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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fort Budget Finalized

The budget is now complete for the town of Fort Frances.

Council held a special meeting yesterday to finalize the numbers.

A tax increase of less than half a per cent for residential ratepayers remains.

Mayor Roy Avis says changes in the assessment of the now-closed Resolute Forest Products mill forced them to take a second look at the numbers and take money out of reserves to offset the impact.

Council will bring the budget to a public meeting next week.

Health Care Groups Want More Discussion About Health Care

Health-care leaders are calling on the political parties to make health and health care the number one issues this election.

They're hoping the leaders will take time in tonight's leaders' debate to focus on their plans for improving access.

Registered Nurses Association of Ontario's Doctor Doris Grinspun says the system is at a critical juncture with a growing and aging population and it's a perfect time to discuss how politicians will address the need for more services.

PC's Question Police Union Election Ads

Progressive Conservatives are questioning ads targeting their leader launched by the union representing officers with the Ontario Provincial Police.

The Tories says the action bring into question the impartiality of the provincial police which are currently conducting investigations into the Liberal government over the gas plant and ORNGE air ambulance scandals.

OPP say they don't support the campaign, but notes the Police Association is an independent organization that does not report nor is controlled by the OPP.

Weather Training Offered

Environment Canada wants a few more eyes to watch the weather in the Rainy River district.

It will hold training sessions next week in Atikokan and Emo for those interested in its CANWARN storm spotter program.

Meteorologist Geoff Coulson says participants help them watch for severe weather.

The Atikokan session takes place at the Atikokan Economic Development Corporation's training room on June 10.

Another takes place in Emo at the Emo-LaVallee Community Centre.

Both begin at 7 PM.

For more information or to register in advance for these free workshops contact Coulson by email at

Fire Hazard Drops

Rain has reduced the forest fire hazard to low in the Rainy River district.

There have been just five forest fires in our region this year.

The Ministry of Natural Resources says the fire hazard is still moderate to high along the Ontario/Manitoba border as well as in the Red lake and Sioux Lookout areas.

Cool, Wet May For I. Falls

It's been a cooler and wetter than normal month of May in International Falls.

The National Weather Services says average temperature for the month came in at just over 51 F or 10 C which is slightly cooler than normal.

The city also had about 4 inches of precipitation, about 1.2 inches more than usual.

Thunder Bay Dentist Heads ODA

A Thunder Bay dentist has been named to head the Ontario Dental Association.

Doctor Gerald Smith will serve as its president for the next two years.

The long-time resident of Thunder Bay is currently a staff dentist at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

Election Notebook

On the election campaign trail, Premier Kathleen Wynne is pledging to protect Ontario's public sector.

Surrounded, by a number of workers yesterday in Toronto, Wynne warned that Ontario will see a return to the cuts experienced under then-Premier Mike Harris in the 1990's if Tim Hudak wins the June 12 vote.

Wynne says the Tories plan to eliminate 100-thousand public sector jobs will send the province back towards a recession.

Meantime, Hudak is clarifying where some of the cuts will come from in his plan.

Hudak insists front line services won't be effected and will look at eliminating government waste within upper and middle management.

Hudak, is also standing by the numbers in his million jobs plan despite criticism from the Liberals and some economics experts who say the Tories used in-correct math in determining, its strategy.

The Liberals are also being accused of trying to hide a report on the ORNGE air ambulance service.

The PC's says the report contains 95 specific findings related to the service's operations.

The Liberals say, they agreed, to table the report, May 5th, had it not been for the opposition, forcing the election call, and putting a halt to business, at Queen's Park.

OPP Union Gets Active In Election

The union, representing Ontario's provincial police officers, is wading into the provincial election.

For the first time, the Ontario Provincial Police Association is launching ads aimed at the Progressive Conservatives.

Presidents Jim Christie says Tim Hudak's position on such things as arbitration, pensions and wages are concerning.

Christie says the ads are not meant to be an endorsement of the Liberals or the NDP.

Falls Still Looking For City Beach Volunteers

The city of International Falls is still looking for camps hosts for its City Beach.

It needs volunteers to oversee the popular recreational area during the months of July and August through to Labour Day.

