Innisfil Concert Series Continues June 10

SuzieandRick

The Innisfil Concert Series continues on MondayJune 10 with a performance by Roots and Blues singer, Suzie Vinnick and Rick Fines’ unique blend of warm-hearted blues, juke joint folk, and “dockside soul”. Suzie Vinnick is a 3-time Juno Nominee, CFMA Award winner, and a 10-time winner of the Maple Blues Award for songwriting, female vocalist, acoustic act and more.

Rick Fines first gained attention as part of the legendary Jackson Delta. He’s since released four solo albums, another with his own Rick Fines trio, and a critically acclaimed disc with fellow troubadour, Suzie Vinnick. His partnership with Suzie garnered a Maple Blues Songwriter of the Year Award.  On his own, he pulled in two more Maple Blues Awards (for Solo Act of the Year), as well as an astonishing eight other nominations.

The performance takes place at Innisfil IdeaLab & Library, Lakeshore Branch. Doors open at 7:00 pm. The concert begins at 7:30 pm. For more information and ticket purchases, visit the Innisfil Arts, Culture & Heritage Council website.

Advertisements

Double Double Construction

Simcoe County’s plan to widen Innisfil Beach Road (County Road 21) to four lanes from two has been in the works for a number of years. (The Environmental Assessment review was published in 2014.) It seems like a good time to check in on the schedule and progress. It will be several more years before we see some actual widening although the County budget states, “The capital plan includes Council direction to condense major construction projects as much as possible in order to minimize the construction time impact on residents.”

The first phase involves widening intersections and adding turning lanes. Intersection improvements have been completed at Thornton (hwy 27) and at the 10th Line. Preliminary work has moved this year to the intersection at Yonge St. (County Road 4) and construction there will continue this fall and into another construction season. Intersection work also needs to be completed at the 5th Sideroad.

The recommended design for Innisfil Beach Road provides for four traffic lanes and a pedestrian path allowance of 2 to 3 metres on a 40 metre right of way, reduced to 36 metres in some areas where the ability to widen is constrained.

The total budget for the 12 km. widening project was set at more than $65 million. The County’s 2019 budget includes $6.2 million for work on Innisfil Beach Road this fiscal year. The bulk of that money, $5.6 million, is derived from development charges.

Construction is estimated to take up to 6 years to complete in phases. If earlier reports are accurate, we may see a widening from the 20th Sideroad to Yonge St (CR 4) in 2021. Widening would be continued from Yonge St to the 10th Sideroad (Huronia Rd.) in 2022. Work would continue from the 10th Sideroad to Highway 400 in 2023 and finally continue from the 5th Sideroad to highway 27 in 2024.

Meanwhile, plans are also afoot to rebuild the Highway 400 interchange. The MTO website, (www.highway400innisfilbeach.com) provides the following description:

“The project includes detail design for the replacement of bridges on Highway 400 at Innisfil Beach Road & Barrie-Collingwood Railway, reconstruction of Innisfil Beach Road interchange, reconstruction of the existing 6-lane Highway 400 mainline to match the reconstructed interchange, drainage improvements, full illumination, relocation of traffic signals to the new ramp terminals, and improvements to roadside safety. Three lanes of Highway 400 will be maintained in each direction during all constructions stages.

… Current traffic projections indicate that the Highway 400 corridor needs to be widened to 10 lanes (five (5) lanes in each direction by 2031. The addition of lanes to the Highway 400 corridor will require the widening and replacement of the structures that cross Highway 400.

The recommended structure … is a 34.0 m single span bridge. The new bridge will accommodate the future 4-lane cross-section for Innisfil Beach Road… The Detail Design for this project has commenced. As details become available [schedule details] will be updated”

Is there an upside to the work ahead? Maybe local retailers will see a trend to more local shopping? Why drive if you don’t have to …

Is It Hot in Here?

A UN report released in October warned that “The world’s politicians have just over a decade left to implement drastic transformations in their energy, food and transport systems that could avoid dangerous climate change”.

