Friday, January 31, 2014

Ministry Watching Snow Plowing This Winter

The provincial government says its closely monitoring winter road maintenance of the province's highways this winter.

Transportation Minister Glenn Murray acknowledges some contractors have been fined for not meeting snow plowing standards, and stronger action will be taken if his Ministry don't see significant improvements.

Murray also inviting resident to call contractors and the Ministry if they have complaints about the roads.

Youtube Video Seen As Educational Tool For Motorists

OPP sees a viral video of a near head-on collision involving two transports near Nipigon as a good educational tool.

In the video, one driver is forced to take evasive action to avoid an oncoming transport passing a snowplow.

Constable Anne McCoy says it points to the message they're trying to get across through a new Highway Safety Education Committee.

OPP are investigating and looking for the transport driver passing the snowplow which reportedly did not stop.

Caution: contains strong language.

Food Prices Continue to Rise

The food budget for a family of four in the Kenora and Rainy River district is nearing the one-thousand dollar a month mark.

It's a 60-dollar increase over last year's study.

The Northwestern Health Unit, Julie Slack says that's making it more difficult for those on low or fixed incomes.

Slack says the rising prices do show the need to strengthen community gardens, school breakfast programs and food banks even more.

Motion To Keep Veterans Affairs Offices Open

The doors close today, but MP's will vote Monday on an motion calling for eight regional Veterans Affairs offices to stay open.

NDP put forward the motion yesterday.

Veterans intend to hold memorial services today at affected offices, including the one in Thunder Bay, to signify the loss of service.

Propane Hotline Set Up

Minnesota is setting up a public hotline for residents who may have questions about the propane shortage in the State, or may be in danger of running low on heating fuel.

The hotline is manned Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. each day.

Governor Mark Dayton declared a State of Peacetime Emergency in Minnesota Monday in response to the persistent cold weather and the increased risk that households may run out of heating fuel.

MPCA Hands Out Fines To 65 Companies

A Baudette company is among 65 fined by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for environmental infractions in the last four month of 2013.

LaValla Septic Service was fined 18-hundred for individual septic treatment systems violations.

The MPCA says it also has another 141 ongoing investigations across the State

Minimum Wage Going Up

The minimum wage is going up in Ontario.

The province says the $10.25 an hour wage will go to $11.00 an hour June 1.

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro says it's going to improve people's lives.

The government also intends to introduce legislation when Queen's Park resumes that ensure future increases every October.

OPP Cracking Down On Reckless Drivers

As Ontario suffers through one of the worst winters in recent history, the OPP are taking a hard stance with reckless drivers who are jeopardizing the safety of officers and other emergency personnel responding to collision scenes.

Three OPP cruisers have been struck by passing motorists since Monday, sending at least one officer to hospital..

Last weekend, eight cruisers were struck with two officers suffering minor injuries.

Park Centre To Open This Winter

Voyageurs National Park is opening its Rainy Lake Visitor Centre this winter.

Beginning this Sunday, the centre will open Wednesdays through to Sundays from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

The park says funding from the Voyageurs National Park Association is allowing for the centre to open.

The winter hours will continue until March 30.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Recycling Up In Fort Frances

Fort Frances residents are doing better when it comes to recycling.

Ontario Waste Diversion says about 20 per cent of all residential waste in 2012 reached blue boxes, slightly higher than from the year before.

Chief Executive Officer Michael Scott says it's not bad, noting a slight increase over 2011.

Scott admits northern Ontario communities are challenged by distance to markets and costs that can impact on local recycling efforts.

He says increased education and the creation of depots to collect such things as electronic equipment can further reduce the amount of material going to landfill.

Fight Continues To Keep Offices Open

The MP for Thunder Bay-Rainy River is making a last ditch effort to save Canada's Veterans Affairs offices.

The offices, including one in Thunder Bay, are to close their doors tomorrow.

John Rafferty accuses the Harper government of turning its back on veterans by closing the offices.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino is apologizing for the way he treated veterans during a meeting in Ottawa Tuesday, but isn't backing down on the decision to close the offices.

Osisko Fighting Take-over Bid

Osisko Mining is taking legal action against Goldcorp.

Osisko alleges that Goldcorp misused confidential information prior to making a hostile take-over bid for the company.

Goldcorp's offer is about $2.6 billion, but Osisko calls it "opportunistic and financially inadequate."

Osisko is also in the process of mailing its recommendation to shareholders, urging them to reject the offer.

Heart Of The Continent Partnership Meets Today

Officials from both sides of the border gather in International Falls today for a meeting of the Heart of the Continent Partnership.

It's aim is to promote northern Minnesota and northwestern Ontario

Chair Frank Jewell says part of their discussions will be around the organization's future.

