Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Polar Plunge Going Ahead

It's going to be truly a polar plunge in Fort Frances tomorrow.

The Voyageur Lions Club's annual New Year's Day dip into Rainy Lake is still going ahead as planned despite temperatures expected to hover well below the freezing mark on New Year's Day.

Club president Bill Michl says it shouldn't be much of a problem for the jumpers as they have a heated shack for them to go into prior and after their quick dip.

Michl advises spectators to bundle up as they 'll be forced to watch from shore or the La Place Rendez-Vous' dock to watch.

The large government dock can't be use as it was closed down by the town earlier this year because of safety issues with the structure.

Michl says at least 30 people are confirmed to participate with more likely to sign-up tomorrow.

Get Your Flu Shot

Health officials in northwestern Ontario are urging people to get a flu shot if they haven't already.

It comes in the wake of reports that a second person in the Thunder Bay district has now died due to the H1N1 virus.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says both deaths involved people under the age of 65.

Mine Safety Review Planned

Ontario is launching a comprehensive mining safety review.

Mines Minister Michael Gravelle says it's to improve the health and well-being of workers in the sector.

Gravelle says the details of the review will be revealed early in the new year.

Man Sentenced To Jail Time

A Cat Lake First Nation man is sentenced to eight years plus time serviced in connection to the death of 65 year old Adam Yellowhead.

The sentencing of Joseph Wesley came down in Superior Court in Thunder Bay yesterday. 

Wesley was charged after the body of Yellowhead was discovered in the city's Intercity area in August of 2012.

Pay Cheques To Shrink

Ontario residents will be keeping less of their paycheques in the new year.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation's Candice Malcolm says it's because of increased Employment Insurance and Canadian Pension Plan contributions that kick in January 1.

The maximum employee share of EI taxes will go up 23 dollars while employer's share increases 31 dollars.

Make Peace Your Resolution

A coalition of national and international groups wants you to make peace your new year's resolution.

They've launched a campaign called the 24 Hours of World Peace as part of tomorrow's World Day of Peace.

Spokesperson John O'Donnell says they're asking people to register on a website to receive inspirational emails, photos and videos and to help promote peace.

O'Donnell says given recent world events, the importance of peace has been as great as it's ever been.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sudden Death In Vermilion Bay

OPP are probing a sudden death reported on Christmas day in Vermilion Bay.

Police don't consider the death to be suspicious, but say their investigation is continuing.

A post mortem exam was conducted Friday, but no results have been released.

Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls Looks For New Name

The township of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls has started the process of selecting a new name.

Mayor Bill Thompson put the idea out earlier this fall and says he's like it in place by next fall's municipal election.

Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls was selected by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing when the two townships amalgamated 13 years ago.

Anderson Reviews 2013

The mayor of International Falls is happy how his first year in office has been.

Bob Anderson says some of the changes he sought to get the city more focused on the basics are coming about.

But he says the year get a little more challenging with the downsizing of its major employer.

Anderson says it means working on economic development and strengthening partnerships the city now enjoys with Koochiching County and the city of Rainer.

MP Looks Back

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty says he found it difficult dealing with the Harper government in 2013.

But Rafferty says he's not giving up his fight for pension protection, seniors and veterans.

Rafferty predicts the scandals that plagued the Senate and the Prime Minister's office in 2013 will continue well into the new year.

NOVA Awards

The Northwestern Ontario Visionary Awards will be handed out January 18.

Shift, Thunder Bay's Young Professional Network is one of the organizations behind the awards and spokesperson Keith Anderson says they received a record 72 nominations.

The NOVA top 20 under 40 celebrates area residents who have accomplished great things in their community.

Friday, December 27, 2013

New Fishing Rules In 2014

Anglers will be facing some new rules when they drop their lines in area lakes next year.

As of January first, catch limits for crappie and bass will be reduced while a new size limit is placed on northern pike caught in lakes within the Ministry of Natural Resources zone 5.

Richard Boileau was part of a citizen committee that helped craft the new rules and is pleased with the changes.

Boileau says the measures will help sustain the fisheries for generations to come.

The fishing regulations for Rainy Lake remain unchanged for smallmouth bass and pike, but catch limits for crappie are reduced.

A Positive End To 2013 For Fort Frances

2013 appears to be ending on a positive note for the town of Fort Frances.

Mayor Roy Avis says steps council took to deal with a million dollar budget shortfall at the beginning of year, and some help from the Ministry of Finance have helped the bottom line.

But Avis says the financial challenges aren't going away just yet with a further reassessment of Resolute Forest Products and increased policing costs anticipated in 2014.

