Remember Patrick Brown. Way back in time, almost three weeks ago now, he was the leader of the Ontario Conservative Party, the Premier in waiting. The upcoming Ontario election was ‘his to lose’. And then he was gone, so gone.
The Ontario Conservative Party has moved on, and is now fully immersed in an open war between its Conservative, moderate, and Ford wings. But there are still a number of commentators who remain in hand wringing mode over the fact that Mr. Brown was “tried, convicted, and sentenced” by a mere allegation of sexual harassment.
There certainly have been a number of politicians and celebrities named as alleged bullies, harassers and abusers in recent months, and the accusations have had a devastating impact on their lives. But each case is different.
In the case of Patrick Brown his own party turned on him before the public had even heard the allegations against him. His personal staff resigned and there were calls for his resignation by members of his caucus before the story even went to air. After professing his innocence at a press conference, which also took place before the allegations had been made public, Brown tendered his resignation over night. Most Ontarians learned of his resignation at the same time that they heard the allegations against him. His own colleagues did him in, before the media had a chance to cut him down. Since then it has become abundantly clear that Brown had little or no support among the Conservative Caucus, although he had the support of many of the Conservative Pary candidates for the coming election.
The party may indeed choose a leader who will be capable of leading them back to power against the Liberal government that has been in power for 15 years and has made more than its share of enemies along the way. There is also a chance that the party will consume itself over the next month or so, such that it cannot present a coherent program to the Ontario public in time for the June 7 election. And even then, they might still carry the day.
Patrick Brown was indeed brought down by un-proven allegations of impropriety, but that does not mean that every man in the public eye who has ever made a pass at a woman can just as easily be cut down. In Brown’s case, CTV would not have aired the story without doing a lot of background work, and without corroborating evidence. Of course they aired allegations that have not been tested in court, but they need to construct enough evidence and credibility to protect themselves against a libel suit. Libel is all about money. CTV is owned by BCE, incorporated. They have lots of money. Patrick Brown was poised to become a Conservative Premier of Ontario at the age of 39, his lifetime earnings potential was vast and is now limited. Those are the two key elements to a successful libel suit because libel is about losing present and future income.
CTV would not air this story without first ensuring they were on solid footing. That, in itself, does not make the allegations true, but it ensures that they are credible.
In another recent case, Steve Paiken of TVO has been accused, by former Toronto Mayoralty candidate, Sarah Thomson, of propositioning her with the implicit promise of providing TV exposure if she said yes, and witholding that exposure if she said no. But Paiken’s employer has not suspended him, although they have launched an independent investigation. Meanwhile he is still employed and his profile, although damaged somewhat, remains more or less intact. The public is taking a wait and see approach.
Paiken may indeed be a sexual predator and Brown may be entirely innocent, we don’t know anything for sure in either case. But the cases are still different and that is why the consequences, thus far, have been so different. In Paiken’s case, there is only one accuser, Sarah Thomson, and the accusation was published on her own website. Paiken brought it to the attention of TVO himself and then it became widely known.
There was no journalistic work done in this case, no meetings to determine if the story was strong enough to publish.
The series of revelations about various individuals under the #MeToo umbrella are not all created equal and they will not all do irrevocable harm to reputations. As time passes and more information comes out, a fuller picture tends to emerge. In some cases it is pretty ugly, in some cases it is murky. Human relations and human memories are fallable, and sometimes people are vindictive.
We are at an important moment. A pattern of behaviour in all professions and in all corners of our society, is being revealed. There are some who will be caught up in the whole thing unfairly, and none of us should jump to conclusions based on a single newspaper account or a single tweet.
There is a broader issue behind this, outside of the whole celebrity culture aspect and the gossipy nature of the way these stories are coming out.
My own demographic, the 50 - 65 year old men who grew up in the 1970’s, when the idea of equality in the workplace, and an egalitarian society was already well accepted, did not live up to those ideals. Much like the men in the generations before us, we used our social and economic advantage for our own benefit. And some of us, a small but significant minority, have weopanised sex throughout their working lives. This current generation of women, and men as well I hope, are rising up to stop it, hopefully once and for all.In this time, it is important to listen carefully to the voices of those who are speaking out, before coming to our conclusions about each of the cases that hit the news.
