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Proposed labour laws affect rural businesses differently

The proposed changes to Ontario’s labour laws and employment standards will have a profound affect on local business and workers because of the fragile nature of the region’s economy as compared to major urban centres. The most significant changes to Ontario’s labour laws and employment standards are expected to be announced very shortly, overhauling a system brought in the 1990s under Premier Mike Harris, Labour Minister Kevin Flynn said last week. Both union leaders and business organizations are holding their collective breath, as each will have its criticisms, as well as praise. Under the current proposals, the provincial government are looking to make paid sick days mandatory, boost the minimum required paid vacation, lower the overtime threshold, abolish the lower minimum wage for students under 18 and those who serve alcohol. Most important are the changes for precarious workers, a growing part of the workforce. Continue Reading →

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Slow down on Vernonville Community Centre decision

A proposal to sell the Vernonville Community Centre is an emotional one for many residents in the tiny hamlet northeast of Grafton. But for the council, it represents a harsh reality of fiscal prudence. Sadly, the political price may end up being costlier for both residents and politicians. Built in 1862, it is one of five community centres within the township. These spaces are used for a variety of purposes. Continue Reading →

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Input should be sought for business incubator in Cobourg

A business incubator to assist entrepreneurs starting up new ventures is gaining momentum in Cobourg over the past week, but it is already facing some negativity. The $1.6 million Venture 13 is moving forward after council gave its blessing. It will be home to some existing public services, as well as provide space for small start-ups in an unused building within the Northam Industrial Park on Darcy Street across from the Cobourg Community Centre. The empty building represents $70,000 in lost revenue, compared to the $90,000 it will generate when the project is running. The Cobourg Police will occupy the second floor, using it to house its business services division, which does background checks for communities across Canada. Continue Reading →

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Basic income plan missing critical piece

The three-year pilot of a basic income plan by the Ontario government last week is good news for some, but not all. The program guarantees an income of about $17,000 annually for a single person and $24,000 annually for a couple, less 50 per cent of earned income. Those with disabilities will get up to $600 per month extra. The idea is to replace the current welfare system and disability payments that often demands people deplete all their financial resources before getting assistance. It also can be punitive when people earn income because that amount reduces the welfare support. Continue Reading →

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Farmers facing further hurdles as land speculators drive up assessments

Once more local farmers find themselves in a precarious position, drawing into question the sustainability of agriculture in Northumberland County and across the province. Members of the Northumberland Federation of Agriculture came before county council asking for a tax break to offset skyrocketing increases in the land assessment last month, only to be turned down. Bruce Buttar, a long-time farmer and member of the Federation, said some farms are facing increases of 123 percent, far above the provincial average of 64 per cent. This is placing a huge burden on local farmers, he said. Farmers already get a break. Continue Reading →

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Community counselling centre looking for needed funds and merited recognition

In the mix of local mental health agencies sits a little-known non-profit organization struggling to make ends meet while trying to provide an array of services with little recognition, both in profile and funding. Northumberland Community Counselling Centre Executive Director Janet Irvine recently completed a tour of the county and municipal councils looking for funding. The centre was formed in 2007 after agencies and physicians realized the need for accessible, affordable generic counselling services. While many offer counselling for certain clients under specific criteria, the average person struggling with relationships problems or mourning the death of a family member or dealing with a problem child cannot always afford private rates. After a decade, the centre has grown to meet the expanding needs of the community offering referrals, education, support, advocacy and clinical services for every age group from children to seniors. Continue Reading →

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Health service integration needs to be led by local organizations

Coming off of a spate of imposed reviews led by the Central East Local Integrated Health Network (LHIN) over the past few years, the Northumberland Hills Hospital is currently in the midst of its strategic planning process, having consulted with more than 450 stakeholders. In a recent interview, board chairman Jack Russell and Chief Executive Officer Linda Davis agree the strategic plan is a logical next step. The smidgen of a budget surplus announced in early March is unquestionably a highpoint and bodes well for the future. So, where are the dark clouds? A couple of things jump to mind. Continue Reading →

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Inching toward regional government in Northumberland

Regional government is a dirty term for some in Northumberland County. There are municipal politicians, along with some residents, who spit after saying it, as if to cleanse their mouths of the foul phrase. At this time of year when the levy arrives, taxpayers are reminded of the multiple levels they must pay because of the two-tier system with its deep historic roots. The once proud United Counties of Northumberland-Durham existed from 1850 until 1974, when the west end of the county was sliced off to form a regional municipality stretching from Scarborough to Bowmanville. The current boundaries of Northumberland County were left behind. Continue Reading →

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Empty property tax rebate hurting municipal coffers and must end

It is time to end local tax rebates to empty commercial vacant properties. Port Hope is the latest municipalities to join a growing list of angry politicians wanting to end the provincial giveaway to business property owners. Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson spearheaded a motion recently to remove the section of the Municipal Act allowing commercial and industrial property owners to claim a tax rebate between 30 to 35 percent. The intent of the Vacancy Rebate Program, as the province officially calls it, was meant to give relief to owners when property was empty for an extended period. The idea was to give a helping hand temporarily while a new tenant could be found. Continue Reading →

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Government a public service, not a business

Government should be run like a business. This well-worn adage is about to be put to the ultimate test. As Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States late last week, the businessman/entertainer displayed the attributes of the penultimate entrepreneur. His inaugural address drenched in populist rhetoric and overhyped goals sounded more like an employer talking to his employees than a president getting ready to take office. The most blatant example was the contrast between the inaugural speech and the signing ceremony in the National Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill. Continue Reading →

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