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Youth earn $5,000 for Haliburton Heat Bank

Joseph Quigley

Two Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) students earned $5,000 for Heat Bank Haliburton County through the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative (YPI) Canada June 4.  

Bence Suranyi and Stefan Salaris beat out their Grade 10 civics classmates with their presentation on the Heat Bank.

The school-wide competition is part of the YPI program, which runs similar charitable contests in schools around the world.  

Suranyi said their presentation highlighted the success stories of the charity.

“The Haliburton Heat Bank is a less-known charity than the other ones that were competing,” Suranyi said. “I think that helped shed light on the Heat Bank.”  

“The stories that (Heat Bank co-ordinator) Tina (Jackson) gave were probably really moving because sometimes they were really tragic,” Salaris added. 

 The YPI initiative has run at HHSS for 12 years. The program goes into the curriculum as a graded project for the school’s civics class. The project requires students to engage with charities in their community and share what they have learned in a presentation. The top-five projects compete in front of the school, with the winning group earning $5,000 for their charity.

The group has donated more than $50,000 to local charities since it started running in Haliburton.  Teacher Paul Longo, who co-ordinates YPI at HHSS, said the program remains successful. 

“It gets Grade 10 students out in the community, visiting charities, asking questions, learning about what we do in this community that’s so important as far as volunteer work,” Longo said. 

Jackson said the charity, which provides firewood and heat to vulnerable people, has participated in projects for YPI before. But this is the first time the charity has won.  

“I am just so proud of the work that both of these youth did, in pouring everything into the presentation that won us the money,” Jackson said. “This is one of the largest donations we’ll likely receive this year.“

They were absolutely passionate. They believed in what we were doing,” she added.  

Salaris said to succeed in the competition, it is vital to choose a charity you care about.  “Pick a charity you believe in, like and would stand for,” he said.

Parents pan new bus plan

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A group of County moms are speaking out in the hopes of reversing a Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) decision to stop busing some students to and from school in Haliburton and Minden.

In letters distributed by local principals to parents in April, TLDSB said it has recently completed a review of transportation routes in Haliburton County. It has decided students who live in the villages will no longer be bused. The change impacts one family Wilberforce and none in Cardiff.

The board’s policy states elementary-aged students living within 1.6 kilometres of school, and high school students within 3.2 kilometres, aren’t eligible to be bused. The rules will come into effect in September.

Carolynne Bull, TLDSB communications lead, said the review completed in Haliburton and Minden this school year is similar to ones done in Bracebridge, Huntsville, Kirkfield, Kilworthy, and Fenelon Falls.

“These reviews look at whether exceptional conditions exist and whether changes are needed,” Bull said. “During the Haliburton/Minden review, it was noted the conditions in the villages… are similar to those in other areas of review and similar to the conditions across TLDSB for schools without any exception areas.

“Sidewalks are not a factor in the board’s decisionmaking. Posted speed does play a factor, though posted 40km/h [zones are] considered safe,” she added.

Bull did not respond to questions about how many County-based students will be impacted by the change, and whether TLDSB stands to save any money.

Minden resident Aurora McGinn said she has spent weeks looking for answers. Living on Water Street, approximately 1.2 kilometres from Archie Stouffer Elementary School – where her daughter, Marina, is in Grade 1 – McGinn said she’ll be stuck come the fall.

“We’re a one-vehicle family, so this is a problem for us. I will have to drive my husband to work, then my daughter to school, then get myself to work later than usual. I’ll also have to leave early to collect my daughter and take her home,” McGinn said. “They are saying she could walk, but she’s very young right now.”

Parents say decision ‘not safe’

McGinn says she has asked multiple times for a copy of the review TLDSB completed but is still waiting. The Highlander has also failed to obtain a copy.

“I want the truth – if TLDSB claims to have done a review, they should be willing to share it,” McGinn said.

April Hirstwood, head of the ASES parent council, said this is a major concern for the community.

“What TLDSB is doing is not OK. It’s not safe. We don’t have crossing guards. We don’t have lights where kids can safely cross,” Hirstwood said. “Towns like Lindsay have a set up for kids to walk to school safely. Minden and Haliburton do not.”

She believes these new rules will lead to a drop in attendance at ASES and other schools.

“It’s going to be easier for some parents to just let their kids stay home,” Hirstwood said.

