A Few Centuries, and 150 Years

Most of us will soon be participating in celebrations marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Overall we can be mostly proud of the society that has evolved from our European and colonial past. Some First Nations are reminding us, though, that Indigenous people have no reason to cheer about an imposed system that continues to have devastating social and economic consequences for their communities.

I took a look at some maps in the Economic Atlas of Ontario from the Ontario Archives, which dramatically illustrates how “Indians” systematically vanished from our consciousness in the century prior to Confederation. The following slides contain four maps spanning 1792 to 1882.

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We can hope that in this 150th year of Canada that history is finally starting to bend in the direction of a more just future. In symbolic recognition, the summer solstice, June 21, is celebrated as National Aboriginal Day, and will be renamed National Indigenous People’s Day. More importantly, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has presented a full catalogue of recommendations to address numerous injustices affecting Indigenous people. (visit Reconciliation Canada)

I think it is both startling and shameful that, over my lifetime in the 20th century, I have had virtually no meaningful contact with Indigenous people. So in that context, it is particularly important and meaningful that Innisfil’s annual event, Celebrate Lake Simcoe, is partnered this year with the Barrie Native Friendship Centre to hold a traditional Pow wow at Innisfil Beach Park in conjunction with other activities later in July.

Travel Ontario website describes a pow wow as a “sacred gathering of Indigenous peoples to honour the past, renew friendships and celebrate with music, song, food, dance and storytelling.” According to Wikipedia, “The word is derived from the Narragansett word powwaw, meaning “spiritual leader“.

The 2017 Celebrate Lake Simcoe event takes place on Saturday, July 22. Admission is free with a Food Bank donation. At 5:30 a.m. First Nations participants will conduct a sunrise ceremony, Blessing of the Water. A traditional Pow Wow begins at noon with a Grand Entry.

Celebrate Lake Simcoe also includes art, culture and environmental booths and a lake swims of 1, 3 and 5 km. Swim registrants are invited. Visit the website at Celebrate Lake Simcoe 2017

Stroud Centreville Gets Another Look

After two public meetings, a proposed development for the main street of Stroud gets another look on Wednesday, June 14 at Town Hall. In this revised plan:

  • the number of townhouses is reduced from 107 to 94 on a slightly smaller space
  • 12 single detached homes are proposed for the western boundary
  • the size of the commercial blocks is reduced slightly
  • the site includes a gas bar and convenience store

Centreville3

A proposal to include several floors of apartments over the commercial units was rejected by local residents at previous public meetings. The single detached homes (instead of townhouses) are intended to buffer the transition from existing residential homes to the new development.

I think this revised plan continues to miss the mark for good planning. Completely removing apartments above the commercial space is a mistake. It would have been wiser to include this mixed-use option to offer more housing options for all age groups. Younger and older Innisfil residents don’t necessarily want, or can afford, a single family home. A retired individual that I know who is planning to move from their home is forced to look in Barrie, Alliston and Midland because there are no suitable apartment options in Innisfil. The objections from Stroud residents to more housing options is unreasonable and puzzling. Including these residents in the development would also make Stroud livelier and more economically viable.

The site plan itself is sadly disappointing in offering yet another parking-lot laden strip mall. I hardly think that a tired and outdated approach to make Stroud look like 1960s Mississauga or contemporary Brampton should get any serious consideration at all. It flies in the face of all the urban planning discussions that have taken place in Innisfil in the last 10 years.

The Implementation Plan for Inspiring Innisfil 2020 (Feb. 2011) stated the following objectives:  Continue reading

Councillor Seeks InnPower Sale

UPDATE: One councillor, Richard Simpson, supported Mr. Daurio’s motion (below). Deputy Mayor Dollin suggested he was making the motion for ‘his friends’ at Alectra – an accusation Mr. Daurio attributes to the fact that he relied on financial figures provided by Alectra. Dollin also suggested that a $25 million charge was made to Barrie when joining Alectra – something Mr. Daurio describes as “an opportunity for Barrie to invest in the purchase of Brampton hydro and earn an additional $5m annually in interest and dividends forever!”. Daurio contends that “Alectra had promised a 14% rate reduction, and interest and dividends and other savings of $4m annually, while InnPower promised a rate increase and little/no dividends for  the next 6 years — a loss to Innisfil of $8m annually, and $48m over the next 6 years.” Under existing procedural rules, the subject will not be revisited at Council for a year.

This Wednesday, June 7, Councillor Stan Daurio is moving a motion at Innisfil Council “that the Board of InnPower be requested to explore options to sell or partner with Alectra and/or other utilities…”.

