Thursday, February 28, 2013

Area Woman And Safety Program Recognized By OPP

KRRDCFS file photo
OPP are recognizing a local woman for her role in a safety program that's now spread across the Kenora and Rainy River Districts.

Betty-Anne Johnson of the Kenora-Rainy River District Child and Family Services has received a letter of commendation from the OPP regional commander for Project Safe Halloween.

The program helps teach young people about being safe while out trick or treating.

Johnson says its recognition for everyone involved.

The program, which includes giving glows sticks to youngsters every Halloween, is now in its 11 year, expanding

Jury Finds Kenora Man Guilty Of Murder

A Kenora man has been found guilty of second degree murder.

The jury in the trial took just over a day to make a determination against Kenneth Ivall in the 2009 death of Ed Wilson.

Sentencing will be handed down June 14, but Ivall could face life in prison.

His lawyer believes the decision will be appealed.

Deadline To Apply For Council Seat Today

Just two people have put their put names forward for the vacant seat on Fort Frances council.

No names are being made public at this time.

The deadline to apply is today.

Council will select a preferred candidate next month.

Help To Collect Outstanding Fines

Municipalities may get some help to collect outstanding fines.

The provincial Liberals are introducing legislation that expands restrictions to Ontario residents from renewing license plates until they've paid outstanding highway traffic fines.

The legislation would also allow municipalities to mail highway tickets to out-of-province drivers who haven't paid their fines.

Fort Frances recently wrote-off $78-thousand in outstanding fines from 2006 because all existing means of collection had been exhausted.

Throne Speech Lacks Action For NWO

The MPP for Kenora-Rainy River is finding it frustrating to see any real plan or vision for northwestern Ontario in last week's Throne Speech.

The NDP is willing to pass the speech to keep the Liberal government in power.

Sarah Campbell says the Speech doesn't commit them to act on the issues outlined.

Campbell believes northerners had higher expectations than what they say in the Speech.

Manitou Forest Products Joins OFIA

Manitou Forest Products is one of the newest members of the Ontario Forest Industries Association.

The company is being welcomed to the Association as its annual meeting in Toronto.

Association President Jamie Lim says its a further sign the forest sector in the province is turning around.

Lim says forecasts of a boom in housing construction in the U.S. also bodes well for area sawmills.

PILT Concerns

Koochiching County intends to maintain a strong voice at the State Capital over how it's reimbursed for the natural resources lands in its boundary.

The County receives payments in lieu of taxes at various rates.

Commissioner Wade Pavleck says they'd like them a little more equal.

Pavleck, who attended a recent committee hearing on the payments, says legislators were very interested in the County's concerns.

Bill To Permit Gay Marriages In Minnesota

A bill to allow gay marriages in Minnesota is now before the State Capital.

Sponsors of the bill aim to repeal by this summer Minnesota's 1997 law that prohibits marriage between couples of the same sex.

Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional gay marriage ban last November.

Gay marriage opponents say that result doesn't translate to widespread support for allowing same-sex couples to legally marry.

Tax Scam In Minnesota

Minnesota State officials are warning of a scam by a group posing as the Minnesota Department of Revenue that uses claims of tax refunds as bait to obtain personal data.

The department says scammers are seeking personal or banking information of taxpayers.

Callers are going by "`Minnesota Revenue.''

The state agency says it doesn't call people about the size of their refunds.

Bill Aims To Stop Gas-And-Dash

A Liberal backbencher is proposing pre-payment be required for gas purchases and suspending drivers' licenses for those convicted of gas thefts.

MPP Mike Colle's private member's bill would also impose fines on employers who force attendants to pay for the thefts out of their wages.

New Job Bank Launched

Confederation College is now part of an online job bank called "Workbay".

Spokesperson Mary Hayes says they help match employers with future employees.

Hayes says its website is a joint effort with Northwest Employment Works and the College.

Report On Ontario Juries Released

A former Supreme Court Justice calls it a wake up call.

Frank Iacobucci makes 17 recommendations aimed at getting more First Nations representation in provincial jury rolls.

Iacobucci says the first step is establishing an implementation committee with First Nation membership.

Iacobucci admits it will take several years to implement all of his recommendation.

Highway Snow Plowing Concerns Presented At Queen's Park

Complaints about winter road maintenance of northern Ontario highways have reached Queen's Park.

NDP critic Gilles Bisson calls the condition of many roads "atrocious."

Bisson says there have more highway closures and accidents this winter than ever before, and he's
convinced the province's standards for snow clearing are not being met.

