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Liberal hopefuls promise to reopen ER

Four of five people, vying for leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party, have vowed to reopen the Minden emergency department should they become premier in the 2026 election.

Nate Erskine-Smith, Ted Hsu, Yasir Naqvi, and Adil Shamji were at Rotary Park Minden Sept. 16, attending a BBQ by the HaliburtonKawartha Lakes-Brock (HKLB) provincial Liberal association. Sixty members attended, questioning the candidates on health care, education, and the economy, said association spokesperson, Donna Aziz.

“We are thrilled with the turnout, and the candidates took the time during the middle of their campaigns to come up and meet voters in HKLB,” Aziz said. “It’s important we start to rebuild [trust] in the party as the Liberals try to pull things together ahead of the next election so that we can challenge (Premier Doug) Ford.”

Erskine-Smith is serving his third term as MP for the Beaches-East York riding. Erskine-Smith said he’s played a key role in rebuilding the federal Liberal party over the past eight years and sees an opportunity to do the same thing at the provincial level.

He said health care was the number one issue brought up by members at Saturday’s event.

“It’s a human resource crisis that’s cutting deep across emergency rooms all over the province. People are rightly concerned about a lack of access to family health teams, mental health and addictions programs, home and community care for seniors, so improving health care has to be the priority,” he said.

Erskine-Smith added, “that has to be the minimum commitment we’re making to communities. There’s got to be emergency rooms that are open, including here in Minden.”

Hsu is MPP in Kingston and the Islands. He served as MP for the federal riding from 2011 to 2015. He said he was drawn back into politics by his daughter.

“She and her friends just want somebody to get something done. They see the problems with housing, cost of living, the health care system, the climate crisis. The economy isn’t working, mental health, addictions and homelessness are all huge problems… the only way I could see to make a real difference was to help set the direction of the party by being leader,” Hsu said.

He said he would invest money to ensure health care workers are provided, “decent working conditions, respect, and fair pay,” and vowed to reopen the Minden ER.

Naqvi is the MP for Ottawa Centre and previously served three terms as MPP in the similarly named provincial riding from 2007 to 2018. He was Ontario’s attorney general from 2016 until 2018.

He said he would invest heavily in Ontario’s education system after “years of neglect” under the Ford government. He wants to make post-secondary education free for students whose family earns less than $90,000 per year. Naqvi is also proposing a universal mental health care system.

Naqvi said he would encourage more immigration to Ontario to increase the provincial tax base.

After also promising to reopen the Minden ER, the MP for Ottawa Centre also committed to, “making sure that no other emergency room ever closes in our province again.” Naqvi said he would fast-track licenses for internationally-trained physicians and nurses.

Shamji has been to Minden three times in six months. He participated in events calling for the reopening of the Minden hospital. Based in Toronto, Shamji has been an ER doctor for more than 10 years.

“I’ve written a lot of prescriptions in my lifetime, but I’ve never been able to write a prescription for housing, or groceries, or clean air. That’s the reason I’m running… to go where the help is needed, be the change our province needs, and help people through these tough times,” Shamji said.

He said no emergency department would close under his watch and criticized Ford for the Greenbelt debacle. “Not only should we be protecting and preserving the Greenbelt, but we should also be expanding it,” Shamji said.

The fifth nominee, Mississauga mayor Bonnie Crombie, didn’t attend, though she was represented by Don Valley West MPP Stephanie Bowman – the vice chair of her campaign.

Bowman said she feels Crombie has the kind of experience, energy, character, and personality that appeals to voters, and represents the Liberal’s best chance of regaining power at Queen’s Park.

Members will decide the party’s next leader through a ranked ballot vote Nov. 25 and 26, with the winner announced Dec. 2. Only those with a party membership purchased before Sept. 11 will be eligible to vote. For more information, visit leadership.


County to get 10,000 new residents by 2051

Haliburton County’s population is going to grow by around 10,000 people over the next 30 years, Peterborough-based consulting firm Watson and Associates is predicting.

In a report to County council Sept. 13, firm partner Jamie Cook said he had studied numbers from Statistics Canada, the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation, and the four lower-tier townships before arriving at the number. The report provides a long-term outlook on jobs, housing, and population figures between now and 2051.

Cook said it’s a comprehensive study with background to the County’s official plan, and upcoming development charges work.

“This will help form the basis of further work for the County to look at urban land requirements, servicing needs, and long-term planning policies,” Cook said.

