Monday, March 31, 2014

Forest Fire Season Starts This Week

Believe it or not forest fire season officially begins tomorrow.

Fire information officer with the Ministry of Natural Resources Debbie MacLean admits it could be a while before there are any fire starts in northwestern Ontario given the amount of snow in the forest.

Still, she says the MNR will prepare for the season as normal, noting activity picked up quickly after a slow start back in 2012.

$100,000 Club Grows

The region's education sector is seeing an increase in employees earning over $100,000 a year.
The disclosure of public sector salaries shows 39 employees with the Rainy River District School Board over the $100-thousand salary threshold.
That's up from 35 employees in 2012 and the 22 disclosed two years ago.
The Northwest Catholic District School Board has 13 employees on the list, down one from 2012.
Riverside Health Care Facilities shows 20 over the magic number, including 9 nurses.
The town of Fort Frances has five on the list.

PSB Appointment

A member of the Fort Frances Police Services Board is back for another term.
Ron Scofield has been reappointed to the Board by the province for another two year term.
It will be his sixth year with the Board.
Meantime, another provincially-appointed seat is still vacant.
It became empty after former Mayor Glenn Witherspoon ended his term last year.

Premier Seeks At Legal Advice

Premier Kathleen Wynne is seeking legal advice regarding comments from the Progressive Conservatives over the gas plant scandal.
The provincial Liberals say an email from the PC Party last week and subsequently posted on its website, claims Wynne "oversaw and possibly ordered" an individual to delete records in former Premier Dalton McGunity's office.
Premier Wynne denies the allegations and has written Tory Leader Tim Hudak to stop making the false and defamatory accusations.

School Bus Cancellations For Monday March 31

Here is a list of school bus cancellations in the Rainy River District this morning.
All Iron Range Bus lines in Fort Frances area only

All Dimit Bus Lines

Shane McDonald's SM 235

Keith Jolicoeur - KJ220

Bruce Nielson - BN245

Murray McDonald - MM230

Bill Romyn - BR260

Greg Ferris - GF200

Jody Goliquer - Big Grassy to Rainy River H.S.

Ken Fisher - KRF205

Les Fraser - FK225

Murray Nielson - MN251

Darryl Dyck - MN250

Jack Medwechuk - JM240

Bob Johnson - BJ215

Kaylene Johnson - BJ216

Seine River handicap bus

Seine River high school and elementary buses

Northwest Bay's elementary and the high school buses

Stanjikoming First Nations

Red Gut Bay - both buses

Aboriginal Head Start bus

Friday, March 28, 2014

Public Sector Pay Freeze Proposed

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak wants the Liberal government to expand on its plans to freeze MPP wages.

He says all public sector workers should have their wages frozen as well.

The Tories says the MPP freeze will only save the province about $350-thousand a year when it's facing a nearly $11-billion deficit.

Hudak is also suggesting the pay of Cabinet members be slashed further for every year the government runs a deficit.

Public Workers Union Votes For Job Action

Public sector supervisory and other staff have given their union a mandate to stage job actions and other workplace disruptions to back contract demands.

Members of the Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees of Ontario voted 94 per cent this past week in support.

It's the first time the Union has had such a vote.

President Gary Gannage says calls a government demand for benefit cuts a "declaration of war" on union members and their families.

Council Pay Revealed

More than $116-thousand was paid out in salaries and expenses for members of Fort Frances town council last year.

Mayor Roy Avis was the top wage earner at $32-thousand for serving on council as well on the Fort Frances Power Corporation and Police Services Board.

He also incurred $8,500 in expenses to attend a variety of meetings on behalf of the town outside the region.

Most other councillors earned around the $13-thousand mark with Rick Wiedenhoeft's pay coming in at $16-thousand as he too sits on the Police Services Board.

Road Maintenance Criticized

The opposition is throwing blame on the Liberal government for poor winter road maintenance this winter.

PC Critic Jeff Yurek attributes complaints about snow plowing practices to changes the Liberals made four years to how those contracts are awarded.

Transportation Minister Glen Murray says they're now delivering road maintenance at a lower cost value than when the Conservatives began contracting out services in 1998..

Road Work Planned

Some new passing lanes will be part of improvements planner for US Highway 53 south of International Falls.

Minnesota Department of Transportation's Walter Leu says most of the highway within Koochiching County and 11 miles into St. Louis County will get attention next year.

The work will include new turning and by-pass lanes.

Leu says total cost of the work is estimated to be about $25-million

Rainy River Resources Take-over Highlighted

The publication "Business in Vancouver" is listing New Gold's acquisition of Rainy River Resources as the fifth most-expensive mining acquisition in Canada in 2013.

New Gold acquired Rainy River Resources and its signature project near Barwick for $400-million in a cash and stock transaction, which closed in October.

