Category Archives: Federal Politics

Lighthouse waits for its lifeline

lighthouse_webGEORGIAN BAY — The state of decay is startling.

The last two Mondays, I’ve taken advantage of the fact I’m not sitting at town council to head out onto the bay in one of the canoe club’s outrigger canoes.

While I generally eschew distance paddling when the bay is on the choppy side, I decided to challenge myself the last couple of weeks, heading in the direction of Nottawasaga Island in the face of waves a couple of feet high from crest to trough.

It’s not a route I usually take, even when the water is like glass. I usually head out to a green buoy about three-and-a-half clicks off the end of the spit, then across to a red marker about a kilometre northeast of the island, and back to the harbour.

But when I headed out last Monday, I took a turn northwest of the channel — and just kept paddling.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been close enough to the Nottawasaga lighthouse to get a sense of how much deterioration has taken place. The last time was 2007, while I was operating a safety boat for an adventure race and took the photo that accompanies this article.

The steel bands had only been installed a year or so prior, intended to prevent further deterioration of the outside layer of the 150-year-old structure.

Those bands had a five-year lifespan.

First, some history:

The lighthouse, built in the 1850s and staffed until the late 1950s, was powered in later years by solar energy. While it was no longer maintained by the Coast Guard as a navigation building, the light was still working until 2010.

I haven’t seen the light on in some time, and suspect it has either since burned out, or the solar panels are no longer functional.

The 32-metre tower — one of six Imperial Towers erected on the Great Lakes — was a frequent target for lightning strikes, superheating water that had worked its way past the limestone exterior and into the interior core.

That generated steam that pushed out and widened cracks in the wall — which in turn would allow more moisture inside.

In 2004, a piece of the section facing Collingwood slid away, necessitating action by the feds — at the urging of local officials, and, most notably, Jim Kilgour.

Hence the steel bands, which cost $400,000.

Jim, who passed away last year, was like a dog with a bone when it came to the lighthouse. He lobbied politicians at all levels to step up to the plate, to come up with the nearly $4.5 million needed to restore the lighthouse to its former glory.

In 2003, when Kilgour brought the lighthouse’s condition to the attention of politicians, Fisheries and Oceans estimated the cost to restore the tower would have been about $600,000.

In a letter to the town’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee in 2010, Kilgour warned the tower could “collapse with no further attempts to stabilize the structure.

“A significant part of our town’s marine heritage could be lost,” wrote Kilgour.

In 2010, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans declared Canada’s more than 1,000 lighthouses surplus. The Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act, passed in 2008, would normally protect the lighthouse and require the government to maintain them; ironically, the Act excludes lighthouses that are declared surplus from being designated under the Act unless a community group or private owner commits to acquire and protect their heritage character.

In a story written by Emily Innes last year, Fisheries and Oceans Canada said the Nottawasaga lighthouse is by far the lighthouse in the worst condition in Georgian Bay, but that they will do “nothing at this time.”

This Monday, I again paddled to the island, just to confirm what I’d seen the week previous. The bands have begun to loosen their hold on the lighthouse’s exterior, and have started to sag.

More bricks have fallen, even from the most recent pics posted to the Help Save the Nottawasaga Lighthouse Facebook group by Nick Brindisi.

A local group has been trying to find a way to preserve the lighthouse, but without any money or political will behind them, it’s hard to say what kind of impact they’ll have.

I’m no engineer, but I would be very surprised if the lighthouse is still on Collingwood’s horizon past 2014.

The question remains: will someone throw the lighthouse a lifeline before it’s too late?

My beer with Mike…

I was hoping this was online, but I can’t seem to locate it — so I’ll post the story here.

Some context: after Duffy’s appearance at the Legion in early 2011 to stump for local Conservative nomination candidate Paul Throop, several of us sat around one of the tables at the Legion for a couple of beers while the Duffster regaled us with tales of the old days — completely off-the-record, of course…

This morning, in light of this, I’m trying to remember who the heck paid the tab…

Anyway, here’s the story I wrote at the time (in the Feb. 2, 2011 edition of the E-B), including one of those quotes that always comes back to haunt the individuals who say them…

