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Road closure extended

Residents will have to wait a little longer.

The City of Kenora has announced that the Seventh Avenue South bridge closure is being extended. Union Gas is continuing to work on relocating a gas line in the area. The work began on November 13.

Local traffic will be permitted on Third Street South and Seventh Avenue South, and the west sidewalk on Seventh Avenue South will remain open. The work is set to finish up on Saturday, December 9. The City of Kenora wanted to thank residents for their patience and cooperation while Union Gas works in the area.

In September, Kenora Mayor Dave Canfield noted that the city had planned to replace the Seventh Avenue bridge in 2017, but was unsuccessful in his efforts to obtain funding from the province. Ontario is now providing roughly $1 million for the project, which was set to be out to tender this fall.

Following a 2014 inspection by WSP Canada Inc. the Seventh Avenue Bridge was determined to be in the worst shape in the City. The consultants recommended that the bridge be replaced within the next 2 to 3 years.

Bridge Repairs Nov 13

For more information:
Two week road closure

Nault applauds economic statement

Kenora MP Bob Nault is applauding Ontario’s recent economic statement. Nault says that a strong Canadian economy provides opportunity for growth in the north.

The 2017 Fall Economic Statement was recently released, and it showed that Canada’s economy is strong, growing and outperforming expectations. Kenora MP Bob Nault says that the statement shows that the government is listening to the needs of the north, residents will benefit and that small businesses will continue to grow.

“One of the best ways to stimulate the economy is by supporting small businesses. I have had many conversations with constituents about the government's tax fairness proposals and have listened to small business owners and professionals. I'm happy to say the government is investing directly in small businesses by proposing to lower the small business tax rate from 11 per cent in 2015 to 9 per cent in 2019. A simplified proposal to limit income sprinkling will support owners who invest in their growth, create jobs and strengthen entrepreneurship,” he said.

The Working Income Tax Benefit is being enhanced by an additional $500 million per year starting in 2019. Nault says that this will put more money in the pockets of lower income workers, such as families without children and the ever-growing single population.

Nault notes that the Canada Child Benefit is also seeing changes. Starting next July, two years ahead of schedule, tax-free CCB amounts for families with two children will go up by approximately $200. The year after that, families should expect $500 more.

The Kenora MP says that seniors are more financially secure today as a result of increases to the maximum Guaranteed Income Supplement top-up benefit. Nault says that these increases will more than double the top-up benefits for our most vulnerable seniors.

Opposition Tories say the government's cooking the books and spending irresponsibly.

“Under the Liberals, life is not getting better for Ontarians. Middle-class wages have stagnated, while the cost of everything from groceries to gas has gone up. This government has had 14 years to fix wages, but instead are choosing to be reckless in an election year,” said Ontario PC labour critic John Yakabuski in a media release. “Ontario families deserve a more responsible approach.”

Canada has the fastest growing economy of all G7 countries.

For more information:
Province’s pre-election promises
Funding for mercury clean-up

Bill 148 passed

Workers across Ontario will soon be seeing changes in their workplace.

Ontario has officially passed Bill 148, the legislation that is set to raise the minimum wage to $14-an-hour on January 1, 2018, $15-an-hour on January 1, 2019, as well as expanding personal emergency leave and enforcement of employment laws. It is estimated the changes to the minimum wage outlined in Bill 148 will increase the wages of more than one quarter of Ontario workers.

“Over the past two years, we’ve heard from people across the province about the need to update our labour and employment laws,” said Minister of Labour, Kevin Flynn. “Ontario workers deserve fair wages they can live on, as well as safe and fair working conditions. Too many families struggle to get by on part-time or temporary work. Those working full-time can be living in poverty. This is unacceptable in Ontario. The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act will help ensure everyone who works hard has the chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity,” he said, in a prepared release.

In May, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced several other proposed changes to workforce regulations, including:

- Part-time workers who are doing the same job as a full-time worker, will receive a mandated equal pay.

- The minimum vacation day entitlement for workers would rise to three weeks per year, following five years working for the same employer.

- Employers would be required to pay a worker for three hours if the employer cancels a shift with less than 48 hours of notice.

- All workers, part-time and full-time, would be given 10 personal emergency leave days a year. Two of those days must be paid.

- Ban employers from requiring a doctor's sick note from an employee taking personal emergency leave

- The government is also expanding family leaves and adding measures to ensure that employees are not misclassified as independent contractors, ensuring they get the benefits and protections they deserve.

