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Art by the River celebrates 48th year

 

Karlie and Brodie Bula take part in the “L’il Artists Workshop” at Art by the River Aug. 23.

Karlie and Brodie Bula take part in the “L’il Artists Workshop” at Art by the River Aug. 23.

Crowds filter through Fort Malden National Historic Site during last weekend's Art by the River event.

Crowds filter through Fort Malden National Historic Site during last weekend’s Art by the River event.

Amherstburg author John Schlarbaum holds up a copy of his latest book "Off the Beaten Path" at his booth at Art by the River.

Amherstburg author John Schlarbaum holds up a copy of his latest book “Off the Beaten Path” at his booth at Art by the River.

Peter Gilbert and Wes Mussato of Red Raven Flutes were at Art by the River as vendors for the first time.

Peter Gilbert and Wes Mussato of Red Raven Flutes were at Art by the River as vendors for the first time.

By Ron Giofu

 

Arts and crafts lovers got a chance to enjoy an annual Amherstburg tradition that is almost five decades old this past weekend.

Art by the River was held last Saturday and Sunday at Fort Malden National Historic Site with almost 150 vendors in attendance. The event is presented by the Gibson Gallery.

Lou Roth, chair of the gallery’s Art by the River committee, called the number of vendors consistent with other years.

“We try and keep it at 150 every year,” he said.

Roughly 85-90 per cent of the vendors are returnees, he said, and many of the public that attend get to know the vendors and look for them each year.

“They are kind of loyal to the vendors. There are those who they wait to see,” said Roth.

Calling Fort Malden “the best venue in town,” Roth added they were expecting 9,000 to 10,000 visitors through the weekend.

“Everyone seems to be happy,” he said. “The vendors seem to be happy and that’s one of the most important things. I would call it a family atmosphere.”

Peter Gilbert of Red Raven Flutes attended Art by the River with his son last year and returned this year. He brought his Native “courting flutes” with him to display and sell. Gilbert said the fee to enter Art by the River was reasonable so he decided to become a vendor.

“I’m very happy with the price they charge here,” said Gilbert. “I think it is a nice venue. I’m impressed.”

Another reason he came as an exhibitor this year was the crowds he and his son saw last year.

“We were just blown away by the crowds,” said Gilbert. “They just keep coming, which is great.”

Amherstburg resident Tom Moon was also in his first year as a vendor, bringing his “Jokari” game with him. The game, which is played with racquets and a ball attached by an elastic cord to a block, is addictive, said Moon.

“It’s about exercise, fun and laughter,” Moon stated.

Art by the River also featured live entertainment, a “L’il Artists Workshop” and food vendors. Roth said it is the Gibson Gallery’s only fundraiser during the year and it helps operate the gallery and allows them to offer scholarships as well.

Mulcair vows to reopen Veterans Affairs offices during visit to Legion Br. 157

 

Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair chats with World War II veteran Larry Costello (above) during his visit to Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 last Thursday afternoon (Aug. 21).

Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair chats with World War II veteran Larry Costello (above) during his visit to Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 last Thursday afternoon (Aug. 21).

By Ron Giofu

 

Federal NDP leader Thomas Mulcair returned to Amherstburg and vowed to re-open Veterans Affairs offices if the NDP forms government after the 2015 election.

Mulcair, who also visited the town in March, was at Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 last Thursday afternoon where spoke to and heard from veterans relating to concerns over veterans affairs. Accompanying him were Essex MPP Taras Natyshak and Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky.

The federal NDP leader told the group the Conservative government has cut $236 million from Veterans Affairs and closed nine Veterans Affairs offices, including the Windsor location.

“When we form government next year, we will re-open every one of the Veterans Affairs offices,” Mulcair said.

Mulcair said Veterans Affairs would be a top priority.

“I consider one of the most important things a government can do is honour those who served this country,” he said. “We’re not just going to talk about it, we’re going to get it done.”

Mulcair added that the NDP “think it’s a legal obligation and a moral obligation to be there for (veterans).” He said there is “an attitude coming from the top” to cut and that has become the mentality with that department.

Afghanistan veteran Bruce Moncur said Minister of Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino walked out of a meeting with veterans while Liberal leader Justin Trudeau allowed one question and a photo opportunity when veterans met with him. He also alleged Essex MP Jeff Watson heckled opposition speakers in the House of Commons speaking on the matter.

“There’s no denying Veterans Affairs is broken,” said Moncur.

Moncur, who noted he had five per cent of his brain removed due to injuries he suffered in battle, added there needs to be improved compensation for veterans who have served.

Vietnam veteran Mike Lepine feared veterans who can’t get to an office or get frustrated trying to reach Veterans Affairs staff by telephone could “fall through the cracks.” He said veterans hear about how much the government cares for them but doesn’t believe that is the case.

“The message has to get there,” he said. “The iceberg has to melt at the front, which is at Parliament Hill.”

World War II veteran Larry Costello also called for offices to re-open and believed that people handling cases for veterans should have a better idea of what those veterans have experienced.

