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Column for local newspaper

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Competitive tourism events needs transparency for taxpayers, business

Cobourg’s first Food and Music Festival held on Saturday was an innovative attempt to generate energy and excitement to draw people into downtown with kudos going to organizers for their effort. In the cutthroat world of tourism, it is not an easy task to find a niche and create instant success. In fact, Campbellford held its Incredible Edible Festival on the same day. It is a much more established, sophisticated event with more than food and music. It is a celebration of rural life, including food displays, tastings and farm tours. Continue Reading →

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Need for civility, mutual respect in order

It seems we have forgotten how to be nice to one another. The point was made dramatically last Tuesday night in Port Hope. During a portion of the meeting for questions from the public, an elderly man with a cane got up and spoke. He was agitated about some issues, slowly gathering momentum until he became aggressive and insulting to the councillors. Thankfully, Councillor Robert Polutnik, who was chairing the meeting at the time, warned him repeatedly to show respect and reminded him to control himself. Continue Reading →

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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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