Senator stumps Simcoe-Grey for Con nominee

COLLINGWOOD — Senator Mike Duffy has just come from having a haircut at Frank’s Barbershop, just up the street from the Enterprise-Bulleitn.
Frank “wouldn’t let me pay,” he says with mock indignation, before launching into a tale of one of the successes he’s had in his short time in politics — multi-million-dollar infrastructure funding for a college in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, his home province.
Public service, he says, has been an eyeopener for a guy who spent about 40 years in journalism.
“It was only after (his appointment, in December, 2008), that I realized the good feeling one gets from so-called public service,” he said. “It’s the little things… that you use to help people.
“For all that I do for P.E.I, I get a great sense of satisfaction. I didn’t really think about it (before his appointment), that I would get that kind of gratification.”
While Duffy is normally criss-crossing the country, speaking at Conservative fundraisers, this time he’s in Simcoe-Grey for a special reason. He’s here stumping for Paul Throop, one of the three candidates for the Conservative nomination in Simcoe-Grey.
He’s known ‘Boomer’ — Throop’s nickname from his downhill ski racing days — for about 30 years, “and he’s the kind of person (the riding) needs right now.”
Duffy made an appearance at the Nottawasaga Inn for lunch ( “It was a really huge crowd,” he said), and was making a second appearance at the Royal Canadian Legion in Collingwood in the evening.
Duffy was last in the area about this time last year, for a fundraiser for Simcoe-Grey Conservatives. Back then, of course, the Conservative Member of Parliament was Helena Guergis.
“What happened to Helena was unfortunate,” he muses.
He laughs when NDP leader Jack Layton’s suggestion is brought up about banning senators from fundraising for their parties. “There’s something called the Charter of Rights,” says Duffy. “Plus, we have a pretty onerous code of ethics.”
He says for all the negative comments about Conservatives, it’s still the party that gave women the right to vote, created the public broadcaster, and introduced simultaneous English-French translation in the House of Commons.
But he always brings the topic of the conversation back to Throop.
“Paul knows all the stuff (in Ottawa), because he’s been around forever,” says Duffy, referring to Throop’s six years as part of Peter MacKay’s political staff, and lengthy service with the party.
“When he gets there, and I hope he does, we will be the person to get results,” he says. “He knows how the system works.”
When the matter of how hotly contested this race is, between Sick Kids surgeon Kellie Leitch, and former Collingwood mayor Chris Carrier, Duffy dances around the subject for a bit.
However, he acknowledges, the issue of local politicians — and letters of endorsement — are not playing well. “People are quite appalled because the area is getting a bad rap,” he said.
The line-up of current municipal politicians who have publicly backed other candidates — mostly Leitch — is “shortsighted.
“In politics, there is a hierarchical arrangement of municipal, provincial and federal government… and it would not be a wise person who takes sides in this thing.”
Duffy notes the reason the campaign has reached the fervour it has is the “Toronto approach.
“You’ve got the people who got the money and think they’ve got the expertise… and my fear is the people will not be well-served.
“This (being a public servant) is a tough job, and if you’re not in it for the right reasons, then you could end up in a situation where other things take importance,” he said. “You have to respect the sensibilities and sensitivities of this region.”
Which, again, brings the conversation back to Throop.
“You have to have someone who understands (Ottawa) already, and they’re prepare to listen (to constituents),” said Duffy. “You see a number of people come into politics who think everybody should be grateful they’re there.
“People are not well served when there’s that disconnect… and what you need in difficult times is someone with empathy.
And with that, Throop stands, anxious to get Duffy to the legion — they’re going to be late — but it’s clear the senator is now in his element, and he can’t help but swap journalism stories.

Our story of the year: All Helena, all the time…

It’s only appropriate that while 2010 spent its first half kicking the stuffing out of Simcoe-Grey MP Helena Guergis, that it would deliver life’s greatest blessing toward its end.

While Helena and her hubby Rahim Jaffer can revel in the joyous occasion of their birth of their son, Zavier, last Wednesday, 2010 has not been kind to this once-Ottawa power couple – especially the former Conservative, now Independent Conservative, Member of Parliament for Simcoe-Grey.

It’s Helena’s dizzying fall from grace that’s earned her, at least in my unlearned opinion, the title of our 2010 story of the year, and made her our top newsmaker.

Early in the year, the couple were awaiting the outcome of Jaffer’s brush with the law in September, 2009, his late night roadside run-in with the Caledon OPP that resulted in charges of impaired driving and cocaine possession. While his case was mired in procedure the remainder of the year, the results – a $500 fine and a guilty plea to careless driving – came two weeks after Guergis’ alleged ‘meltdown’ at the Charlottetown Airport became public.

The dominoes were starting to topple.

Jaffer’s plea arrangement came March 9; on March 23, I made what turned out to be a fateful call to Guergis’ executive assistant in Collingwood, Jessica Craven, to ask about letters written by a ‘Jessica Morgan’ that were, shall we say, ‘astroturfing’ the Member’s record.

The ‘letters’ story was interesting for us as a community paper, falling on a day that was between a layout day and a publishing day – but there was no question it was going to be big; we just didn’t realize how big it would be. It was posted the initial story on our website and our parent Canoe website a few minutes after 11 a.m. I had gone out on an assignment, coming back to the office around 12:15 (and having a meeting with Jessica, in which she acknowledged writing the letters), and then the phone calls started: CBC, Global, CTV, Canwest. At 3 p.m., Liberal MP Wayne Easter stood up in the House of Commons to ask a question about it.

The Enterprise-Bulletin had broken a national story, and there hadn’t even been a single drop of ink on paper.

Following my interview that night with Tom Clark on his PowerPlay show on CTV’s Newsnet, Clark turns to his panel and makes the comment: “How much worse can life get for her?”

Well, it did. The next week, The Toronto Star published the first of a series of stories by Kevin Donovan documenting a shady business relationship Jaffer was purportedly involved in – including meetings featuring busty hookers – and at that point the wheels came off. Prime Minister Stephen Harper spent the next week defending the MP before pulling the rug, having her resign as Minister of State for the Status of Women and booting her from the party.

The Prime Minister cited “serious allegations” he referred to the RCMP and Ethics Commissioner – allegations, by the way, that the PM has never truly outlined, and for which both Guergis and Jaffer have been cleared of by the RCMP.

And in the middle of this there were other stories: the Ottawa Citizen wrote about the couple’s $800,000 mortgage on a home in Ottawa; the blogosphere questioned the legitimacy of Guergis’ MBA from the University of Alberta.

All in all, it wasn’t a tremendously great first six months for Guergis and Jaffer; even an interview in May on the National with Peter Mansbridge was mocked after Guergis appeared to cry without shedding any tears.

The last six months, though, have represented a bit of a turnaround for Guergis, especially after she was cleared by the RCMP. The Charlottetown Airport video didn’t appear as damning as it was originally purported to be, and a poll conducted by ‘disaffected’ Conservatives indicated Guergis would make it a tight election race if she chose to run as an Independent candidate in Simcoe-Grey.

What does 2011 hold for the couple? I guess we’ll have to wait and see…