Gypse Villa, 58, and Jessica Villa, 38, are facing two counts each of fraud over $5,000. It is alleged that the two defrauded a local man of upwards of $80,000. Jessica Villa worked a special assistant to former Newfoundland Labrador MP Judy Foote until last fall.
In a press release last November, The OPP alleged that the couple “committed the frauds by utilizing alleged political connections to influence, engage and establish trust with the victims. The VILLAS' would pose as persons with positions of high authority in order to defraud victims of large amounts of cash.”
Neither the Villas’, nor their lawyer have appeared in person when this matter has come to the Sharbot Lake Court over the last three months, and they were not in attendance this week either. There was a message sent through other lawyers each time, always asking for an extension. That was the case again on Monday, and the case will return once again on March 5.
Justin Whan, 35, pled guilty to assault in December, and was sentenced to a 90 day conditional sentence, including 30 days of house arrest, with a number of exceptions. He will also be on probation for a year
Withdrawn - A charge of Obstructing a Police Officer against Sue Vinkle, 38, was withdrawn at the request of the Crown, Ms. Vinkle completed 50 hours of community service as means of diverting the charge.
Transfer for trial – Christopher Leger, 53, will have his case heard by Judge Griffin in Napanee on June 19th. The case was originally going to be dealt with in Sharbot Lake in April, but there will likely be a requirement for closed circuit tv services during the trial, and that is not available in Sharbot Lake. Instead of the normal practice in such cases, a transfer to Kingston, it will go to Napanee because the delay by sending it to Kingston would be much longer. It is expected to be a one day trial.
First appearance, Shawn Macneal,40, is facing two counts of assulat. He will return on April 16th.
Mallary Kehoe, 27, charged with theft of a vehicle, possessing stolen property, Break and Enter, Failure to comply with court ordered conditions, and four counts of driving while under suspension. She is currently in custody on other matters, and is expected to be in court in Sharbot Lake on March 5th.
Randall Kirkwood, 63, is facing one cout of dirving with blood alcohol over 80 mg/100ml of blood and one count of open liquior in a vehicle. He will return on March 5.
Back in August the 11 year old goalie with the Napanee Crunch Pee Wee B team who attends Loughborough Public School entered a contest that is open to Montreal Canadian Fan Club youth members. She submitted a drawing to be considered for a special ticket to be used for a single Canadians game during a promotion the team was organising for Family Weekend in February when they were scheduled to play Saturday and Sunday afternoon games at the Bell Centre.
“I think we heard that she won in late August or early September,” said her father Adam, in a telephone interview this week. “It seemed like it was so far in the future we didn’t think that much about it. Then all of a sudden it was here.”
Meredith, along with her parents Sue and Adam, all Canadians fans who have been suffering through a disheartening season, had a big lift when they went to the game this past weekend. Meredith’s drawing had been transformed into an NHL ticket for Saturday’s game between the Habs and the Anaheim Ducks. The Canadians came into the game on a three game losing streak, with season record of 20 wins, 25 losses, and six ties, headed nowhere, but somehow they put a good game together and won 5-2.
The ticket had nothing to do with the team’s improved play, or did it? Nothing else changed for the team that hasn’t been able to score goals all season, except for the ticket.
The Canadians went on to win again on Sunday afternoon, as the Peters returned to their home base in the Godfrey area.
“We had a lot of fun,” said Adam, speaking for Meredith, who was under the weather, so much so that she missed a hockey practice on Tuesday afternoon.
As for the Canadians. They have been off until tonight, when they play in Philadelphia.
Four years ago Joanne Pickett of Arden Pottery decided to start up an Empty Bowls project in her own community.
