June 25, 2014

Permaculture author predicts major upheaval

As published in The Erin Advocate

It’s difficult to put your finger on permaculture. It’s more than a way of gardening, but it’s not a formal science. It’s more than an attitude, but it’s not quite a religion. In its purer forms, it is too radical for most people, but it is having an influence on our culture, and it could become more prominent if things really start to fall apart.

Permaculture author Peter Bane was in Erin last week promoting the core strategies of this “way of thinking” to a receptive audience of about 50 at All Saints Church. The meeting was hosted by Transition Erin, which is part of a movement that sprang from the ideals of permaculture.

Bane is the author of The Permaculture Handbook and publisher of Permaculture Activist journal. Farmer Val Steinmann introduced him as a North American leader in the field, helping make permaculture a global movement, taking it “from the fringes, to the mainstream of church basements”.

Bane calls permaculture “a design system rooted in ecological science”, focused on care of the earth, care of people and fair distribution of surplus. This is linked to awareness of limits within nature, and the need to limit population and consumption.

“It’s a way of thinking about problems and turning them into solutions holistically – we can do it in our lives, we can do it in our businesses, we can do it in our communities,” he said.

“Permaculture is fundamentally about economic democracy, about recreating resources at the local level so that everyone has enough. The problem with our economy is that is continues to concentrate wealth in a few hands. There are more than a billion people on this planet who are hungry every single day.

“In the process of building the industrial economy over the last 200 years, we have destroyed large parts of the earth. We have to recreate the wealth that our ancestors inherited and used up to bring us to where we are today.”

The idealism of the movement can be seen in goals such full employment, with full enjoyment of worthwhile work.

“If we were all doing more of what we really liked and loved to do, those would be those jobs that need doing. Planting trees, cultivating gardens, taking care of people, building community among wonderful people like this,” he said.

“The answers are in our front and back yards, in our neighbourhoods. By turning our attention to building soil at home, growing food, processing and trading it locally, we can build the local economy, rebuild our health and restore the basis for economic democracy by creating real resilience. Food sovereignty means political sovereignty.”

The message also has that familiar apocalyptic tone. The ravages of climate change, energy shortages, overpopulation and depleted soils will destroy the wasteful economy that we know, and if we survive, we will all have to manage with less of everything. Bane says the problems are too entrenched to be solved by governments, and that it will take grassroots movements to make progress.

“Now, we’re living in the time of the whirlwind – all these things are squeezing us into smaller and smaller space,” he said. “What we’re about is redesigning human culture. It’s a complete cultural transformation we’re after. Everyone is going to go through a traumatic and amazing cultural upheaval over the next two decades. We’d better be prepared, because it’s coming at us, like it or not.”

In practical terms at home, permaculture means taking control and looking for opportunities to conserve water and energy, recycle waste of every sort, grow food or buy from local producers and let nature do more work for us. Within the economy, it means shifting from oil to wind, solar and biomass energy and producing much of what we need locally.

The ideas are already well known, but we have not been forced to really take them seriously. When the crunch comes, the permaculture folks want to be ready to throw humanity a lifeline.

Looking Back

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)

Nine Austrian soldiers died when a bi-plane accidentally collided with a dirigible airship taking photographs of army maneuvers near Vienna. The bi-plane pilot had circled over the airship as a prank, as though to drop a bomb on it, but miscalculated his approach, ripped a hole in the balloon and caused a massive explosion.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)

The Advocate reports that Toronto Telegram featured an article on “Erin’s Silversmith”, artist Arthur Brecken. The public was invited to tour his 115-year-old home at the corner of English Street and Main to see his many silver creations, and 562 people attended. Hosting and d├ęcor were handled by Brenda Lee Denny, Elly Vanzoelen, Gail Chard and Valerie Behm.

The Erin Minor Softball season kicked off with a ceremonial first pitch. Councillor Jim Mundell was the batter, Corey Herrington, President of the Erin District Chamber of Commerce was the catcher, Norm McMahon, President of the Erin Legion was the umpire and Bill Weber, President of the Erin District Lions Club was the pitcher.

Gray Coach Lines is advertising affordable trips between Erin and Toronto. One-way tickets are $1.95 and return fare is $3.75.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)

Bylaw officer Bob Stewart has done a door-to-door tour of Erin village to ensure that all dogs are licensed. About 100 people have not bought licenses, risking fines of $20.

Water problems in Erin Heights have prompted Stewart to warn violators of the water bylaw that they could have their water turned off, and have to pay $12 to get it turned back on.

Paul Knox has been announced as the new principal of Erin District High School, replacing Peter Durksen who is going to John F. Ross High School. He will be joined by new vice-principal Eric Holmes from Centre Wellington, replacing John Akin who is also going to Ross.

The Down Memory Lane column recounted the victory of the “Wet” faction in a 1954 Erin Village plebiscite, approving retention of a beer and wine license at the Busholme Inn. More than 93 per cent of eligible voters turned out.

Erin’s Inter-County Fastball team defeated the league-leading Glen Williams, on the strength of Bob Braiden’s two-run homer and Elmer Ellerby’s 4-hit pitching. The night before, Erin tied the first half of a double header with Hespler 1-1, but lost the second game 4-0. Ken Steen pitched 13 innings before Braiden took over in relief.

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)

Councillor Barb Tocher was the only member of Erin Township Council to vote against approval of the Fringe Area Study. Deputy Reeve George Root and Councillor Carol Graham voted in favour, while Reeve Duncan Armstrong and Councillor Doris Topolsek declared conflicts of interest as they both own land in the study area, so did not vote. Tocher said she had concerns about creating additional industrial-zoned land just north of Erin village, which already has 105 acres of vacant industrial land.

Robin Keeler of Orton has been selected as a goalie for the All Ontario Field Hockey Team this summer. The Grade 8 student, who will travel to Saint John, New Brunswick for a competition, thanked her coaches Laurie Heimbecker and Wayne White for their help.

Liz Armstrong of the group Rural Dignity said that while customers are happy with rural postal service, “The people doing the job are underpaid and overworked.” She said changes by Canada Post to move some operations into stores mean that some postmasters are working at one third the wage of their predecessors.