Bisson blames the fact the ministry of transportation uses private snow plow operators and has also privatized the monitoring of highways to determine when they need to be salted or cleared.

Transportation Minister Glen Murray says the province's standards for clearing snow off highways have not changed and are being met.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lobby Group Warns Of Hospital Cuts

The Ontario Health Coalition is warning of cuts effecting hospital in northwestern Ontario.

It says it's because the province is cutting health spending by more then three-billion-dollars.

Coalition director Natalie Mehra says expects changes at some hospitals.

The Coalition intends to hold a day of action Monday to draw further attention.

Koochiching Ending Home Care Services

Some of the last residents receiving home care services through Koochiching County will soon be receiving them elsewhere.

The County intends have five home care maintenance clients serviced by other home care agencies at the end of March.

Public Health Director Susan Cosgrove admits its a tough decision to make.

Three part-time homemakers who have been servicing the clients are finding employment elsewhere.

The move is part of changes initiated by the County about six years ago.

Cuts At U.S. Border Possible

Deep spending cuts by the U.S. Government could be felt along the border in International Falls.

Janet Napolitano, the Obama Administration's homeland security chief, says spending will be slashed by 85-billion dollars on Friday unless Congress reaches a deal to avert the planned cuts.

Napolitano says if the cuts go ahead, the equivalent of five-thousand border patrol agent positions will be eliminated.

Charged Laid In Accident

A Fort Frances woman has been charged with dangerous driving after a pedestrian was nearly struck earlier this month.

The incident happened two weeks ago in the downtown area of Fort Frances.

OPP also charged the 21-year-old with driving while under suspension and breach of probation.

Teachers Return An Individual Choice

The local representative with the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation says it's going to be an individual choice whether area teachers resume participation in extra-curricular activities.

They've got the green light to take part.

Local union president Kent Kowalski says there's still a lot of anger among teachers.

Kowalski says still feels the decision to withdraw from extracurricular activities in protest over legislated contracts was effective.

School Board Ready To Welcome Teachers Back Behind the Bench

The Rainy River District School Board is welcoming the decision by the high school teachers union to allow its members to participate again in extracurricular activities.

Education Director Heather Campbell says she's hasn't heard how local teachers will respond.

Volunteers took over the management of some sports teams this month.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Some Mill Workers Returning To Work

Resolute Forest Products is citing a scheduled maintenance repair at the Fort Frances mill as the reason for a recalling some of the workers laid off recently.

About a dozen members of the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union and some represented by other unions have been asked to report to work in early March.

About 250 employees were laid off by the company's decision to idle its kraft mill and a paper machine last fall.

New Mill Manager For Resolute

There will be a new manager at Resolute Forest Products Mill in Fort Frances.

The company confirms current manager, Andre Bernier will remain in the position until the end of this month.

Ryan Ellard will then take over in an interim basis.

Bernier began general manager of the Fort Frances operations in May 2011.


No Changes To Ridings Recommended

No changes to the federal ridings of Kenora or Thunder Bay-Rainy River are being recommended in the final report of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission.

The report was tabled in the House of Commons yesterday.

The Commission had proposed moving Lake of the Woods township from Thunder Bay-Rainy River to Kenora.

But in its report, the Commission states that after public hearings, it's assumption the area had stronger ties to Kenora than Thunder Bay or Fort Frances was mistaken.

Northern Input Promised on Transportation Policy

The provincial government is insisting it will listen closely to northerners in the development of a transportation policy for northern Ontario.

Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle says it's a priority for the Premier and him that they get the strategy right and know how important it is for the region's economy.

The Liberals identified plans to address the special transportation needs of the north in last week's Throne Speech

Juries Report Out Today

A former Supreme Court of Canada justice today delivers a report on whether on-reserve aboriginals have been systematically excluded from Ontario's juries.

First Nations leaders hope Frank Iacobucci comes up with recommendations to fix a broken system.

Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Alvin Fiddler says aboriginals have known for years the problem needed to be dealt with.

Minimum Wage Increase Proposed

There's a proposal to boost Minnesota's minimum wage to $10.55 an hour by August 2015.

A House legislative committee plans to vote Thursday on a bill that would increase the minimum wage in three phases.

After that future increases would be pegged to inflation and increase automatically.

The current rate of $6.15 an hour has not increased since 2005.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Second Man Arrested In Gun-Smuggling Case

There's been another arrest related to a gun-smuggling incident that led to a Fort Frances man being arrested in North Dakota earlier this month.

RCMP say 22-year Thomas Peter Atkinson, also from Fort Frances, faces 27 different firearms-related charges.