Empty Bowls is a fund raising project that has been embraced by potters throughout North America as a way of raising money and awareness about poverty. It was founded not by potters, but by two high school art teachers in Michigan, John Hartom and Lisa Blackburn. Students in Hartom’s class made bowls and then Hartom and Blackburn, who are a married couple, organised a lunch for students and teachers in the school. They filled the bowls with soup, and served them to everyone, then asked them all to think about those in their community whose soup bowls were empty. They then asked for donations and said, “keep the bowls”.
The concept of empty bowls was born. In 2002, Empty Bowls came to Eastern Ontario when Perth area potter, the late Jackie Seaton, started up the Perth Empty Bowls project. The project is now in its 16th year and has raised over $200,000 for local youth and food programs. The dozen potters who are involved have made over 9,000 bowls.
The experience of Empty Bowls for Joanne Pickett in Arden has been similar, although on a smaller scale. In the first year Joanne made most of the bowls herself and involved few people, raising $800 for the North Frontenac Food Bank, based in Sharbot Lake.
In the second year more people were involved and $1,400 was raised and last year $2,200 was raised.
This year local potters from Water's Edge Pottery, Aileen Merriam, Jonas Bonetta and Arden Pottery have donated over 100 bowls. For $20. diners choose from a menu of gourmet soups and chilies served in a one-of-a-kind handcrafted pottery bowl that they get to keep.
This year's offerings include smoked tomato and basil soup with shaved Parmesan cheese, chicken/veg and brown rice , creamy curried squash, and baked potato soup with cheddar and bacon - just to name a few. For the adventuresome among us there will be a wild chili - all ingredients (except for the salt) harvested in Kennebec township. Soups and chilies are served with a crispy ciabatta roll and butter.
Freshly brewed coffee and tea, and mulled cider will be available with a selection of delicious homemade cookies and cupcakes.
Also this year there will be a silent auction as part of the Empty Bowls campaign, with artwork donated by local artists.
The event begins at 10 am and goes until 4 pm on the 17th, when Arden will be chock full of Frontenac Heritage Festival events.
See the blue pamphlet in this week’s paper for a complete schedule.
Hidden among the communications reports to South Frontenac Council this week was the quarterly report by one of the most active volunteers in the township, and likely one of the most active trail cyclists in the township, Robert Charest from the Perth Road area. Charest is a member of the township’s trail committee, and he reports on the upkeep of the trails to Council.
His interest in the trails started when he moved to the area in 2005, and finding that he lived right on the Cataraqui (Cat) Trail he took to trail cycling. Cycling, along with kayaking and skiing in the winter, has become a way of life for him. He uses the trails near his house often.
He has taken on responsibility for maintenance on some sections of the trail, including the picturesque section that’s runs northeast between Perth Road and Chaffey’s Locks just over the county line.
He spends some time each spring and autumn cutting up deadfall along the trail with a chain saw, He also takes the trail to go to Sydenham to buy groceries and rides regularly on the whole Frontenac County Trail system, including the new K&P sections.
In this month’s report he summarised some of his observations about the trail from the past year. The first point he made is that trail usage is up, both for cyclists and hikers, the busiest section being the Cat Trail section between Sydenham and Perth Road. He also made note of the improvement in the section that runs west from Harrowsmith to the Lennox and Addington County border, which was resurfaced using $17,500 in township funds.
“We have a nice trail surface from the Loughborough/Portland Boundary Road all the way to the Strathcona Paper Plant [near Napanee], a 30 kilometre stretch. The trail ends at the plant, and one of Charest’s wishes for 2018 is to see the trail extended another 12 or 13 kilometres into Napanee. On the other end of the trail, he would like to see a Cat Trail extension from Smiths Falls to Carleton Place, a 30 km stretch.
But along with those loftier goals he had some more specific recommendations that can be implemented more easily, and cheaply.
Those include, among others: new signage to mark the distance between hamlets of main roads; identifiable shirts for trail volunteers to make it easier for trail users to access information and assistance; picnic tables or benches and garbage cans at the parking lots on Road 38 and Perth Road; a large trail map in Sydenham, and resurfacing of a section of a small section of trail near Sydenham.
Finally, Charest thinks “South Frontenac should become an off-road cycling hub,” linking Kingston, Sharbot Lake, Napanee, and Carleton Place.