Hop growers on board with local ingredients

As published in Country Routes

Interest in fresh, locally-grown food – rather than the long-distance industrial variety – has spilled over into the beer business, prompting some farmers to try their hand at growing hops.

Jay Mowat on the Ninth Line, an advocate of local food, has done a planting of Ontario Bertwell Hops and is willing to invest the time needed to produce a solid first crop.

Jay Mowat of Erin prepares to plant his hop rhizomes.

“It takes three years for the plants to mature – I may get five or six pounds of dried flowers,” said Mowat, pounding stakes in a large square. Hops are generally grown in sunny areas from rhizomes, horizontal stems that send out roots and shoots.

The bushy hop vines (called bines) can be directed to grow along heavy twine, running from the stakes to a central pole, creating a pyramid-shaped trellis.

Hops are a crucial beer ingredient, with different hop varieties affecting the flavor, aroma and stability of the product, acting as an anti-bacterial agent and balancing the sweetness of malted barley with a level of bitterness.

Mowat got his rhizomes and inspiration for the project from entrepreneur Mike Driscoll of Guelph, who has been in the hop business for eight years and is encouraging new growers. He operates Harvest Hop & Malt, and grows his hops at Ignatius Farm on Hwy. 6.

He says Ontario once produced its own beer ingredients, but the Prairies took over with a better supply of barley, and the local hop industry collapsed in the 1920s after some bad crop years. Hop producers in Europe and the Pacific Northwest region of the US have dominated the market, but there are now 30 growers active in Ontario.

“The local food movement is driving the resurgence of hop growing,” said Driscoll, who has also set up a micro-malting operation, supplied by local barley crops.

“People are looking at where it comes from and the miles involved. Brewers are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. Brewers should be promoting local ingredients, and beer drinkers should ask brewers if they use local ingredients.”

Hops can be used fresh, with same-day delivery to the brewer, or dried for later use. Large-scale operations dry the flowers to 5% moisture, grind them up and form them into easy-to-ship pellets. Driscoll prefers to dry them to 50%, and then freeze them in bales.

Small hop farmers have no hope of tapping into the industrial scale production of the major beer companies. Not only are the quantities too small, but also it would be impossible to meet the consistency requirements of the big brewers. Smaller breweries, and their customers, have a greater interest in variety, said Driscoll.

“In the last 25 years we have had more adventurous and intelligent beer drinkers. They are more knowledgeable and willing to appreciate variations,” he said.



Environmental assessment to start on dam

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town will hire Triton Engineering to do an Environmental Assessment of the Station Street dam and pond area, but possible reconstruction of the bridge and dam will not happen until after the study is complete in January of 2016.

Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck said the long time frame is needed to gather all the necessary data. He recommended Triton because of their familiarity with issues in that area of Hillsburgh.

Council will ask the Ministry of Natural Resources for an extension of its deadline (originally June 1, 2014) for the Town to apply for permission to do the actual reconstruction.

The Town did emergency repairs to the deteriorating structure in 2012, and there has been ongoing debate about whether to retain the 19th Century mill pond.

Council has allocated $190,000 in its 2014 budget for the environmental assessment, but the full project is expected to cost well over $2 million.

Most rural roads will have speed limit of 60

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town will spend $10,000 for about 175 new speed limit signs, enabling enforcement of a bylaw that sets most rural limits at 60 kph and most urban ones at 40 kph.

Council approved a bylaw that has been needed since the Town discovered the default speed limit on most rural roads is actually 50 kph, not 80 kph as most people (and the OPP) had believed.

The problem relates to the 1998 amalgamation of Erin village and township. Erin was a “town” when the new Municipal Act took effect in 2003, setting the default at 50 for “towns” (including their rural areas) and 80 for “townships”. Without proper signs, this was not being enforced.

Council has the right to override the defaults and set speed limits ranging from 40 to 80, but because of Erin’s hilly terrain and low-quality roads in many areas, safety standards require a limit of less than 80.

Drivers entering the Town will soon see signs saying the speed limit is 60 kph “unless otherwise posted”. The new bylaw will apply to Town roads, but not to County roads, which have their own limits. Many border roads will continue to have limits higher than 60, until agreement is reached with neighbouring municipalities on a common limit.

Road Superintendent Larry Van Wyck reminded councillors that they had received legal advice on the issue, that a consultant and staff had reviewed all roads and that they had previously given him direction to prepare a bylaw with a general limit of 60 in rural areas and 40 in urban areas.

The bylaw, published with the June 17 agenda, lists every section of every road with its speed limit. There are some exceptions to the normal standards, with limits of 50 or 70 in some areas. A sign is required at every point where the limit changes.

Ninth Line south of Erin village will be 50 kph down to 10 Sideroad, then 60 kph to County Road 42 (Town Line / Ballinafad Road).

“To assist motorists and police, efforts have been made to provide a consistent speed along a road section, rather than increasing and decreasing zones over short distances,” said Van Wyck.

Staff will prepare a coloured map showing all the Erin speed zones, which will be available at www.erin.ca.

Sewers challenged for existing homes

As published in The Erin Advocate

Solmar Development Corp. says the Town’s decision to reserve sewage capacity for existing residents of Hillsburgh and Erin village “promotes a strategy which is not financially viable and is contrary to the public interest.”

Councillors reviewed a letter from Solmar lawyer Kimberly Beckman at a closed session on June 17 with their lawyer. The letter is published as part of the public agenda. They voted to send it to Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) consultant BM Ross “as public input”, but made no comments about it.

A limit of 6,000 urban residents is now set in the SSMP, based on the capacity of the West Credit River to safely absorb sewage effluent. Reserving capacity to service the existing 4,500 residents undermines provincial growth policies and leaves “very little capacity to service new development in the Town,” said Solmar.

The builder also challenges expansion of the SSMP mandate to include Hillsburgh, saying the original “intent and purpose of the SSMP was to develop a comprehensive servicing plan which would inform and support future development in the Erin Urban Area.”

