Thursday, January 31, 2013

Good Luck to Torbay Athlete Jeremy Mueller

Torbay has it's very own world class athlete competing right now at the 2013 World Winter Games in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea. Not only is Jeremy a resident of Torbay he is a Canadian Special Olympian competing in the snowshoeing competition at this years games. Jeremy is a very well rounded athlete and that allows him to compete year round.

Check out his profile page and leave him a message of encouragement. Good luck Jeremy you make us all proud.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Drug Workshop Available for Torbay Parents

The Town of Torbay in cooperation with the RNC and both of our schools will be hosting a meeting designed to give parents the tools to help their children prepare for and handle the pressures that may face with regards to drug use.

I know personally I have a son that will be going to the high school next year and I am certainly aware of the possible presence of drugs at that school. This looks like a great program to try and educate us parents and I think that town, the RNC and the schools should be commended for taking this issue head on and not hiding behind ignorance and denials which is so often the case.

Hopefully if this event is well attended they may try and work together to address bullying in the schools and helping parents understand and eradicate it. These are two very serious issues that have devastating effects on children and in many cases actually lead to premature deaths. As a parent I have no desire to see my kids addicted to drugs or victims of or perpetrators of bullying behavior.

You need to send an email before Friday March 1,2013 to register, you can email either one of the following people Allison or Krista

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Property Tax Reduction for GIS Recipients

In the 2013 budget the town of Torbay adopted a new policy as it relates to property taxes and seniors who are in receipt of the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS).

Basically what it says is that if you are on Old Age Security and receive this supplement from the government then you are entitled to get a 20% reduction on your property tax bill for the 2013 tax year.

The way it works is that you need to complete an application to receive the property tax reduction. You can find the application on the town website be clicking here. You will also need an Entitlement letter from Service Canada to prove that you are indeed receiving the GIS.

Follow these steps to get your letter

  1. Have your social insurance number ready
  2. Call Service Canada is 1-800-277-9914
  3. When the recording starts press 0 to speak to agent
  4. Request an Entitlement Letter confirming you receive the GIC
  5. After you get it attach to your application and bring to Town Hall
Don't wait too long to do this, the application with the Entitlement Letter must be submitted to the town on or before April 1st. The sooner the better because there are other important conditions in the policy that must be met and you don't want to miss out because you waited too long.

Everything you need to know is in the policy document or the application, take the time to look at it and see if you can take advantage of this savings.

Follow the link below to see the policy in it's entirety.
Property Tax Reduction for Guaranteed Income Supplement Recipients

Three Island Pond Cabin Owners - Powerless!

Eleven cabin owners who have properties on Middle Three Island Pond in Torbay are powerless in more ways than one. They still have no power to their cabins even though they have agreed to pay $80,000 over the next 10 years to get it. The problem is that the Town of Torbay is blocking them from working together with Newfoundland Power to install the power lines and run the power to their properties.

As per the North Easts Avalon Times, Councillor Smith who is the Chair of the planning and development committee said that the town does not want power lines in the rural area where development is frozen. She went on to say that these are not residences and that they are cabins and shacks and that putting in power may create development and liability issues that the town doesn't want right now.

I am not sure what liability issues would be created, I suspect they would be around snow clearing and garbage pickup, what else could they be? I spoke to one of the owners and they are very frustrated with the entire situation. They are also not happy with the categorization of their properties as cabins and shacks. They say that many of their properties are very well kept and are far more than cabins and shacks. However I will refer to the dwellings as Cabins and Shacks because that is the town of Torbay views them and who am I to argue.

Anyway I decided to go and take a look at the Municipal Assessment Rolls for the properties on Middle Three Island Pond Road and this is what I found out. The combined land and building value is listed as well as how much taxes each owner would have to pay to the Town of Torbay for their cabins and shacks based on the 6.7 mill rate.