First Quantum Minerals acquisition of Inmet Mining for $5.1 million is at the top of the magazine's annual review.

Outdoor Expo Gets Underway Today

An expo for area outdoor enthusiasts gets underway today in Internationals Falls.

The annual Outdoor Expo begins at 4 PM this afternoon at the Evangelical Covenant Church.

It continues from 9 AM to 4 PM tomorrow.

Organizer Tom Holt says it will include a number of speakers, demonstrations and displays.

Admission is free, but your encouraged to bring a non-perishable food items for the Salvation Army.

Canada Win Softwood Lumber Ruling

Canada likes it, but the U.S doesn't.

The London Court of International Arbitration is supporting Canada over export charges related to the Softwood Lumber Agreement.

Canada argued it shouldn't have applied the charges when a 2011 decision ruled subsidies to struggling companies in Ontario and Quebec violated the agreement because they came before the deal was been extended.

Canada's is now refunding companies their money.

The decision can not be appealed.

Boil Water Advisory Lifted

A boil water advisory at Rainy River Health Centre has been lifted.

The advisory was put in place last Thursday because of a water main break near the Rainy River hospital.

Riverside Health Care had taken precautions, including bringing in bottled water, during the advisory.

Food Insecurity Growing

A new report suggests food insecurity is becoming a serious problem in Canada's northern and remote First Nations communities.

The Council of Canadians Academies says the number of aboriginal households lacking access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food is growing at a rate more than double that of non-aboriginal households.

The Council says while there is no single solution, cooperation among various agencies and governments is key to reversing the trend.

New Program At Rainy River Community College

A new early childhood education program is being offered at Rainy River Community College in International Falls.

It's partnering with Virginia's Mesabi Range College on the degree program.

Graduates can also use the course to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education through Southwest State University.

Some of the courses are also transferable to a program at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Opposition Wants Fine Details Disclosed

The opposition is pushing the government to reveal how much contractors, responsible for plowing provincial highways, were fined this winter for failing to meet provincial standards.

NDP critic John Vantof says there's conflicting information about the reason for those fines that needs to be cleared up.

Transportation minister Glenn Murray is only saying the government has spent $10 million more this winter so contractors could purchase additional snow plows.

Three Arrested In Drug Bust

Three people are facing charges following a drug bust at a Fort Frances home this week.

Members of the Combined Forces Organized Crime Enforcement Bureau executed a search warrant at an Armit Street home Tuesday to find 555 grams of marijuana, street-valued at $11-thousand, and over $1,800 in cash.

Two Winnipeg residents, ages 20 and 42, and a 47-year-old Fort Frances man were arrested and are awaiting court appearances.

Ring of Fire Advances Another Step

Another step is being taken in making sure First Nations concerns are heard in the Ring of Fire negotiations.

Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle says the province and Mattawa First Nations have signed an agreement to move forward with a negotiating process on the issues they find crucial to them.

New Director Appointed To Riverside Foundation For Health Care

Riverside Foundation for Health Care has a new director.

Samatha Manty takes over the position Monday, replacing Nicke Baird who left to become the executive director at NCDS.

Manty, who's a graduate of Montreal's Dawson College, will wrap up her currently job at the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce this week.

Koochiching County To Add New Social Worker

Another child and family social worker is being added to Koochiching County's community services department.

Director Terry Murray says it allows for some cases handled by outside agencies to be dealt again by county workers.

He says the additional staff person will also ease the workload of its other two social workers.

Festival Line-up Nearly Complete

Organizers of the newest summer festival to Fort Frances says they'll be in position to announce their line-up next month.

The Harmony of Nations! Music Festival is set for July18 and 19 at the Sorting Gap Marina.

Coordinator Shannon Darby says because of the event's uniqueness, it's been relatively easy lining up the acts.

The festival will also include a public workshops with artists.

A new website has also been brought on-line that will have further information on the festival as its made available.

Skating Club Wins

The Border Skating Club has been selected the grand prize winner in the Tbaytel For Good initiative.

The club wins $5,000 to help replace its audio equipment at the Memorial Sports Centre.

Rainy River Recreation Board receives $2,000 for reaching the semi-final round.

Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls Budget Progressing

It could be another month before the Municipality of Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls passes it's budget.

Mayor Bill Thompson says they are making good progress, but suggests they still need to make some last minute changes. 

A review of the changes is expected at council's next meeting, but Thompson says final approval may not come until the end of April.

Park Fees For Houseboats Not In Place Yet

Voyageurs National Park says it won't be charging a new reservation fee to houseboats this year.

The park had indicated the $10.00 charge would be part of a new reservation and fee program taking effect this season.

It says that fee if for private houseboats and won't be in place until next spring.

