Year In Review: Looking back at February 2016
Jordan Robinson attempts to corral the ball during a street hockey game in downtown Pembroke for the PBIA's Downtown HockeySpree event held last February
A LIFETIME HONOUR: Dennis and Anne Beech received the Upper Ottawa Valley Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Business Achievement Award. Recently retiring from running Canadian Tire Pembroke after 18 years, the couple were humble and gracious as they accepted the prestigious honour in front of a packed Festival Hall crowd of business, political and community leaders as the chamber recognized their very best. Associate Canadian Tire dealers for 40 years, the Beeches were lauded for demonstrating leadership, vision, and a commitment to the prosperity of the Ottawa Valley as positive role models for the business community. They were also praised for their philanthropy establishing the Renfrew County Jump Start chapter which has dispersed more than $500,000 to assist 6,000 area kids.
In his speech to the chamber, Dennis Beech reflected on the challenges he has faced as a manager of a successful Canadian Tire franchisee namely the way business has been altered by technology experiencing everything from the advent of the fax machine to the dramatic introduction of the Internet as a means to advertise and sell products.
Prior to joining Canadian Tire in October 1975, Beech worked extensively in the financial field and the publishing world first with Prentice Hall and then as president of Butterworth and Company (Canada) Limited. Seeking to own a business, he purchased a Canadian Tire franchisee in Madoc, Ont.. He eventually moved on to run Canadian Tires in Sussex, New Brunswick, Ottawa and Toronto before arriving in Pembroke in 1997.
MELISSA MAKES HISTORY: Sprinter Melissa Bishop gave Renfrew County residents another reason to be be proud on Feb. 17 becoming our nation's fastest woman in the 800-metre as she set a new Canadian indoor record at the Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) International Grand Prix in Athlone, Ireland. The 27-year-old runner, who was seeking to compete in the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics, crossed the finish line at the 2:00.60 mark to better Diane Cummins’s Canadian record of 2:00.66. Bishop finished ahead of Great Britain's Adelle Tracey, who recorded a time of 2:02.34, and Ukraine's Anastasiya Tkachuk, who came in at 2:02.44.
PRIEST OUT OF THE CHURCH: The Diocese of Pembroke formally dismissed Robert Borne as a priest in the Catholic Church. The diocese disseminated a notice, alerting local parishes and congregants that the disgraced clergyman, who was convicted in 2011 of indecent assault against a teenage boy in 1979, had been dismissed from “the clerical state and dispensed from all priestly obligations.” In 2011, then Monsignor Borne was sentenced to a nine-month conditional sentence, the first five months of which was house arrest including the condition to wear an electronic monitoring device.
CITY APPROVES BUDGET: Pembroke city council approved a $29.65 million budget that brought about a 2.6 per cent tax increase. That amount assumes a median residential property valued at $182,000, which includes this year's 4.75 per cent assessment increase imposed by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). The increase came mainly from a rise in water fees, which was bumped up to help cover the increased cost of maintaining the water system. The city committed to $15 million in capital investments for the construction of a new fire hall, the reconstruction of Agnes Street, and the installation of the McGee Street pump station.
GULF WAR RECOUNTED: The 25th anniversary of the Liberation of Kuwait was marked with a special ceremony at Garrison Petawawa. When Canadian troops were deployed to the Persian Gulf in response to the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait, our nation was going to war for the first time since Korea. The ceremony was held two days before Feb. 28, the official date that then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush declared a unilateral cease-fire that brought an end to what is today known as the Persian Gulf War. Although our military sustained no casualties, Canada reached many milestones during the conflict. For the first time women were employed in a war zone in combat roles.
“This chapter of our Canadian military history was very unique,” said 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group commander Col. Conrad Mialkowski.
NHL ALUMNI SKATE AT PETAWAWA: A squad of Hockey Hall of Famers and Stanley Cup winners took to the ice at the Petawawa Civic Centre on Feb. 4 for the annual Pembroke Law Enforcement All-Star Game in support of the Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Headlining the NHL team was Toronto fan favourite Rick Vaive, goalie Mark Laforest, and Cup winners Bryan Muir and Mike Krushelnyski. While the Pembroke Memorial Centre was usually the battleground of choice between the OPP and the alumni, the 650-seat Civic Centre was nearly packed to capacity. Shean Donovan, one of the newest alumni to play here having retired in 2010, said he thoroughly enjoyed going up against the OPP.