The firm continues to protest the Town’s refusal to process its application for 1,200 new homes north of Erin village until the SSMP is done. Also on hold is a plan by Manuel Tavares to build 1,000 new homes in Hillsburgh. A limit of 1,500 new residents means there may be only 500 new homes, many of them built within existing neighbourhoods.

Solmar says the provincial growth plan gives clear direction that new wastewater infrastructure “is intended to serve growth and to be planned in a manner that achieves the Town’s intensification and density targets”.

It acknowledges that municipal services should be provided where servicing problems have been identified, but claims no servicing problems have been identified with existing homes.

It says planning documents do not support serving existing homes “at the expense of growth” and that failure to build subdivisions would force the cost of sewers “squarely on the municipality and the existing taxpayers”. The SSMP is in its final stages, with council expecting financial analysis of various options.

“The Solmar applications present a promising opportunity for the Town in terms of employment growth and much needed jobs, a range of housing options, recreation and green space opportunities, and most importantly for the feasibility of any municipal wastewater system in the Town, very substantial hard and soft infrastructure investment,” said their letter.

A council workshop (open to the public) is planned for July 9 and a full public meeting now set for September 2. Council hopes to complete the process before the October 27 municipal election.

Town defers costing for small bore sewers

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town has cancelled its plan to have the cost for a small bore sewage collection system investigated as part of its Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP).

Council had recently instructed consultant Watson & Associates to provide financial analysis of this alternative to traditional sewers, which could provide a lower cost and less disruption of the community.

After consulting with their lawyer last week, councillors said while they are interested in information about the system, the proper time to cost it compared to other possible solutions is in the next phase of environmental assessment, after the SSMP is done.

Doing the costing now “could jeopardize the process”, said CAO Kathryn Ironmonger.

The decision was a disappointment to Roy Val of Transition Erin, who has urged council to consider wastewater alternatives. The group is concerned that overall cost will be a factor when council decides whether to proceed with the next phase.

“How can council decide if it has no information on costing?” he said.

Old sidewalks to be torn out

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town will proceed with repairs to a number of sidewalks, but will also tear out some that are considered unnecessary or unsafe.

Council approved a $63,000 plan on June 17 that will see most of the work being done in Hillsburgh, including replacement of sections on both sides of Trafalgar in the downtown area.

Roads Superintendent Larry Van Wyck told council that some sidewalks “have been neglected, no longer serve the intended purpose and create a liability for the Town, and should be considered for removal.”

The Town has done the required annual inspection of its 10.7 km of sidewalks. It expects to have all planned work done by the end of September.

Sections will be replaced on Barker St. and Upper Canada Dr. in Hillsburgh, while all of the Orangeville St. sidewalk east of Barker will be removed and restored with grass. Also to be removed are sections on Queen St., Ann St. and the south side of George St.

Some areas, such as Station St. in Orangeville, and Daniel and Spring Streets in Erin village, will have their sidewalks fully restored only when the roads are reconstructed, and there is no time set for that.

Replacements in Erin village include sections on Main St., Dundas St., Church Blvd. and Daniel St. Planned for removal in Erin are sections on Ross St., the west side of Daniel St., and Scotch Street near the old public school.

More detailed locations and costs are published in the June 17 council agenda, available at www.erin.ca.

Ice storm claim hits $475,000

As published in The Erin Advocate

The Town is hoping to recover $475,000 from the provincial government for cleanup after last December’s ice storm, but about $100,000 of the work won’t be done until after the June 22 deadline.

The amount of reimbursement under the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program will depend on whether an extension of the deadline is allowed.

The province has set aside $190 million for the program, but municipalities have to spend their own money first, and are uncertain how the rebates will be allocated if total claims exceed the limit.

The Town has scrambled to meet the recently-announced deadline, with extra staff and contractors. Expenses not covered will be treated as unexpected operating costs.

Hospital funding prompts talk of leaving county

As published in The Erin Advocate

A committee vote to support donations now totalling $9.4 million to three county hospitals has Mayor Lou Maieron saying that Erin should leave Wellington County and join Halton Region.

“This is a Wellington County screw job – we’re going to have to look at some other relationship,” he said, after the county finance committee unanimously supported donations to county hospitals, but rejected bids for smaller donations from non-county hospitals that serve many Erin residents.

The mayor does not know if Halton wants a new northern territory, and acknowledges it is a decision only the province can make. But he says, “It would be the end of Wellington County.”

Erin would account for just 2.2% of Halton’s population, but benefit from its huge commercial and industrial tax base. Also, regions are responsible for sewage, while counties are not.

The current dispute stems from provincial funding for expansion of hospitals in Fergus, Mount Forest and Palmerston. Ministry of Health policy requires, however, that 10% of new hospital costs (and 100% of equipment costs) be raised at the local level.

Donations from the county, which are completely optional, would be added to the extensive fundraising efforts in communities that have the hospitals. Warden Chris White said the current policy of not supporting hospitals could be changed when necessary, noting that the county has provided millions of dollars to Guelph and Wellington hospitals over the last 30 years.

The mayor continues to protest Ontario’s property tax assessment system, over which the county has no control. Since Erin, Puslinch and Guelph-Eramosa are close to the GTA, their property values are higher and their residents pay a higher share of all county expenditures, not just hospital donations.

Erin has 12.4% of the county population but pays 15.5% of costs, meaning Erin residents will contribute $1.4 million to the hospitals. Puslinch and Guelph-Eramosa (which like Erin do not have hospitals) will pay similar amounts, but their county councillors are not campaigning against the hospital funding.

“It’s very difficult to justify,” said Maieron to the committee. “Do we fund hospitals that serve our residents or do we fund hospitals within our borders?"

Based on the original $9 million request, Minto residents would contribute $558,000 through the county, and their hospital would get $2 million. Wellington North would contribute $855,000, and their hospital would get $2 million. Centre Wellington would contribute $2.56 million, but Groves Hospital would get $5 million – in addition to the $5 million already pledged by the county for that hospital in 2003.