“12 years isn’t a deadline, and climate change isn’t a cliff we fall off — it’s a slope we slide down,” said Kate Marvel, a climate scientist at NASA. “We don’t have 12 years to prevent climate change — we have no time.  It’s already here.” (Axios)

Ontario’s bumper-sticker government, ‘for the people’ issued a “Made in Ontario Environment Plan” compiled by the Ministry of Environment, Conservation & Parks. It appears to take a lot of pages to say it will do very little with very little. First the plan points out, (like some other Canadian jurisdictions), how little the province contributes to green house gas emissions. As if nature will take notice and refrain from any climate change effects in Ontario.

Under the title, Doing Our Part, the plan takes credit for the previous government’s closure of coal-fired plants in reducing GHG emissions by 22% below the 2005 base under the Paris Climate Accord. So, move along, nothing to worry about here, right?

But just in case there is pollution “affecting lives”, the plan includes “an online platform for reporting incidents that allows photos or video to be sent in, as well as reporting an incident by e-mail, phone or through an app … An improved complaint response system that sets out the services Ontarians can expect from inspectors and investigators … new standards on the response time … based on the type of incident they report. We will be transparent about pollution incidents and spills, and provide real-time information where it is available …” (p 9) So if you are experiencing anything beyond what is already ‘normal’, sure, let us know. But if you can’t see it, smell it, taste it, or feel sick, everything must be OK.  Continue reading

Making a Home, Making a Move

“Affordable” housing is an urgent issue right now especially in our largest cities. We hear about rental accommodation scarcity in Toronto and the under-handed practice of ‘reno-viction’ by landlords attempting to circumvent rent controls.

An Affordable Housing Investment program in Ontario commits $800 million over 6 years – an average of $133 million per year. According to CMHC, the federal government invests over $238 million annually, (through March 2019), to help Canadians in housing need. The provinces and territories match the federal investments with contributions of their own. Nevertheless, these efforts take several years to register any impact while we continue to slip behind.

Across Canada the rental vacancy rate has shrunk to 2.4%. Some provinces with the highest vacancy rates also happen to have the highest average rental costs. This skewed market is another indication that our economic system is seriously broken. Conventional dogma says that the “market” will respond to fill a demand. But the ‘market’ builds to maximize profit, not necessarily maximize benefit for people in need.

“Transparency International Canada studied all residential property transactions in the GTA since 2008 and discovered more than $20 billion in anonymous money entered the real estate market without any oversight or due diligence. During this period, more than 50,000 homes were purchased by corporate entities …” (Toronto Star, March 21, 2019)

We seem to have an abundance of low-wage earners stuck in high-cost urban centres. Yet more remote areas are losing young people but still have a need for new workers. I was interested in a pilot project started by the federal department of immigration based on an earlier trial in Atlantic Canada. It attempts to match skills of immigrants with job vacancies in smaller communities.

“Immigrants will be chosen for the pilot project based on matching their skills to the local needs of their communities. Their professions could come from a variety of ones, such as truck drivers, teachers, lab technicians, etc.”

“What we’re looking for is communities that have two things; jobs to offer newcomers, and a welcoming infrastructure,” [Minister] Hussen said. “What I mean by that, is people who are willing to help in the process of settlement and integration, but also organizations that could do the work in terms of language training and employment support for newcomers.”

“Between 2001 and 2016, the number of potential workers in rural Canada has decreased by 23 per cent, while the number of potential retirees has increased by 40 per cent … Rural Canada faces particular challenges when it comes to labour market growth and labour market participation,” Hussen said. (Program to bring newcomers to Sudbury, the North, Sudbury Star, January 25, 2019)

If this program is successful, couldn’t it be expanded to all young people who are ambitious enough to make a new start in a new location? Couldn’t a small group of new, and other, Canadians move together to a smaller town with some settlement assistance, providing some social support to each other as they start out?

It seems to me that it would be a benefit to move several thousand young people per year (of all backgrounds) out of crowded, over-priced cities to smaller communities with appropriate job opportunities. “This is a common, common ask — municipal leaders are saying, ‘Please, we need more people, more workers, more families’, [the Minister] said”. A coordinated effort could help to address several urgent problems at once.

Communities chosen to participate in the immigration pilot program will be announced this spring.