140 - 144  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $66,300 taxes 444.21
146 - 150  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $45,200 taxes 302.84
152 - 156  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $40,800 taxes 273.36
158 - 162  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $60,600 taxes 406.02
164 - 174  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $56,800 taxes 380.56
220 - 228  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $49,900 taxes 334.33
169 - 175  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $36,900 taxes 247.23
177 - 185  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $12,600 taxes 100.00
187 - 195  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $18,600 taxes 124.62
197 - 201  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $113,700 taxes 761.79
203 - 207  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $63,200 taxes 423.44
209 - 213  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $53,900 taxes 361.13
215 - 221  MID THREE ISL PD RD - $61,400 taxes 411.38
221 A      MID THREE ISL PD RD - $51,000 taxes 341.70

As you can see there is a varying property value but generally the land portion of the assessment was between 12,000 and 18,000 so any extra would be the value of the cabin or shack. Most of the cabins and shacks on these properties are in the 30,000 to 50,000 range with one exception and that is a property that is worth in the 90,000 range. If that is a shack then I would hate to see what qualifies as a valuable piece of property in the eyes of the Town of Torbay.

Anyway these 14 properties that I found on that road that pay taxes to the Town of Torbay have an assessed value of $730,900 and pay annual taxes to the town of about $4550. Not a bad haul for the town considering we provide absolutely noting in the way of services to those people. They say they provide road grading in the spring and fall as well as garbage pickup but that doesn't seem to be the reality. If that road is graded in the spring I have never seen it without potholes and humps and bumps. There is a pit in there with dump trucks coming and going all day, a grading might last 5 minutes with all that activity. If I had to bet on it I would say that the guy who owns the pit might dump some stone on it just to save his own equipment. Also I don't remember seeing a garbage box out at the end of that road, at least not in the last 5 years.

These cabin owners are frustrated and they should be. They want to run power to their properties so that they can protect their investments. They are not asking the town to put any money into it and they are not asking for any additional services. I personally take exception to dismissing these people like they don't matter, that is what it seems like to me. These supposed cabins and shacks may not be residences but they are properties and those owners are tax payers. They are tax payers to the Town of Torbay and with that they deserve a certain amount of respect and the right to try and protect their properties.

I think that allowing these people to run the power to their cabins so they can enact security measures to protect their properties can only be good for everyone involved. These owners have been complaining of increased vandalism and thefts in recent years. Last year we saw at least one building burned to the ground that being the old St Josephs cabin. The vandals are becoming more and more daring and it is only a matter of time before one of those cabins in Middle Three Island Pond is burned down. Aside from the obvious safety and security benefits having power to those properties will increase the value of those properties and the town will get even more money from them in taxes. That is a win win for everyone as far as I am concerned. And so what if those people ask for some services like a bit of crushed stone put on the road in the summer or a bit of garbage picked up, they are paying for it after all.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Brad Cabana - Taking on the Big Guys Alone

Photo From Rock Solid Politics
Over the past couple of years Brad Cabana, former military captain and political blogger is a name that many Newfoundlanders have come to know, especially those in political circles. He first came on the scene with a failed bid to become the leader of the Progressive Conservative party. His nomination had been rejected by the credentials committee because the signatures on his form didn't belong to official party members. That prompted Cabana to appeal to the rules committee and they upheld the decision and Cabana threatened to take the party to court, however he changed his mind and decided to join the Liberal Party instead. Not only did he join the Liberals he also ran for the leadership of the party, again to no avail. For those keeping count that would be two leadership runs for two different political parties in one year. Give the man credit for persistence if nothing else. This is a man who doesn't do anything half heartily, he is either in all the way or not at all.

Any way jump forward 5 or 6 months and Cabana again was immersed in some controversy for stories he wrote on his blog Rock Solid Politics and statements he made on a local radio station with relation to Muskrat Falls Hydro Electric Project. These stories and statements specifically made references to former Premier Danny Williams and Alderon Iron Ore Corp. in a manner that prompted a Statement of Claim against Cabana in The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador by the aforementioned parties. Not to be outdone Mr. Cabana turned around and filed a counter suit against against Williams and Alderon. Cabana claims the law suit was nothing more than a ploy to quiet critics. He called the suit filed against him a SLAPP suit which stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation.