TLDSB transportation supervisor Tricia Hayward indicated the concerns the board has heard thus far, “are considered to be normal, everyday risks where due caution can and should be exercised by students and parents.”

Minden Hills CAO Cynthia Fletcher said the township is investing money this year to improve overall community safety, including new signage along Water Street, two new digital speed signs on Water Street and Bobcaygeon Road, and extending community safety zones – which carry a 40km/h speed limit – on Bobcaygeon Road from Sunnybrook Bridge to Hwy. 35, and on Water Street from Bobcaygeon Road to Hwy. 35.

Issues in Haliburton

Lorena Selk said the new rules will leave her without childcare for her youngest child, who is in Grade 3 at Stuart Baker Elementary School.

Selk said her high-school-aged son will no longer be able to ride the bus, so has less time to look after his sibling.

“Finding alternate childcare is next to impossible. I have the best built-in sitter already, I’m very frustrated about this,” Selk said.

Hayward said it was parents’ responsibility to find a safe way to get their children to and from school, and organize child care, not the board’s.

TLDSB is set to review its transportation policy next year. McGinn said she’s hoping to inspire change.

“I would suggest children under the age of 12 shouldn’t have to walk 1.6 km to and from school. Perhaps for the older grades that may be more acceptable, but for young kids who come home exhausted already, it’s too much,” McGinn said.

Think big to build small communities

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Almost every problem in Haliburton County can be solved by engaging and inspiring community residents, Peter Kenyon – one of the world’s top economic development specialists – told a group of leaders in Minden June 6.

The keynote speaker at last week’s Teeny Tiny Summit at the Minden Community Centre, Kenyon has spent the past 30 years helping communities overcome issues by embracing localized ideas – first in his home of Australia, and now around the world.

“Whatever the problem – community is the answer,” Kenyon said. “The best thing about living in a small town is somebody somewhere knows the answer… Seeking out wisdom from local people is always the most important starting point, no matter what you’re doing or how clever you think you are.”

He told the story of Ernesto Sirolli, a celebrated Italian scholar and author, who, in his early career, was contracted to assist countries in east Africa to come up with ways to bolster local food supply.

Sirolli worked with people to establish a series of vegetable gardens, teaching them how to grow things such as tomatoes and greens.

“Everything was great… until 200 hippos came charging out of the Zambezi and ate all the vegetables,” Kenyon said, drawing laughter from the crowd. “Sirolli was beside himself, he asked why nobody had told him about the hippos. The people said ‘well, you never asked’.”

He referenced other success stories where communities embraced new ideas and enjoyed unparalleled success – none more than Kulin, Australia.

Wanting to stop the trend of decades of depopulation, stemming from young people leaving to pursue careers, Kulin established a plan to become “more than a dot on the map,” Kenyon said.

It started with a marquee event – the launch of the Kulin Bush Races in 1994. What started as low-level horse racing, attracting a few hundred people, has grown into one of the most popular annual events in Australia. It brings 5,000 visitors to Kulin every October, with last year’s gathering selling out in 28 seconds.

“It’s two days of partying, but people come rom all over. It’s amazing how they’ve adapted and changed things so that it appeals to all generations,” Kenyon said, noting last year’s event generated $600,000 profit, which was reinvested into the community, and about $2 million for the local economy.

In the years since, Kulin has opened a giant waterslide and waterpark, which has provided another tourism boom, and its people have rallied to open a community bank, the first of its kind in Australia, and established a community cooperative to run a pub and community centre.

“I love this little town – it’s inspiring. The population there has trebled since, while all other towns nearby have halved. There were more babies born in Kulin than any other [town] in Australia,” Kenyon said.

He shone a light on Kaikoura, a small village in New Zealand. In the 1980s, when the main railway into town closed, most of the local fisheries shut. Kenyon said about 95 per cent of the Maori villagers were fishermen.

Rather than chase new jobs out of town, the villagers came together to launch a sightseeing operation for tourists wanting to go whale watching. The founding families re-mortgaged their houses to buy a boat big enough to take eight people per trip.

Today, that operation sees around 150,000 people a year – and Kaikoura has become the top whale watching destination in the world.

“All it took was a group of people saying, ‘what do we have’ rather than focusing on what they don’t have, or what they lost, to make a difference,” Kenyon said.