The Park says it's still talking with area houseboat companies about the fees and a plan for visitors who rent from companies who operate within the park.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pennies Gathered For Leukemia Research

Supplied photo
Students at Rainy River Community College have gathered their pennies in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

A fundraiser promoted by the College's Student Senate this month brought in $227.49 for blood-born cancer research.

The Pennies for Patients included a battle of the sexes component with the women collecting $112 to the men's 105.

Condo Project To Get A Further Review

A proposed condominium project for Fort Frances is going to get a further review by town council.
Thunder Bay-based Northern Superior Structural Solutions is proposing a 24-unit project on Front Street.
Mayor Roy Avis says the idea will get look over from its various committees first before council makes a firm decision.
Company officials are currently promoting the project on its website as "The Vu by the River. "

Job Cuts At DSSAB

The Rainy River District Social Services Administration Board is reducing staff.

Three full-time positions are being eliminated.

The Board says the reductions reflect the economic pressures faced by municipalities who, in part, fund the agency.

It last cut positions in 2012, when six in the Social Housing Program were eliminated.

Mauro Named Municipal Affairs Minister

Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro is the province's new minister of municipal affairs and housing.

The announcement coming from  Premier Kathleen Wynne as part of a wider cabinet shuffle.

Mauro says it came as a bit of surprise, but is ready to hit the ground running.

Mauro calls it a big hill to climb with a tremendous amount to learn but looks forward to the challenge.

The shuffle was precipitated by the departure of Linda Jeffrey.

The former Municipal Affairs Minister announced yesterday she was leaving provincial politics to make a run for mayor of Brampton in this falls municipal elections.

Jeffrey was first elected to Queen's Park in 2003, holding a number of cabinet portfolios under former Premier Dalton McGuinty along the way.

Premier Not Saying When Budget Is Coming

Premier Kathleen Wynne continues to evade opposition demands for a provincial budget.

In Question Period yesterday, the Premier did outline what her government spending priorities will be.

Wynne says infrastructure spending, skills development and training and a youth jobs strategy is among her government's focus.

Gas Up The Snowblower, Again

Brace for more snow.

Environment Canada says a system, tracking from the U.S. is expected to bring snow to across northwestern Ontario tonight and into tomorrow.

Atikokan and area to the east are expected to receive the greater amounts with about 5 to 10 cm expected for the Atikokan area.

Lesser amounts are predicted for areas west.

Drivers Want Highways Improved

Research being released by the five companies responsible for plowing Ontario's highways is  showing that Ontarians want the government to make roads safer.

The survey, conducted in early March, shows that the majority of 1,500 drivers questioned feel the government should increase spending on highway maintenance.

The study also shows that Ontarians find roads to be in worse shape that they were 3 years ago by a 2-to-1 margin - 3-to-1 in Northern Ontario.

Another Job Fair In Fort Frances

The offer of jobs continues in the Rainy River district.

CN Rail plans to hold another job fair in Fort Frances April 2.

A similar event held in February attracted considerable interest and a number of applicants.

The region has also been visited by representatives from at least three pulp and paper companies in the past month, trying lure former workers laid off from Resolute Forest Products.

RRFDC Moving

Staff at the Rainy River Future Development Corporation is moving.

The regional economic development agency is relocating to the second floor of the same building that houses the Northern Lights Credit Union and the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce.

It will open its new office April 7.

To accommodate the move, it will close its Scott Street location April 3 and 4.

Residents Warming to Getting Flu Shot At Drug Store

File photo
It appears getting a flu shot at the local pharmacy is catching on in Ontario.

More than 750-thousand people opted to get the free flu shot at a pharmacy this past season.

That's triple the number over last year when pharmacies were given provincial approval to administer the shot.

Man Arrested For Trying To Steal Truck

A 24-year-old Fort Frances man faces several charges after trying to steal a pick-up truck from a locked compound.

The man was sitting in the truck at the back of a Fort Frances commercial property when OPP arrived last Thursday evening.

After some time in trying to get the doors unlocks, the man began to physically resist officers trying to get him out of the truck before eventually taking him into custody.

Name Your Worst Road

Just in time for pot hole season.

The Canadian Automobile Association is once again launching it's Worst Roads campaign.

Over the next four weeks, Ontario motorists are invited to vote online for roads or city streets in most need of repair.

You can log onto to nominate a road in our area. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Town Eyes Tourist Centre

The town of Fort Frances is looking at taking over the former provincial tourist information centre.

Mayor Roy Avis says the town's is speaking with the Ministry of Infrastructure about a leasing the vacant building.

The building was closed by the Liberal government in May 2012.

Avis says it would improve their ability to promote the town and the region.

He adds they hope to partner with other organizations as well.

Council Signs Off On Funding Request

Fort Frances council is signing off on the grant application to help tear down the former Rainy Lake Hotel and create a new market square.