Now jump forward a few more months and we are again reading in the news that Mr. Cabana is preparing to go to court to fight the Muskrat Falls development. Say what you want about Brad Cabana he either has balls as big as coconuts or rocks in his head of equivalent size, I am sure we all have our opinion as to which it is. By his own admissions Cabana is not a lawyer or a constitutional expert yet he is plowing ahead with these various lawsuits and representing himself along the way. He seems to be the lone voice in the wilderness fighting the good fight for all of us Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who must be too stupid to realize the disastrous path our province is on with Muskrat Falls. I know that last statement could be seen as a little flippant but when you take a step back and look at the circumstances that is exactly what is happening. How come nobody else has taken up this fight to the extend that Cabana has? Surely there must be at least one more person in this province as smart as Brad Cabana when it comes to Constitutional and other matters of Law, maybe that Colin guy who calls into the open line shows? No, alas even he has not chimed in on the legalities of the Muskrat Falls mega project or any of Brad's other pending cases as far as I know.

This is the big question as far as I am concerned. Here we have an average ordinary joe (no offence to Mr. Cabana) just like the rest of us, bound and determined to fight this thing on his own. He has spent a considerable amount of money and time pursuing this fight and we don't see anyone jumping in to help him out, at least not on the surface. Where are all those lawyers of the 2041 Energy Incorporated who are vehemently against Muskrat Falls? Why are they not joining this fight to help Mr. Cabana? They are the ones with the legal expertise to actually go to court and present the case in a manner that their experience would provide. Cabot Martin, one of the 2041 group and owner of the website Muskrat Info described the Muskrat Falls contract as a potential fatal step in the creation of a financial blunder that really is unparalleled in our history. You would think that a group of lawyers that hold this view of a project that has been sanctioned and proceeding would jump at a final chance to stop it in its tracks. No, instead we have a man with absolutely no legal qualifications that I know of going to battle against the many lawyers of Nalcor, the Provincial Government, Danny Williams and Alderon in various court cases.

This seems like a daunting task for a team of highly trained lawyers I can only imagine the amount of work one individual like Mr. Cabana would have to put into it. Like a lot of people I have read many John Grisham books, watched Law and Order and other legal type shows over the years but I still wouldn't feel confident strolling into the Supreme Court and facing down the army of expert lawyers that Cabana is likely to face. It would be interesting to sit in the court house and wait for the Matlock moment when Mr. Cabana's case reveals all the flaws in the project and he emerges victorious on the steps of the Supreme Court to cheering fans and supporters. Alas this is real life and not a television drama so the story is bound to be much more boring and anticlimactic. Most likely there will be arguments made and the judge will render a decision and David Cochrane and Telegram James will be waiting to get the blow by blow reactions from Mr. Cabana and the Government. I wonder will that be the end of it then? I guess it depends on who wins.

That takes me back to the question of why he has to try and accomplish this monumental task all on his own? If this project is as bad as Brad Cabana and the lawyers of the 2041 group say it is then why are they not jumping up to help? You could imagine they would be foaming at the mouth to have the opportunity to go to court and defend everything they have been saying in the media over the past year at least. Unless of course, everything they have been saying is only rhetoric and they know it wouldn't stand up in court or there really is no basis for a law suit. I don't know because like most people in our province I am not a lawyer or a constitutional expert so I rely on others to present those arguments on my behalf. Those others I am speaking of would be the opposition parties, the press and any other person of group with the means and expertise to do so. It is their job to look at this project and ask questions of the Government and Nalcor to ensure a project is put forward that is in the best interest of the people of this province. Not just for those of us who are going to bear the burden of paying for it but the generations to come who will inherit this legacy.

For this reason I take comfort in the fact that Mr. Cabana is bringing this fight to the Supreme Court for a ruling. The main reason is that in light of his solitary objections in the legal realm, the most likely outcome is that his legal challenge will be dismissed. Of course as I had stated before I am no expert but I have this expectation because I believe if there was really a strong case he would have more support from the people who have the financial and legal resources to do so. Regardless of how this turns out it is certainly an interesting story and yet another chapter in Mr. Cabana's life that seems to be ever unfolding since his move to Newfoundland a few years ago. Interesting to say the least.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Follow-up to Torbay Residents Not Getting Mail

I have had a few inquiries related to this story and one thing that was brought to my attention was the fact that the employees who are responsible for driving these routes may feel that their work is being criticized.