He said there are seven key characteristics of a strong community: committed local leadership; active community engagement and connection; fostering a positive and cando community mindset; being obsessed about developing new assets and opportunities; developing a localized wow-factor; focusing on lifestyle for young people; and supporting entrepreneurial aspirations and initiatives.

“Leadership is not a position – it’s a set of behaviours, an attitude. It’s about making things happen,” Kenyon said. “It’s about inspiring people to come forward to enact change. It’s about future-proofing towns, making them attractive for young people, because they’re the future.”

Angelica Ingram, the County’s manager of tourism, said Kenyon’s speech provided food for thought for all 150-plus attendees.

Other presentations featured Fay Martin, from Places for People, who spoke about the organization’s fundraising initiatives and attempts to bring more affordable housing to the County; Kevin Hodgkinson from the Haliburton County Home Builders’ Association, discussed trades opportunities for young people; representatives from Point in Time promoted the Youth Wellness Hub and the difference its supports and programs have made for young people; and Patti Tallman, from Haliburton County Development Corporation, provided an update on the local initiatives program that supports economic development in the Highlands.

“The summit proved to be an exciting and inspiring day filled with forward-thinking ideas and conversations,” Ingram said. “I think everyone who attended learned even teeny tiny places such as Minden and Haliburton can achieve success if likeminded individuals work together and focus on the positive.”

Connections key for dementia patients

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A rural living and dementia care conference, focusing on challenges, solutions and innovations associated with the terminal illness, provided hope and answers to some attendees at Pinestone Resort June 3.

Hosted by Aging Together as Community Haliburton Highlands (ATAC) and McMaster University, the event brought professors, family physicians, and other healthcare specialists face-to-face with the Highlands community last week.

Speakers ranged from those living with dementia, to experts discussing unique care models working in other countries – such as green care farms and the butterfly model of care, both prominent in Europe.

County residents Beth and Peter O’Connor started the day, sharing their personal experiences fighting dementia. Beth was diagnosed with Lewy body syndrome – a type of dementia – in June 2023. She said she’d been experiencing symptoms for about a year, beginning while they were on vacation in Newfoundland in the summer of 2022.

Beth said they both caught COVID-19 while out east – Beth was hospitalized with a high fever, which she says she’s thankful for as it was that hospital stint that led, eventually, to her dementia diagnosis. Prior to her diagnosis, Beth said she was planning her retirement.

“To me, it wasn’t so much an age thing, it was there was something wrong and it wasn’t going away,” said Beth of her diagnosis.

In her talk, Beth mentioned how she saw hope in her own journey with dementia – and of new innovations in artificial intelligence in dementia care.

“Things and habits I do for myself are better than any medicine; exercise, diet, and a positive frame of mind. Staying active socially and being involved in things like yoga,” said Beth, when describing how she’s coped with the diagnosis.

Dr. Sandy Shamon, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and a clinical professor at McMaster University, talked about breaking down barriers to care and the challenges surrounding that.

She touched on how there is work to be done in getting medical and nursing students to choose geriatric care and to work in longterm care facilities. She believes being an active part of community, and making new connections, can go a long way for people struggling with dementia.

Shamon said the World Health Organization is starting to recognize that the health and wellbeing of an individual cannot be separated from the health and wellbeing of the community, or “the ecosystem”. Shamon also touched on the importance of advocacy work, pushing for change in dementia care.

Bonnie Roe, the ATAC lead, said she likes these types of events because it gets “everyone’s voices involved.” The goal, she said, is spreading the idea that just because you’re aging doesn’t mean you belong in a long-term care home.

“I think that’s what an event like today does,” she said.

Roe notes that “we’re all aging” and the point is, “how do we age in a way that reflects who we are as an individual and who we’ve been as a person.”

Plan to guide Highlands East into 2028

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Highlands East residents who did an online survey and took part in focus groups towards the township’s corporate strategic plan got to see the fruits of their labour during a June 4 council meeting.

Capital Parks Consulting presented the municipalities’ plan – that also involved councillors, staff and other groups, at a special council meeting.

The “high level” deep dive found Highlands East has more seniors, and fewer young adults, than most Ontario municipalities. It further noted a large increase in the permanent population in 2021, likely due to seasonal residents becoming permanent ones during COVID. It was a similar story for other cottage country-type townships. And while it is not known what the statistics have been like since 2021, consultant Steve Lichty suggested it is a trend that is likely continuing.