Maieron concedes that he and Councillor Ken Chapman will likely lose the hospital fight in a vote of 14-2 at the full county council meeting tomorrow (Thursday) at 10 am, but is urging Erin residents to show their support.

He did get a resolution passed at last week’s town council meeting, opposing the donations and reiterating that hospital funding is not a municipal responsibility.

“I’m tired of being one of Wellington County’s cash cows,” said Maieron. He was backed up by Councillor Josie Wintersinger, who said, “It’s high time that we push back.”

Councillor John Brennan said that in hindsight, council’s recent decision to split $10,000 among hospitals that do serve Erin, primarily Orangeville and Georgetown, was a mistake. He said the province is “shortchanging” poorer communities by forcing them to raise 10% of new hospital costs.

Councillor Barb Tocher was alone in opposing the resolution, noting that there is an established precedent of the county supporting hospitals. She supports the county donation, saying the loss of a hospital due to lack of support would be “absolutely devastating” to small communities.

“We’ve got to stop being so small-minded, looking at just we and us,” she said. “Hospital care is seamless. If we keep our hospitals in our county of Wellington strong, and every community in their counties or regions keep their hospitals strong, it won’t matter what hospital you go to. They’ll all be strong.”

Maieron points out that none of the local municipalities getting hospital upgrades are contributing tax dollars to the projects. Halton Hills has provided $2.7 million for the Georgetown hospital. Dufferin County has approved $500,000 for the Headwaters hospital in Orangeville, the first phase of $2 million requested over four years.

Georgetown hospital is nearing the end of a $6.5 million campaign to pay the local share of rebuilding their Emergency Department, renovating their Diagnostic Imaging Department and installing a CT scanner, and was asking Wellington for $100,000.

Headwaters hospital has already raised $14 million of the $16 million needed for a major expansion, and was asking Wellington for $115,000. Erin residents needing emergency care go to Orangeville 42% of the time, Georgetown 24%, Guelph 11% and Fergus 6%.

Louise Marshall Hospital in Mount Forest and Palmerston and District Hospital both need help to upgrade aging facilities and buy required equipment. They have increased their requests from $2 million to $2.2 million, over five years.

Groves Hospital in Fergus held a ground breaking ceremony last week, just before the committee meeting, to start construction of a new $100 million hospital that is expected to open in 2017.

Council member facing Ethics complaint

As published in The Erin Advocate

An unidentified member of Erin Town Council is the subject of a Code of Ethics complaint, CAO Kathryn Ironmonger announced at the June 17 council meeting.

The Code requires that the announcement be made, but that the identities of the member and the person making the complaint remain confidential.

Anyone can make a complaint under the Code, which covers a wide range of issues, including honesty, use of influence, use of Town property, acceptance of gifts, treatment of staff and the public, confidentiality and personal financial dealings.

The complaint has been reviewed by Integrity Commissioner Robert Williams, a retired political science professor who is on retainer to the Town and charges $125 per hour for his services.

He believes it is within the scope of the Code, so he will investigate and report to council as required within 90 days of the June 4 complaint, said Ironmonger.

The identities of those involved would be revealed at that time, along with recommended penalties if the councillor is found to have violated the Code. Council would vote on the penalties, which can range from an apology to a suspension of pay, but cannot include removal from office.

Town approves economic development plan

As published in The Erin Advocate

Council has approved an Action Plan for business retention and growth in the Town of Erin, including the hiring of an economic development officer.

Jana Reichert, County Economic Development Officer and Carolyn O’Donnell, Business Retention Coordinator appeared as a delegation on June 17 to present the Business Retention and Expansion project, with Erin Coordinator Mary Venneman.

Collection and analysis of information has been the primary activity, based on interviews with business owners – 270 county-wide and 41 in Erin.

“Quality of life was the highest-scoring factor,” said Reichert, who has led implementation of Wellington’s new Economic Development Strategy.

Council voted unanimously to accept the report and its Erin Action Plan. They had already set aside money in the 2014 budget for an economic development officer, on condition that it be supplemented by a $25,000 grant from the County. CAO Kathryn Ironmonger is confident this will be received.

“We’ve been crawling along for the whole term,” said Mayor Lou Maieron. “It’s time to do something.”

Other key initiatives include re-establishment of the Economic Development Committee with broad representation to develop an Erin strategy, follow-up and outreach to the business community, taking advantage of County and Hills of Headwaters initiatives, capitalizing on events like the Pan Am Games and developing tools to promote Erin’s competitive advantages.

“In the absence of an economic development plan, the Town has by default adopted a laissez-faire approach to economic development,” said Venneman.

“The Town leadership first needs to decide whether it wants to continue with the laissez-fair approach or adopt a more supportive proactive stance towards business. To say one thing and then act differently is the worst possible outcome because this will further erode trust and goodwill. What businesses want most of all is certainty and clarity.”

The survey covered four sectors: Manufacturing, Agriculture, Health Care and the Creative Economy. Erin’s businesses are pleased with the community’s quality of life with 95% saying this is excellent or good.

Business climate, however, was much lower, with only 51% of respondents saying the business climate in Erin is good or excellent (compared to 77% countywide).

For projected sales over the next year, 56% of Erin businesses expect to see growth or remain the same and 60% have a positive outlook for their industry.

The survey said Erin owners see local strengths, including a supportive community, proximity to the GTA, short commuting time and pockets of growth such as local food.

Among weaknesses, many said they feel “tolerated, not embraced” by the Town and are not happy with the quality of information they get. They also say that property taxes, leasing costs, development costs and land prices are expensive.

June 18, 2014

Stories needed for $5,000 grant competition

As published in The Erin Advocate

Donations of money and food are always welcome at the East Wellington Community Services (EWCS) Food Bank, but as part of a competition for a $5,000 grant, Erin and Rockwood residents are being asked to donate a few words to the cause.

The Guelph-based Oak Tree Project will award $5,000 to one charity for a new initiative.

EWCS wants to start a program called Growing, Giving & Getting Healthy. It will provide 520 Food Bank clients with a better quality of life through workshops on healthy eating and meal planning, including training and equipment for gardening and food preservation.