Well I can honestly say that nothing can be farther from the truth. The employees who are responsible for delivering the mail to the super mail boxes are not at fault here. The fact that someone can become ill is common among all of us and can't be held against a person.

As I see it is the fact that when a person is sick that there doesn't seem to be an adequate response by Canada Post to get someone else to come and fill in. That is the problem, not the regular employees who drive these routes, I just wanted to make that clear. Add to that I am not sure exactly what the policy is with regards to employees calling in sick and getting a replacement. The action taken in this case could be perfectly within the current policy. The issue is that people may not find this acceptable and it is something worth looking into.

I have also been told that the person responsible for Rural Route 1 takes his job very seriously and has been doing that route for 15 years. He loves his job and takes it personal that his customers may not get their mail. Well all I have to say to him is thank you for having pride in your work and I hope you are back to work soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

UPDATE : Some Torbay Residents Not Getting Their Mail

Since publishing this story some additional information has been relayed to me with regards to a few points I had made and I am updating them. The updated text will follow the stroked through parts or will be Orange.

I have been speaking to a couple of Torbay residents, one of which is Madelein Florent, who have made inquiries with Canada Post as to why they have not received their mail this week. These customers are part of the Rural Route Delivery system that uses the Super Mailbox locations around Torbay. The customers who are effected live in the Rural Route 1 area that includes (Indian Meal Line and all side roads, Bridge Road, Lower Street and some parts of Torbay Road). However it may happen on other routes from time to time for various reasons including the delivery driver being off sick. In this case we are talking about RR1 because that is the particular route that Madelein inquired about.

Apparently customers who live on this route may not have gotten any mail since last Friday because the driver had taken ill on Monday. No replacement driver had been provided for Monday and they have been working on getting a replacement driver since Tuesday. It is expected that there will be a driver starting today to deliver the mail to this route. I have been told that there is currently a backlog of mail (about 20 boxes which apparently is a lot) that needs to be delivered including the Property Tax Bills that were sent out by the Town. I have been told that they are going to be working on clearing up the backlog and delivering the mail even if it is necessary to to do it on Saturday. These delays certainly reinforce the Snail Mail description that people sometimes give to Canada Post.

I have heard differing accounts on how often this type of thing happens in towns like ours but it seems likely that it could happen frequently. I have noticed sometimes that there is no mail in my box for several days in a row then all of a sudden it is overflowing. There could be several reasons for that I guess but hearing that there are no delivery drivers readily available to step in when the regular person is off sick is troubling. As far as I know these drivers are hired on a contract basis and are not employees of Canada Post. If this is the case then I would assume they are contracted to deliver the mail and that should happen Monday through Friday even if someone is off sick. I have since been told that these drivers are indeed employees of Canada Post and to me that actually makes it worse. A corporation that size should have someone they can call in to fill in for a driver who happens to call in sick.

Why should residents receive a different level of service from Canada Post depending on whether your route driver is working today or not? Also anyone who picks up their mail at the Post Office doesn't have to worry about delays in getting their mail because they can just go and get it. This means as one person said to me that it makes her feel like a second class citizen when core services like mail can be arbitrarily altered based on circumstances out of their control. People might say, well it is only a few days what is the big deal? Well what about people like seniors who may be waiting on checks for instance or other mail that may be time sensitive. What if you put something in the mail box at your location that needs to be somewhere by a specific date? You should be able to have confidence that your mail will be picked up and delivered in a timely and efficient manner. We expect a service and deserve to get it how it is supposed to be delivered according to the Canadian Postal Service Charter. As the following excerpt from that charter outlines.

Frequent and Reliable Delivery

6. Canada Post will deliver letters, parcels and publications five days a week (except for statutory holidays) to every Canadian address, except in remote areas where less frequent service may be necessary due to limited access to the community. 

7. Canada Post will deliver to every address in Canada. This may be delivery to the door, a community mail box, group mail box, a rural mail box, a postal box, general delivery at the post office or delivery to a central point in apartment/office buildings.

8. Canada Post will deliver letter mail:
Within a community within two business days;
Within a province within three business days; and
Between provinces within four business days.

