Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday April 27, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen

Spring apparently has to be hauled under protest onto the Midland stage.  I have a few frosted geraniums to show for my misplaced belief that warmer weather had arrived. On a positive note, the ice breaker should be here on Monday ;-)

This past week we were able to get a release from the confidentiality agreement that was signed between the Town and Hydro One.  (See attached media release). The sudden stoppage of the discussion by Hydro One is a matter of some speculation, even to the Town. It is fair to note that there are significant recent pressures on the province to fix the entire electricity distribution system, including Hydro One. The sale matter is off the table until Council decides it wishes to consider further business changes to the MPUC.

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Monday April 26th should begin with a closed meeting at 6:00 pm, dealing with personal matters. (This may not occur due to improper notification on the website.)  At 7:00 pm is the Council meeting. An incredibly long agenda including:
-       A presentation to our champion Midland Atom hockey team
-       Three deputations;
o    200th anniversary of Discovery Harbour
o    Update on Midland Bike Fest
o    An introduction to the Teen Transition Lodge
-       A Public Meeting (you may speak)
o    Sign by-law for charitable organizations
o    Input on septic system inspections
-       Discussion on hosting the Ontario Seniors Games for 2016
-       A new name for our Unimin waterfront – “Midland Bay Landing”
-       A listing of the many events headed our way this summer – cruise ships in August; tall ship return; shakedown regatta; a major in-water boat show; and many more
-       Agreement on completing the Prospect Boulevard project
-       A by-law for the Karma Market to host a Midland Farmer’s Market from June to October

Tuesday April 29th starting at 6:00 pm in Midhurst, will feature deputations to the Simcoe County School Board concerning the future of our public high-schools in North Simcoe. It’s unfortunately a divisive issue as it pits one community against another.  You can read my prepared remarks to the Board at http://newsfromthetown.blogspot.ca/

Friday May 2nd will see a number of fun events for you. At 5:30 pm the Huronia Museum hosts its annual Heritage Dinner at the NSSRC. The guest speaker will be the well-known Jack Granatstein who will present The Greatest Victory: Canada's 100 Days 1918.

Later that evening is the Huronia Players Studio Night - an informal evening of experimental theater will including :Murder at the Banquet - by the Huronia Players MyDrama youth group and an excerpt from The Fourth Wall directed by Doris Sloan and Sue Cook. Please register with Doris at doriss@baytechplastics.com to reserve a seat.


Weekend

Saturday
-       Opening of Martyrs’ Shrine for the 2014 season.  Starts with mass at 10:30 am
-       Huronia Community Foundation Awards ceremony at 7:00 pm at Brooklea
-       Serenata Choir presentation at St. Pauls at 7:30 pm

Sunday
-       Mandarin MS Walk starting at the NSSRC at 9:00 am
-       Hike for Huronia Hospice at 1:30 pm starting at Rotary Park in Penetanguishene

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The media has carried further stories about the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN and its recent RFP process that could have resulted in local ophthalmology services, such as cataract surgery, being moved to Barrie. That particular RFP has been stopped. The concern exists as to what other RFPs may be coming and what is the long term prospect for the level of healthcare that we will all receive in North Simcoe.

Discussions with the seniors community, my fellow mayors and the LHIN have resulted in an agreement that we, the healthcare consumers, must clarify our position on what we want from healthcare in our area. It’s not a simple a question - and will take some time to answer in a way that is reflective of our entire North Simcoe community.  A first public meeting will be held at the NSSRC at noon on Thursday May 29th, starting with the seniors community. Look for more details in the coming days.



Gord McKay


Be part of Midland’s Year of Making Decisions - 2014
                                                                                              



Public High Schools in North Simcoe

Presentation by Mayor Gord McKay, Midland
To ARC Special Board Meeting, Tuesday, April 29th
Concerning Public High School Configuration for North Simcoe

An ARC process is an exceedingly difficult experience for any community or group of communities.  It forces citizens to confront the cold reality of change for a matter that we all hold very close – the education of our children.

Change is never easy.  Change that causes immediate upset and is unlikely to show benefits for many years is even more problematic. On top of that, the change contemplated by this ARC process pits the high school in one town against the other.  It is no wonder our communities want to stop the ARC process. But the situation demands that we must continue and bring it to conclusion.

The Compelling Need for Change

So why must we change?