Anyone living either in the Falls or Fort Frances interested is asked to contact the city.

Hike It and Bike It

The Northwestern Health Unit is challenging residents to keep the vehicle parked this month.

Health promoter Elaine Fischer says the Hike It and Bike It Challenge is now on and is aimed at getting people outside and moving for the next three weeks.

Participants are asked to keep track of the time and kilometres they traveled and report them to the Health Unit for a chance to win prizes. 

Local Sports For Tuesday June 3

Fort Frances Muskies soccer teams now know their schedules for this week's all-Ontario high school championships.

The boys team finds itself in the A-pool with top ranked L'Essor out of Tecumseh.

Play will begin Thursday in Leamington.

The girls, meantime, have been placed in the B-pool at their competition in Collingwood.

They're making their first appearance to OFSAA's since 2008.

Joe Basaraba is among the list of protected players the Cincinnati Cyclones of the East Coast Hockey League have submitted.

The Fort Frances native joined the club in March after finishing up with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.

He had a goal and 4 assists in 10 games with the Cyclones during the regular season and has played 3 playoff games so far.

The 2010 draft pick of the Florida Panthers was out of the line-up last night as Cincinnati lost 2-0 to Alaska in the 3rd game of the Kelly Cup final.

Weather rained out play in the Rainy River District Women's Fastball League.

Games will be rescheduled to a later date.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Election Notebook

Progressive Conservatives are calling on Premier Wynne to come clean on the cost of the MarS real estate deal.

The Tories released documents last week they claim show the Liberals secretly signed off on a $317-million bailout for the Toronto real estate project.

Critic Vic Fedeli says Wynne should disclose all documents related to the deal before tomorrow's leaders' debate.

The Liberals, meantime, say the inspiration of PC leader Tim Hudak's platform comes directly from the extreme-right Republican movement in the U.S.

The Liberal have released documents of their own, claiming Hudak met with leading Republican and Tea Party strategists during his trip to Washington in April 2012.

They say part of the meeting included media training with a firm who's also worked with Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman.

New Democrats have released new ads in their campaign to end the scandals at Queen's Park.

The ad, entitled “I’m voting Andrea,” features a number of people who say they voted Liberal in the last election, but will be switching their vote to the NDP.

The NDP have also set up a website for other voters to comment on why they plan switch their vote.

Candidates File For U.S. Elections

Candidates seeking to represent Koochiching County at the U.S., State and County levels are starting to file.

At the County level, Wade Pavleck in District 1, Kevin Adee in District 2 and Rob Ecklund in District 3 are all seeking re-election to the board.

Sheriff Brian Jesperson, Attorney Jeff Naglosky and County Auditor Bob Peterson are also up for re-election.

The deadline to file is tomorrow at 5 PM with the primaries to be held August 12 and the general election on November 4.

Crime Down In Fort Frances

OPP continue to see a drop in crime in Fort Frances.

Police handled a total of 284 calls in April while laying 76 charges.

That's down from the 92 charges issued in April 2013.

The total number of charges to date of 288 is also 50 fewer than this time last year and over 100 less than in the first four months of April.

Minimum Wage Goes Up

Thousands of employees in the Province go to work today with a raise.

Ontario's minimum wage officially increased Sunday going up 75 cents from $10.25 to an even $11.00 per hour.

Some advocates say it still keeps a number of low-wage earners well below the poverty line.

Wet Day In District Forecast

It could be a very wet day in the Rainy River district.

Environment Canada says a system moving through our area could leave as much as 5 centimetres of rain in some part of the region.

The rain is supposed to taper off by tomorrow morning.

NOMA Seeks Energy Answers

The Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association and the City of Thunder Bay are joining together requesting answers on local energy issues from the three main provincial parties.

They have written to the leaders and their local election candidates asking them to commit to a series of demands.

They include converting Ontario Power Generation's station in Thunder Bay to natural gas, expanding the capacity of OPG's Atikokan generating station and creating new transmission lines.

Nickle Promoting Party's Energy Platform

The PC candidate for Kenora-Rainy River is promoting his party's energy platform.