To enforce these changes, the province is hiring up to 175 more employment standards officers and is launching a program to educate both employees and businesses about their rights and obligations under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

The Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 responds to the final report of the Changing Workplaces Review. It was the first-ever independent review of both the Employment Standards Act, 2000 and Labour Relations Act, 1995.

For more information:
Volunteer firefighters due for a raise?
Wage increase ‘too fast’, Canfield
NWHU supports $15 minimum wage
Ontario wants public input on minimum wage
Minimum wage increase divisive
Minimum wage raised

KCDSB reporting surplus

It’s a continuing trend for the school board, and they’re not complaining.

The Kenora Catholic District School Board is reporting a surplus of $188,337. The surplus that was projected in the budget for the year was roughly $67,153, giving the board an extra $121,184 to play with.

Alison Smith, Superintendent of Business Services for the KCDSB, spoke about the board’s finances.

“Our annual financial statements came in just slightly within our budget. It gave us an annual surplus, and that is in line with our budget. We’re happy with our outcome. We usually do have a small annual surplus each year, and we do project that in our budget. Usually year-to-year, we do come pretty close with our budget,” she said.

Total revenue across the board for the 2016 – 2017 school year was totalled at $27,651,078 million. The total expenses for the board were $27,462,741 million for the year.

The board’s total financial assets were estimated at $17.8 million in 2017. In 2016, the assets were estimated at roughly $16.9 million. 

Leadership change in local hospital

A local hospital is congratulating one of their own.

The Board of Directors for Sioux Lookout’s Meno Ya Win Health Centre has announced the appointment of Dr. Barbara Russell-Mahoney as the new Chief of Staff. Dr. Russell-Mahoney had been Associate Chief of Staff since May 2016.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we would like to welcome Dr. Russell-Mahoney to her appointment as Chief of Staff of SLMHC,” said Barbara Hancock and Solomon Mamakwa, co-chairs SLMHC Board of Directors. “With over 21 years of experience serving the Sioux Lookout region in Northern Ontario, we are confident that with Dr. Russell-Mahoney’s experience, leadership approach and passion for health care, the organization will advance to meet the growing needs of the people we serve,” they said.

Dr. Russell-Mahoney is a respected physician who is certified in family medicine. She has extensive knowledge of the north, having practiced in northern First Nations communities and the municipality of Sioux Lookout over the span of two decades. She has also been involved in sustaining physician services within the Sioux Lookout region and in hospital leadership as the prior President of the Medical Staff and Associate Chief of Staff.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the excellent team of health care professionals, hospital board members and administration staff at Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre,” said Russell-Mahoney. “I look forward to collaborating with our staff, physicians, community members, and partners to continuously strive for excellence in health care delivery to the Sioux Lookout region,” she said.

The Board of Directors also wanted to take the opportunity to acknowledge Dr. Terry O’Driscoll, who after many years of service, is stepping down as Chief of Staff.

“We sincerely thank Dr. O’Driscoll for her caring and compassionate work in and for the organization. It has been great pleasure to have her work with the hospital administration over the last 15 years to take us through numerous changes including the building of a new hospital,” said representatives of the hospital.

For more information:
Meno Ya Win’s new CEO

OPP decision delayed

The City of Dryden’s OPP costing study has been delayed.

The City of Dryden has been looking into a costing study to bring in OPP services in Dryden since May, and the initiative has been delayed. A new provincial law states that any OPP detachment can not be built within 1 kilometre of train tracks, due to the OPP’s transportation of dangerous items.

Due to the law, the OPP would not be able to take over the current Dryden Police Detachment. The OPP have delayed Dryden’s costing study due to the detachment issue. Dryden councillors noted that the OPP is currently looking at other options, and are expected to follow-up on the issue with the city within the next few months. The costing committee was set to look at building and staffing requirements next month, before presenting a model to council in April.

Mayor Greg Wilson has said the process of choosing between the municipal force and the OPP is being driven by financial concerns. Councillors have also been looking at the fire service, and other aspects of municipal services. The Dryden Police Service's budget represents 18 per cent of Dryden's budget, a number that has remained stable over the years.

Dryden residents were set to have a decision on its police service by June of next year.

For more information:
Police costing on the agenda
OPP costing approved
Dryden OPP decision coming
DPS wary of OPP decision
Dryden OPP decision ‘divisive’
Dryden looking into OPP services

Energy plan under fire

Opposition politicians are against Ontario’s long-term energy plan.