“It comes down to barriers and access,” said Erika Westcott, EWCS Manager of Community Services and Volunteers, noting that healthy eating can be difficult for clients in a time of high stress and a tight budget. “The more we can do to help them better their health, the more we help them get back on their feet.”

Groups will make it to a short list of five depending on the number of on-line nominations they get. Final judging will be based on the stories that people provide in their nominations, about why this charity is important to them.

“Originality counts in our judging – put some thought into your story,” says the website, www.oaktreeguelph.ca, in the Nominate section. Submissions are accepted from June 15 to July 31, and people can only vote once.

“We just need a short paragraph,” said Westcott. Nominators can also include a picture and a YouTube video link in their submission.

She said the competition provides a fun alternative to traditional grant applications. They are hoping to work with organizations like Transition Erin and Everdale that already have an interest in local, sustainable food production.

“It’s a chance to reach out and build partnerships with others, and make people aware of what we want to do,” said Westcott.

The program is organized by The Mactaggart Team, which provides investment management through Richardson GMP. They will make a primary donation of $5,000 and a second one of $1,000.

“We’re not just handing over a cheque to a worthwhile organization,” they said. “We’re encouraging the community to identify the needs that matter to them – and we’re expecting to hear some amazing stories of impact along the way.

“This will help our community’s charities spread to word long after the contest ends. When charities have strong roots beneath them, they are more resilient with the best infrastructure, people, tools and resources to do their work.”

Erin Mayor questions Orangeville growth

As published in The Erin Advocate

Mayor Lou Maieron is complaining loudly about limitations on new housing in Erin – and about the higher level of growth allowed in Orangeville.

The mayor claims the newly-imposed urban population limit of 6,000 people (4,500 existing, plus 1,500 new), based on the river’s capacity to handle sewage effluent, does not meet Erin’s needs. The Town currently relies entirely on septic systems, but is studying the possibility of building sewers.

In letters to Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) and Erin’s Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP) consultant BM Ross, Maieron questions how Orangeville could be allowed to grow to more than 30,000 people on the East Branch of the Credit River, while Erin is limited to 6,000 on the West Branch, which he said appears to be “a similar size or bigger river”.

“Could it be that Orangeville is using up too much of the assimilative capacity of the Credit River?” he said in an email to The Erin Advocate. “Has Erin been sold down the river so that Orangeville can grow? Do not know at this time, I am speculating.”

He asked for stream flow rates downstream of Orangeville, but these were not provided. He acknowledges that Island Lake Reservoir may act as buffer to maintain more constant flows downstream of Orangeville, but said this may not be the case in drought conditions.

In response to a question from The Advocate, CVC Chief Administrative Officer Deborah Martin-Downs said, “Development and servicing in Orangeville does not affect the development and servicing capabilities of Erin because they are in different drainage systems. Studies required by the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) for the approvals of waste water discharges take into consideration the cumulative concentrations of contaminants.”

Maieron says Orangeville has “an antiquated STP [Sewage Treatment Plant] that has a had a history of spills into the Credit River whereas Erin’s STP plant would be state of the art.”

Orangeville Mayor Rob Adams would not comment on Erin’s challenges, but said the Orangeville treatment plant is now “very efficient” after extensive rebuilding and upgrades. Holding tanks are planned to reduce the chance of sewage bypass into the river during heavy rain.

“We take very seriously our responsibility for the environment and the Credit River, and we follow the MOE rules – they are very specific and scientific,” he said.

Martin-Downs said water flow from Amaranth and Mono could influence what is available to Orangeville, while development in Erin could influence servicing capacity in Belfountain. Downstream of Orangeville, the river gets a major influx of water from Shaw’s Creek near Alton, then is joined by the East Branch downstream of Belfountain.

A joint answer to the Maieron’s questions was written by Martin-Downs and Matt Pearson of BM Ross. The full exchange is available at www.erin.ca, in the June 3 agenda.

CVC and BM Ross say that Orangeville is in a different situation from Erin, based on expanding a wastewater treatment plant built in 1929. They are now doing a servicing master planning study and Official Plan review on water and wastewater for future growth.

Adams said Orangeville has been working on an expansion plan for its plant that would allow additional housing without adding contamination to the river. The Town is gradually upgrading its collection system to reduce storm water inflow to the sanitary system, and aggressively pursuing water conservation to reduce overall flow, he said.

In his email to The Advocate, Maieron questions how Orangeville can have significant growth without impacting the river: “What’s this new technology that will allow them to do so in Orangeville, but does not exist for Erin’s having some growth?”

A small pilot facility with Orangeville firm Xogen Technologies is in operation at the municipal plant, using a low-power electrolyte process to eliminate biosolids. It also significantly reduces pharmaceuticals in the wastewater.

Orangeville has a 1995 Certificate of Approval from the MOE to service 30,000 people, and their population is expected to climb to 36,490 by 2031 if sufficient water and wastewater servicing is available. Their Assimilative Capacity Study proposes a 21% increase in sewage flow, but the MOE is requiring that this add no contamination to the river.

“This will be accomplished by decreasing the final effluent concentrations in combination with water conservation and ongoing mitigation of inflows to the sanitary collection system,” said the response letter.

“The Town of Orangeville is also required to conduct an extensive and on-going instream monitoring program,” said Martin-Downs.

Limits leave Erin with few growth options

Mayor Lou Maieron continues to heap scorn on Erin’s Servicing and Settlement Master Plan (SSMP), arguing for more housing development that he says would reduce the cost of a sewage system.

Maieron says that after spending $1 million taxpayer dollars (Town and CVC) on the SSMP, residents still do not have “great choices”. Apart from the options of remaining on septic systems or piping sewage elsewhere, the Town is left with building a sewage system, but allowing only about 500 new homes in Erin and Hillsburgh.

In letters to consultant Consultant BM Ross and Credit Valley Conservation (CVC), Maieron says the SSMP’s urban population limit of 6,000 people (4,500 existing, plus 1,500 new), based on the river’s capacity to handle sewage effluent, does not meet Erin’s needs.