“Harrowsmith and Sydenham should ante up the offering of services and facilities to cater to all these cyclists,” he concluded.
It was likely a coincidence that the Frontenac Community Futures Development Corporation (FCFDC) chose to hold an event about the future of local food production on Groundhog Day. But with Maple Syrup producers laying low, farmers sorting their seeds, and restaurants in winter survival mode, it was a good time to get everyone together.
Katherine Howes is doing her thesis on Frontenac County as part of her work towards a post-graduate degree in Rural planning and development at Guelph University. She also has a farming background in Parham, and set the stage for the event with a short power point on her findings thus far.
One of the aspects of the local food industry that Howes has looked at is access to production facilities for small scale and startup food producers. She did so on the basis of the results of Business Retention and Expansion study that was conducted by the Frontenac County Economic Development department in 2012. The study identified commercial kitchens as a “key piece of infrastructure that was needed to grow local food processing in Frontenac County” she said in her presentation.
She contacted all the church and community halls in the county that have kitchens that are, or could be, used for commercial production.
“It was determined that a large number of community kitchens in the county are underutilised and that they have the potential to be upgraded to commercial kitchen facilities, given enough financial support”.
While her research found the owners of the halls are receptive to making more use of their kitchens, the demand among producers is mixed.
For her research, Howes has also interviewed producers.
Of the eighteen producers she has conducted extensive interviews with, seven use commercial kitchen space, but of those producers who are thinking of getting into a new, value added product, only 22% are considering looking for commercial kitchen space.
There was little or no interest in taking advantage of either of the two regional food hubs which offer kitchen and storage space, at least partly because they are located too far away, in Smiths Falls and Hastings County. While there is a need for more commercial kitchen capacity, producers in Frontenac are more inclined to look either at some local rental spaces that are available or can be developed, or at renovating existing kitchens or building new ones to commercial standards so they can work at home.
After the presentation, the main business of Friday’s event centred around conversations at three tables on specific topics: creating consumer awareness, coordination for growth, and infrastructure. Among the diverse participants at the event were farmers, farm group representatives, value added food producers, and representatives from local municipalities and provincial ministries. Participants found their own tables based on their interests and the conversations were broad, but the intention of the event was to focus on finding a way to move forward on the issues that were brought up at the tables.
At the Infrastructure table, issues were raised both about dealing with municipal regulations around zoning and building permits, and about provincial regulations as they apply to food businesses.
“It would be ideal if there were a simple list of requirements, so I know what I have to do to get up and running as a legal producer, no matter how long the list was. But I can’t get that, I don’t know where I would go to get that, and it makes it hard for my timelines and my finances” said Alan Zahara, who is developing a new food business in the Hartington area.
South Frontenac Mayor Ron Vandewal participated in the infrastructure table. He acknowledged that the township has not been able to streamline its own processes and provide all commercial developers, not just those in the food industry, with the kind of list Zahara was referring to, but said it goes both ways.
“We sometimes have people coming to us who think they can go ahead and construct new buildings or do renovations without engineer’s drawings, without professional support for their applications,” he said.
At the table that was looking at consumer awareness, Alison Shannon from Sun Harvest Greenhouses of Glenburnie (just outside Frontenac County) said that the Infrontenac branding initiative has “has led to a lot of awareness and cooperation among producers. Maybe the consumers, the eaters, are the next focus,” she said.
Others mentioned that creating awareness about the availability of local food is an issue that producers face everywhere, and in a county where people are scattered throughout and travel to other centres on a regular basis for food, it can be hard to build a local presence.
The two farmers markets (in Sharbot Lake and Verona) and some of the food stores, such as Local Family Farms in Verona and Lavallee’s Inverary Store are options for consumers to access local products, but there was a feeling that more can be done in the future as far as marketing ‘local’ is concerned.
The networking event was part of an initiative that the FCFDC has taken on for the township of South Frontenac, which has funded a study to identify the gaps in infrastructure and services for food producers and processors.
A final report will be coming to South Frontenac Council later this year.
