban sprawl within the ‘Green Belt’ around Toronto, reacted strongly to some of the provisions in the schedule and it has been pulled from Bill 66.

Nonetheless, the initial inclusion of the schedule does reveal at least two things about the Ford government that smaller rural municipalities might want to keep in mind.

The first is that the provincial government are willing to over-ride long established planning protocols in order to promote even small scale manufacturing in Ontario. In cases that fit the criteria envisioned by Schedule 10, the documentation and procedures that underpin all the work done by municipal planners would have been suspended. Planning decisions under “Open for Business” bylaws would not have been required to conform to the Clean Water Act or the Provincial Policy statement, and they would not have been be subject to appeal.

Claire Dodds said that “in talking to colleagues about this, those issues were certainly raised, but a lot of it was unclear. I was not ready to bring a report to Council about the implications until we knew more.”

Dodds also pointed out that the provincial government already has a tool under the Planning Act, a “municipal zoning order” which they can use to suspend normal planning rules.

“It is used rarely, but it was used for the Honda plant in Allison, and for at least one other auto plant,” she said.

The “Open for business” bylaws would have extended that tool to municipalities as well.

The second thing that is revealed is something that is consistent with government policy under the previous Liberal Government. The focus of the government is on urban centres and larger rural communities. Schedule 10 said in order to qualify for “Open for Business” bylaws, municipalities with populations over 250,000 had to be considering projects that will create at least 100 jobs. Smaller municipalities (under 250,000) population, had to be looking at projects that create 50 jobs or more.

There is no recognition of genuinely rural municipalities. It lumps in South Frontenac (population 18,000) or for that matter North Frontenac (population 1900) with places like Kingston (124,000) and Kitchener (205,000). There is no “small rural” designation, when you would think that a category of under 50,000 in population creating 20 or 25 jobs would make sense.

There are two sides to this, as our local municipalities consider what might be coming at them from the for government over the next three and a half years. In one sense it is good news. The province is less likely to put pressure on smaller municipalities to change the way they operate. They imposed changes in Toronto and they are looking now at a process to consider populations in the rim of Toronto, but there is every chance they will not be interested in extending their gaze further away from Toronto.

The flip side of that is that any benefit the province can bring to smaller municipalities, through investments or promotion, is less likely to take place either.

All of this is balanced by the fact that a very large rump of the MPPs on the government benches represent rural ridings, which supported the governing party in record numbers in the last election. Those MPPs are more likely to ask the powers that be to provide at least some tangible support for rural Ontario, rather than bringing in the kind change that leads to disruption and, if past experience is any indication, higher property taxes.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019 14:35

Winter stout – beyond Guinesse

This is not the season for light beer. It is not the season for mild flavours, or mere refreshment. We are in an all-out battle with winter now. Christmas is long gone, maple season could be 6 weeks a way. Last summer is a distant memory and the warm weather is so far off in the future as to be impossible to consider.

We have winter sports. Hockey, skiing, snow shoes, snowmobiles, etc. but when it comes down to it, the main thing most of us want to do at the end of the day is to keep warm. Beer is the quintessential Canadian summer drink, and while a nice citrusy summer style beer still tastes good even in the winter, a slightly chilled heavy Imperial Stout or a barley wine, something with some body and some weight, is almost a necessity on a cold winter’s night when the woodstove is steaming but the wind is still howling and rattling the windows.

There was a time when an imported Guiness was synonymous with stout beer. But with all due respect to that venerable company, the canned Guiness in the beer store is, to my view, a reasonable contrast of dark beer and white, creamy head, but it is too thin and too sweet for a Canadian winter. And at 4.1% alcolhol, it is a good choice if you are driving, but in a warm chair by the stove it is hardly what we really need at this time of the year.

The long-established Quebec Brewery St. Ambroise has been producing their oatmeal stout for almost 30 years. It hit the Ontario market about 20 years ago, and has been here ever since. Although it is a regular strength beer (5%) the St. Ambroise Oatmeal stout is thicker than more beers of that strength, thanks to the oatmeal. It is also has a pronounced flavor of licorice and a fair bit of bite. Best served cool but not cold, it is a good introduction to the world of stouts. St. Ambroise is readily available in Ontario at Beer store and the LCBO locations.

Also from Quebec, a leader in the second stage of craft brewing is a company called Dieu du Ciel (God in Heaven), and one of their stand out beers is a coffee stout called Peche Mortel (Mortal Sin)

Peche Mortel is an 9.5% beer, more than twice as strong as Guiness. The alcohol gives the beer a thick rich, luxuirous flavor, and the malt flavours and coffee flavours are right up front, but all of this balanced against smooth, creamy finish. In list of the world’s best beers, Peche Mortel is one of a few Canadian beers that tend to be mentioned, and is usually the highest ranked. In a site called the Dailymeal.com, which favours heavy beers in their list of the World top 50, ranking 26th. Considering that a number of the beers ranked higher are available only and the brewery where they are made, sometimes for one or two day a year, it is a pretty high ranking. It is sometimes available in Ontario, but quite common in better Depaneurs throughout Quebec.