The town is also committing $150-thousand, plus another $30-thousand in in-kind services toward the project.

The exact dollar amount requested from the province was not disclosed, but previous estimates had the project coming in at around $1.2 million.

Plant Still Treating More Water Than Produced

Fort Frances continues to treat more water than it produces.

It's been an ongoing issue for the town, but the agency that handles its sewage treatment plant says it's not that unusual.

Ontario Clean Water Agency's Jamie McPherson says is a common theme in many northwestern Ontario communities with older infrastructure and sewer lines located below the water table.

The plant did see spikes in the amount of water treated last summer, but McPherson that was due to increased snowfall and rainfall.

Outbreak Declared At Hospital

An outbreak of gastro-intestinal illness has occurred at Riverside Health Care's LaVerendrye Hospital in Fort Frances.

Seven patients and four staff members have contracted symptoms consist with the stomach virus.

Officials say it's isolated to the hospital's first floor.

They say patients have been isolated, all group activities have been postponed, and an aggressive cleaning of the floor has taken place.

The effected staff members were sent home until they are symptom free for at least 48 hours.

Leek Steps Down From Northern Caucus

The Liberal's candidate for Kenora-Rainy River has relinquished his post with the party's northern caucus.

Anthony Leek had served as a regional vice-president for the past two years.

He says he'll now focus more attention on his run in the next provincial election.

Leek says sitting on the council allowed him to work with people across the province and to have a better understanding of how the party worked.

Refusal To Leave A Bar Sends Man To Court

A 58-year-old Fort Frances man will now visit a court room after refusing to leave a local drinking establishment last week.

OPP were called to the unnamed bar Friday night where they had to place the inebriated man in custody after he was uncooperative with staff and confrontational with officers.

He remained at the Fort Frances detachment until he sobered up.

Impaired Driver Nabbed

A 35-year-old man from Wabigoon First Nation will be in court next month on impaired driving charges.

OPP were alerted of the driver early Sunday morning after he left the drive through of a Fort Frances restaurant.

He was stopped a short time later on Third Street West where he was taken into custody and his vehicle impounded.

NDP Taking Direct Aim At Debit And Credit Card Fees

The federal NDP is taking direct aim at the fees consumers pay to use their bank cards at ATMs or debit machines other than their own institution.

Thunder Bay-Rainy River MP John Rafferty says some users are being charged as much as $3 and $4 a transaction when it's only costing banks about 36-cents to handle each transaction.

The NDP wants to limit those fees to  50-cents.

Monday, March 24, 2014

PETA Speaks Out Against Bear Hunt

The animal activist group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is rallying its troops against the upcoming return of the spring bear hunt in Ontario.

It's asking people to write the Premier and the Natural Resources Minister to cancel the hunt.

PETA representative Ashley Byrne says the spring hunt won't help with bear populations or human bear conflicts.

PETA feels Ontario should instead enforce strict wildlife feeding prohibitions and provide residents with more information about how to better coexist peacefully with their wild neighbors.

Residential School Survivors Recognized

Grand Council Treaty 3 is hosting Residential School Commemoration today.

The event is taking place in Kenora.

Organizer Richard Green says the event will focus on all schools in the Treaty 3 territory.

Green hopes people will remember the challenges people faced while attending the schools.

World Tuberculosis Day

The Northwestern Health Unit is promoting World Tuberculosis Day.
Public Health Nurse Chanda McAuley says the disease is more prevalent in Canada than most people think.

McAuley says about 16 hundred people a year in Canada get diagnosed with TB.

McAuley says the health unit has plenty of information about TB and offers treatment for both  active and latent forms of the disease.

Rail Talks Continue

Canadian National Railway and the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference continue to talk.

They agreed to resume negotiations on the weekend with the assistance of a federal mediator.

This after members of the Teamsters union narrowly rejected a latest contract offer from the company.

About 3,000 yard and train workers are impacted.

Weather Records Set

Dana Fowler photo
More snow is in the forecast for this week, but not to the amount we received Friday.

The National Weather Service out of Duluth says last week's storm brought over 10 inches or 26 centimetres of the white stuff to International Falls and area.

It's the largest one day dump of snow seen this winter.

From near record snowfalls, to record-setting temperatures.

Fort Frances and International Falls both set new records yesterday.

The thermometer hit - 32.9 C or - 26 F, surpassing the old mark of -31.7 C set in 1974.

Buckle Up In Minnesota

Click It or Ticket.

That's the warning from law enforcement in Minnesota who are in the midst of a seat belt enforcement campaign.

While most Minnesotans buckle up, approximately 150 deaths and 400 serious injuries result annually from motorists who fail to use a seat belt.

The fine in Minnesota for not wearing a seat belt is between $25 and $100.