Randy Nickle says Ontario residents are paying some of the highest costs for power, and the Tories have the only plan that will help hydro users save $343.00 a year on their bills.

Nickle is handing out light bulbs to homes he's visiting as a reminder of his party's platform.

OPP Getting Their Man

OPP in Fort Frances are getting their man most of the time.

Statistics show OPP cleared 93 per cent of all violent crime cases in the town in 2013 and almost 33  per cent of all property crimes.

The clearance rate on violent crimes is about the same as last year, but the OPP's ability to solve property crime cases increased by 6.5 per cent over 2012.

The numbers are also better than both the provincial and national averages.

Commission Winding Down Its Work

The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is starting to wind down.

Justice Murray Sinclair visited Kenora last week and says he's still affected by the stories of abuse they've collected.

Sinclair says the exact number of children who have died in residential schools remains unknown because many are buried in unmarked graves.

Skin Cancer On the Rise

Some warm weather, but you do so with some alarming news regarding skin cancer rates.

New data indicates skin cancer is the most common cancer in Canada with an estimated 65-hundred new cases expected to be diagnosed this year.

Canadian Cancer Society spokesperson Kelly Cull says skin cancer is preventable.

The Canadian Cancer Society is launching an awareness campaign this summer focusing on the dangers of tanning.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Atikokan Man Charged

An Atikokan man will appear in court Monday in connection with an assault in that community last week.

OPP say a 48-year-old man was taken to hospital for treatment and released after being assaulted by another brandishing a hammer.

The 40-year-old remains in custody pending his court appearance in Fort Frances.

County Seeks Assurances On RECAP Project

Koochiching County wants to ensure the company proposing a renewable energy project is considering potential sites, west of International Falls as part of a feasibility study.

Commissioner Wade Pavleck says Coronal's latest report makes no mention of looking at land around the city of  Big Falls, despite previous requests from both the city and the county.

Pavleck says the company seems focuses soley on a site near International Falls that includes both private and city owned property.

Election Notebook

On the election campaign, Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne is challenging PC leader Tim Hudak to prove her wrong.

The Liberals and some economists say the Tories have incorrectly counted person-years of employment as full time jobs in their projections towards the million jobs plan.

Wynne wants Hudak to produce at least one qualified independent economist who supports the PC's claim.

PC's, meantime, are launching new ads after releasing details of what they say is an approved $317-million bailout of a Toronto real estate firm signed just prior to the provincial election campaign.

PC's released documents pertaining to the deal yesterday.

Premier Kathleen Wynne denies the allegations, saying the documents are part of ongoing negotiations in a real estate transaction.

NDP leader Andrea Horwath is promising to clean-up what she calls the corruption at Queen's Park and focus on the priorities that matter most to Ontarians.

Horwath says Liberals have wasted billions of dollars on such things a CEO bonuses, the ORNGE air ambulance scandal and the cancelled gas plants instead of on health care, education and public transit.

Former Atikokan Resident Releases Book

A former Atikokan educator is out with a new children's book.

Paul Bachmeier, who now lives in Thunder Bay, authored "Barley the Elephant."

It's about a spotted baby elephant. 

Bachmeier credits his daughters for the idea and includes both in the book.

The book is illustrated by Scott Chasty, another former Atikokan resident.

A launch will take place in Thunder Bay tomorrow at the Chapters book store.

You can also obtain the book on line and through

Three Charges In Drug Bust

OPP are charging three people with drug related offences.

A 66 year old Thunder Bay man, a 53 year old from Fort Hope and 41 year old woman from Webequie woman are charged with possession of oxycodone, marihuana, and possession of property of crime.

About 11-thousand dollars worth of drugs were seized in  the investigation.

Governor OK's Marijuana Use

Governor Mark Dayton has signed off on a bill paving the way for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

The bill creates a patient registry and authorizes the use of medical cannabis in limited forms for certain conditions.

The State expects to have distribution sites in place by next summer.

New Health Unit Campaign

A new campaign to encourage healthy lifestyles has been launched by the Northwestern Health Unit.

Medical Officer of Health Doctor Kit Young-Hoon says its aimed at improving the overall health of the region through better eating and lifestyle habits.