Lichty said nearly 70 per cent of survey respondents rated the quality of life in HE as good, and more than 15 per cent as very good. A little over 10 per cent chose poor and a small percentage very poor.

Survey respondents asked, “considering all of the programs and services” provided, overall satisfaction with the township ranked over 50 per cent. But nearly 25 per cent answered dissatisfied.”

As far as strengths, the clear-cut winners were Highlands East’s natural setting and lakes and rivers.

“It speaks to the fact that you need to really protect your environment in order to protect the quality of life,” Lichty said.

The corporate strategic plan is in effect from 2024-2028.

Mayor Dave Burton, deputy mayor Cec Ryall and councillors Angela Lewis, Cam McKenzie and Ruth Strong said, “our new plan will be the blueprint guiding our actions, investments, and initiatives to fulfill the shared vision we have crafted together.”

CAO Brittany McCaw and staff added, “this plan represents our shared commitment to building a vibrant, sustainable, and inclusive municipality that meets the needs of current and future generations.”

McCaw said the key priorities are thriving community, service, operational excellence, and environmental stewardship.

Speaking to thriving community, Lichty used the example of prioritizing consultation, communication and commitment, noting many people have two residences; one in the GTA and one in Highlands East, as well as lack of internet when in the County. He said it required more traditional ways of communicating with those residents.

With service and operational excellence, Lichty said it was important to consolidate municipal services under one roof to provide a “one-stop-shopping” approach. Council has discussed a new township office but so far, the cost has stopped them from proceeding. Lichty also stressed the need to attract and keep staff, suggesting things such as alternate work weeks and remote work options.

As for environmental stewardship, strategic actions ranged from promoting erosion control to looking at alternative energy sources for municipal buildings.

He said with each council decision comes strategic questions to ensure action is aligned with the plan.

Lichty added the plan is a roadmap for politicians and senior staff to follow, “to guide decision-making while considering the annual budget and while determining work plan priorities.” He noted staff would regularly report back to council. He said the plan wasn’t the endpoint but a starting point.

“You put a lot of time and effort and thought into coming up with these strategic priorities, goals, and actions and if you focus on them, you’ll probably achieve them. If you get distracted by other things, you probably won’t.”

Ryall said he finds these types of reports, “paint a picture at about 5,000 feet in the air. And after that, you’ve gotta’ come down to where we need to start looking at to make things happen. This excited me and now I want to know what’s next steps?”

Financial testing coming to Haliburton high school

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The Ontario government has unveiled plans to improve financial literacy in high schools, introducing a new assessment students will need to pass to graduate.

Education minister Stephen Lecce said the new approach to financial learning will ensure students leave the public school system with the skills and knowledge to create and manage a household budget, save for a home, learn to invest wisely, and protect themselves from financial fraud.

Starting in September 2025, students will be required to score 70 per cent or higher to meet the financial literacy graduation requirement in their Grade 10 math course. The province is also standardizing making EQAO Grade 9 math scores reflect at least 10 per cent of a student’s final mark.

It’s the first major overhaul to Ontario Secondary School Diploma requirements in 25 years – the last coming in 1999 with the removal of Grade 13 and introduction of community volunteer hours.

Kim Williams, superintendent of learning for high schools at Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB), said she’s still waiting to hear if a new curriculum will be rolled out.

“School boards, right now, don’t know what this is going to look like. We get the feeling [the ministry] is going to add some things… but until we get more specific information, we can’t comment on what that will look like,” Williams said. “Certainly, we’ll talk about it. Teachers have always been excited to be able to teach that financial literacy piece – it’s just a matter of… what changes are going to take place to accommodate teachers being able to spend the time they need on it.”

Williams said financial literacy is a core component of Grade 9 and 11 math, and Grade 10 careers curriculums already, while it’s also taught at the elementary level.

She said high schoolers across TLDSB are already testing well in financial literacy.

“In terms of the Grade 9 curriculum, when looking at EQAO test results, financial literacy is actually our strongest [area]. We’re almost at the provincial level, one per cent below in terms of financial literacy,” she said.

While Williams hopes the enhanced focus on financial literacy will benefit students, she doesn’t want it to come at the expense of other components of the literacy and numeracy curriculums that she feels are just as important.