So if the Torbay Property Taxes were put in the mail Friday you should have had it yesterday. If not then you are not getting the service you deserve and are promised.

If you have concerns regarding your mail delivery you can call the Canada Post complaints department in Ottawa (1-800-267-1177). I am sure you are all in a hurry to get your property tax bill that you have been waiting for and is sitting in the post office waiting to be delivered.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hard Feelings on Council After Budget Vote?

When I was at the December 10, 2012 Council meeting where the 2013 budget was voted on, I felt there was an atmosphere of frustration or ill will directed towards Deputy Mayor Geoff Gallant. As I read in this months edition of the North East Avalon Times my suspicions and impressions were correct.

With the headline "Deputy mayor criticized for voting against budget" the story goes on to say that some of his Council colleagues are not happy with his actions. Well I thought that was pretty clear at the meeting judging from the number or eye rolls and shaking heads that he received while proposing a motion to defer the vote on the budget to consider changes.

I spoke to Geoff after that meeting and he expressed frustration that people were going to get a tax increase and felt his proposed changes could help offset that. He was proposing spending cuts and deferred expenditures that he said amounted to $300,000 in savings, and would save every tax payer $100 a year. Fair enough, but then I asked why he didn't propose those changes at the committee level, which he is part of, and he said he did but got no support. So I wondered, why try and bring it up in the public meeting then if you know nobody is going to support you? According to Councillor Tapper and the Mayor there may have been ulterior motives in the public voicing of his proposed cuts.

That brings me to the accusations made by Councillor Tapper and Mayor Bob Codner in the Times article. Councillor Tapper expressed disappointment that Geoff voted the way he did and that he seemingly changed his mind at the last minute about the budget, although he did acknowledge that is his right to do so. As it says in the Times, 1/2 hr prior to a Sunday meeting of Council to finalize the budget, the Deputy Mayor called Councillor Tapper to say he was having second thoughts. He also went on to imply that this may have been politically motivated with it being an election year as in the following quote from the Times article.
"This whole thing is of his is really poor timing. Obviously, this is an election year and it was a point he wanted to make, for what ever purpose"
Councillor Tapper on Geoff Gallant's budget vote
The Mayor wasn't as diplomatic as his Council colleague was in describing his distaste for the proposed amendment to the budget and no vote.
Mayor Codner stated in the Times article that "Geoff Gallant makes me sick"
He went on to say "He was on this committee. We met with individual groups, we met with volunteers in the community, senior staff. Gallant was in agreement until he went into the public meeting. It was pure grandstanding."
Well Mr. Mayor why don't you say how you really feel. I have to admit that for us observers of Council, the fact that the Mayor would give this opinion is hardly news. The rift between the two men has been evident for a long time now. If I had a dollar for every time the Mayor ruled Gallant out of order or accused him of grandstanding I would certainly have enough to buy a dozen Blue Star maybe two.

All this talk about grandstanding and people trying to make political gains for the next election makes me think about what Councillor Byrne had to say during the go around at the end of the last Council meeting. Basically he said was that all members of Council need to remember that they have a job to do and they need to concentrate on the business of the town. He said he hopes that is what will happen during the upcoming year as we head towards the next election and politics doesn't get in the way of the job at hand. Good advise I would say!

Considering how contentious Council has been over the previous year I doubt that is is going to happen. As current members start jockeying for position in the next election, it is bound to only get worse. I think over the next few months the picture will become clearer with regards to finding out who will be on the next ballot for Mayor in particular. I think there are at least 3 and maybe 4 members of this current council who are considering it. None I have spoken to have either confirmed or denied what their intentions are, can you guess who may be contemplating a run?

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Bully Project Movie - An Eye Opening Experience

I watched this movie last night with my family and I can tell you right now if you watch this you will certainly want to eradicate bullying.

I don't know if it is because I have kids going to school or not but this film really put things in perspective for me. I am not ashamed to say that I had tears in my eyes from the early moments to the end of that movie and beyond. I am a pretty emotional person and that has served me both well and not so well at different times in my life. The story of these children who have taken their lives as a result of being bullied and those still living with the fear every day is heartbreaking to say the least.