When I first came to Midland, many of the old timers told me that Midland and Penetanguishene would never cooperate on anything. Wasn’t in their blood. Then is 2010, with some new leadership, the municipalities recognized that things had changed around them – that they had to cooperate or face an increasing bleak economic future. We looked at joint policing (unsuccessfully), sharing sewer and water services, and most successfully economic development.  Over four years the four communities have built a progressive economic partnership that has attracted the attention of the province and many other municipalities. So yes we can change.

Why the need to change our public high-schools?

The School Board has made us aware that our local high school environment has changed significantly:
-       The two high-schools are both significantly under capacity. Given feeder school projections, that situation will remain for at least a decade
-       Both high schools require significant capital investments. There is insufficient funding for both schools
-       The Board has funding for improved education.  A funding request for the status quo – that is paying for two sub-optimal schools – will move that request well down the priority list
-       Small poorly funded rural schools are increasingly unlikely to attract quality teachers and programming. And with that our area will not be able to attract families who are increasingly selective about the school they choose for their children.

Yes, there is a compelling need for change.


Advantages of Change – One Area High School

I believe that North Simcoe will be best served by one area public high-school, built to accommodate the educational needs of the modern student.

My belief is founded upon the central purpose of our educators; our trustees; and our School Board – to deliver the best educational outcomes for our children. Those best educational outcomes will be achieved through a modern scale-appropriate school that has the range of programming and activities needed to fully meet the needs of the modern student.

The other supportive arguments, and there are many, are secondary to this;
-       That the one high-school model is the one most likely to be funded
-       That modern families are most attracted to modern schooling – both for breadth of programming and facilities
-       That we will finally have a facility that breaks the status quo and stops the bleeding of students to other area and non-area schools

The one school model delivers many benefits, and above all the most important one – providing our children with the best in quality modern education.

Perceived Problems with Change

Are there drawbacks with the one-area-school approach? Absolutely.  Otherwise we would have settled the question some time ago.

Closing a school raises the perception that a community loses. It is the loss an educational asset; it strikes at community spirit; and it diminishes economic development. It causes people to question whether their town is growing or falling back. All understandable concerns.

These concerns parallel those of the four North Simcoe municipalities when they set out to build their economic partnership. Local leadership recognized that our future lay in coming together for common purpose, not in clinging to a service model that divided us. We had to give up the historical notion that each community had to have their own. And we did so - we put aside the mindset of four separate development offices because we profoundly understood that we would all gain more by coming together – by sharing a common vision and pooling our resources and energies. That same argument applies just as strongly to the challenge before us – the education of our children.

And while many of my comments seem to have been directed to Midland and Penetanguishene they apply to the entire catchment area.  They embrace the common educational vision we must all share in Tiny, Tay, Christian Island as well as Penetanguishene and Midland.

What will be Preserved of the Status Quo

So what we get out of this is the best educational outcome for our children. Something we have always valued and will continue to value. We will have our own area school that represents all of us, our combined community – something that we all own collectively and equally. And as a side-bar we can turn our collective attention to working on related concerns that all communities want to resolve such as transit for students among the communities or pursuing improved educational funding with a louder combined voice.

Summary

For me the bottom line is education – what best prepares our children for the future?  What decision can we make today that will have parents choose to educate their children in our area as opposed to moving to Barrie?

Our one new school must deliver the best in modern education and seamlessly serve the entire catchment area - Tiny, Tay, Christian Island, Penetanguishene and Midland. Our two schools must become one.

So in summary, I recommend:
-          That the one area high-school solution be adopted
-          That available funds be used to construct a new school, or failing that to extensively refurbish the existing school
-          That the school represent the entire area and be named accordingly
-          That the school be located in Midland due to its central position in the area and access to school related infrastructure
-          That the School Board strengthen the integrative role of the school by helping fund improvements to after-hours transportation for students to all areas, allowing students to fully participate in all the school has to offer. Extending Midland transit to link to Penetanguishene should be considered
-          That the school Board provide budget/staff to assist with the conversion of surplus high school real estate to other useful purposes
-          And finally, bring the ongoing North Simcoe ARC process to an end – make a decision


Thank you.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday April 19, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen

A long Easter week-end and it looks as if the fine weather is here to stay. King Street is very busy with spring shoppers and I understand the Easter bunny has been busy too.  Enjoy.


Tuesday starts with County Council at 9:00 am.  One of the more interesting items for Midland is the vote on funding for inter-urban trails. The County will consider providing partial funding for a number of trails in the County including the Fuller Avenue bike trail.  Midland’s portion of this shared project is already in the 2014 budget.  Hopefully we can complete the Fuller trail this year with our good neighbour.