Jewell says there will also be involvement for the first time in a long time from Fort Frances.

Dryden Reports Huge Deficit

While Fort Frances council works to pare down its budget, another northwestern Ontario community is facing some serious financial troubles of its own.

The city of Dryden has announced its facing a four-million dollar deficit going into the 2014 budget year.

City officials attribute the shortfall to reduced assessment of the Domtar Mill, fewer provincial grants and a one million dollar accounting discrepancy identified from 2011.

Fire Marshal's Office Investigating Ignace Blaze

The Ontario Fire Marshal's Office has been contacted to help investigate the cause of a massive fire to an Ignace grocery store.

Tuesday's blaze destroyed Gramma's Supermarket.

Fire crews were still working yesterday to mop up the fire and extinguish hot spots.

Grade 10 Student Publishes First Book

A Fort Frances high school student has launched her first novel.

Last of the Spirit Seers is a fictional book, but written around true ghost stories from the Rainy River district.

Author Claire Hyatt says she never though about writing a book initial.

It took her about 11 months to write and is already thinking of a second book.

The book is available at Betty's, the Fort Frances High School or through

Lobby Group Questions Biomass Supply

A northwestern Ontario lobby group is trying to prove that the proposed biomass conversion of Ontario Power Generation's coal-fired plant in Thunder Bay will not meet the future energy needs of the region.

Common Voice Northwest spokesperson Iain Angus says the proposed supply of biomass will never be enough during a cold spell like we are experiencing now.

Angus says by his calculations the amount suggested would have been used up in three weeks had the conversion been in place already.

Memorial Service For Office Closure Planned

Veterans plan to mark the closing of the Veteran Affairs Canada office in Thunder Bay with a memorial service.

They plan to lay a wreath at the doors of the office Friday and hold a small memorial to signify the loss of services to northwestern Ontario.

The office is one of eight scheduled to close across the country.

Bridge Work This Spring

A bridge on Highway 11 will get some upgrades this year.

The Swamp River Bridge, just west of Shebandowan, will be replaced at a cost of $3.2 million.

Thunder Bay-based LH North will begin work in the spring.

Changes To Driver Renewals For Some Seniors

Drivers in Ontario over the age of 80 will no longer have to complete a written test to renew their licence.

Beginning April 21, the province will instead base renewals on a vision test, the individual's driving record and require the senior to participate in some educational programs.

Transportation Minister Glen Murray says it will help seniors stay safe on the road while flagging those who shouldn't be driving.

More Target Stores To Open In Canada

Minnesota retailer Target says it will open another store in Winnipeg this fall.

The store at Polo Park Mall will be one of nine to open across the Canada this year.

Target entered the Canadian market last year with 124 stores, including one in Thunder Bay.

Governor Prepares For Surgery

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton will go under the knife next week.

He's having hip surgery at Rochester's Mayo Clinic.

The procedure is to reattach the major hip tendons to the bone around the hip joint that have become detached.

It's only expected to take an hour and Dayton says he expects a full recovery.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Fort Projects To Get A Second Look

Some Fort Frances projects that have been on the shelves for a while could get a dust off.

Chief Administrative Officer Mark McCaig says the town's received a lot of attention recently from the province, and to a lesser extend the federal government, about the latest shutdown of the Resolute Forest Products mill.

He says now might be a good time to review some of the work projects it's wanted to do and seek some financial support from government.

McCaig says approval could help create some jobs and economic growth to the community.

Council looking at discussion potential projects during its budget meeting next week.

Girls Retreat Wins

The program coordinator of the "I Am Awesome, And I Know It" is feeling good today.

The regional self esteem and empowerment retreat for women has received $45-thousand after being selected one of the grand prize winners of the Aviva Community Fund contract.

The retreat also received an additional $5,000 for making to the final round.

Coordinator Renee Martin-Brown says it will be used to help expand the program.

The first retreat, held in Nestor Falls last year, attracted 19 young girls across across northwestern Ontario.

Kenora Family Survived Ordeal In Bush

A Kenora family is back home safe after spending three nights stranding in the bush on the weekend.

The family, which included two children aged 6 and 10, had left Kenora January 18th for a week of trapping north of Minaki, but on their return Saturday, they encouraged mechanical problems with one of their snow machines while the other got stuck.

OPP say they had survival gear that made it possible to build a shelter and light a fire and enough food to survive until they were spotted by a pilot who'd been asked to help look for them.

Veterans Call For Minister's Resignation

PSAC photo
Veterans who were in Ottawa to argue against the closing of their regional offices left a brief, emotional meeting with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino visibly frustrated and calling for his resignation.