The campaign includes a new website offering a 21 day challenge to help change your lifestyle choices.


A busy year for Northern Community Development Services, or NCDS.

The employment assistance agency saw nearly 9-thousand people visit its Fort Frances office.

Marketing coordinator Sarah Maruzyk says it was in part due to the layoffs at Resolute Forest Products.

NCDS also saw over 21-hundred people participate in a variety of skills development workshops.

Voter Cards Being Issued

Voters across the Kenora-Rainy River riding are beginning to receive find their notice to vote cards in their mail boxes.

It includes the polling station you vote at on election day.

Returning Officer Ian Simpson says check the cards closely to ensure they are accurate.

If there are errors, or you have not received a card in  the next few days, call the Returning office.

Voting can now be done at returning offices by special ballot with advance polls opening this weekend, but the cards are not required.

Two pieces of identification is all you need.

Board Positions Filled

The Northwest Catholic District School Board has appointed two to the position of Superintendent of Education.

Brendan Hyatt and Joanne Querel will assume their new duties in August.

Hyatt is currently principal at Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton and the assistant to the education director

Querel now serves as an assistant Superintendent of Education.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Fraser Institute Reviews Ontario Pension Plan

The Fraser Institute is throwing cold water on the Liberal's plans to create an Ontario Pension Plan.

The Conservative think-tank suggests it will costs Ontarians up to $3,400 a year - nearly $7-thousand for a working family.

The proposal calls for workers to contribute 1.9 per cent of their earnings to be matched by employers.

The Institute suggests that will reduce household spending and the standard of living.

It also believes employers will make cuts in other areas to offset its share.

OPP Officer Charged

OPP are charging one of their own.

Detective Constable Rory Thompson, who is based out of Thunder Bay, faces eight counts of theft under 5-thousand, and one count of fraud under 5-thousand.

The charges stem from an investigation into incidents dating back to October 2012 until this past March.

Thompson has been suspended with pay and will appear in court on July 11.

Davidson Returns To Head Atikokan Metis

File photo
Marlene Davidson will again serve as president of the Atikokan Metis Council for the next two years.

Her position was one of nine acclaimed after nominations for the Council's elections closed May 18.

Elections were planned for June 1.

Three other positions on the Council are still vacant.

No Bad Roads In Northwestern Ontario Apparently

We love to complain about them, but northwestern Ontario's road have been left out of the Canadian Automobile Association's worst roads list for this year.

The annual list is compiled by public nominations.

Dufferin Road in Toronto tops this year's list for a third straight time.

The remainder of the top ten were either located in Toronto or elsewhere in southern Ontario.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Water Now Flowing Freely

Fort Frances residents can stop trickling their water.

The directive was issued after an outbreak of frozen water lines this past winter.

Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown says the last problem area was resolved just last week.

Effected users on water meters won't be taxed with higher water bills for keeping the water running.

Brown says their bills will be based on their water usage last year.  

Meantime, town crews are still working to repair broken water and sewer pipes with with three of over 40 this year yet to fix.

Laid Off Workers Recognized In New Contract

While the mill itself is no longer operating, laid off workers at Resolute Forest Products in Fort Frances are being recognized in a new contract with Unifor.

Unifor's Mike Lambert says the new four-year deal secures preferential hiring for the workers at the new sawmill in Atikokan.

That sawmill is to open next spring.

Lambert says workers in Fort Frances were included in the contract because talks had started well before the closure announcement.

Lambert says the contract would also in place if there were efforts by someone else to restart the now shuttered Fort Frances mill.

Resolute said it explored a potential sale before making the closure decision, but has not said if anyone is now interested in the mill.

Tax Break For Some Big Falls Area Residents

Koochiching County's board of commissioners is agreeing to provide tax relief to property owners who now fall under two hospital taxing districts.

The duplication, effecting some owners in the Big Falls area, came when a new district was created to help Littlefork Medical Center repay a million dollar County loan for capital improvements.

The County will now provide a yearly grant to the city of Big Falls equal to the amount of tax assessed on effect properties.