A long time coming

Chris Salmans, a financial adviser with Sunlife in Haliburton, said a renewed focus on financial education at the high school level is long overdue. A 2022 Royal Bank of Canada poll found around 83 per cent of young Canadians reported needing more information and support on money management, while 68 per cent reported feeling overwhelmed with financial matters and required help.

Canada also has the highest household debt level among G7 countries. Statistics Canada eported, based on a 2021 Census survey, the national debt-to-income ratio sat at around 185 per cent – meaning for every dollar a household had in disposable income, they owed about $1.85.

In 1980, that debt ratio was about 66 per cent.

“This renewed focus on improving basic financial skills is greatly needed. Students go to school, and they’re educated on mathematics, science, and the arts. Then they go to university and get trained to do a job, but they never actually get trained on what to do with the money they earn,” Salmans said. “Debt is a big problem in Canada… and I think part of the reason is newer generations aren’t exposed to that education and learning the value of money.”

While the recent interest rate hikes are partly to blame, along with high housing costs, Salmans said consumer debt, brought on by non-discretionary spending, has grown substantially in Canada since 2008.

Statistics Canada said, at the end of 2021, Canadians 35 and younger averaged $69,500 of total debt, those between 35 and 44 carried $105,100, 45 to 54 had $130,000, 55 to 64 had $80,600, and those 65 and older had $49,900 worth of debt.

Equifax noted, at the end of 2021, the average Canadian owed $72,950 in credit card debt, lines of credit, car loans, and personal loans.

“We’ve seen people find other ways to pay for things they want or think they need, which usually means more debt,” Salmans said.

He said a good starting point for financial learning at schools would be to teach students the basics of banking – how to write a cheque, open different accounts such as RRSPs and TFSAs, understand the rates of return on investments, and the implications, and costs, of taking out new loans.

Chris Salmans, a Haliburton-based financial advisor, believes recently-announced updates to financial literacy in high school are long overdue.

Loop Troupe has 5,000 reasons to cheer

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Pretty soon, people won’t have to wonder whether someone is talking about beer, or Christmas cheer, when attending events at the Lloyd Watson Memorial Community Centre.

Just months after relaunching, following a nine-year hiatus, the Wilberforce Loop Troupe announced recently it had succeeded in getting a $5,000 grant through the MacDougall Community Contest. The money will be used to improve acoustics in the main hall, which the group uses for rehearsals and live performances, and upgrade sound equipment.

Wilberforce was selected ahead of 150 other community projects to receive the top prize.

Loop Troupe members David Watson and Janice Dahms said the group only learned of the initiative a few days before entries were to close May 23.

“We were at rehearsal for ‘Skit Oodles’ and someone had heard about the contest and thought we should put in for it,” Watson said. “The acoustics have always sucked in that room, so we put our heads together and came up with a script for a two-minute video playing into that. It was quite funny.”

One of the skits had Loop Troupe members act as an audience at a wedding. Everyone struggled to hear what the pastor was saying, and when he muttered, “you may kiss the bride,” the audience thought the pastor had said he needed a ride.

The other set was festive themed, at a family Christmas gathering. When someone yelled “it’s time for Christmas cheer,” others around the table thought they’d heard the host say they would soon be serving beer.

“We played into the fact that noise echoes in that room, and it can sometimes be hard to hear what people are saying. It was like a game of broken telephone,” Watson said.

Between May 24 and 31, MacDougall received around 24,000 votes – with Wilberforce coming out tops. Watson said it was a real community effort.

“We had signs all over, people were talking about it at the grocery store, we all encouraged our family and friends to vote,” he said. “And the message seemed to spread. My son told his friends, who all voted from Vancouver. One of our members, Mary Barker, her son voted from Germany. Others voted from their holidays in Spain.

“People were literally voting for Wilberforce from all over the world,” Watson added.

Dahms said she was the first person to hear Wilberforce had won June 3 – her employer is a MacDougall client and received a note from the company’s head office about an hour before results went live.

“I was just so excited – I didn’t know what to do, whether I should post it,” she said. “By the time I’d called some members, MacDougall had posted the results. Everyone found out pretty quickly – it’s just a great thing, huge for the Loop Troupe and the Wilberforce community.”

The group will look to purchase and install soundproofing baffles along the walls and purchase better audio equipment. Watson said it will help with acoustics during live performances, and also for events such as weddings, funerals, graduations, and special functions and parties.