In addition to a chilli lunch prepared by Local Family Farms, samples of a new Frontenac County product that will soon be available, goat yogurt from a Harrowmsith area farm, was available for sampling. The thick, Greek version, and lighter Balkan version were popular among the crowd. Samples of the tasty, still warm, fresh goat milk was a little less popular, with some participants saying they preferred their milk cold.
Allegations of sexual harassment against former Ontario PC leader Patrick Brown, and of sexual assault against Brown’s friend, former party President Rick Dykstra exposed a wide rift in the party over the last few days. That rift separates the old guard in the party, including most of its sitting MPP’s, and the younger, more urban membership, many of whom were recruited by and allied with Brown and the team he assembled in a bid to win power over the Liberal Party under Kathleen Wynne.
One of the starkest representations of that rift came from allegations of physical intimidation against Lanark Frontenac Lennox and Addington MPP Randy Hillier that stems from an incident that took place in Ottawa back in March of 2016.
Under new electoral boundaries, Hillier will be running in the new riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston. Goldie Ghamari is the PC candidate in the adjacent riding of Carleton, also a new riding. Late on Sunday night (January 27) just after Party President Rick Dykstra resigned, Ghamari put out the following two tweets:
“Two years ago, a sitting [Progressive Conservative] MPP harassed me, intimidated me, & used his body to bully & scare me out of getting involved in politics. I gave him an opportunity to apologise and recognise that his actions were wrong. He chose to deny it ever happened.” and “My story breaks tomorrow. I urge this person to step forward, acknowledge their actions, and apologise for what they did to me. When I complained about their behaviour, I was told this is ‘not surprising’ given this person's history.”
It did not take long for Randy Hillier to come forward and acknowledge that he was the MPP that Ghamari was referring to. He immediately sent her an email, which she also posted on her twitter feed.
It reads, in part “I was outside for a smoke at the Ottawa Convention Centre in 2016. We briefly exchanged pleasantries and small talk and then parted ways. It was only when you brought your claims forward two years ago that I learned of who you were at the time. I never denied the interaction, but I will confirm there was never any physical contact nor do I recall any unkind words exchanged. I’m truly very sorry if you felt intimidated while we shared a smoke ...”
In the article that Goldie Ghamari was referring to in her tweets, which came out in the Ottawa Citizen on Monday, she describes a different kind of encounter.
She said that it took place in the evening of March 16, 2016. She went outside to get some fresh air and check her messages when he walked up, slung an arm around her shoulders and pulled her in close.
“He was smoking, his cigarette was in his left hand, and it was clear that he was drunk. It was just very obvious from the way he was walking and I could smell the alcohol on his breath, his fingers were digging into my shoulder and his cigarette was still in his hand as well.”
Again, according to her account, as reported in the Ottawa Citizen, Hillier then asked her if she was “Goldie from Nepean who is running against Lisa”.
At the time, due to riding redistribution, Lisa MacLeod had yet to decide if she was going to run in the new Carleton riding or in the Nepean riding, both of which contained parts of her soon to be eliminated riding, and Goldie Ghamari was known to be considering challenging for the nomination in Carleton, the more rural and thus more safe Conservative seat.
In 2016, Ghamari was a member of the riding executive from Nepean, but since there were many Nepean PC’s who wanted to attend this particular convention, she had been invited to represent a weaker PC riding, Kingston and the Islands. Her name tag also used her given name Golsa, even though she goes by Goldie.
Her name tag, “Golsa from Kingston and the Islands” was not what Hillier expected.
“He seemed sort of shocked and he grabbed my name tag, and looked at it and then he was like, ‘Huh,’ and then he just walked away.” she said, adding that “the exchanges was brief, but frightening.”
She told the Citizen that she subsequently approached a senior party office, gave her account of what had happened, and asked for a written apology from Hillier.
The party official then talked to Hillier, who said he had indeed spoken to Ghamari that day, but the encounter happened in the afternoon, not the evening, and he never touched her.