The mayor estimates there could end up being only 200 new subdivision homes, after allowance for existing lots, other new “in-fill” construction in existing neighbourhoods, and allowance for treating septage from rural septic tanks. Solmar Developments has applied to eventually build 1,200 homes in Erin village, while Manuel Tavares hopes to build 1,000 in Hillsburgh.

He describes the situation as “virtually no new growth”, resulting in a waste of money and “a number of investors in the Town not very pleased when they realize what this all means, nor will residents be when they realize this means the continuation of high property taxes, water rates and eventually sewer rates.”

A response to his concerns from CVC Chief Administrative Officer Deborah Martin-Downs and Matt Pearson of BM Ross points out that adding 1,500 people to an urban population of 4,500 is 33% growth, regardless of whether the homes are in new subdivisions or existing neighbourhoods.

Maieron prefers the preliminary estimate of the Assimilative Capacity (AC) of the river by BM Ross, which predicted an urban population range of 6,500 to 13,500. At the June 3 council meeting, he said the number had been changed “at the 11th hour and the 58th minute”.

The number was never actually set until this year. John Kinkead of CVC warned at a public meeting in May last year that the final number would be near the low end of the estimated range, and that it could be lowered further to account for climate change. CVC and the Ministry of the Environment demanded more stream monitoring, and after negotiation over the calculation methods, the number was set at 6,000.

The mayor continues to focus on the preliminary range. “A median of 10,000 provided a balanced approach of 50:50, about 4,500 existing and 5,500 new residents which would provide some commercial opportunities and new needed jobs, so creating that live, work and play community that is the vision of good planning. An AC of 6,000 does not do this. Nor does it split the cost of a Sewage Treatment Plant and servicing with a new development. So we are where we started off from – a small bedroom community.”

Martin-Downs and Pearson said the “conservative” limit of 6,000 is a calculation based on MOE effluent criteria, stream flows, and current water quality and usage, and is “not an arbitrary target”.

Maieron asks why an AC study was not done at the beginning of the process, which he says could have been done before 300 acres (now Solmar lands) were added to the urban area ten years ago. He continues to criticize the council decision to add that land, saying there was no planning justification study. He says there was already plenty of land for development, and blames the addition of the 300 acres for triggering the SSMP.

CVC and BM Ross say: “The SSMP is a far more encompassing study that concentrates on issues beyond the servicing of 300 acres. It was to address existing issues, community planning, the environmental situation, and was to look to the 25 year planning horizon in terms of deficiencies and needs identified through the process. The SSMP Study Team has been unable to ascertain the conditions that transpired to allow the inclusion of the 300 acres into the urban boundary without a preliminary ASC study or a planning justification study or a municipal comprehensive review study.”

Looking Back

As published in The Erin Advocate

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)


Militant suffragettes staged one of their most daring attacks yet in their campaign for women’s voting rights, detonating a bomb in Westminster Abbey. The explosion was heard in the nearby British House of Commons, where Reginald McKenna, Secretary of State for Home Affairs, was delivering an optimistic speech on the government’s strategy for dealing with the “wild women”.


From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)


The Cataract waterfall has claimed another victim. Gregory Gillett of Clarkson was swept over the 30-foot falls while swimming with fellow students. Less than two weeks earlier Walter Kurtz drowned at the same spot, and the day after that David Oliver broke his back after being swept over the falls. Police said people are getting too close out of curiosity about the earlier accidents.


Members of the Hilltop Golf Club competed in the first round of the 7th annual Club Championship. Ken Smith came in with the best score of 78, with Jim Irons close behind at 80, some eight strokes better than the closest contender.


Sue Maxwell provided her last column as correspondent for Erin District High School, telling of the final assembly. The trio of Donna Harnden, Judith Wong and Bob McFee did funny songs about teachers who are leaving, ending with This Land is Your Land, in which the whole school joined.


From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)


Erin had its first Children’s Festival. In the baking contest for 4-6-year-olds, the winners were Jeff McKay with sticky chocolate balls, Janet Hibbs with chocolate chips, Katherine Magrath with Katie’s snacks, and Roger Purton with peanut butter balls. Winners in the 7-12 age group were John King, Jane King, Dawn Barton and Laurie Young.


Corporal Ron Love said the OPP would step up its weekend patrols in Erin after a loud disturbance outside the Busholme Inn. A fight broke out on Church Street after a car accident involving two customers. Inn owner Barry Abbott said he would hire more staff to maintain order inside the hotel.


The fourth annual Hillsburgh Country Bluegrass Jamboree is coming soon, featuring Big Redd Ford, the Humber River Valley Boys, and Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers. Kent Tocher will present a full country show, featuring Hillsburgh native Bob McFee on guitar and a new band from Guelph called Diamond Reo.


From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)


Dr. Duncan Bull of the Optimist Club is promoting the Blue Bag Program, hoping to have the cleanable canvas bags replace plastic grocery bags at local stores. They are being sold at cost for $5.75 by EWAG.


Dancing to the tune of the Teddy Bear’s Picnic, Jasmine Jeschke, Andrea MacKenzie and Stephanie Strahl performed their first dance recital with the Dance Revue club at Grand Valley Public School. Amber Dyce, Pam Fettes, Lisa Hall, Isaac Jov, Alicia Mogensen, Jennifer Rae, Lindsay Rawn and Melissa Thompson performed a Charleston. Jane Allen, Katrina Andrews, Carolyn Padfield, Jeannine Seager and Alice Shepperd performed Putting on the Ritz and The Entertainer in period costumes.


The Erin Sporties baseball team is still above 500 with a 9-2 win over Whitfield. Kevin Richardson went two for three with two RBI’s, Brian Goldstone was three for three scoring two runs, and Doug Thomas was two for three scoring one run and knocking in another. Russell Gordon threw a five-hitter with seven strikeouts, and centre fielder Michael Tyler made a couple of amazing plays.

China wants to build business bridges with Erin

As published in The Erin Advocate

Investment and trade in agricultural products is an area of growing interest for businesses in China, and they are looking at rural areas such as Erin for opportunities, according to the Chinese Consul General.