Avis says he'd hoping to maintain exiting services as best they can at an affordable level.

Red Cross Home Care Strike End

Twenty personal support workers with the Red Cross Care program out of Thunder Bay head back to work today.

The Service Employees International Union announced that a two-week old strike was over on their website, Christmas eve.

But there more labour unrest in the region.

Unifor is applying for conciliation after talks with Dryden's Revera Home Health Care broke down on Monday.

The 35 health care workers there have been without a contract since June.

Unifor will also resume conciliated talks with Revera in mid-January for over 25 office and client services staff based in Thunder Bay who are seeking their first contract.

Teen Found

A Fort Frances teen who was the subject of an OPP search last week has been found.

Police says 15-year-old Adrianna Copenance was located on Christmas Day in Mitaanjigaming First Nation.

She had been reported missing last Thursday.

Run Aids Falls Schools

The cold weather didn't stop some 30 runners from getting out on Christmas Eve in support of International Falls schools

They participated in the Partners in Education's 3rd annual Reindeer Run, braving sub-zero temperatures to do so.

The run netting $500.00 for the Wishing Willow Program which provides extra requested classroom supplies.

Another 16 youth participated in the 1 K event which was held in doors.

Flu Activity Up In Minnesota

Photo credit: NHSE
People across Minnesota are being urged to find time for a flu shot.

State health officials are reporting a rise in influenza activity.

The Department of Health's Jennifer Heath says among the strains now circulating is the H1N1 virus which emerged in 2009.

Heath says the H1N1 strain is among those covered with this year's flu vaccine.

Cold December

It's turning out to be one of the coldest months in many years.

The U.S. National Weather Service says the average temperature for December through to Christmas Day in International Falls is -3.3 F, or minus 19.6 C.

That ranks as the 3rd coldest December to date.

The coldest December in International Falls was in 1983 with the average temperature coming in at -5.1 F or minus 20.6 C.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Branding Exercises Continues

The work on a branding exercise for the town of Fort Frances continues.

Twist Marketing of Calgary has been working on the initiative for the past couple of months.

Marketing strategist Chris Field says it's more than just creating a logo.

The firm is currently gathering and reviewing information collected with the intent of bringing forward recommendations back to the town's Economic Development Advisory Committee by next spring.

Campbell Opposing Gas Tax Plan For Transit Expansion

More opposition to a proposed plan to raise gas taxes to pay for public transportation expansion in southern Ontario.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell calls it a slap in the face to northerners.

Campbell says the extra 8-cents a litre charged since the implementation of the HST should be going to public transportation across the province.

But Ontario's Liberals says northern Ontario residents will not be funding the transit expansion project in southern Ontario.

In an open letter, Transportation Minister Glen Murray says the final decision on how costs will be covered has not yet been made.

He adds they will be reviewing recommendations with the proposed plan to be included in the spring budget.

Pre-Budget Hearing Planned

Northwestern Ontario residents will get an opportunity to provide input into the provincial budget.

A legislative committee will hold a pre-budget hearing in Thunder Bay in the middle of next month.

Those wishing to make a presentation, must contact the clerk of the committee by January 9

Tentative Settlements Reached

Tentative settlements have been reached in two class action lawsuits against former provincially-run institutions.

The combined settlements of over $32-million dollars stem from lawsuits filed on behalf of former residents of the Rideau Regional Centre in Smith Falls and the Southwestern Regional Centre near Chatham who alleged years of abuse.

Both facilities closed four years ago.

The settlements come on a heels of a $35-million dollar one awarded to former residents at the former Huronia Regional Centre in Orillia earlier this month..

Christmas Dinners Tomorrow

A couple of community Christmas dinners take place tomorrow.

The Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau's annual dinner takes place at Knox United Church and spokesperson June Caul says they're ready.

It's free the public, but donations are accepted.

It begins at 11:30 a.m. and goes until 2 p.m.

In International Falls, the dinner takes place at the Roadhouse.

Deacon Lee Grimm with the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church says it's free to everyone, but they do use it as a fundraiser for the Falls Hunger Coalition.

The dinner goes from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Christmas day.

Watch Ice Condtions

OPP and the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs are reminding snowmobilers to use caution when out on frozen bodies of water.

The groups say that with some areas freezing faster then usual riders may be given the impression that all lakes are safe to ride on.

OPP suggest riders carry ice picks and wear buoyant snowmobile suits if they do cross over ice.

Monday, December 23, 2013

More Local Control Over Development Requested From Government

Northwestern Ontario wants more say on it's future development.