When looking at long-term growth in the Highlands, Cook considered the wider provincial macroeconomic picture to get a sense of how economic trends, competitiveness, and growth rates elsewhere may affect the potential growth of permanent and seasonal populations in the County.

He said migration is now the key driver of population growth locally.

County discusses growth

“Historical growth over the past 20 years has been fairly moderate, but in the last five years, we can see a significant uptick in overall population growth locally,” Cook said. He noted the County saw an approximate three per cent annual growth rate between 2016-2021, compared to around one per cent annually from 2001-2015.

“A three per cent growth rate is very significant – it’s about double the provincial average,” Cook said.

Impact on housing

It’s resulted in a dramatic increase in conversions of seasonal properties to permanent, year-round homes. Between 2016-2021, 61 per cent of the County’s new housing inventory was conversions. Cook expects this to substantially decrease in future, to 42 per cent by 2026 and 18 per cent by 2051.

He said building activity across Algonquin Highlands, Dysart et al, Highlands East and Minden Hills has been “pretty steady” the past 15 years, with between 100-120 new units each year. Long-term, he expects that number to grow to around 170 households per year.

By 2051, he’s predicting housing growth of 5,200 units in the County, expecting 66 per cent will be new builds, and 34 per cent conversions.

Cook says around 80 per cent will be low-density builds, such as single-family homes.

He attributed the conversion rate to the influx of people relocating to the Highlands from more expensive housing markets, noting they could afford to renovate waterfront cottages and relocate permanently. He expects those units to return to seasonal use in the future.

“Looking at the supply of units for conversion and considering the demographic trends of baby boomers aging and their desire to live year-round in Haliburton, as well as other generations following the boomers, we anticipate less opportunity for conversions, and there will be some pressure to convert back as baby boomers decide they don’t want to live in a cottage on a full-time basis as they get into their more senior years,” Cook said.

Population analysis

Cook projects the County’s population will be significantly older by 2051. Per Statistics Canada, 14 per cent of the County was over 75 as of 2021, and Cook expects that to double over the next 30 years.

“We’re seeing about 55 per cent of net migration to the County being in the 55-plus age category [in 2021]. We project that changing to roughly 45 per cent, so we’re seeing a bit more influence of families, younger adults, and children, but it’s still not enough to augment this aging population.

“It has significant impacts on population growth, servicing needs, municipal infrastructure and services, and housing.

This is a big finding – not surprising given the migration trends in recent years, but something to be very mindful of,” Cook said.

He added more people are dying than being born, so the area is going to become increasingly dependent on migration to boost its population.

Dysart projects to maintain its spot as the most populated township in the County 30 years out, growing from 7,300 people to 11,600 people… Minden Hills is projected to grow almost 41 per cent, to 10,000 people from 7,100, with Highlands East estimated to grow from 3,900 people to around 5,500. Algonquin Highlands is expected to grow from 4,000 residents to 5,000. Cook projects the County’s permanent population to be around 31,000 by 2051, up from 21,000 in 2021. He expects the seasonal population, pegged at 43,400 in 2021, to drop to around 42,900.

Cook said the projected population should lead to the creation of around 3,000 new jobs, two thirds in the commercial, retail, and institutional sectors. Cook said there was some cause for concern with the County getting older, it may put additional pressure on the labour market.

“Businesses across the County are already struggling to fill job postings now. In 2051, if over 28 per cent of the population is over 75, I’m not sure how this County can remain sustainable and provide for needs of that demographic,” said coun. Lisa Schell.

“Businesses across the County are already struggling to fill job postings now. In 2051, if over 28 per cent of the population is over 75, I’m not sure how this County can remain sustainable and provide for needs of that demographic,” said coun. Lisa Schell.

Coun. Cec Ryall asked what the County can do in the short-term to avoid potential long-term disaster. Cook said bolstering the local housing supply is the best path forward.

Coun. Bob Carter said he had a hard time buying into some of the projections, particularly surrounding future population. He noted Cook had presented a 1.3 per cent annual growth rate as the most likely outcome for the Highlands, but that the provincial rate is closer to 1.5 per cent.

“I don’t see us growing at less than the provincial average,” Carter said.


New-look Huskies split weekend games

It was a mixed opening weekend of the new OJHL season for the Haliburton County Huskies, who dropped a 4-2 decision on the road to rival Lindsay Muskies on Friday before securing a 4-3 overtime win over the Pickering Panthers in Saturday’s home opener.