Fang Li and a team from the consulate in Toronto visited Erin last week at the invitation of Mayor Lou Maieron, who organized an Agriculture and Environmental Sustainability tour of Wellington County.


“You are famous for your agricultural industry,” said Li. He noted that while China is the world’s most populous country, it has relatively limited farmland and needs to import good quality grain and organic foods.

Mayor Maieron presented an Erin flag to Consul General Fang Li and his entourage.

“I believe you are in a very sound position to develop economic and trade relations with my country. Also many Chinese enterprises are going abroad for opportunities, especially in high-tech sectors such as information and communication, and renewable and clean energy. I think you could find some suitable Chinese partners.”


Economic and trade relations between Canada and China have increased rapidly since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1970. Canadian statistics show trade valued at $73 billion (US) in 2013, making China its second largest trading partner.


China’s growth rate has slowed in recent years, but it is still at 7.7%. It is a huge market, with annual imports valued at almost $2 trillion (US). It also had 97 million tourists visiting other countries last year, each spending an average of $1,000.


Chinese investments in Canada total some $50 billion, primarily in energy, mining, telecommunications, appliances and financial services. New areas of investor interest include food products, renewable energy, real estate and high-end manufacturing, said Li.


The China Canada Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, signed in 2012, is intended to protect the rights of investors from each country. Li urged the federal government to ratify the agreement.


Also visiting Erin was Sophia Sun, founder of the Canada China Investment Association, which sponsored Maieron’s trip to China with other mayors last year.


“I was completely blown away by the advancements, the culture and the history of a civilization that is more than 5,000 years old,” said the mayor. “We learned how Canadian clean industries, agriculture and other industries could help China and how we could do some business. There’s a great need. The Chinese are wanting to improve their diet, with dairy, animal husbandry – beef and pork – and crops. That’s something that we can do very well.”


The day started with a breakfast meeting at David’s Restaurant, hosted by David Netherton and Mary Shields of the East Wellington Chamber of Commerce. Several business people interested in or currently selling products to China were in attendance.


After Li’s speech and a brief question and answer session with Erin residents, Maieron brought the Chinese delegation for a tour of his trout farm, Silver Creek Aquaculture, then to visit the Angelstone International show jumping venue on County Road 50.


From there they went to see the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre, and the Biodiversity Institute at the University of Guelph. They also went to see the family dairy farm and bio-digester of Mapleton Mayor Bruce Whale. To finish the day they toured the Grand River Raceway in Elora and watched horse racing over dinner.


June 11, 2014

Paying tribute to Stompin’ Tom’s philosophy

As published in The Erin Advocate

The newly installed monument at the grave of Stompin’ Tom Connors at Erin Union Cemetery is a testament to his love of Canada and his philosophy of trying to stay in balance while travelling through life.

The memorial includes an image of the famous songwriter imposed on a map of Canada, the lyrics of his favourite song, “I Am the Wind”, a red granite maple leaf on top of a chess piece and his own epitaph that says, “They haven’t heard the last of me”.

Thomas Charles Connors lived in the Ballinafad area and passed away on March 6 last year due to kidney failure, at the age of 77. Buried with him are the ashes of his mother Isabel Sullivan (nee Connors), who died in 2007. Until the tombstone was installed, the location of the gravesite was not widely known.


Stompin’ Tom was known for his down-to-earth songs about Canada, achieving wide popularity with dozens of albums, and as a passionate advocate for Canadian culture. He was also a spiritual thinker who believed in reincarnation, writing these words for his tombstone:

“The body has returned to sod,
The spirit has returned to God.
So on this spot, no need for grief,
Here only lies a fallen leaf.
Until new blossoms form in time,
The tree is where I now reside.
But with this poem, as you can see,
They haven’t heard the last of me.”

“He believes that we come and go as a spirit,” said his son Tom Jr. in an interview, always referring to his father in the present tense.

“We enter a body this time around, and when the body's done, then the spirit goes back to the tree of life, so to speak, and then the tree blossoms again the next year and you become a new leaf. It's a cycle of life that he's getting at.”

The maple leaf on the stone is engraved with “101”. It does not refer to that number value, but to a way of thinking about life. Instead of competing to be at the top on a 1 to 10 scale, he favoured zero as an ideal at the centre of the range of possibilities.

“He would always say he's a zero, because you can go on the plus, or you can go on the minus, but the zero keeps you even. Don't drift too far away off the centre because you'll become unbalanced,” said Tom Jr.

“The 101 simply represents his philosophy that he came up with to be able to stay on the straight and narrow. The more balanced you can stay, the more successful you can be in your life. He ended up being proof positive of that concept.”

The stone includes a quote from the Book of Genesis: “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Enoch was a patriarch, the great-grandfather of Noah, who is believed to have been taken directly to live with God, without having died. Tom Jr. said his father read the bible frequently and considered that passage an example of becoming closer to zero.

“When God finds that you understand what it is to be nothing, nobody, you put all your feats behind you and you become one with God. You can go plus or minus once in a while, but stay straight and narrow and if there is a relationship we have with God, God will recognize that and take you as he did with Enoch.”

Before becoming known for his songs and his trademark rhythmic stomping on stage, Stompin’ Tom struggled to survive. He grew up in poverty in Saint John, New Brunswick, and lived with an adoptive family in Prince Edward Island before leaving to hitchhike across Canada at the age of 15.

“Growing up not having really any family and no money and no home, and you're just a drifter, you see the world through different eyes,” said Tom Jr., who himself has a son named Tom, born last July. “When you have no friends and no family to talk to, you start to talk to yourself inside and you start to get the answers you need from life inside, instead of finding them on the outside.”

Stompin’ Tom’s tombstone was created by the Little Lake Cemetery Company in Peterborough, the city where he received his nickname. His memorial service was held there last year.

The lyrics engraved on the tombstone are as though the wind is speaking as it travels, saying it is, “Here to serve my Maker’s end.” The wind says it goes, “Around the Door, between gods and men, And if you see how I go in, You’ll have the Key, and know the wind”.

“That was his favourite song,” said Tom Jr. “People can take that as a nice song, or they can try to meditate on it a little bit.”