Eight office, including one in Thunder Bay, will close this Friday.

Fantino called the meeting candid, but video shows the Minister and veterans trading testy exchanges.

Right To Work Campaign Reaches Northwestern Ontario

Unifor brings its "Right at Work" campaign to northwestern Ontario today.

President Jerry Dias says they're using an event in Thunder Bay to speak out about the threats to basic labour rights and what action unions can take.

Unifor is concerned about a federal bill, the union believes will make it easier to decertify unions in the federal sector on the basis of biased voting rules.

Pension Advisory Group Formed

Ontario has taken another step towards developing its own pension plan.

A technical Advisory Group has been created to advise government on how to strengthen retirement income security for people across the province.

They join former Prime Minister Paul Martin who was brought in as an advisor last week.

Smoking Ban in Foster Homes Sought

Debate is going on in Minnesota on a proposed bill that would ban smoking in foster homes.

It reached the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee yesterday.

The bill's author and Committee Chair Tina Liebling says many children in foster care are already suffering from at least one chronic medical condition and should be protected from secondhand smoke.

The bill now moves to the House Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy Committee.

Area Leaders Seek Proclamation

Another effort is being made to get the heads of State in Canada and the United States to declare July 2nd as Peaceful Borders Day in Fort Frances and International Falls.

The day coincides with the communities Peace Pull Tug of War.

Fort Mayor Roy Avis and Falls Mayor Bob Anderson have signed at letter to be sent to Prime Minister Harper and President Obama.

Harper has signed the declaration the past two years, but it has yet to get attention in Washington.

Grocery Store Destroyed By Fire

You Tube
Fire has destroyed a grocery store in Ignace.

The blaze at Gramma's Supermarket started around 2:30 Tuesday morning.

Mayor Lee Kennard who owned the store for five years calls the fire devastating.

No injuries are reported and the cause isn't known at this time.

Sledder Found

Two snowmobilers are recovering after spending a chilly night on Lake of the Woods.

RCMP initiated a search Monday after being informed the day before about the two being overdue from a fishing trip near Birch Point on the Lake's western shore.

They were eventually located in Roosevelt, Minnesota.

RCMP says the two had spent the night in the bush after becoming disoriented by blowing winds.

One the men eventually walked to a nearby home where he contacted his father's employer who called police.

Both were picked up, but the one man had to be taken to hospital in Roseau for treatment of frostbite.

Minimum Wage Action Promised Soon

The Ontario government says it will bring forward a plan in the near future on how it will address the minimum wage.

An advisory panel recommends it increase based on the province's inflation rate with the first to be retroactive to 2010 when the $10.25 an hour rate was frozen.

Labour Minister Yasir Naqvi says they're are reviewing its recommendations and will bring their plan forward shortly.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

State Of Emergency Declared In Minnesota

A shortage of propane and other heating fuels in Minnesota has prompted Governor Mark Dayton to declare a Peacetime State of Emergency.

The measure allows the State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to activate the Minnesota Emergency Operations Plan.

The State is also asking President Barack Obama to restrict exports of propane and natural gas until the shortage eases and that more supplies be trucked from Texas.

Fines Issued Against Contractors

The Ministry of Transportation has penalized maintenance contractors clearing provincial highways in northwestern Ontario for not meeting winter maintenance standards.

Carillion Canada and Integrated Maintenance and Operations Services in the Thunder Bay region and Transfield Services in the Kenora-Rainy River were penalized.

The MTO will not say how much the penalties were, but do describe them as "significant financial consequences."

Fort Frances Supports Heritage Designation Proposal

Fort Frances council is giving its support to an effort to designate a water route between Thunder Bay and Rainy River under the Canadian Heritage River System.

A group is working toward making a submission to a panel for review by this March.

Rainy Lake Conservancy's Stephen Challis says the Voyageur's Boundary Waterway Route will help draw awareness of the route's significance to the region.

Challis also sees the designation playing a part in Fort Frances's branding exercise.

Fire In Ignace

There's been a major fire in Ignace.

The blaze at a grocery store on Highway 17 has forced a closure of the highway there.

Traffic is being routed through the community.

No other details are available at this time.

Increase To Minimum Rate Suggested

Ontario is being told the up the minimum wage.

An advisory panel suggests it be increased based on Ontario's annually inflation rate, the first to be retroactive to 2010 when it was frozen at $10.25 an hour.

Labour and social groups welcome the news, but would still like the new starting rate be at $14.00  an hour.

Hyer Named Green's Deputy Leader

Thunder Bay MP Bruce Hyer has new responsibilities.

He is now the Deputy Leader of the Green Party.