The party officials then contacted the Convention Centre to see if the encounter was caught on any video footage. The results were mixed. There is video of Ghamari and Hillier exiting the building at around the same time, in the evening, and of Ghamari re-entering the building a few minutes later, lending credence to Ghamari’s claim about the time of the encounter. But the video is limited and there is no there is no footage of them together, and there were no eye witnesses available.
There are two incompatible accounts of what had happened, Hillier says it was a non-physical friendly moment in the afternoon, and Ghamari says it was a physical, visceral and intimidating encounter in the evening.
At this point the investigation had run its course as far as the party was concerned.
The official wo dealt with the matter, Nic Pappalardo, told the Citizen in an email this past Sunday (April 28) that “I suggested to her that under the circumstances, the ball was in her court and that she was free to launch a formal complaint under any applicable law or standard in the appropriate forum and that we would fully cooperate. Given her legal background, I had no doubt she understood her options. That was our last exchange on the subject.”
On November 2, 2016, Goldie Ghamari was chosen as the PC candidate for the riding of Carleton, winning a contest with one other candidate.
There was considerable controversy around her selection, as two potential candidates were not ratified by the riding association executive, which, Ghamari’s critics claim, had been stacked with her loyalists.
One of the potential candidates reportedly made a “racial comment” regarding Ghamari.
Last summer, 8 months after Ghamari was nominated, MPP Lisa MacLeod made some headlines questioning the suitability of Ghamari as a candidate in Carleton.
In an email to supporters that was leaked to the press, MPP MacLeod wrote,“For 22 years John Baird and I have kept Carleton deep Tory Blue and now that is at risk. I chose a tougher, urban seat and I do not regret the choice, but I am gutted by what comes next in Carleton as I not only believe the current candidate will not win but worse, if she does win, she will not be a suitable representative for my constituents who I remain loyal to.”
MacLeod acknowleged that she wrote the email, according to the National Post.
MPP’s Lisa MacLeod and Randy Hillier were among the first members of the Conservative caucus to call for Patrick Brown to resign last week, doing so even before the story broke on CTV news.
On Saturday (January 27), MacLeod came forward to say she had approached the party executive about rumours she had heard in the fall of 2017 about Patrick Brown’s history, concerned it might become a problem, but had been ignored.
The next day, (Sunday, January 28) Ghamari tweeted about her 2016 encounter with Hillier, making it public for the first time, and the Citizen article came out the next day.
On Monday evening (January 29) the Ontario Conservative Party announced that they will be hiring an outside investigator to take a fresh look at what happened on March 16/2016 between two of its own candidates for the upcoming election, Goldie Ghamari and Randy Hillier.
As a result, Hillier would not speak to the matter when his office was contacted on Tuesday (January 30), but Dave Shostal in Hillier’s Perth constituency office said “Randy stands by what he told the press on Monday when he spoke to reporters.”
In one of those exchanges, Hillier said that the fact this incident is coming forward at this time is anything but a coincidence.
“The record is clear that Ms. Ghamari was a candidate that was selected by Patrick Brown. There was some level of dispute and consternation with her nomination. We know with what has transpired recently in the party that there were those people who were supportive of Brown and people who were less supportive. And it’s clear Ms. Ghamari and I were on different sides of this divide.” he told the Ottawa Citizen.
For her part, Ghamari told the Citizen that her timing has more to do with the broader historical moment than partly politics. She did not want to put the encounter at the level of “any sort of inappropriate sexual behaviour ... but I think in the sense of how women are generally treated in certain industries and certain professions, it’s something that unfortunately is far too common ... I’m glad that it’s coming out, in all different areas, because I think it’s important for everyone to be treated respectfully. I think it’s important for everyone to be treated as equals. And I think everyone should have a fair chance to do whatever they want to do based on their merits and their capabilities.”
Both Lisa MacLeod and Randy Hillier are former candidates for the PC party leadership.
According to Dave Shostal, the fact that interim leader Vic Fedeli, announced on Tuesday that he will not be seeking the leadership, “does open things up for some potential candidates. I have read the same media reports as everyone else, which say that Lisa is considering running. I can say that Randy is also thinking about it,” he said.