That's the feeling of the president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association.

Dave Canfield says he'd like to see this region have more autonomy and less influence from Queen's Park.

Canfield says this region should have more control specifically over infrastructure and training as it pertains to industries such as mining and forestry.

A Legal Look At Winter Road Conditions

A legal opinion regarding roads during the winter.

Toronto lawyer Troy Lehman says both the Ministry of Transportation and municipalities have a legal duty to keep the roads under their jurisdiction in a reasonable state of repair.

Lehman says motorists involved in accidents, thinking of legal action, must first prove road conditions were to blame and also show that the government's responsible failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the hazardous condition.

Lehman says there have been successful cases which found governments weren't patrolling roads as they should.

Minnesota Highway Practices

MinDOT photo
With criticism continuing to pour in regarding northwestern Ontario winter highway maintenance, we decided to look south of the border.

Minnesota Department of Transportation's Pat Houston says using chemicals on their highways doesn't happen until the highways are all plowed thoroughly to the pavement.

Houston says the chemicals won't work in sub zero cold temperatures.

PSB Holds Elections

A local businessman is back as chair of the Fort Frances Police Services Board.

John McTaggart has been re-elected to the position he's held for several years.

Town councillor Rick Wiedenhoeft is the vice-chair

Charges Up In Fort Frances

A lot of paperwork for the OPP last month.

Police laid 97 charges in Fort Frances in November, double the number in the same period last year.

Police responded to a total of 280 calls, four less than the number in November 2012.

The total number of charges of one-thousand to date, is still about one hundred less less than last year.

Gas Pumping Again

A gas shortage in Thunder Bay's is expected to end soon, according to some of the city's station managers.

Although some stations are still without premium fuel, regular gasoline is in stock across the city.

Reindeer Run Tomorrow

One of the last fundraising runs of the year goes tomorrow in International Falls.

The 3rd annual Reindeer Run is a 5 K run/walk and a one K walk for children.

President of International Falls Partners in Education Jennifer Windell says it helps raise money for local schools.

This year, the proceeds will go toward purchasing art supplies for the classrooms.

You can register tomorrow at Falls Elementary School at 9 a.m. or today through the ISD 361 school district webpage.

Accidents Up In Rainy River District

The Rainy River district is seeing it's fair share of motor vehicle accidents.

Statistics released by the OPP for November show 63 accidents compared to 43 in October.

Road conditions were blamed for some of the accidents, but Police say others were the result of drivers following too closely, failing to yield the right of way or making improper lane changes.

MPP Wants Visit By Transportation Minister

Anger over the condition of area roads this winter is growing.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell is calling on Transportation Minister Glen Murray to honour a promise and check out the roads for himself.

Campbell says Iron Range Bus Lines refusal to travel Highway 502 should be raising alarm bells by the Ministry as well.

Illegal Smokes Found

A 40 year old Winnipeg man is facing charges after OPP found over one-hundred cartons of unmarked cigarettes in vehicle stopped for speeding in the Kenora area.

Police value the contraband at over $10 thousand dollars.

He's to appear in court in March.

UCare Commited To Koochiching County

UCare is outlining its commitment to Koochiching County.

Officials spoke with County commissioners last week following concerns with the non-profit health plan being named the sole provider of health care plan services for the area come January 1.

UCare's Stephanie Schwartz says they're interested in an open dialogue.

While some concerns had been expressed, UCare says its communication with providers indicates no major issues.

Consultations Begin On Pipeline Project

The formal gathering of public input has started into the proposed Energy East pipeline.

The Ontario Energy Board has launched a website as part of the consultation process into TransCanada's project to transport crude oil from Alberta to New Brunswick.

The Board says it will also visit a number of communities along the proposed route through Ontario early in the new year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Fort Frances Community Dinner Looking For People

A few more hands are being wanted for next week's Community Christmas dinner put on by the Fort Frances Volunteer Bureau.

Spokesperson Gaby Hanzuk says the help is needed especially for set up on Christmas eve.

They also want to hear from people who may be wanting a meal to be delivered on that day.

You can call the Bureau or June Caul  at 274-2209 to register or if you would like to volunteer.

Christmas Day Dinner In Falls Needs Volunteers

There's a Christmas Day community dinner in International Falls.

It takes place at the Road House and everyone is welcome.

Deacon Lee Grim with Holy Trinity Episcopal Church says they too could use a few more volunteers.

Call the Church at 218-286-8606 if you can lend a hand.