The blue and white went into the ‘Battle of Hwy. 35’ Sept. 8 full of confidence having won 11 of their 13 games with the Muskies since the beginning of the 2021/22 season. It was a scrappy opening few minutes as both teams tried to take control. Huskies defenceman Hunter Martell registered the game’s first shot, firing the puck low from the faceoff circle, drawing a good save from Ethan Fraser in the home goal.

Johnathan Mead, acquired by the Huskies last week from the Georgetown Raiders, was impressive in the early goings, consistently finding the puck and driving play. He was unlucky not to register his first point nine minutes in after finding Declan Bowmaster in space at the point, only for the 17-yearold’s shot to cannon back off the post.

Seconds later, the Huskies thought they’d found the breakthrough. Jack Staniland shot low from the blueline, with the puck appearing to beat Fraser before striking the iron at the back of the net and coming back out. The officials called no goal on the play.

“I didn’t have the greatest view, but I heard the sound you usually hear [on a goal], like a jingle in the back of the net,” said winger Ian Phillips, who watched the play from the bench. “The guys on the ice were a little closer and they thought it was a goal.”

Staniland was sent to the box at 14:53 for interference, but the Huskies kept pushing. Captain Patrick Saini chased down a loose puck behind the Muskies net, coming away with possession and going close on a wraparound attempt. Lucas Stevenson then had a breakaway, which was well saved by Fraser.

The Muskies landed a sucker punch with a minute to go in the period, Devin Shoreman beating Vlad Visan to give the home side a one goal advantage heading into the break.

The Huskies thought they had another powerplay opportunity a minute into the second after Nate Taylor was called for boarding after a dangerous hit on Saini, but Mead was handed a roughing after the whistle minor for his reaction. The Muskies added a second on the ensuing four-on-four play, scoring through Owen Fitzgerald.

Phillips, Gavin McGahey-Smith, and Lucas Marshall all went close to getting the Huskies on the board, with the visitors dominating the puck for large spells in the second. It was to no avail though – Brandon Nye added a third for Lindsay at 17:42, beating Visan bar down after a scramble in front of the net.

The Huskies started the third on the man advantage but couldn’t create any significant scoring opportunities. Staniland had a shot from the point well saved by Fraser, before taking a harsh interference penalty midway through the period. Lindsay capitalized on the opportunity, with Cole Patey adding a powerplay marker with 9:32 remaining.

With the clock ticking, Rhyse Brown missed a golden opportunity to get the Huskies on the board – firing a rebounded puck wide from dead centre after Fraser had denied Raine Nadeau.

Bowmaster finally ended the shutout with a little over two minutes remaining, stripping a Muskies defenceman of the puck behind the net and wrapping around to beat Fraser.

There was a frantic finish. Muskies defenceman Nick Galeazza was handed a double minor for kneeing with 1:54 left on the clock – leading to Huskies coach Ryan Ramsay pulling Visan and ending the game six-on-four. Saini and Mead were each robbed by Fraser, who finished the game with 38 saves, before Staniland added a consolation at 19:42.

Despite the loss, Phillips said the team took encouragement from the performance after outshooting their rival 40 to 22.

“I don’t think we played badly at all – we had a couple of breakdowns in bad areas that ended up costing us, but we created a lot of chances. We hit four or five posts, which, if a couple of those go our way, then it’s a totally different game,” said Phillips, who will serve as one of the Huskies alternate captains this season. “We’ll build off this and keep improving the more we play together.”

Win on home ice

It was standing room only inside S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena Saturday as 510 fans witnessed the return of junior hockey to Minden.

The Huskies had to battle from behind after Nolan Connolly notched a powerplay marker for the visiting Panthers 14 minutes into the first period. The home side got going midway through the second, Saini scoring his first goal of the season, assisted by Lucas Vacca, with 8:53 on the clock. The Panthers retook the lead at 11:01, but the Huskies replied quickly – Stevenson added a powerplay goal at 14:40 to send the teams into the second intermission tied.

Saini helped himself to his second goal of the game seven minutes into the third, assisted by Phillips and Mead, but former Husky Nick Athanasakos sent the game to overtime with a late tying goal at 18:53. Mead was the hero in the extra frame, beating Panthers netminder Aidan Feddema at 2:23, assisted by Staniland and Phillips.