His arrest came the same day 29-year-old Shawn James Hartnell was placed in custody by American authorities.

Atkinson has since been released and will appear in a Winnipeg court room March 5th.

Hartnell is facing charges both in North Dakota and Manitoba.

Mill Employees Being Recalled

It appears some of the workers laid off due to the idling of the kraft mill and a paper machine at the Resolute Forest Products mill in Fort Frances may be returning to work.

About a dozen members of the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union and some represented by other unions have also been asked to report back to work in early March.

The company has yet to explain why, but it's believe the recalls are to fill vacancies among the employees still working.

Mayor And Councillors In Toronto

The town of Fort Frances is seeking some financial help from the province to offset the tax rebate to Resolute Forest Products.

Mayor Roy Avis, along with Councillor Rick Wiedenhoef and John Albanese intend to broach the idea with Municipal Affairs Minister Linda Jeffery while they're at the joint meeting of Ontario Good Road Association and the Rural Ontario Municipalities Association meetings in Toronto this week.

The trio also has meeting with Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli regarding a proposal to amalgamate local electricity distribution companies.

They're also meeting with the Natural Resources parliamentary assistant regarding the area's wood rights.

Osisko Feasibility Study Nears Completion

Osisko Mining is preparing to complete a key document on its gold project near Atikokan.

President Sean Roosen says they're about 85 per cent complete on a feasibility study

Roosen says that document could be complete within the next six month.

Meantime, the company is budgeting about $10-million for remaining work at its Hammond Reef Gold project.

It spent almost $59-million in 2012.

Funding Request Deadline Today

Today's the deadline for groups and individuals seeking funding to participate in the federal environmental assessment of Rainy Resources gold project.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency is making over $122-thousand available.

Community Forest Policy Network Planned

There's a move in Ontario to get First Nations and Municipalities involved in managing and using area forests.

Lakehead University's Dr. Peggy Smith says delegates to a recent conference agreed to developing a national policy network to look at community forestry programs.

Smith says they'll continue to work towards creating the network in the coming months.

Teachers Asked To Resume Extracurriculars

The union representing Ontario's public high school teachers is recommending its members go back to supervising extracurricular activities.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation intends to explain why later this morning.

Premier Kathleen Wynne predicts most teachers will return to voluntarily looking after the clubs and sports.

Wynne says her government didn't make any concessions to get extracurriculars back, other than to promise to work on a new collective bargaining process.

OPP Seeking Public's Help in Solving Theft

OPP are looking for the public's help in solving a theft in Fort Frances.

Police says a 2010 Polaris Assault 800 was taken from an enclosed trailer at a Christie Avenue home sometime last week.

Election Talks Heats Up

Talk of an early election in Ontario is heating up.

The Conservatives are already saying they'll vote against the budget, yet to be announced, while the NDP are looking for certain demands.

Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell says those requests come directly from people they've talked with.

They include ending corporate tax loopholes, and changes to auto insurance.

Petitions Delivered To Queen's Park

Two petitions at Queen's Park on two separate issues from Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell.

One called for a reopening of northern Ontario parks closed to overnight camping by the province last year.

The other seeks an expansion of power to the Ontario Ombudsman to oversee such things as hospitals, police and school boards

Thunder Bay Firm Wins Contract

A Thunder Bay firm has been award a road and sewer and water improvement project in Fort Frances.

The project includes upgrades on Second Street East between Mowat and Central Avenues and Mowat between Second and Third Streets.

Total cost of the contract to Makkinga Contractors is just over $1.2 million.

The town is hoping for provincial funding help cover a third of the project.

Snow Sculptors Wanted

Calling all artists.

Snow sculpturing is returning to Fort Frances.

Participants are being asked to carve their creation out of piles of snow in the area of the former Huffman School property.

Organizer Samantha Manty says they intend to make the event a community family affair.

Sculpting will begin on March 5 with judging and other activities happening on March 9.

Prospective sculptors are asked to contact the Fort France Museum if your interested.

STOP Program Returns To Fort Frances

An opportunity for area smokers trying to break the habit.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, through the Northwestern Health Unit, is bringing back its Smoking Treatment for Ontario Patients, or STOP, back to the Fort Frances area next week.

Coordinator  of the Northwest Tobacco Control Area Network, Jennifer McFarlane says its free eligible participants and provides five weeks of nicotine patches.

Your asked to register with the Health Unit for Wednesday's event.

Town Responding To Transport Canada

The town of Fort Frances isn't pleased with how Transport Canada is responding to a new proposed landfill site in Couchiching First Nations.