The saga of missteps at InnPower is already well known: an ill-fated attempt at joint ownership with Edmonton-owned Epcor Utilities Inc.; an overly ambitious investment in new facilities based on the assumption of leasing space to Epcor; an urgent need for alternative InnPower financing when the deal collapsed; a six year suspension of dividend payments to Innisfil; loans from the Town and Simcoe County plus an application for a rate increase to cover the cost of mandated expansion of service to newly designated urban areas.

In light of the current popular uproar over electricity rates, Councillor Daurio argues it would be more beneficial to sell our local utility to Alectra, which was formed from the merger of municipally-owned Enersource, Horizon Utilities and Powerstream plus the acquisition of Hydro One Brampton as of February of this year. Headquartered in Mississauga, Alectra’s service area encompasses 1,800 square kilometres and serves nearly a million customers in 15 communities from Alliston to St. Catharines and Hamilton to Vaughan. Alectra is now “the second largest municipally-owned electric utility by customer base in North America”.

Councillor Daurio puts the minimum value of InnPower at $40 million (2015 estimate) and expects a dividend return of 4.4 to 4.5% or $1.8 million annually. Additionally, the former Powerstream told Council in 2015 that a merger would lower electric bills in Innisfil by $23/month. This would be equivalent to savings of $4.4 million annually for 16,000 Innisfil households.  Continue reading

Growing Urgent

It’s interesting that, just as the U.S. is pondering whether to honour the Paris Climate Change agreement, Clean Technica is drawing attention to research with alarming implications for the future of food security by 2050:

“Global production of the 4 most important staple crops in the world — maize/corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans — will be reduced by around 23% by the 2050s as a result of worsening anthropogenic climate change, according to new research published in the journal Economics of Disasters and Climate Change.

Notably, even by the 2030s — not that long from now — production of the staple crops mentioned above are expected to fall by ~9%, owing to rising temperatures (both rising minimums and maximums), increasingly extreme weather, and drought.

It should be noted that the findings don’t take into account rising soil depletion/erosion problems, the possibility of synthetic fertilizer shortages, or the possibility of large-scale wars or social breakdown. In other words, things could get notably worse than the figures above, which are already quite extreme.”  Continue reading

Rotary Walk & Run June 3 Supports Innisfil Trails

Rotary Club of Innisfil has been instrumental in fostering the development of a public trail through a 55 acre woodlot behind the Town Hall and Recreation Complex extending to the 7th Line. The Rotary Trail project consists of “a series of walking and biking trails that will be open to the community and visitors, as well as create a Living Classroom of our local ecosystem our students can come to explore.”  An initial portion of the trail was officially opened last fall and Rotary members are eager to further develop the project.

According to press reports, the County of Simcoe will link the trail to Alcona through a walking/cycling path planned along Innisfil Beach Road when it is widened. “There will also be a link to other County trail systems such as Simcoe and Huronia Trails and the Trans Canada Trail.”

Rotary is organizing this year’s Walk and Run at Innisfil Recreation Complex on Saturday June 3 to help raise funds for this ambitious trail project. (The total funding target is $2,000,000). In the past 2 years the Fun Run has contributed $8,000 toward the trails project. Additional funding has come from the the Trillium Foundation and the Inspiring Innisfil grant program.

This year, participants meet at the Innisfil Recreation Complex, registration starting at 7:30 a.m.; warm-up at 9 a.m. for a 5 km Fun Walk and Run. Entry is $5 for adults and seniors or $20 for families. (See below to register in advance online) The Walk & Run is followed by more Family Fun Day events at the Recreation Complex.

Fun Run 2017

 

Convenience vs. Green Bins

The use of green bins, or more accurately, the disuse, of them has been a topic of attention lately. It started with the admission of a resident that she doesn’t use the green bin because of a fear of odours and pests she might encounter. A few letter writers responded in turn encouraging her and others to use the bin properly.

This week, Simcoe County, which manages waste for member municipalities, circulated a flyer with the shocking statistic that 40% of collected garbage is organic material that could be diverted to the green bin for composting. This summer the County is launching a pilot program, Feed Your Green Bin to Win. “The goal is to recognize and reward those using their green bin for doing the right thing”. The aim is to encourage more people to use the green bin most often.

I’m old enough to remember when all garbage cans were basically ‘green’ bins. ‘Back in the day’, before supermarkets, before plastic bags, before ‘fast’ food and prepackaged foods, the garbage bin was mostly all organic waste as I recall. As a boy – in Toronto at the time – it was my job to empty the garbage pail once or twice a week and take it Continue reading