“We’ve got to do something to get Veterans Affairs offices open again and helping veterans,” he said.

Mike Akpata, an Afghanistan veteran, said returning veterans need better job training, access to education and skills development. Akpata believed “reservists become lost” when they return and with many unable to find work because of “gaps” in their resume due to their service.

“When you leave the family of the Legion, you are left in the wind twisting,” he said.

Akpata also suggested that the government acknowledge returning veterans with at least a card of thanks, including a number they can call if they need assistance.

“When I got home, my neighbours thanked me for my service,” said Akpata. “Maybe my government can do so too.”

Jeff Gravel called for better compensation for veterans when they return.

“No one wants to get rich out of this,” said Gravel. “I think people just want fair compensation.”

Adam Grant, a fellow veteran, believed the government is treating veterans like “an extraneous expense.

“At the end of the day, veterans feel used. They feel betrayed,” said Grant.

Grant said veterans have learned skills while in the military but are having trouble finding work and instead are treated like a “photo op.”

Essex MP Jeff Watson said Friday that the Conservative government has modernized Veterans Affairs, stating that veterans can access services through Service Canada offices.

“Now we have services in Amherstburg, Belle River and Leamington as well as Windsor,” said Watson.

The Essex MP stated the Windsor office was a 10,000 square foot building with six employees and 23 managed cases.

“That’s a colossal inefficiency,” said Watson.

Watson said he found Mulcair’s comments “ironic,” stating the NDP has routinely voted against Conservative measures that Watson said makes things better for veterans. He stated his government has maintained or expanded services while saving in infrastructure costs.

“Veterans Affairs had to undergo a modernization in service delivery. That is what has been done,” stated Watson.

Veterans can access staff in person at a Service Canada office, by phone or electronically, he added.

“We have invested $4.7 billion in new money since 2006, all of which Mr. Mulcair and the NDP voted against,” said Watson.

There are a series of training and education initiatives the government offers, he continued, and that he believes the NDP are using their dislike of the government to “get in the way” of the support for veterans.

As for the comments regarding him heckling, behavior Mulcair described as “undignified,” Watson denied that occurred.

“I don’t heckle anyone speaking on Veterans Affairs,” he said. “I can’t respond to comments that don’t have substantiation.”

 

Gemmell hopes to bring management experience to town council

 

Pauline Gemmell hopes her financial and management background  translates into a councillor’s position in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

Pauline Gemmell hopes her financial and management background translates into a councillor’s position in the Oct. 27 municipal election.

By Ron Giofu

 

Pauline Gemmell is seeking a councillor’s position in the Oct. 27 election and believes she has the personal and professional qualifications for the job.

Gemmell, currently in her second term as a provincial appointee to the Amherstburg Police Services Board, stated she has been thinking about running for a while but has now thrown her hat into the ring.

“I’ve been in management for a long time. Currently, I’m the executive director for a nurse practitioner clinic,” she said.

Gemmell said that clinic, the Essex County Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic, has Essex and Windsor locations and she is required to prepare financial statements for the board of directors and the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. She said she manages a budget of nearly $2 million.

Having people in place with the expertise to run the town is a priority, she said, and noted she deals with financial statements regularly.

“This is a large corporation,” said Gemmell. “I think when you are electing people to council, you need to elect people to run a large corporation.”

Having people with the skillsets to run the town and those who know what questions to ask are important qualities to have right from the start, she believed.

Gemmell said she “understands provincial requirements and believes that good financial management is at the core of a sustainable organization.” She said she is not a politician, but “is someone who knows how governments should work,” adding she has experience in corporate management, executive management, human resources and risk management.

Putting into place “robust financial control mechanisms” to ensure the right information is shared between council, administration and the public in a timely fashion is key. She believes that will require council members with extensive financial and management backgrounds.

Clear lines of communication are key for a “revitalized, cohesive council” with another priority being to develop new sources of revenue by increasing the industrial and residential tax bases.

“We have to instill that confidence in the town to attract industrial and residential,” she said.

In addition to working in the health care industry, Gemmell has worked in the social services and housing field. She said she is committed “to making sure that all members of the community are positioned to be contributing members.”

As a councillor, she said she would be willing to listen to others and hear differing viewpoints.

“You have to be open-minded and listen to positions others have as well,” said Gemmell. “We all bring different expertise to the table.”

Gemmell is a certified mediator after graduating from Canadore College. She also graduated from Lakehead University where she studied psychology and law and has a diploma in gerontology from Confederation College.

Gemmell also sits on the board for the Glengarry Non-Profit Housing Corporation.

 

Zero-based budgeting, proactive approach part of Grant’s priorities

 

Ken Grant says he is familiar with town policies through his volunteer work. He is seeking a councillor’s seat in the Oct. 27 election.

Ken Grant says he is familiar with town policies through his volunteer work. He is seeking a councillor’s seat in the Oct. 27 election.