Do One Thing Underway

Northwestern Health Unit has officially opened its Do One Thing Conference in Kenora.

Chief Executive Officer  Mark Perrault says health is not accomplished by one single entity.

Perrault says the goal is to get ideas won which direction they can take to improve the health of area communities.

More than 300 people from across the region are attending.

New Name For Pither's Point Park

A new name for Pither's Point Park is being explored.

It comes out of meetings recently held between the town of Fort Frances and First Nations leaders with the band's who've laid title to the park.

The town's Chief Administrative Officer Mark McCaig says it will now be referred for now as the Point while the two sides come up with a new name.

McCaig say the two sides have also agreed to ongoing dialogue with the aim of solving some, if not all, the issues that have been, in the past, before the courts.

Input Sought On Bicycle Plan

Minnesota continues to seek public comment on its statewide bicycle plan.

The Department of Transportation has set up an interactive map and survey on its website to gather input on how to address the needs of bicycle riders across the State.

They will stay in place until June 1 with the Department expected to complete its plan by the end of this year.

Minnesota Warns Of Tick Problems

The snowy and cold winter is apparently not hurting ticks in Minnesota.

Fields studies in southwestern parts of the State are finding large numbers of adult deer ticks.

The Department's David Neitzel says ticks were likely insulated from the cold by deep snow, meaning the risk of tick-transmitted disease to be high again this year.

Last year, the department reported a record 14-hundred Lyme disease cases around the State.

Northern Ontario Debate

Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP Leader Andrea Horwath are fresh off the Northern Ontario debate in Thunder Bay Monday.

The two went head to head on a variety of issues including revamping the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation.

Horwath says she would tackle the problem immediately.

Wynne focused more on the current economic programs her party offers.

The two leaders also indicated a willingness to consider taking back OPP policing costs from municipalities under 5,000 population.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak didn't attend because of scheduling conflicts.

NOMA Remembering What Leaders Said

The proof is in the pudding.

That reaction from the president of the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association following Monday's debate between Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne and NDP leader Andrea Horwath in Thunder Bay.

In an interview with NetNewsledger Dave Canfield says he'll be holding the leaders to their word after the election.

Canfield says he did hear from both that they were willing to work with northern Ontario leaders.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hudak Promotes Wage Freeze

PC leader Tim Hudak is proposing to freeze the wages of all public sector workers and MPP's upon taking office.

Hudak says 97-thousand government workers are already making six figure salaries.

Hudak says a wage freeze would save Ontario taxpayers $2-billion a year and help create new jobs.

Northern Ontario Heritage Party Announces Candidates

The party advocating northern Ontario be its own province is running three candidates in the provincial election.

Leader and founder of the Northern Ontario Heritage Party Ed Deibel is running in Thunder Bay-Atikokan.

Association president Paul Sloan is running in Thunder Bay-Superior North.

The party says it has a registered riding association for Kenora-Rainy River, but no candidate for this election.

New Asset Management Plan

Fort Frances council is adopting a new asset management plan to help it deal future infrastructure needs.

It includes a recommendation that taxes increase 2.3 per cent each year for the next decade to help pay for the work.

Councillor Ken Perry worries it holds future councils to that commitment.

Councillor Rick Wiedenhoeft says the tax increase is just a recommendation, but council needed to approve the plan to ensure it can access future federal and provincial dollars.

The plan focuses on such things as roads, bridges, sewer and water and social housing needs.

Treaty 3 Chiefs Meet

Grand Council Treaty 3 holds its annual spring assembly, beginning today at Rat Portage First Nation.

Grand Chief Warren White says topics includes child welfare and the Energy East Pipeline.

Unlike past conferences, no provincial representatives will be attending partly because of the election.

White says federal Natural Resources Minister and Kenora MP Greg Rickford and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt were also invited, but did not respond.

Do One Thing

The Northwestern Health Unit's Do One Thing Conference gets underway today in Kenora.

Over 300 people are attending, representing a wide array of sectors, including health, education and non-profit organizations from across northwestern Ontario as well as Winnipeg.

The conference aims to get people more interested in healthy eating and active lifestyles.

Comedian Rick Mercer is attending as a guest speaker.