Ontario NDP Energy Critic Peter Tabuns is calling on the Liberal government to abandon its hydro borrowing 'scheme', that he says will drive up electricity bills for customers. Ontario's long term energy plan shows that industrial customer’s hydro rates will jump between 30 and 40 per cent over the next decade. Household electricity bills are set to jump roughly 43 per cent in the same time-frame.

While electricity costs will soar for all industries, Tabuns pointed out that the Liberal plan will hurt northern industries even more.

“Under the premier's hydro plan, rates for manufacturers, auto makers, steel mills and other large power consumers will rise by about 30 per cent in just six years,” said Tabuns. “Northern industrial consumers will be hit even harder. Their rates will rise by nearly 40 per cent. Instead of getting private profits off hydro bills and bringing Hydro One back under public ownership, the premier is putting even higher burdens on Ontario’s manufacturing sector and northern industries,” he said, in a prepared release.

Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault disagrees with this notion, noting that the plan is expected to create affordable and accessible energy. Alternative power generation sources, such as wind and solar, are expected to create a more flexible system for years to come.

Progressive Conservative leader Patrick Brown notes the auditor general for Ontario -- in a special report -- showed how the provincial government spent $4 billion dollars, in an effort to hide future costs. Brown added this summer's 25 per cent reduction will end up costing ratepayers more in the future.

Hydro One currently has an application in with the Ontario Energy Board which seeks to increase rates by 0.5 per cent this year, and 4.8 per cent next year. While distribution rates would remain flat, transmission rates would be seeing the potential 4.8 per cent increase.

Ontario’s Liberal government cut hydro bills by roughly 25 per cent in 2017. 

For more information:
Affordable, accessible power plan
Ministry of Energy - Ontario's Long-term Energy Plan
Hydro One eyes rate increase

DPS officers checking vehicles

The Dryden Police Service is reminding the public to lock it, or lose it.

The DPS, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police and the Insurance Bureau of Canada have partnered up for the annual Lock it or Lose it campaign. Officers will be out doing foot patrols and checking vehicles to ensure residents keep their car locked with items out of sight.

The service reminds residents that it’s very important to keep valuables out of plain view, or better yet, don’t store valuable items in your vehicle. If your vehicle has been checked by DPS officers while parked, residents will find a card on their windshield to indicate that police checked your vehicle.

The DPS notes that it’s a very busy time of the year, with people out and about shopping and getting ready for the holidays. Officers are encouraging everyone to take extra care, ensuring that vehicles are locked. 

Property crimes in Kenora

Local officers are investigating a string of property crimes.

Members of the Kenora Detachment of the OPP, with the assistance of the OPP Forensic Identification Unit, are investigating a series of property crimes throughout Kenora. Police are investigating crimes that have been reported between November 13 and November 21.

The incidents include unknown suspects going through unlocked vehicles in the Rabbit Lake and Norman areas, and breaking into businesses on Lakeview Drive. The businesses were not specified by the OPP.

Anyone with any information about these or any other property crimes in Kenora are asked to call the OPP are 1-888-310-1122 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

The OPP would like to remind the public to lock vehicles, homes and outbuildings at all times. It is also important for people to report any property crime or suspicious actives to the police so all incidents can be investigated thoroughl y. What may appear to be small incident can be connected to a larger set of events.

City opposes health unit merger

sharonKenora's acting mayor, Sharon Smith, opposes health unit merger. (File photo)Kenora city councillors are opposing the merger of health units.  Acting Mayor Sharon Smith adds they also want to avoid being swallowed up by primary care or after-care.

"We just keep asking them, what are the issues you're trying to address," Smith said, after yesterday's council meeting.

Smith, who also sits on the health unit board, adds she doesn't want to see the Northwestern Health Unit mixed in with Thunder Bay. For a few years now, the province has been looking at ways to reduce health spending through restructuring.

The Patients First restructuring proposed by Queen's Park could see board members at the health unit board join with the hospital and long-term care homes.

"One of our concerns is getting absorbed in the big budgets in primary care and after care," Smith added.

for more information:

City of Kenora - Committee of the Whole Agenda (Nov. 14 p. 4)

Health unit balks at merger with hospital boards

Pinecrest administrator questions focus of health care reforms

Hospital CEO provides insight into health care reforms

Integration key for community mental health services

Innovation in primary health care in Dryden

Health care hubs to combine aboriginal, mainstream

Services board to discuss Patients First health care reforms

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