By Ron Giofu

 

Ken Grant has been involved with construction of the skateboard park and and has sat on such committees as the Libro Centre’s steering committee, the Skate Amherstburg board, and the Amherstburg Recreation Committee.

He now wants to add town councillor to his resume.

Grant believes his past service will assist him if he is elected in the Oct. 27 election.

“I’ve gained a great deal of formalization with town policies and procedures and format of the town,” said Grant. “It’s another way to give back. I’ve always enjoyed helping people. It’s rewarding.”

The town’s financial matters are the top issue, stating the town should focus on fixed costs and basic responsibilities such as roads, water, sewers, infrastructure and recreation, which he he believes will attract investors and growth. From there, the “wish list” can be looked at.

“Council and administration must develop a better budget process, based on what’s called zero-based budgeting. That means council will no longer accept a budget based on what was spent the previous year,” said Grant.

Regarding the debt, he said “getting it under control” should be among the new council’s biggest goals.

“If you have money then you can do (projects), if you don’t then you’ll have to wait a little longer. It’s that simple. By applying those principles can make a significant difference,” said Grant.

Grant said there was a lot of job turnover and job re-classification at the town and he would like to see the new council do an in-depth review to ensure the town is being run as efficiently as it can. He added council must constantly look for ways to provide top-quality services in the most cost-effective way possible.

“It is council’s mandate to ensure they are spending tax dollars in the most efficient way possible,” he said.

Grant believed there is too much finger-pointing being done and those responsible need to admit it publicly.

“Let’s take corrective action and move on,” he said. “You’ve got to learn from past mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again.”

Listening and working on behalf of all voters is something Grant said he brings to the table. He said he has heard from residents in rural areas who believe they have no connection with other parts of town and that is “definitely something I want to work on.”

Grant said it is fine for council to have disagreements but personal agendas have to be put to the side so council members can work to represent the people who put them there. He said he holds people accountable including himself.

“If I’m wrong, I will admit I’m wrong and take corrective action,” he said. “You have to be honest, open and treat everyone on an equal level.”

Describing himself as ambitious and dedicated, Grant said he has the passion to do the job of town councillor.

“I’ll definitely listen to all sides of an issue and make a decision that’s best for the community,” said Grant.

 

New playground completed at Libro Centre with help from TVO Kids’ “Giver”

 

The new accessible playground at the Libro Centre, filmed for the TVO Kids’ “Giver” show, was completed last week. Film crews take shots of the cheering crowd. The show is expected to air in 2015.

The new accessible playground at the Libro Centre, filmed for the TVO Kids’ “Giver” show, was completed last week. Film crews take shots of the cheering crowd. The show is expected to air in 2015.

"Giver" show host Michael Lagimodiere films a promo for the show with the help of local youth.

“Giver” show host Michael Lagimodiere films a promo for the show with the help of local youth.

By Ron Giofu

 

The accessible playground at the Libro Centre didn’t take long to build and that has been documented on a show that will air next year on TVO.

The TVO Kids’ show “Giver” filmed the construction of the new playground, which was built Aug. 17-19 with the grand opening being Aug. 19. Show producer Rennata Lopez said the show is in its third season and this is the first time it has travelled to this part of the province.

“This is our 31st playground,” said Lopez.

There will be 33 playgrounds completed by the end of September, she added, with another one currently being constructed at Chestnut Park in Leamington.

A volunteer group estimated at 60 people helped construct the new accessible playground at the Libro Centre. Lopez said those “good, hard working volunteers” worked around the clock with the soft tile crew even working during the night.

This was the first accessible playground that “Giver” has produced, she added. The show is expected to air in 2015.

“We wanted to do a playground every child can play on,” said Lopez.

The fact it is near the Miracle League diamond was a selling point in the “Giver” team choosing Amherstburg, she added, also noting the playground will also be a legacy for generations to come.

“We are leaving something here the community can play with in 20 or 30 years,” said Lopez.

Rick Daly, the town’s manager of business development and programming, said an accessible playground was always part of the plans when the Libro Centre first opened. He noted that $50,000 in cash and in-kind donations was put forth by DeAngelis Construction and Norlon Builders with other cash and in-kind donations helping to cover the $80,000 overall budget. The show also donates $10,000 to every community it builds a playground in.

Daly said when the application for the show came across his desk, he believed it was a good opportunity to fill a need that had already been identified.

“It was a tremendous effort all around,” said Daly, noting the 60 volunteers including co-ordinators Michelle Jones-Rousseau, Vanessa Amlin and Angela Kelly.

“I feel extremely proud of what has occurred,” said Daly.

Mayor Wayne Hurst said “we are so excited” to see the efforts of volunteers that “worked so very hard on behalf of our community.” He said taking care of others makes Amherstburg what it is, adding that it is a project that will benefit Amherstburg for many years to come.

Jones-Rousseau, who has a son with a disability, said the new accessible playground would enhance the Miracle League diamond and serve as a source of enjoyment for many children in the area.

“There are so many people that are going to enjoy this,” she said.