Icelandic tradition lives on in Kinmount

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Kinmount will have more of a Nordic feel this weekend as relatives of early Icelandic settlers prepare to descend on the community – 150 years on from their ancestors’ arrival.

The Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto is partnering with the Kinmount Artisans Marketplace and local historian Guy Scott to host an Icelandic National Day picnic. The event is expected to draw about 50 visitors from Ottawa and the GTA, who will learn firsthand about the struggles Icelandic nationals faced when they moved to the area in the 1870s.

Don Gislason, a member of the Toronto club, has documented the journey in his book The Icelanders of Kinmount: An experiment in settlement. He said a large group of Icelanders arrived in Kinmount in September 1874, having been sent to work on the Victoria railway line.

It was a brutal experience, Gislason told The Highlander. The immigrants lived in shanties along the Burnt River and suffered through a bitter winter, which saw 38 of them, mostly young children, die due to bad health and disease.

When one of the railway companies offering employment went belly-up, many of the Icelanders found themselves out of a job. With few other job opportunities, the immigrants left, never to return. Many moved to Manitoba, establishing Gimli – which translates to ‘heaven’ in old Norse.

Gwen Sigrid Morgan, president of the Toronto club, said she learned about Icelandic history in Kinmount in the 1980s, after Scott published his book History of Kinmount: A community on the fringe.

She said the immigrants’ story, while rooted in sadness, is also a great demonstration of grit and perseverance.

“People in the past met hardship with resilience. They’ve risen above it. These are the stories that empower us today,” Morgan said. “We want to draw on those stories. There’s a phrase in Iceland – Þetta reddast – that means ‘we can endure, we will endure, we will hold steadfast, this will not break us’. Despite the hardship and the loss, they landed again in Manitoba and created a new life.”

It will be the group’s second visit to the community since the pandemic. They will gather beside the Kinmount Heritage Museum, beside the memorial installed by Gudrun Sigursteinsdöttir Girgis, installed in the settlers’ honour in 2000.

Scott said the community is ready for the Icelanders’ arrival June 15 – there will be a special exhibition debuting at the museum, focusing on the early settlement of the community, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and a craft show put on by the Kinmount Artisans Marketplace, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Attendees will be invited to participate in a walk along the rail trail to the trestle bridge at noon – which is where Scott believes the lost Icelander village of Hayford was located.

Scott will then lead a guided tour of the community, starting at 3 p.m., concluding with a visit to what remains of an old village the Icelanders built near Furnace Falls.

The local historian said it will be like winding the clock back 150 years, with a Scott guiding Icelandic visitors in Kinmount.

“My great, great uncle was hired by the railroad company back in the day to pick the Icelanders up from Coboconk and bring them to Kinmount – my great aunt used to say he always told stories about how positive these people were,” Scott said. “I love history, and I think it’s important we keep these stories alive because it’s a major part of how our community came to be.”

Amazing Race will feature strange shenanigans

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The Haliburton Highlands Amazing Race is now open for registration, with Aug. 17 the date for a fun day that will double as a money-raiser for the Minden Community Food Centre.

Anna Froebe and Renate Black have organized the event.

Froebe said she had been in two car rallies in Hillsburgh, prior to COVID19, and before she moved to Minden. One year she did it with her husband, another with a girlfriend.

“I had so much fun. And I always thought in the back of my mind, ‘wouldn’t it be fun to do something like this when we move to Minden?’” Froebe said.

She began putting something together and then the pandemic hit “and it put everything on the backburner.” After COVID, she met Black “and it raised its head, and I thought let’s try this, to see if Renate is interested, and I had some ideas and a file and I thought let’s see if we can put something together.” They’ve been planning the event for the past eight to 10 months.

Because it is one-day only, they decided to hold it in Minden this year, due to timing.

The race is for nine couples aged 50-plus. It does not have to be married couples. It can be friends, for example. Participants are being encouraged to create a team name and wear an outfit on the day, such as matching T-shirts and ball caps.

The two explained it will be like a car rally. After meeting at the Minden community centre, participants will undergo a shotgun start and be directed to nine locations where they will be required to complete different activities. Activities can be physical or intellectual and may require problemsolving, negotiation, communication, and cooperation. All activities will be measured to provide a score that will be used to award prizes at the end of the day. Bonus points can be earned throughout the community as well, by completing other tasks.