Hyer joined the Greens in December, a year after leaving the NDP over differences with leader Thomas Mulcair.

Relays For Life Set To Go

Residents across northwestern Ontario are being encouraged to help get behind one of eight relays for life to be held this summer.

Fort Frances organizers helped kick off the major fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society by announcing its event will be held in June.

The Society's Regional Manager Maria Cabral says a partnership will continue to see some of the money raised staying in this region.

Of the $77-thousand raised last year, more than $31-thousand was given to Riverside Health Care Facilities to purchase necessary equipment.

This year's goal has been set at $75-thousand.

There will also be a Relay For Life event in Rainy River

Cold Weather Persists

Bundle up, again.

It's going to be another cold day with wind chills of minus 40 C to minus 45 C across the Borderland.

The cold temperatures aren't setting any weather records, but Meteorologist Bill Laidlaw says it has been a few years since we've had weather patterns such as those experienced.

A bitterly cold Artic air mass is entrenching all of northern Ontario and much of Minnesota leading to weather advisories again in both areas today.

Water Tower Sound

No major concerns for the water tower in Fort Frances.

An inspection of the tower by Minnesota-based KLM Engineering last November found some minor defects, but none that require any immediate attention.

It's the first inspection since the town did some work on the interior of the tower in 2010.

The engineering firm says that work is holding up well.

Stay Safe Outdoors

This winter's icy conditions, along with freezing and thawing cycles, pose a hazard to pedestrians trying to get around on slippery sidewalks.

Insurance Bureau of Canada has some tips to prevent falls on snow or ice.

Wear sturdy footwear, with a good grip.

Walk slowly and take short, deliberate steps.

Keep walkways clear of debris, and use salt or sand on front steps, driveways and sidewalks.

And push the snow rather than lift it when shoveling.

Demand For Feed-In Tarrif Program

There continues to be strong interest in the province's Feed-In Tariff program.

The Ontario Power Authority says it's received nearly 2-thousand applications for renewable energy projects that would feed power back into the grid.

More than 75 percent are for rooftop solar projects.

About 30 per cent of all projects are from First Nation communities or groups.

Builder Selected For Shelter

The Borderland Humane Society in International Falls is a step closer to having a new shelter.

Up North Builders of International Falls has been selected to build the facility at a cost of $250-thousand dollars.

The new facility will be located just west of Menard and should be complete by August.

Fort Frances In Top 8

Fort Frances is sitting sixth overall in its bid to become Kraft's Hockeyville.

It's 31 members and 23 uploads are still well back of Salmon Arm, British Columbia, which is at the front of the west division of the contest.

More members and uploads are needed by the time the first round of the contest ends in two weeks time.

Top 8 will earn $25-thousand for arena upgrades.

You can throw your support for the Fort Frances bid by going to the Kraft Hockeyville website.

New Gold Still Committed To Mine Project

New Gold says its still committed to moving ahead with plans to develop a gold mine north of Barwick.

The company will hold two open houses, today in Barwick and tomorrow in Fort Frances, on its environmental assessment report.

Company vice-president Kyle Stanfield says the recent release of a new feasibility study shows plenty of promise for the project despite fluctuating gold prices.

New Gold anticipates production to begin in the later part of 2016, later than what had been projected by then-Rainy River Resources.

OPP Worried About Driving Habits

OPP are concerned that drivers are not adjusting to road conditions.

This comes after OPP have had to respond to over sixteen-hundred accidents including three fatalities across the province following recent weather conditions.

OPP remind drivers that reducing speed and distance are significant first steps in preventing accidents.

Three Nabbed For Impaired

Three Atikokan men will be making court appearances after being charged with impaired driving-related offences in the past couple of weeks.

A 19-year-old was first charged back on January 11 while OPP were conducting a RIDE check in the area of the Atikokan High School..

Another RIDE Check a week later in the same area led to police charging a 31-year-old driver.

And early last Wednesday, a 25-year-old man was charged with failing to comply with a breath test after OPP had stopped a vehicle on Front Street.

MP's Back To Work

MP's are back in Ottawa.

For Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty, Canada Post's plans to stop home delivery is top of his mind.

Rafferty says the federal government is setting the crown corporation up for failure.

Rafferty feels the problem with Canada Post is the highly paid Chief Executive Officer and its twenty-two vice-presidents.

More Rail Traffic Seen Through Region

Area residents are seeing more rail traffic go through the Fort Frances area.

Speaking recently to area municipal leaders, CN Rail spokesperson Jim Feeney says much of that traffic is heading south.

Feeney says the increase started about the time that Prince Rupert became a key port on the west coast.

Feeney says CN has also put a lot of money into improving the American network, including helping trains move around the city of Chicago better.