This movie is an emotional roller coaster and gives you a glimpse into the lives of these young people who are having their lives stolen from them by bullies and the grief and anger you feel for the parents. Those parents need to go on living with the knowledge that their babies have been taken away from them far too early it makes you wonder why is it so difficult to eliminate bullying from our schools?

Alex Libby - Bully Movie
Although all the stories highlighted in this film are gut wrenching I was particularly moved by the story of this 12 year old boy Alex Libby. I don't know if it is because my son is practically his age or not, but something about him really touched me. I couldn't get past how unhappy he looked for most of the movie and I found myself wishing that I could just go up to him and give him a hug and tell him that he is loved and that he does belong. No child should grow up thinking that they don't belong and come to the point in their young lives where they get comfortable with being bullied. I don't know if comfortable is the right word but this little boy certainly came to a point where he wasn't sure what to feel about being constantly abused both physically and mentally as seen in this clip.

On the rare occasions throughout the movie where he was shown smiling it made me both glad and angry at the same time. He looked like a new person at those times and I pondered why can't his life be like this all the time. He was 12 years old and should be enjoying his life and not having to worry about what lurks around the next corner.

When the ramifications of bullying started to sink in as I watched this movie I found myself thinking back on my childhood and the things my friends and I did. Were we bullies? Did I get bullied? I think the answer to both of those questions would be yes. Was it on a scale of what I was witnessing while watching this movie? Probably not but that doesn't change the fact that it happened and those actions may have had a long lasting impact on many lives. Don't get me wrong there are many instances of disputes between people that end up in physical confrontations that may not be considered bullying, at least in my opinion. I don't think we can look at every fight or altercation between two people and then label one of those people as a bully. The problem is certainly much deeper than that.

With the advance of technology the avenues that have become available to bullying behaviors have increased immensely. That is why we as parents need to be diligent and keep the lines of communication open with our children. There have been many conversations around our household with regards to bullying and I hope we are implanting a positive message with our children. As parents each us has a responsibility to be involved in our kids lives and look out for signs that something is wrong. We need to work with our schools to ensure if problems arise that they are addressed right away and not allowed to escalate. In order for this to be successful all parties involved need to be on the same page and it is my understanding that the staff at Holy Trinity Elementary take bullying very seriously. This aligns with the schools status as a member of Peaceful Schools International which promotes peaceful and safe schools around the world.

I think that The Bully Project movie should be required viewing for parents and kids alike. It certainly shines a light on behaviors that are destructive and life altering. To find out more about the Bully Project you can go to their site here.

This following video is the trailer and just a small sample of the sad and eye opening story that is the Bully Project movie.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jan 2 Free Skate at Jack Byrne Arena

I just wanted to say thank you to Councillor Brian Whitty for sponsoring this event. It was well attended and a perfect example of community spirit and involvement. I was there with my kids and it looked to me like there were over 150 people there.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 What to Look Forward To?

Well that is a good question. I guess considering that the world did not end on December 21, 2012 the first thing we will see is our 2013 Property Tax bill in the mail shortly. I am sure that will be a pleasant experience for most of us like getting some kind of invasive exam from the Proctologist.

What else do we have to look forward to in the new year? Well Municipal elections are just 264 days away, slated for September 24, 2013. That is if you actually care about that kind of stuff. I would suggest that as a new years resolution that we all resolve to pay more attention to the happenings at the Town of Torbay. This is after all our community and if we want to live in a place that reflects our collective values and aspirations.

Now of course in order to have a say in how our town is run and what types of priorities we pursue in the future, we need to have our say during the election. As we have seen since the current administration has been in power it is difficult if not impossible to get a new idea on the agenda. They seem to have tunnel vision as it relates to the direction the town should take.

I am going to try and do my part by pointing out issues that I think are important. I know that not everything I find important is important to everyone, but feel free to point that out as well. Lets us start a dialogue to exchange ideas going forward and bring those ideas to the forefront as issues in the next election.

As the old adage goes, we get the government we deserve and when we are complacent then we can hardly complain when government is complacent as well. Let 2013 be the year we look forward and bring forward ideas to make our town better.

Happy New Year!