The two wanted to let the community know that participants may approach them, or businesses, for help or to ask for items.

“Don’t be surprised to see unusual or strange shenanigans done in the community on that day,” Froebe forewarned.

She and Black added they are working with the Minden Community Food Centre. All participants will be asked to donate non-perishable food items as part of their $20 registration. They’ll also donate towards a food platter for an after-race barbecue party at Froebe’s house.

They are seeking sponsors and volunteers. Their other ask is for prizes from local businesses.

“Any funds collected that are not used for prizes will be donated directly to the Minden Community Food Centre,” they said.

Froebe said while it’s like The Amazing Race television show, it is different, as it is fun and not competitive. At one station, they will get to choose between two different challenges.

Froebe and Black said while it’s been a blast to organize, it’s also been a lot of work.

“The first year you have to think it all through really carefully and we set everything up on Google docs but once you’ve got it, it’s a matter of just tweaking it,” Black said. Froebe added if they do it again next year, the challenge will be to keep it fresh.

Registration opened May 20 for the non-alcoholic public event. All interested participants or sponsors can email haliamazingrace@gmail.com.

Bradley charged after vandalism

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County resident Richard Bradley said he will never give up the fight to reinstate the Minden emergency department.

He was one of around a dozen community activists gathered at the Minden hospital May 31, on the eve of the first anniversary of the closure. Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) shuttered the emerg June 1, 2023 – six weeks after notifying the public.

Representing the ‘Save Haliburton County Emergency Healthcare’ group, Bradley said he wanted to take a stand and let HHHS know “the community hasn’t forgotten.” He used spray paint to inscribe a blue ‘H’ on the HHHS sign welcoming people to the Minden site – in place of the ‘H’ that was removed last year.

“It’s symbolism – we’re trying to get a hospital back here in Minden. I want to put that ‘H’ back on that sign permanently,” Bradley said, noting he used a water-based paint that was easily washable.

He said the urgent care clinic at the hospital, opened last summer and operated by the Kawartha North Family Health Team, and other additions such as the Haliburton County Paramedic Services’ paramedicine program and nursing clinic operated by Haliburton County Community Support Services aren’t enough to support a community that triples in size come summer.

Referencing a letter recently published in The Highlander by David Atkins, who claimed he was left in an empty waiting room with his sick granddaughter for more than four hours before seeing a doctor last month – suggesting the only working physician was off-site resting – Bradley said locals need more access to health services, not less.

“What’s happened, and is continuing to happen, is unacceptable. People need health care, they need to know where it is, and they need to know it’s accessible in emergencies,” Bradley said.

When asked about Atkins’ experience, HHHS spokesperson Lauren Ernst said she couldn’t comment, citing patient confidentiality. She did say there is always at least one doctor on-site.

“Doctor shifts run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. An overlap shift varies from noon to 8 p.m., and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., pending volumes,” Ernst said. “With major events, an additional doctor may be called in and that’s usually if a doctor needs to accompany a patient to another hospital.”

Ernst did not confirm whether doctors leave the hospital site for breaks while on-shift.

She added facilities staff removed the graffiti Friday afternoon and notified police. Sgt. Paul McDonald with Haliburton Highlands OPP said Bradley was charged June 1 with adult mischief and obstructs, interrupts, or interferes with the lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property. Bradley is due in court in Minden July 3 to answer to the charges.

Patrick Porzuczek, of the ‘Reopen Minden ER’ group, was also in attendance Friday and condemned Bradley’s actions.

“That sort of thing doesn’t accomplish anything. We need to find productive ways to keep fighting for the reinstatement of our Minden ER,” Porzuczek said

Petition calls for rural healthcare revamp

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Cathy Mauro, a volunteer with the ‘Reopen Minden ER’ group, is aiming to have 250,000 people sign a new petition launched in Minden last week calling on all Ontarians to join forces and fight widespread cuts to rural healthcare.

Speaking at the site of the former Minden emergency department May 31, on the eve of the first anniversary of its closure, Mauro said she’s taking a stand against what she believes is a concerted effort to decimate the province’s public health care system.

“This has become an epidemic with hospitals losing services and ER closures across Ontario… this is happening in all rural Ontario. We’re trying to unite everyone to tell the government enough is enough,” Mauro said.

The petition calls on the province to properly fund rural hospitals to improve quality of life and prevent avoidable deaths, Mauro said.