Staying in Quebec for one more beer. Vache Folle Milk Stout is made by Brasserie Charlevoix. Milk Stouts are not brewed with whole milk. They are a category of stout that use lactose, the sugar from milk, as an ingredient. It adds a creaminess and a sweetness to the beer. Vache Folle is mellower than Peche Mortel, the flavours are less intense, although it just as strong (9%) and heavy. It is kind of beer’s answer to comfort food. Hard to find in Ontario, but again easy to find in Quebec.

As for Ontario stouts, there are a number of good ones. Beaus Brewery makes two versions of their Tom Green Milk Stout, the original version and a cherry version. Both are good although the cherry might be a bit better. It adds a bit of tartness to the sweet milk flavours. At 5.6% it is not as heavy as some other stouts, but it is still a comforting winter beverage, and you might even stay awake a bit longer after drinking one (or two). It is easy to find at the LCBO.

There are a number of other good Ontario stouts from some of the prolific Ontario craft brewers that are readily available. These include Shinniked Coffee Stout from Muskoka Brewery (available at the Beer Store) Coal Black Stout from Railway City (LCBO) and Wellington County Imperial Russian Stout (beer store) are good examples. The LCBO also carries some powerful Imperial Stouts from Ontario brewers, including Nickebrooks, Café del Bastardo.

The best stouts that I’ve had from Ontario come from three of the community breweries. The only way to get their beers is to order them online, which involved a delivery fee on top of their pretty high priced beer, or by visiting. Luckily one of them is in Kingston. Stone City always has their Ships in the Night Stout available. Purchased as a Growler, it costs about $15. Not a bad price for what amounts to a six pack of beer. Their premium stout is Juggernaut. It’s $9 for a 500ml. bottle, but it’s worth it. The other two breweries are in Toronto. Bellwoods brewery makes Hellwoods, a classic Imperial stout, and Three minutes to midnight, a cherry cocoa stout. Neither of them is always available, however. Blood Brothers Brewing makes Black Hand, a strong stout, and Balam, a very strong stout, and both are readily available online.

There you have it, a selection of stouts from far and near that will help you get through the winter, if you like rich, malty beer.

If not, there is always hot chocolate to fall back on.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019 11:19

Frontenac Paramedic branding exercise completed

When Avenue Strategy and Backcountry Branding presented a new look for the Frontenac County brand three years ago, the council of the day was skeptical. The new crest appeared empty. It had just a few lines of colour, stylized fir trees and maple leaf.

Kathleen Volebregt from Avenue Strategy talked about the story of Frontenac County that she had gleaned from interviews, and Jon Allison from Backcountry Branding explained how the shapes and colour encapsulated that story in a stylized manner. The politicians were skeptical about the emptiness of the image and there were even suggestions that new elements should be added to the crest.

Allison explained that the brand would be filled out over time by the way it would become associated with the image that the users of the brand attached content to it over time. He also explained that the entire package was a complete. Council had the nominal option to accept or reject the brand, although unbeknownst to the council members material had already been fitted out with the new branding, including a decaled Smart Car that was parked just metres away in the parking lot of the county offices.

Somewhat reluctantly, Council accepted the brand.

Since then, the brand has indeed been filled out, and has altered the identity of the township and been embraced by the business community. When it was time to re-brand the two main operations of Frontenac County, Fairmount Home and the Frontenac Paramedic Services, Avenue Strategy and Backcountry branding were engaged again.

The Fairmount Brand, which is more stylised and abstract than the Frontenac brand, was well accepted by Council last year.

Volebregt introduced the new Frontenac Paramedic Services brand, which consists mainly of the crest that adorns ambulances and the uniforms that the paramedics wear. She said the entire focus of the branding exercise was on the role that paramedics play as medical professionals and first responders in the healthcare system.

Interviews were conducted with a total of 35 Frontenac paramedics. After these interviews, the decision was taken to radically alter the mission statement, even the name that is associated with the service. In place of language in the previous mission statement which talks about “meeting and exceeding objective and measurable standards” the focus is now on the very personal relationship between a paramedic and a patient: “We bring outstanding medical care to help people in our community and make a difference in their lives.”

The resulting changes in the brand are less radical than those of both Fairmount Home and Frontenac County, however the subtle differences reflect the dominant theme of the new brand, that Frontenac Paramedics are the in the helping business at a time when people are often in the midst of the worst day of their lives, that they are the medical system, and not just a means of transport to the medical system.

The new logo incorporates the Star of Life and the Rod Asclepius, medical symbols that were at the centre of the old crest. The word ‘Frontenac’, in the crest, now uses the new sans serif font that is used in the other Frontenac brands. The shape of the crest has been changed, and a maple leaf logo has been inserted at the bottom, again to be consistent with the other Frontenac brands. Finally instead of saying Frontenac Paramedic Services, it says Frontenac Paramedics. The final change is the most important one, it identifies paramedics as professionals who help people, instead of just members of a faceless service organisation.

The new brand has already been introduced. It will be incorporated on the uniforms as they are replaced and on the doors of Frontenac ambulances in short order.

The public will not likely notice a difference in branding, but the target of the exercise has been more the paramedics themselves than the public.

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