Later that day I meet with a young man who is considering running in our upcoming election. Despite many citizens being down on their political leaders, the job of municipal Councilor is a tremendously important one for our future. In the coming term your elected leaders will decide upon the development of the Unimin lands, your taxes and even the future of your police service. Please make sure you vote and if you have any interest, consider running for public office.

Many of you will recall the fabulous Butter Tart festival that the Town hosted last year. Well it’s back! On Thursday April 24th at 1:30 pm at the Boathouse restaurant the BIA launches the 2014 edition of the World’s Best Butter Tart Festival. There will be some surprise announcements. All are welcome to attend.

At 2:00 pm is the Huronia Economic Alliance meeting at the Penetanguishene Fire Hall. The meeting will discuss our new economic development corporation and the hiring of the economic development officer. Right after that meeting the four mayors will turn their attention to the recent LHIN RFP situation that could have moved ophthalmological services out of North Simcoe. We will be considering a game plan to ensure that we have adequate levels of healthcare in North Simcoe for all of our citizens.

Then at 7:00 pm Thursday evening Council will meet at Town Hall to discuss what should be done with the nearly $900,000 2013 budget surplus.  You are welcome to attend.


Friday April 25th at 12 noon will see the start of the 2014 Midland Home Show.  This is your opportunity to see in one spot all of the local vendors that you will need for your home repair and services. The show wraps up on Sunday.


Weekend

Saturday
-       Midland Home Show all day at the NSSRC
-       Huronia Foundation for the Arts and the MCC host a joint dinner/dance fundraiser at MCC starting at 6:00 pm.  A few tickets are still available.

Sunday
-       Midland Home Show all day at the NSSRC
-       We are the Villagers hosts a pancake breakfast at Brian Orser Arena in Penetanguishene from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm
-       Shelter Now is hosting a Bowls for Beds fundraiser at their location starting at noon



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And in closing some further information from Enbridge Gas for those trying to cope with the high costs for natural gas in our province.

“We recognize that the recent gas rate increase may make it difficult for some customers to pay their natural gas bills. The OEB’s Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) provides emergency financial assistance of up to $500 towards their energy bill. In 2013, more than 2,700 low-income households received assistance on their natural gas bills. We also have the Home Weatherization Retrofit Program for qualified low-income homeowners which offers free energy saving measures, such as insulation, to help lower future energy bills and increase comfort in the home.

As you may know, Enbridge Gas Distribution has a policy of not turning off gas to residential customers with a history of non-payment during the cold winter months. This year, we have delayed the date at which we will begin disconnections, from April 1st to April 22nd as the cold weather has lingered well into spring. Lastly, if a customer is having or expecting to have difficulty paying their bills, we would encourage them to contact us (Enbridge), so that we might work with them to make payment arrangements.”


Gord McKay


Be part of Midland’s Year of Making Decisions - 2014
                                                                                              


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sunday April 13, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen

First it’s too much snow - now too much melt water.   And weather predictions indicate that the “El Nino” may be back this summer. Can’t say it’s ever dull. 

This past week there has been a lot of local media coverage about a Request for Proposal (RFP) issued by our North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN. The RFP was asking hospitals and private clinics to propose how they would provide ophthalmological services (eg. cataract surgery) , currently provided in 4 locations in the LHIN. The end result would likely have been a reorganization of cataract services, with Midland likely being serviced out of Barrie. The people of Midland were told what was happening on April 4th and the reaction was overwhelmingly negative.  Thanks to some direct civic action the RFP process was stopped by the LHIN.

Our province and our LHIN are under great pressure to provide our area’s healthcare services more efficiently. What we saw with ophthalmology is likely to be repeated with other healthcare services. Change is coming. North Simcoe, having a small population area will always face the uphill battle that services can be provided more efficiently if they are located in a larger population centre. What the efficiency argument fails to address is the quality of service to our residents and ultimately the attractiveness of our area to all who might want to live here.

Over the next few months the four mayors will be working with doctors, our hospital, our citizens and the LHIN to create a sustainable “healthcare charter” for North Simcoe. Essentially, “What healthcare services must be available in North Simcoe to properly serve our population?”  I expect a number of public meetings over the next few months as we work with the LHIN and the citizens of North Simcoe to ensure proper healthcare stays close to home.