“We’re asking for full transparency and accountability from the ministry and local rural hospital boards in spending, including accessible information on healthcare expenditures, and to actually involve the public when there’s going to be a significant decision made about a hospital,” Mauro noted.

Minden ‘guinea pig’ for hospital closures

The ‘Reopen Minden ER’ group plans to deliver the petition to the Ontario Legislature in September. It will be the second petition the group has formalized, following one last summer calling for the Minden ER to be reopened – signed by 40,000 people.

While there has been no further permanent closures since the Minden ER was shuttered June 1, 2023, Mauro said there have been temporary closures at 22 other rural hospitals, while facilities in Chesley, Clinton, Fort Erie, and Port Colborne have seen hours reduced.

Residents of Durham, ON are mobilizing after South Bruce Grey Health Centre – parent organization of the Durham hospital – recently announced the facility’s 10 inpatient beds were being moved to more central locations in Walkerton and Kincardine later this month. The town’s mayor, Kevin Eccles, declared a state of emergency May 28.

Mauro said she feels for residents of the community, located 90 kilometres north of Guelph.

“It’s appalling what’s happening there. It seems to me like Minden was the guinea pig for closing hospitals or reducing services in Ontario,” she said.

One year later

Patrick Porzuczek, of ‘Reopen Minden ER’, said he’s still hurting from the local closure. With a sick daughter dealing with a heart condition, Porzuczek said he has spent much of the past year living in fear, wondering what would happen if she required immediate care.

Recently, the family received a defibrillator – donated by Philips Canada – providing a “much-needed security blanket” in case of emergency. Still, Porzuczek said he’ll continue fighting.

“What I’m hearing is people really miss the Minden ER. They don’t feel they’re being cared for or have the same level of service they had at the Minden ER,” Porzuczek said. “A piece of our community was taken from us. We’re the lightweights versus the heavyweights in this fight, but nobody is giving up.”

About 20 people attended a tree planting ceremony at the Minden hospital site June 1. Porzuczek said the group secured permission from Haliburton Highlands Health Services to plant a magnolia on the grounds, close to the memorial for former ER physician Dr. David Fiddler.

“We chose it because, in the spring, this beautiful flower starts to blossom and show us the dark days are behind us. We’re hoping it will have the same effect on this hospital,” Porzuczek said.

In a statement submitted to The Highlander, HHHS CEO Veronica Nelson said she feels enhancements made to the Minden hospital since the ED closure, and elsewhere, have helped to fill the void.

“I am proud of the new partnerships we have forged with Kawartha Lakes Haliburton OHT and our community nursing clinic partners SE Health and Paramed, and those we have rekindled with Haliburton Highlands Family Medican Centre, and Kawartha North Family Health Team through the urgent care clinic,” Nelson said.

“Healthcare in Ontario looks and feels very different than it did in the recent past. Not Deadline: Nov 2023 Designer: JK having access to care is not an option for our community. Planning health care in an innovative and collaborative way is critical for optimizing health and wellbeing of Haliburton County,” she added.

Minden Paper chimes in

Jeff Nicholls, one of the leaders behind the Minden Paper group that has spent the past 14 months analyzing HHHS’ reasoning for last summer’s shuttering, said the team has expanded their scope to look at what’s happening at all of Ontario’s 140 public hospital corporations.

The results, he said, have been startling. They found 102 hospitals ended the 2023 fiscal year with a deficit – an increase from 33 at the end of the 2022 fiscal year. The average deficit rose by 992 per cent, from $545,000 to $5.9 million, with the total deficit climbing 3,300 per cent – from $17.9 million to $610 million.

Minden Paper has called on the auditor general to launch a full-scale investigation into the Minden ER closure.

“Far too many questions remain unanswered. Had the public learned more from those who made the decision, perhaps we could have stopped not only Minden ER’s closure but others across the province,” Nicholls said.

“Compelled by Minden ER’s closure, we audited the financial statements of every hospital in Ontario and used the data to inform a publicly available, searchable database. We want people to see that Minden was the first, but will certainly not be the last,” he added.

The database is available at mindenpaper. com/hospital-funding.

“It’s not too late to stand against the privatization of our public healthcare system. We truly believe it’s not too late to bring back Minden’s hospital – it should have never been closed in the first place,” Nicholls said.