While The Hockey Song is one of Connors’ best known songs, he “never really clung on to sports”, said Tom Jr. He’d always cheer for a Canadian team and like many Maritimers grew up as a Habs fan, but he never had the luxury of playing the game. In front of his tombstone fly three miniature flags, two Canadian and one Canadiens.

The chess piece designed into the stone is a reminder of the game that he did play with great passion. “He was a tough cookie to beat because he was capable of thinking several moves ahead, and he used that way of thinking in his own life too when he would plan his career,” said Tom Jr.

Universal Music Canada recently released Volume 01 of a collection of unheard recordings by Stompin’ Tom called Unreleased: Songs from the Vault. It includes old-time country songs from his repertoire in the 1950s, recorded starting in 2011.

“He just wants people to enjoy what he did in the time he was here, and if you're musically inclined at all, or any type of business that you may be in, to keep Canada high in your regards when you're doing your thinking and planning about what is the right thing to do,” said Tom Jr.

“It is a great country, and if you respect it, it will repay you back. He wants people to take the torch, so to speak, and go on forward and promote Canada the best they can. If they get a chuckle or two from some of his songs in the future, then he's done a good job.”



Water tower repainting a tall order

As published in Erin's Know Your Community magazine












Contract staff work at repainting the Erin water tower. The $223,000 project started on May 22 and could take until early July. Village residents are asked to conserve water during the project, which also includes stripping and recoating the interior walls. The power of the Erin Radio transmitter has been temporarily reduced, but Bell Mobility transmissions are not affected.

Looking Back

As published in The Erin Advocate

From the Advocate – 100 years ago (1914)

Efforts in England to enlist soldiers for the army have ramped up, with parades of guards in full dress, and lady recruiting sergeants persuading young men to “take the King’s shilling”.

From the Advocate – 45 years ago (1969)

Members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary at the Erin Legion came out on top at the euchre tournament they hosted for 11 branches in their zone. The event was organized by sports officer Mrs. Art Boucher, and the team was made up of Mrs. R. Harkies, Mrs. H. Sargent, Mrs. J. Anthony and Mrs. M. MacDonald.

Miss Brenda Patterson has joined the staff of the Black Magic Beauty Salon at 122 Main Street in Erin, operated by Heinz and Pamela Leonhardt.

Miss Brenda Lee Denny, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Ted Denny of Erin, has graduated from the Lakeshore Teachers’ College and has taken a job teaching Grades 3 and 4 at Alton Public School.

Ward McAdam, President of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation announced a last minute deal to avoid mass resignations. The salary range will now be $6,800 to $1,420, with principals making up to $19,500.

From the Advocate – 35 years ago (1979)

Leslie Stewart, 32, of Centre Street died last week in a two-car head-on collision near Snelgrove, which also took the life of Ursula Christen, 29, visiting from Switzerland. Stewart and her husband opened the House of Erin in 1974, and a Radio Shack service centre. She worked for one year as a reporter for The Advocate, covering local councils and writing numerous news and feature stories about the village and township.

Coach George Wheeler and assistant Clyde Gilby will take the Hillsburgh Girls Under 17 Team to a tournament in Nanton, Alberta. The Wintario lottery is providing a $2,100 grant to support the trip.

Guelph OPP are investigating after an armed robber took cash from Hall’s Variety Store in Hillsburgh last week. Marjorie Beatty was confronted by a man demanding cash, but she ran to her residence at the back of the building and locked the door.

An Advocate editorial said the village should make its natural beauty accessible to visitors, with a path along the river and picnic benches. “A little clean-up of the dam off Church Street would go a long way to making the area more presentable, and if an agreement could be reached with the landowners, a path opened to a lookout built high on the hill to the west of the village.”

From the Advocate – 25 years ago (1989)

Erin Township Council authorized Fire Chief Wayne McIsaac to call for tenders for a new tanker truck. Councillor and Fire Committee member Barb Tocher said wooden plugs were being used to stop up holes in the tank of the retrofitted oil truck, but they are falling out and half the water is lost while the fire truck is travelling. Council put $25,000 for the truck into reserve, though the cost next year will be about $79,000.

Councillor Deb Sutherland said Erin’s three-year-old blue box recycling program leads the way in Ontario with a participation rate of more than 80 per cent. The current plan services only village areas with curbside pick-up, but coordinator Don Taylor said, “I won’t rest until every house in Wellington County has a blue box.”

Erin real estate broker Cec Chambers of McEnery Agencies says there is a temporary slowdown in the local housing market, but prices remain high due to population growth in the Toronto area. The average house price in Erin is $183,000, with virtually none for less than $147,000.

Council hoping for quick SSMP wrap-up

As published in The Erin Advocate

There are still many loose ends in the Servicing and Settlement Master Plan study, but council is hoping to tie them all up by the end of August.

Council received a letter at its June 3 meeting from Project Manager Christine Furlong of Triton Engineering listing the tasks that BM Ross still has to complete. Furlong said a public meeting should be held to discuss the technical aspects of the project.

CAO Kathryn Ironmonger said BM Ross has assured her that the process can be completed in August, which would include a decision by council on a wastewater strategy. Council asked for an updated schedule. They want to finish the study before the municipal election nomination day, September 12.

Currently, the Town is awaiting financial analysis of various options by Watson & Associates, but there has been a delay in getting technical information to them about the small bore sewage system. Council specifically requested analysis of this lower-cost option.
Furlong says BM Ross still has to provide the following:

• A complete list of water and waste water servicing options, transportation needs and storm water strategies, with documentation on the criteria used, and a review of sewage collection, treatment and effluent discharge alternatives.

• Updated drawings for proposed locations of new facilities, based on the new lower urban population cap of 6,000.

• Evaluation of servicing options in rural areas, and more work on review of existing private and municipal servicing systems.

• Evaluation of “staging scenarios” and of the advantages and disadvantages of joining the Hillsburgh and Erin systems.

• More discussion of continuing growth using private and communal septic systems.

• A new version of the SSMP report, including a summary of comments made by members of the public and approval agencies.