The Huskies will be back in action Sept. 16 when they host the Toronto Jr. Canadiens. Puck drop is set for 4 p.m.


Nominations open for Sports Hall of Fame

The Haliburton Highlands Sports Hall of Fame will have some new additions next year, with five athletes, two builders, and one team to be inducted in the Class of 2024

Roger Trull, hall of fame chair, said nominations for the next batch of sporting heroes are now open. A committee will be accepting recommendations until the end of October. Trull said a second class will be announced in February, with an induction ceremony to be held May 25, 2024.

“We got started on this because we understood the importance of sport to our community. There are a lot of decorated people deserving of recognition for their commitment to excellence, to their team, and to making other people’s dreams become reality,” Trull told The Highlander.

The inaugural class, inducted in June 2022, features football stars Michael Bradley and Taly Williams, track and field Olympian Lesley Tashlin, university track star Anna Tomlinson, hockey players Cody Hodgson, Ron Stackhouse, Bernie Nicholls, Donald Beverley (Joe) Iles, Glen Dart, and Marla MacNaull, and curler Jake Walker.

Those honoured in the original builders category, recognizing those who have made significant contributions to furthering sport in the Highlands, included Linda J. Brandon, Albert John (Ab) LaRue, and Lenny Salvatori.

The 1934 Haliburton Huskies, 1956-58 Minden Monarchs, and 1971 Haliburton Jr. D Huskies were recognized in the teams section.

“We purposely started with a larger group to help establish the hall of fame. We worked really hard to make sure it wasn’t viewed solely as a hockey hall of fame. We want to recognize people who have made a name for themselves in any sport. There’s lots of great athletes here in the Highlands,” Trull said.

There are criteria each candidate must meet to be eligible for induction, Trull notes. They must have attained significant recognition and/or fame in, or for, the Haliburton Highlands for at least five years in any sport. Athletes must have been retired from active participation for at least three years, or if they’re still active, be at least 40 years old. Nominations for the builders and teams categories are eligible at any time, with no waiting period.

Written nominations and supporting documents, including newspaper clippings, awards and certificates, stats and records, and a photograph, are required.

“Generally, we’re looking for athletes who have had outstanding careers locally and beyond. People who have provincial, national, or international exposure,” Trull said. “For builders, we’re looking for people who have dedicated themselves to making sport better in the Highlands – and that can take many forms… and for teams, we want something that sets them apart and distinguishes themselves from other teams.”

Trull said a seven-person selection committee, of four community members and three people from the hall of fame committee, will have final say on any new addition. A wall mounted display, outlining their accomplishments, will be erected in the hall of fame, located on the second floor of A.J. LaRue arena. The induction ceremony will also be held at the arena.

“We want this to be a special thing for athletes, and a special thing for their families,” Trull said.

For more information, including how to submit a nomination, visit


Bookapalooza and more

What better time for the annual Bookapalooza than at the beginning of another school year?

The two-day celebration of reading, writing, and sheer enjoyment of books will be taking place at the Minden Curling Club Sept. 15-16.

The Big Book Club, part of the Arts Council Haliburton Highlands (ACHH) Bookapalooza, kicks off the events Friday night featuring author Lawrence Hill in conversation with Chris Stephenson (CEO/chief librarian of the Haliburton County Public Library) starting at 7 p.m.

Hill is also a journalist, educator, documentary writer and member of the Order of Canada and has won numerous literary awards, including the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for best book. His Book of Negroes was also made into a mini-series for CBC television and he’s recently published a children’s fantasy novel, Beatrice and Croc Harry.

The fun continues, for free, on Saturday when the doors open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, to explore close to 60 exhibitors, presentations, activities, and free books. The Lions Club of Haliburton & District is supporting the Children’s Book Nook, where children’s author Heather O’Connor, co-author of Runs with the Stars, a story about rescued Indigenous horses in Canada, will be leading a storybook stroll outside while reading her book.

The Readers and Writers Expo on Saturday also includes a variety of representatives from the Writers Union of Canada, Crime Writers of Canada and other services and organizations related to writing that will be happy to answer questions or provide helpful information.

Rene Woltz, board member of ACHH and chair of the literary arts roundtable is excited about the range of programming for this year’s expo,

“Besides the exhibits, we’re offering a series of five adult presentations that celebrate words in all forms. Not only in the form of publisher panels, but memoirists and non-fiction authors, also singer-songwriter Sandra Bouza will be there to wrap up the presentations. So, a bit of something for everyone,” she said.