Randy Hillier finished fourth on the first ballot in the 2009 leadership contest that chose Tim Hudak as leader. He threw his support to Hudak before the second ballot.
Lisa MacLeod ran in the contest that chose Patrick Brown. She eventually stepped out of the race, and threw her support to Vic Fedeli.
When the North Frontenac News was established as a not-for-profit enterprise in 1971, its stated purpose was to knit the small isolated communities together north of Verona. There were other information sources about the world ‘out there’ but none that focused on local issues and celebrated the joys and quirks of people in tons such as Parham, Sharbot Lake, Godfrey, Mountain Grove and Cloyne.
Forty seven years later the world has changed. The Frontenac News, now a for-profit, independent community newspaper, is delivered free of charge to all households in South, Central, and North Frontenac, Addington Highlands and Western Lanark.
But our purpose remains. There are many ways, through radio, tv, and print, to find out what’s going on in the larger communities outside of Frontenac County, but no other way to find out what is going on in our own communities.
There are new media sources now, but as powerful as social media is, it does not provide information to everyone in the community. Our local and county councils collect $45 million each year from us as taxpayers, and only the Frontenac News reports on how decisions about how that money will be spent are made. When it comes time for municipal elections, we are the only ones who take the time to hold all candidates meetings, and interview all the candidates to prepare a primer for the benefit of our readers, both online and through the weekly newspaper.
When someone makes a difference in our communities, even when they try to make a difference, we let everyone know about it.
We are committed to delivering all of this information free of charge, and to disseminating it as widely as possible. That is why we use Canada Post to deliver the newspaper each week, because even though it is very expensive, it is the only way we can guarantee delivery to all of the back road locations where people have built their lives. That is also why we do not have a paywall on either of our two websites, Frontenacnews.ca (which we load with the stories from the paper and update throughout the week as well) and Frontenac-live.ca (where comprehensive event listings and a complete business directory are located).
We remain committed to providing information for free thanks to the revenue generated by our advertisers.
Yet, even as the federal government prepares to step in to support the newspaper industry across the country, the rules surrounding who is eligible penalise us for our commitment to all residents in our readership area. Free newspapers have never been eligible for government support.
In other words, if we made our readers pay us for the newspaper, we could apply for funding. Since we give it away, we can’t.
With costs rising, we have decided to introduce an element of reader support to help us grow and thrive. The idea of user supported content has taken hold on the web, and we are jumping in as well.
We are asking for support from our readers, only those who can afford it, to cover our costs and enable us to invest in further upgrades to our reporting and to our web service. It costs us $30 a year for each of the 12,500 households that receive the paper each week.
If a portion of our readers are able to kick back that $30, or pay $50 or $100 to help cover for those who cannot afford to pay anything, it would be a big help to us.
We have enlisted online help for this by registering with Patreon.com, which is a service that was set up for makers of cultural products based on small, monthly payments, or we can accept payment in all the usual ways at our office, including credit card, Interac and email payments, checques and even cash.
For your support, we are offering a thank you in the form of a free 20 word classified ad (value $12 with hst) for any contribution (as long its $12 or more)
Jeff Green, Publisher
Members of North Frontenac Council made short shrift of the 2018 township budget on Monday morning (January 28), working through the entire document, approving a couple of small tweaks, and approving it in principle in time for a late lunch.
The only major change they made to the document was to fund half of the $110,000 increase in the Ontario Provincial Police requisition with reserve funds instead of tax levy dollars. A $55,000 cut in the levy represents almost a 1% difference, dropping a projected increase of 2.37% in the draft budget to 1.41% in the final document. In real dollars, North Frontenac ratepayers will kick in $5.85 million this year, $88,000 more than the $5.77 million they paid in 2017. The other factors that make up the property tax bill will not have a major impact this year either, since the increase in Frontenac County taxes of about $60,000 is offset by a decrease in education taxes of about $45,000.