Poverty and Affordability

We hear a lot these days about the need for ‘affordable’ housing. A recent opinion piece from the building industry talked about an Ontario inclusionary zoning regulation introduced in April 2018. It allows for municipalities to “introduce planning requirements for the inclusion of affordable housing in new residential developments.” It goes on to say, “The basic premise is a partnership between developers, builders and municipalities to encourage the construction of affordable housing units that would not otherwise be built.” (emphasis added) And finally, the climax: the cost of creating ‘affordability’ is actually achieved through a subsidy from taxpayers – “Inclusionary zoning can only work as a remedy or solution for affordable housing when an equitable cost-sharing agreement is in place between the building industry and municipalities.”

I was suddenly struck by a basic question: Why is the development industry building unaffordable housing? Why do we need a planning regulation to require ‘affordable’ housing? How has the vaunted ‘free market’ gotten so twisted out of shape that a ‘cost-sharing’ subsidy is needed to provide a basic necessity like shelter? Really, the housing issue is just a symptom of a much, much bigger problem. Inclusionary zoning is an ineffective band-aid solution.

We have a peculiar situation where globalism has pitted societies against each other, sending jobs to low wage countries, cutting corporate taxes and making other concessions to keep what jobs remain. It has created enormous income disparities within and between countries, increasing poverty and the unaffordability of everything, while a small international elite controls the bulk of global wealth. According to Oxfam, in 2017, just eight individuals control wealth that exceeds the wealth of the bottom half of the world’s population, i.e. – 3.6 billion people!

Governments, like the current Ontario government, help to magnify the risk of poverty by stifling social reforms like minimum wage, basic income, and labour organizing. They magnify the negative impact of corporations by reducing their taxes, and financial, labour, and environmental oversight.  (Canadian banks save $60 million per quarter from Trump’s U.S. tax reduction which cost the US treasury about $1.5 trillion).

It doesn’t have to be this way. But our societies need a major overhaul. Muhammad Yunus, Nobel prize winner, founder of micro-credit and ‘banker to the poor’, has written a new book, A World of Three Zeroes – The new economics of zero poverty, zero unemployment, and zero net carbon emissions. At the core of his philosophy is a requirement to free ourselves from the oppressive idea of greed as the sole objective of corporations. He is counting on the next generation of youthful leaders to turn things around. Let’s hope he succeeds.

Spring Into It

Have we had enough of winter? I think so. Some of us are starting to think about activities and community events that we look forward to every year. As a member, and board member, of the Innisfil Arts, Culture & Heritage Council, or (the mercifully shorter) IACHC, I didn’t think it was too soon to mention some spring dates where we hope to welcome and meet more Innisfil residents:

Saturday, March 30 – Seedy Saturday

The IACHC will be participating this year in Seedy Saturday at the Lakeshore branch, Innisfil IdeaLab & Library. There will be lots of seedy and crafty exhibitors to kick off the new garden season. Visit the IACHC table to find out more about our projects and enter our draw to win a garden arbour designed and created with help from IdeaLab.

Monday, April 8 – Innisfil Concert Series

IACHC has partnered with IdeaLab & Library to present four musical events throughout the year. The series starts with Ennis Sisters in Concert. All concerts are being held at the Lakeshore branch, Alcona. Tickets are available for individual performances, or for the full series. Complete information is on the IACHC website.

Saturday, May 25 – Planters Festival

Partnered with the Innisfil Garden Club as part of their annual fund-raising plant sale, traditionally held after the Victoria Day weekend at the South Innisfil Arboretum in Guilford. It’s an early morning start with plants, bake sale and barbecue as well as some related exhibitors and the IACHC.

June 1 & 2 – Cookstown Wing Ding 

Cookstown Wing Ding is a town-wide weekend yard sale that has grown into a fun family festival with food trucks & beverages, games, park area, music stage and bouncy castle. Never know what you’ll find but always fun.

A highlight is the Creative Challenge, open for all ages. This year’s challenge is to transform an otherwise ‘disposable’ cup into a work of art with a favourite quote, phrase, joke or whatever. Visit Creative Challenge for more information and an entry form. Visitors to Wing Ding vote for Challenge winners.

Plan to reserve the dates you’re interested in. Maybe, all of them?