Admission for both days is free, however, advanced copies of Hill’s latest adult novel, as well as children’s novel and a guaranteed seat for Friday night’s conversation with the author, can be ordered through ACHH at


HSAD students turning stone into art

Dry stone artist John Shaw-Rimmington is returning to Haliburton County next month to add to his collection of natural sculptures.

With eight pieces already installed around Haliburton village and in the Haliburton Sculpture Forest, Shaw-Rimmington will be working with a handful of students from the Haliburton School of Art + Design to create a new, hand-crafted work that will live outside the Dysart branch of the Haliburton County Public Library.

The week-long program will run Oct. 23 to 27, with Shaw-Rimmington, who lives in Port Hope, telling The Highlander he’s excited to get back to the Highlands after years away.

It was pre-COVID the last time I was up there completing a project… I am quite passionate about this. I think what I teach, more than anything, is the ability to work with what the earth gives you and turn it into something beautiful,” Shaw-Rimmington said.

He has been running courses periodically since 2008. The collaboration with HSAD, he recalls, came about after a fellow artist suggested he’d be a good fit to run his own arts program at the Haliburton-based college. He connected with former dean, Sandra Dupret, who gave the green light.

“There was no stopping me after that,” Shaw-Rimmington said.

The first project, he recalls, was a piece that still lives in the Haliburton Sculpture Forest today – two curved walls creating a pathway for hikers. He has another four pieces in the collection inside Glebe Park, including a stunning stone boat that sits on the shore of Head Lake. There are other pieces on the HSAD grounds, by the log cabin at the Haliburton Highlands Museum, and at Sam Slick Park, across from Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.

Shaw-Rimmington said this latest piece will feature a Yin and Yang pattern with threefoot raised dry stone walls surrounding it. All stone is being donated by Dysart et al.

Erin Lynch, operations manager at HSAD, said there are still spots available to participate in the program.

“People will be working on this on-location, beside the library, and there is an in-class component, which will be held at the library. It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn a really unique skill and put something together that will be in place, and enjoyed by people, for a long time,” Lynch said.

The program costs $431, though bursaries are available that Lynch says will cover most, if not all the cost. Anyone interested in participating and making use of the bursary should apply by Oct. 6. Other applications will be considered until Oct. 22.

Shaw-Rimmington said the course teaches the basics of masonry and helps people with their critical thinking skills.

“We usually spend at least a day discussing the general principals of masonry, and working with different techniques. Then we come up with a working idea for the project, which is tough because you never know what you’ll have to work with in advance, so a lot of this is done on the fly. You have to figure out how to work with a variety of shapes and make them fit together,” he said.

“It’s different from the usual painting courses, and other modes of art at HSAD – this is physically demanding, and we have a fixed time in which to finish the work. It’s a challenging course, but extremely rewarding when you’re able to look back and see the contributions you made to a featured piece of art.”

To learn more, visit continuing-education/courses/dry-stonestructures.


Ice fishing rules under ministry microscope’

Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) is reviewing public feedback on proposed rule changes that could outlaw ice fishing of Brook Trout and Lake Trout on some County lakes.

The ministry posted a new draft management plan for Fisheries Management Zone (FMZ) 15, which encompasses the Highlands region, to its website last September. The legislation, if passed, would prohibit ice fishing on water bodies considered to have low natural trout populations.

FMZ 15 also covers bodies of water in Bancroft, Parry Sound, Pembroke, and parts of Peterborough and North Bay.

In a recent email to The Highlander, MNRF spokesperson Sarah Figueiredo said a plan will be finalized “in the coming months.” She noted the earliest date any new regulations would come into effect is Jan. 1, 2025.

The province collected feedback from the public in October and November of 2022. Then, officials said, “the anticipated environmental and social consequences of this proposal are positive,” and that, “the approaches presented aim to balance the ecological and socioeconomic objectives of the region.”

MNRF, in its plan, says the zone is experiencing high pressure from a wide group of users, including commercial and tourist operators, resident and non-resident anglers, and Indigenous subsidence fishers. Ministry spokesperson Anita Tamrazi told The Highlander last year that the changes are being proposed to protect natural Coldwater fish populations, which, she says, have declined in recent years.

The current Brook Trout fishing seasons, which runs from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, was deemed “excessively liberal” by the MNRF, which wants to cut it in half. The new proposed season for at-risk lakes is the fourth Saturday in April to Sept. 30.