North Frontenac township did face some increased costs this year, including $50,000 as a first payment towards an Infrastructure Ontario loan to cover repairs and upgrades to the township office. They are also spending $100,000 extra for winter road maintenance, as well as the $55,000 extra for policing. On the other side of the ledger, the township benefited from an increase in its Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund (OMPF) allocation. The OMPF is a fund set up by the Province of Ontario to help rural and remote municipalities. This year the allocation to North Frontenac jumped by $234,000, to over $1.6 million.
“We did really well this year from the OMPF, and that helped us to cover some of the increased budget pressure,” said Chief Administrative Officer Cheryl Robson.
Among new spending in the budget is $35,000 towards funding the phase-in for increased planning costs. At their regular meeting on Friday, January, 26, the township decided to stay with Frontenac County Planning Services even though costs are set to rise as the department adds a new senior planner. Some of the $35,000 increase in the line item for planning is to cover year one of the phase-in of those costs ($11,000) and the rest ($24,000) to cover township staffing costs related to planning.
Mayor Ron Higgins said he is very pleased with the budgeting process this year, “and in all four years we have done well. We have build up our reserves to the point where we could use $55,000 to offset increased OPP costs this year and keep the increase to 1.4%, under the inflation rate.”
He said he is “thrilled with the levy increases this council has been able to bring in, and with the impact of some of the changes that have been made at the staff level as well, which have paid off both in terms of cost and in terms of service.”
On the issue of the contract with Frontenac County for planning service, which is set to rise each year for the next three, he said that he does not see North Frontenac ever pulling out of the contract.
“We could never get a better price for planning services by going to a contract planner,” he said.
Amanda Pulker-Mok has only been living in Almonte for 3 1/2 years but she has already made her mark. When a council seat came open in April of last year in Mississippi Mills township after a tragic death, she was one of 11 applicants for the position. All of the applicants appeared before Council and made their pitches, and voting began. Three ballots later, she was declared the new member of council from Almonte ward, no mean feat for a newbie in small town Ontario. It was a result that surpassed her expectations.
“Being new to the area, I applied for the position in order to improve my name recognition, as I intended to run for Council in 2018,” she said, when interviewed last week in her parked car, while preparing to drive from one municipal meeting to another one.
She tries to schedule many of her responsibilities, which include sitting on three committees as well as council itself, around the days when her young children are in daycare. She may still run for council this coming fall, that is if her attempt to wrest the new Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston riding from the Conservative Party proves unsuccessful.
On December 20, 2017, she was confirmed as the Liberal candidate at a riding association meeting in Perth. She will remain on Mississippi Mills Council until the writ is dropped and the election starts up in earnest, around the beginning of May, at which time she will be taking a leave of absence from council to contest the election.
In the meantime she will be spending time attending riding forums that are being organised by the Liberal Riding Association.
She said that she will be taking advantage of those forums, as well as other opportunities to meet people in the riding.
“It is a very large riding. I don’t want to be going into different parts telling people this is what I think needs to be done, I would rather build on what people are saying,” she said.
Her commitment to the Ontario Liberals comes from what she calls “my political inclination towards the party, which has made me a supporter. More recently, I have come to feel strongly about the Premier’s messaging around opportunity and fairness.”
She said that she will be considering all the issues that are important in the riding between now and May so she is ready to answer questions at public events, during door to door campaigning at all candidates forums, but one thing about her candidacy that is already in place is her attitude towards politics.
“I think I need to be who I am, and my feeling is that the people of this riding are ready for a change, a positive fresh change, and that is what I am offering.”
The issues that she thinks will be top of mind for many voters in the coming election, particularly in this riding, will be education, child care and health care, “three areas that touch on everybody’s lives. Dealing with the urban versus rural reality will also be a challenge,” she said.
And she is happy to be representing the current government, and representing some of the initiatives they have undertaken.
“I feel the current government has done some really great things, such as OHIP Plus and changes to the Ontario Student Aid program.
“It would be good to have someone who comes from a younger demographic sitting at the table.”
Pulker-Mok went to Trent University, where she studied Business Administration and Cultural Studies. Before moving to Almonte, she was working in Newmarket in health administration as a cancer screening co-ordinator at the South Lake Regional Health Centre.