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A number of meetings on Monday April 14th starting at 7:00 pm.   It starts with a Public Meeting (you may speak) on recommendations for changes to our development charges.  Right after that is a special meeting of Council to accept government funding to help us with our 2014 downtown master planning exercise. Then the General Committee meeting including:
-       Two reports on special requests for parking permissions in the downtown
-       The Treasurer will make recommendations on what should become of the 2013 budgetary surplus of $891,000
-       Those recommendations may link to the report on snowplowing, where we have already used up 62% of the 2014 budget allotment
-       An announcement on our negotiations with Hydro One

Tuesday April 15th will feature the Meridian Business Women of the Year awards from 4:00 to 9:00 pm at the Midland Cultural Centre.  At 6:30 pm that evening is a very special event at the Boathouse Eatery entitled “Taste of the Titanic”.  The Keewatin will open a new model ship museum this year and will kick that off with the unveiling of a 10 foot scale model of the RMS Titanic. The “taste” comes into play as the evening will feature food items from the Titanic’s menu from that fateful voyage.   Call the Keewatin for tickets.

Wednesday April 16th will also be busy. Our local manufacturers will hold a meeting to share ideas about manufacturing excellence. While the manufacturing base across Ontario has been under considerable pressure to reinvent itself, there are a number of success stories in our own backyard. A fine example of our local industry pulling together.

At 4:00 pm you are invited to Town Hall for the regular Police Service Board meeting. Then at 7:00 pm at the MCC, David Phillips will be the guest of Fred Hacker on A Day in the Life. It will be a lively and intimate conversation concerning a topic we all love to discuss – our weather.

The weekend will be special for many with the celebration of Easter. Town offices will be closed on the Friday and the Monday.


Gord McKay


Be part of Midland’s Year of Making Decisions - 2014
                                                                                              




Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturday April 5, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen

I enjoyed my first springtime stroll down King Street this week. The shops were busy and coffee tables were out on the sidewalk – time for basking in the spring sunshine. I also heard the sound of hammers and drills as a number of shops are taking advantage of the BIA fa├žade improvement program to spruce up their buildings. And new stores are coming, including a menswear shop. Spring has arrived on King Street.

This past week the Town held a public meeting about a proposed move by the Guesthouse shelter from the Knox Church premises to Elizabeth Street. It was a well-attended meeting with three individuals speaking against the shelter and three in support.  All speakers recognized the special needs of those who use the shelter and genuinely wanted to do what was best for them.  More street outreach was suggested as a solution to helping balance the needs of the homeless with maintaining the attractiveness of our downtown for all citizens and visitors. The matter will likely come back to the April Council meeting for a final decision on the Elizabeth Street location.

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On Monday April 7th the YMCA will hold a meeting a Town Hall at 11:00 am to develop a plan for youth engagement in our area.

Tuesday it’s down to County at 9:00 am for the regular Council meeting. One item on the agenda is the report on the first year of operation for the County’s combined waste management service. A few statistics;
-       128,000 tons of waste were managed
-       71,5000 tons were diverted
-       The program saved $2.6 million over the 2012 collection costs
County will also launch its new Affordable Housing Strategy Committee. North Simcoe will be at the table.

Wednesday April the 9th starts early at 7:30 am at Base Borden. We will be honoring the Canadian role in the historic battle of Vimy Ridge. I hope to be back in time for the noon presentation on the economy by BNS Chief Economist Warren Justin.  The event is at Lot 102.  Call Kathy Watson at BNS if you are interested.

At 5:00 pm I will be at Guesthouse helping to prepare the evening meal and serving the volunteers who support our homeless throughout the year. At 7:00 pm you are invited to a special meeting of Council at the Town to learn about brownfields development, especially a new technique call “risk assessment”.

Friday April 11th at 11:00 am is the regular Waterfront Project steering committee meeting. The Committee has recommended a name for the Waterfront district that will be considered by Council in April.  And at 7:00 pm it’s time to consider your new spring wardrobe at the CLH Fashion Show and fundraiser at the NSSRC. All are welcome.


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Closing on a serious note, our Simcoe-Muskoka LHIN held a meeting this past Friday where they described a process for reorganizing the ophthalmology services (eg. corneal transplants) we receive. The process once completed is likely to change the number of locations where these services are provided (currently four) to a smaller number. Some communities will lose local access to these services.

Our own ophthalmologist, Dr. Scanlan, was at the meeting and is concerned about the implications. If Dr. Scanlon is forced to relocate it will affect our growing seniors community, our hospital’s service delivery and our area’s growing healthcare economy. I will be involved in a coordinated community response over the coming weeks. I will keep you updated on this significant issue.


Gord McKay


Be part of Midland’s Year of Making Decisions - 2014