For Lake Trout, the ministry is proposing from the third Saturday in May until Labour Day for all lakes less than 500 hectares in size. Larger lakes will get a one-month season as per the changes, from the Saturday before Family Day to the third Sunday in March, with only one line to be used when angling through the ice.

Fishing on lakes considered to be fully stocked will be permitted, though the MNRF has not released a list of fully stocked lakes, nor outlined what they consider to be a fully stocked lake.


Boat wakes ‘massive problem’ in Dorset

Dorset resident Kate Trueland is raising the alarm after seeing a dramatic increase in the number of “dangerous” high wake events on narrow channels in the community this summer.

Trueland said she’s had to flag down boaters almost daily to teach them about local etiquette when approaching and navigating the stretch of water behind Trading Bay and Robinson’s General Store, which connects two portions of Lake of Bays.

“People from Dorset, or who have been cottaging in Dorset their whole lives understand there’s this unspoken rule about not creating wake in that channel. For the most part people know when they need to slow down and where they can start to accelerate their boat without causing issues, but this year has been bad. I’ve seen boaters creating huge wakes daily, and it’s worse on weekends,” Trueland said.

She noted wakes are a major safety concern in the area.

“If you’re standing on a dock that’s floating, you can get chucked right into the water if the wake is significant enough. It also impacts people on paddleboards. There are all kinds of risks – you could be hit by a boat and knocked out, you could face dismemberment, or even be killed. It’s a real problem,” she said.

There are environmental concerns, too. Trueland said she’s observed a snapping turtle that lives under a dock in the channel be displaced several times after high wakes have caused the dock to bounce out of the water. She noted wakes also impact fish, birds, otters, and beavers.

Wendy Gibson, president of the Lake of Bays Association, said high wakes have long been an issue in Dorset.

“The narrows on the way into Dorset and the river into Baysville are two areas we consistently hear about… it’s a tough situation, because there’s no law that regulates wake. A swimmer can generate wake, a canoe can generate wake – so it’s a difficult thing to combat,” Gibson said.

The Lake of Bays Association produced a boating brochure a couple of years ago outlining best practices and offering tips to boaters on how to safely navigate the water. That has helped bring down the number of complaints, Gibson said.

Trueland wants to see signage installed in the channel promoting it as a ‘no wake’ zone. She has filed a complaint with Transport Canada, requesting they take action. The federal agency has one sign in the area, promoting a maximum speed of nine kilometres per hour in the channel.

Sau Sau Liu, senior communications advisor with Transport Canada, said there are no provisions within the Canada Shipping Act that prohibits vessel wakes. There is, however, a provision within the federal agency’s Vessel Operation Restriction regulations that allows any level of government to ask the federal government to restrict or limit the use of vessels on any Canadian waterbody for safety or environmental reasons.

“These regulations can be an effective way to resolve a conflict related to the use of a waterway,” Liu told The Highlander.

Trueland said she’d like to see ‘no wake’ buoys like the ones installed on Kushog Lake by the Ox Narrows, strategically placed in areas around Dorset. She plans to lobby councils in Algonquin Highlands and Lake of Bays to help make that happen

Algonquin Highlands mayor Liz Danielsen said that, while wake issues are outside the municipality’s jurisdiction, she might consider an awareness campaign highlighting the damage wakes can have on shorelines, particularly around erosion, but noted any effort would need to be approved by council.

Trueland is hoping any measure to address wakes can be implemented, or installed, by next spring.

“I think education is the key component here. I don’t believe people are causing wakes intentionally or maliciously, but we need to do something to address the issue because it’s definitely getting out of hand,” she said.


Dysart works with owners on parking

A long vacant building beside the Haliburton Legion is being renovated, with the new owners seeking to turn the rundown spot into an office, gym, and storage facility.

Eleanor Dobbins appeared before Dysart et al council Aug. 22, saying the space would primarily serve as an office for CDH Carpentry. She and partner, Chris, bought the building earlier this year. While they were originally planning to allocate half of the space for storage, they were approached by another local interested in opening a gym at the location.

Dobbins said it would be a fitness gym for adults, with scheduled classes throughout the day. She said classes would take place in the morning, between 6 and 7 a.m., at noon and during the evenings, and can accommodate up to 12 people.