You can also email holytrinityif@midconetwork.com or clgrim57@midco.net

Native Olympians To Be Profiled

Native Olympians will soon be profiled in an upcoming documentary.

Former NHLer and U.S. Hockey Olympian Henry Boucha says he's identified 16 native athletes in Canada and 18 in the U.S. so far to profile.

Boucha was in International Falls yesterday to promote a book about his own life and career that serves as the inspiration for the project.

The former resident of Warroad was a member of USA's silver-medal winning teams at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan.

He later played six seasons in the NHL with Detroit, Minnesota and Kansas City-Colorado.

Wolf Hunting Season In Northeast Minnesota Ends

Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources is closing the season's wolf hunting and trapping season in northeastern Minnesota

The DNR says its because a quota of 33 wolves for the area has been reached.

The season continues in the northwest part of the State until the end of January or until the target harvest of 51 is reached

Lights Recalled

File photo
There's a couple of recalls of Christmas lights.

Canadian Tire is calling back its Holiday Collection Outdoor M5 Mini LED Lights because of a manufacturing defect that could pose a potential safety hazard.

Loblaw is recalling Life at Home LED 70-count Outdoor Christmas lights because of the possibility of lose or exposed wires.

The lights have been sold at Real Canadian Superstore, Real Canadian Wholesale Club, Extra Foods and No Frills locations in Ontario.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Operation Crayola Crackdown

OPP in the Rainy River district are turning to young people to help spread the importance of not drinking and driving this holiday season.

Grade 3,4 and 5 students at five schools have created a variety of artwork that will be attached to LCBO bags.

Constable Anne McCoy is impressed with how the students responded to the first ever "Operation Crayola Crackdown."

The bags will be available this weekend at LCBO outlets in Fort Frances, Emo and Atikokan.

Students from Donald Young School in Emo, Crossroads in Devlin, St. Francis in Fort Frances and North Star and St. Patrick's in Atikokan were involved.

Traffic Accident Victim Identified

An Atikokan man has been identified as the victim in Tuesday's fatal accident on Highway 11.

OPP say 76-year-old Fredrick James Munro of Atikokan was the driver of a car that came into collision with a commercial motor vehicle, about 30 kilometres east of Atikokan.

A 71-year-old woman, also from Atikokan, suffered serious injuries and was eventually taken to hospital in Thunder Bay.

The driver of the commercial vehicle was not hurt.

Three Charged In Bootlegging Bust

A massive undercover operation to address the ongoing bootlegging problem in Sioux Lookout has resulted in the arrest of three men.

Charged were a 76-year-old, a 41-year-old and a 30-year old.

OPP spent six months on the investigation before laying charges.

Battling the Bulge

Obesity has become one of the biggest health issue facing residents in our area.

The Northwestern Health Unit's Medical officer of health, Dr. Jim Arthurs says its something they hope to tackle as part of a new strategic plan.

Arthurs says they also want to better measure some of their health indicators to see if programs being offered are making a difference.

Health Funding Announced

The regional health authority is getting a financial boost.

$4.4 million in provincial money to the Northwest Local Health Integration Network will be used to support home care for more seniors.

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro says it will help to ease overcrowding at hospitals.

Fourteen different agencies will be on the receiving end of the money.

Food Poisoning Investigated

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit is looking into a possible case of food poisoning.

Officials say about 54 people who attended a banquet last Friday at the Moose Hall on Fort William Road became six.

They're now hoping to contact the 270 people who attended from across northwestern Ontario and as far away as Hamilton.

Target Identifies Data Breach

Minnesota department store chain Target says it's working with law enforcement and financial institutions into a data breach linked to purchases at its U.S. stores.

Target says as many as 40 million credit and debit card accounts may be impacted from purchases made between November 27 and December 15.

Target does not specific what stores were effected, but is advising shoppers to check their accounts and call Target if they suspect any unauthorized activity

Top Baby Names Stay The Same

Olivia and Liam remain the most chosen baby names in Ontario.

It's the second straight year that Liam has topped the boys list while Olivia has been the favourite name for girls since 2008.

Emma, Sophia, Ava and Emily round out the top five girls names.

Other popular boys names this year have been Ethan, Jacob, Lucas and Benjamin.

Hunters Charged

The Ministry of Natural Resources has levied $4,500 in fines against two men for illegally hunting a wolf in the Lake of the Woods area.

The charges stem from an incident in February where a Minnesota man hired a local guide to help him hunt wolf.

Kirk Quade ended up killing two wolves even though he only had a tag for one.

His guide, Dave Bennett attached his own game seal to the other wolf.