“They were tight checking early,” said the former Ottawa Senator forward first drafted 28th overall by San Jose. “It's always fun playing hockey in the Ottawa Valley.”
PRH RUNS A DEFICIT: The Pembroke Regional Hospital submitted a deficit budget for the first time in its recent history. According to a news release from the hospital, the budget projected a deficit of $400,000 for the fiscal year starting on April 1, 2016. That figure represented less than half of one per cent of the hospital's total operating budget, which rang in at $83 million, and came from an estimation of $1.6 million in anticipated increasing costs and just $1.2 million in available savings and new revenues. Hospital president and CEO Pierre Noel cited a four-year funding freeze, where the hospital did not receive any inflationary increase to its funding, despite “absorbing increased costs for labour, supplies and utilities.”
DEPUTY WARDEN PROPOSED: Renfrew County council passed a resolution to create the new position of deputy warden but sent it back to the finance and administration committee after some councillors raised concerns about increasing the size of the upper tier government, while others wanted more definition on what role such an official would play.
Head Clara Maria Mayor Gibson hoisted a few red flags concerning the concept adding he believes the county should always strive to be more accountable, transparent and democratic. But Warden Peter Emon said the deputy warden was suggested at committee level after he was approached about rumours surfaced last fall that the position was being created with a remuneration of $20,000.
NEW ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OFFICER: Pembroke hired a new economic development officer in February. Heather McConnell was formally introduced to council as the successor to Susan Ellis, who retired from the city in October 2015. A Toronto native, she possesses a Masters in Public Policy from Queen's University, and spent three years working for the prestigious CD Howe Institute, managing the special projects team.
“I'm really excited to be here to work with everyone to help grow the city,” McConnell said.
HIGHWAY 17 LOBBYIST: Renfrew County hired a lobbyist to take its case for a four-laned Highway 17 to both Ottawa and Toronto. Council directed staff to prepare a Request for Proposal, or RFP, to engage a government relations specialist to promote the expansion of Highway 17. At least $25,000 was allocated in the 2016 budget for the lobbyist. Warden Peter Emon said the county has taken a major step in moving the Highway 17 file forward adding the main goal of the lobbyist will be to spark a discussion between the provincial and federal governments about partnering on the project.
This is part of the national highway transportation system. It is the Trans-Canada Highway, said Emon.
A FAILED BUDGET: The Ontario budget brought mixed reactions locally. Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke MPP John Yakabuski said the budget failed to address a number of key areas, such as a credible plan to make energy affordable in Ontario, a strong commitment to reverse health-care cuts to ensuring proper management of Ontario's health-care system, and a plan to balance the budget and eliminate the deficit, which the Liberal government projects will come in at $5.7 billion.
“They are going to have a difficult time doing that without additional revenue streams,” Yakabuski said.
Renfrew County Warden Peter Emon said he sees some positives in the budget, despite being worried about the impact increased costs for energy, home heating and gasoline will have on the rural parts of Eastern Ontario.
PETITION LAUNCHED: The Township of Head, Clara and Maria sought help from more of its neighbours to cover a gap in emergency extrication services along a 30-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada Highway. Township council passed a resolution to “petition the federal government through the Ministry of Defence to allow Garrison Petawawa to respond to truly life-threatening situations as determined by Renfrew County Paramedic Services and provide auto extrication services.”
POLICE STATION SOLD: The city of Pembroke sold its former police station. City council approved the sale of 169 William St. for $200,000 to Sleepwell Management Corp. The building once housed the Pembroke Police Service. Sleepwell, based out of Ottawa, is a full-service property management company servicing residential, commercial and condominium corporation real estate clients.
DOWNTOWN HOCKEY: Scores of hockey fans flooded onto Pembroke Street West through the city's downtown core in February to take part or watch the Pembroke Business Improvement Area's (PBIA) Downtown Hockey Spree street hockey tournament. All in all, 11 teams of four came out to play on three "rinks" lining the downtown. In their downtime, players and fans alike could test their mettle with a skills competition or other games and activities hosted by Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Active Chiropractic, Ry-J's and more.