A report compiled by Kris Orsan, Dysart’s manager of planning, states the property doesn’t have the parking spaces required for the proposed use. There are four parking spots in front of the building, facing Mountain Street, and a further three at the rear end of the property. Orsan said he had trouble recognizing the rear spots given they encroach on a neighbouring property.

Orsan said that, to comply with Dysart’s bylaws, the business requires 14 parking spaces.

Dobbins requested the use of spots in the municipal parking lot at A.J. LaRue Arena. Given the property has seven parking spots, the owners would need to lease seven additional spots from the township. The cost to do so is $1,000 per spot, under Dysart’s cash-in-lieu of parking policy.

One additional parking spot could be created at the front of the building, but the space is currently used by the Legion to house a M4A2 Sherman ‘Easy 8’ tank. Dobbins said she has an agreement with the Legion to keep the tank where it is and would like to honour that. She asked if the township would consider waiving the parking fees.

While mayor Murray Fearrey said it would be “tough” for council to waive the fees outright, out of fear of setting a precedent, coun. Barry Boice suggested the township work with Dobbins to come to an agreeable solution.

“These guys shouldn’t be penalized for the spots taken up by the tank. It sounds like they’re trying to accommodate the Legion, so I think we should drop [some of the fees],” Boice said.

Council agreed to waive the fees for three of the spots, leaving Dobbins responsible for leasing four spaces at a cost of $4,000. Jeff Iles, Dysart’s director of planning, said a formalized agreement is needed to allow the Dobbins’ to use the spaces at the arena. Another report will be brought back to council for approval later this year.


STR bylaw progressing

County staffers have held preliminary discussions with the four lower-tier townships about the possible implementation of a regional short-term rental (STR) bylaw, and how it will be rolled out.

A policy has been in the works for several years. Highlands East was the first township to discuss regulating the industry in 2018, with Algonquin Highlands also spending time on the file. County staff has been actively working on a document since August 2022. The upper-tier council approved a plan on July 26.

The idea, according to Steve Stone, the County’s director of planning, is to introduce legislation that will help the townships properly, and consistently, police short-term rentals. Owners will be required to apply for a license and adhere to municipal codes of conduct, have their property inspected for Ontario Building Code, fire compliance, and septic system performance.

They will also be subject to more stringent rules regarding the number of guests allowed at a site, while bad behaviour and circumventing of the rules will lead to the issuing of demerit points, fines, and possible suspension of a license.

The issue has been contentious, with STR owners feeling they’re being unfairly targeted. The bylaw is expected to bring tens of thousands of dollars in additional revenue to municipal coffers.

Addressing County council Sept. 13, Stone said he met with representatives from Algonquin Highlands, Dysart et al, Highlands East and Minden Hills last month to iron out some additional details. He noted the bylaw would require STR operators to apply for a license every year, with a $500 application fee discussed. Stone noted that number was not final, and was well below other communities that license STRs. The City of Orillia recently adopted a bylaw that includes a $2,000 application fee.

He said municipal staff had suggested a few changes to the County document, with the most significant centering on the use of bunkies and cabins.

“It was observed by a couple of area planners that [a clause stipulating sleeping cabins could be rented out separately] conflicted with their zoning bylaw, so it was their suggestion not to allow for sleeping cabins to be rented out at all as part of the STR process,” Stone said.

There was also a request that the rental of additional residential dwelling units not be allowed so as to maintain and promote the rental of these units over the long-term, while an amendment outlining that floating accommodations will not be considered for an STR license was also suggested – something warden Liz Danielsen said she was pleased to see.

“I know [floating accommodations] are becoming an increasing concern across the County,” she said.

Coun. Bob Carter said he wanted an appeal fee included in the final bylaw.

“I’m certain if the County is running the appeals court, they’re going to charge us for that service. Somebody has to pay for that, and I think it should be the appellant,” he said. Stone said the County charges people appealing for a permit under the shoreline preservation bylaw a $300 fee to hear the case, noting that could be used as a benchmark for STRs. He also noted there will be fees outlined for things such as fire inspections, which will be conducted by municipal staff.

Coun. Walt McKechnie said he’s been hearing a lot of noise on STRs from people on both sides of the issue. He told council he’s attended several lake association meetings over the summer, and that while there’s a vocal minority speaking out against STR regulations, most people seem to be in favour of it.

Stone said he is now working to present draft bylaws to the four lower-tier townships, and was hoping to start presenting to councils next month.