The federal agency says it has no authority to restrict the site, but recommends it be operated bird-free.

Councillor Rick Wiedenhoeft doesn't know how that's going to happen.

The town plans to draft a response back to Transport Canada.

DSSAB Budget Delayed

It will be another month before area municipalities know exactly how much they'll be contributing to the Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board.

CAO Dan McCormick says they still need the final paperwork from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation on the agreed reduction of Resolute Forest Products mill that will impact the final budget.

The board is also monitoring the doctor situation in Rainy River to determine if a contingency fund for additional patient transfers will be kept in place.

Question Of The Week

Fort Frances council is in the midst of dealing with this year's budget.

The operating budget is currently looking at a $2.2 million dollar shortfall.

How concerned are you with town's financial situation?

Let's us know on our website or comment on our Facebook page.

Province Asked To Help Save Experimental Lakes

The provincial government is being asked to help save the Experimental Lakes Area near Kenora.

Kenora-Rainy River M.P.P. Sarah Campbell says the province can intervene if it chooses.

"This lack of action is appalling," says Campbell, "given that the province has the power to prevent the closure by enforcing a bilateral agreement that was signed with the federal government, which requires all 58 lakes to be fully rehabilitated if the site is to be closed."

The facility is set to close at the end of March.

Jury Report Released Tomorrow

A long awaited report on the jury roll system in Ontario will be released tomorrow.

Former Ontario Superior Court judge, Frank Iaccabucci was asked to look at how to better get aboriginal representation on jury rolls.

His report will be released in Thunder Bay.

Hudak Says Election Needed

The Progressive Conservatives say Ontario needs an election as soon as possible, and warn they won't vote for the Liberals' budget, which won't be made public for weeks.

PC Leader Tim Hudak says Premier Kathleen Wynne used this week's throne speech to signal she would entrench the Dalton McGuinty legacy instead of cutting the size and cost of government.

The Conservative opposition, alone, won't force an election, but if the NDP doesn't like what in the budget, leader Andrea Horwath says she'll withdraw her support for the Throne Speech.

"Save ELA" Voiced At New Orleans Conference

Efforts to save the Experimental Lakes area near Kenora have spread across the border.

A number of delegates attending a science conference in New Orleans wore t-shirts in support of the northwestern Ontario research site.

Conference president Dr. James Elser says almost every session will use pieces of science derived or inspired by research at the site.

The federal government announced an end to funding to the area last year.

Institute Appoints First Chair

An organization set up to monitor the implementation of the Northern Ontario Growth plan now has a chair and vice-chair.

Martin Bayer, who works for a law firm in Sudbury, will serve as the Northern Policy Institute's first chair.

Dr. George Macey, a dentist in Marathon, will act as the vice-chair.

The Institute is to provide recommendations to government on policies and programs to strengthen the north's economy.

Area Schools Given Poor Grades

A right-wing think tank isn't giving good grades to elementary schools in northwestern Ontario on student achievement.

Peter Cowley of the Fraser Institute says their review of area schools finds them well below the provincial average of 6 out of 10.

The Institute bases its scores on how well schools and their students performed on the latest provincial literacy and math tests.

The Institute also bases its analysis for the Fort Frances area on just two elementary schools.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Education Director Announces Retirement

The director of education with the Northwest Catholic District School Board is calling it a career.

Mary-Catherine Kelly plans to retire at the end of this August.

Kelly says the timing to leave after seven-and-a-half years is right.

Kelly says a need to be closer to her aging parent in southern Ontario also played a role in her decision.

Council Vacancy Filled

The township of Alberton has filled a vacancy on its council.

Wayne Woods was selected in a special council meeting held this past week to review applications for the seat left open by the recent departure of Doug Mitchell.

Woods will be sworn into office next month.

Illegal Baskets Stopped At Border

U.S. authorities in International Falls have stopped a shipment of baskets, they say had the potential to do harm to the country's forest.

The baskets, originating from China, were being railed through Canada to the U.S. when they reached the Falls rail facility for inspection.

Officials says the baskets were made out of a type of willow that's prohibited in many countries because of its risk of spreading watermark disease and being a potential host to several wood-boring pests.

Almost 8-thousand baskets were seized and destroyed.

Help To Attract Doctors Wanted

There are renewed calls for the province to rework the rules around signing physicians to contracts.

Vice-President of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association, Dave Canfield says the current model, based on population, doesn't take into account patients from the outlying communities and First Nations.

Canfield claims several doctors wanting to practice in the north are being held up by bureaucracy.