The Observer Year in Review 2022

JANUARY Wellesley Twp. homeowners will see 5.2% tax increase this year Wellesley residents are looking at a 5.2 per cent increase on the township portion of their property tax bills as council approved the budget for 2022. That will add $54.97 to the average charge, based on a home with an assessed

Last updated on May 03, 23

Posted on Jan 05, 23

29 min read


Wellesley Twp. homeowners will see 5.2% tax increase this year

Wellesley residents are looking at a 5.2 per cent increase on the township portion of their property tax bills as council approved the budget for 2022. That will add $54.97 to the average charge, based on a home with an assessed value of $383,000.

The increase represents an increase of 2.72 per cent for service-level increases, 1.97 per cent for a general levy increase, and 0.5 per cent for a special greening levy.

Province imposes new restrictions as COVID cases spike

Nobody asked for an easily transmissible new COVID variant for Christmas. Likewise for a return to lockdown conditions. But that’s what Ontarians got, as the Omicron strain of the virus saw a massive spike in cases that prompted the government to impose new restrictions.

Overwhelmed hospitals delay non-urgent procedures yet again

Area hospitals that had been trying to deal with the backlog of surgeries, testing and other non-pandemic-related cases are in the midst of a setback. To start the year, such procedures are on hold again.

The spike in COVID-19 cases saw Ontario Health advise hospitals to proceed only with the likes of emergency and cancer care surgical procedures for at least a couple of weeks.

Omicron spike having impact on waste collection

Even as the post-holiday waste stream hits its zenith, the pandemic left collectors short-staffed, leading to a backlog the region is still trying to process. Residents have been left holding the bag – literally – for an extra day or two as workers were delayed in picking up the trash, the result of illness and mandatory isolation periods.

Woolwich hires new deputy fire chief

The job title and location are different, but Craig Eveson finds plenty to be familiar with as the new deputy chief of the Woolwich Fire Department. Eveson comes to Woolwich after some 20 years as a volunteer with the King Township department, most recently as a captain.

Craig Eveson, deputy chief of the Woolwich Fire Department

Firefighters get 7% raise

Falling farther behind the wages paid their counterparts in the other rural townships, Woolwich’s firefighters will get a seven per cent raise in each of the next three years under a budget given preliminary approval January 13. All told, the Woolwich Fire Department is looking at an operating budget of $2,274,921 in 2022, up 6.8 per cent over 2021’s budget.

Province announces funding for new schools, including one in Breslau

A new public school in Breslau is one of three new facilities planned for Waterloo Region that moved forward with a formal funding announcement from the province. The Waterloo Region District School Board will build a second school in the rapidly growing Thomasfield Homes subdivision on the east side of the village. The building will provide space for some 600 elementary students and 73 childcare spots. The province is providing $16.6 million.

Council gives Breslau splash pad project another greenlight

A renewed bid to build a splash pad in Breslau won the endorsement of Woolwich council January 24. The idea was first approved in 2012, then reaffirmed by council five years ago.

The latest plan calls for a scaled-back version – to 1,650 square feet from 4,300 sq. ft. – at a cost of $275,000, with all of the money to be provided by the community.

2022 EMSF committee opts for virtual festival again

There’ll be no firing up the griddle at the pancake tent this spring, as the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival will again be a virtual event.

[Bill Atwood]


Woolwich passes budget with 5.37% tax hike

Woolwich residents will see a 5.37 per cent tax hike this year under a budget approved February 7 during an at-times contentious council session. That amounts to an extra $50, based on a home with an average assessed value of $400,000.

The budget includes an operating budget of $21,165,461, a 10 per cent increase from the 2021 budget, and capital spending of $25,541,316, up 18.6 per cent over what was budgeted last year.

Wellesley launches campaign for new recreation centre

The contract awarded to build the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre, the committee charged with raising the community’s portion of the $27-million price tag has now launched its campaign.

“There are two campaign goals. The first is to raise $2.5 million to offset the township’s costs. The second is to foster community ownership in the project. We’re confident we’ll meet both goals, and maybe even exceed them,” said campaign chair Chris Martin.

Wellesley Twp. reaches deal with unionized workers

Wellesley reached a deal with its outside workers that provides for raises of 1.9 per cent annually over a four-year term.

The new contract with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 1542 is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021. The previous deal had expired on Dec. 31, 2020. The union represents a dozen employees in the recreation and public works departments.

St. Mary’s Hospital one of 15 centres prescribing Paxlovid

Ottawa approved Pfizer’s Paxlovid to treat COVID-19 as an at-home prescription medication in Canada, 11,000 doses were shipped across the province to clinics such as the COVID assessment clinic (CAC) at St. Mary’s General Hospital in Kitchener.

This the first oral medication that can prevent people with COVID from becoming severely ill, helping to relieve some of the pressure COVID has put on hospitals. It’s not a replacement for vaccination and is in short supply currently, so only those considered high-risk are being prescribed Paxlovid in the region.

Paxlovid is the first drug available to treat COVID-19.

Province speeds up reopening as case numbers decline

Declines in the number of COVID-19 cases and related hospitalizations, the province is stepping up its reopening schedule. As of February 17, Ontario will be moving to the next phase, allowing restaurants, bars, cinemas and other indoor public settings to increase capacity limits.

Breslau among sites chosen for nurse practitioner-led health clinic

In a bid to boost healthcare services in the area, the province will set up a new nurse practitioner-led clinic (NPLC) in Breslau. On February 18, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris announced $900,000 in annual funding to provide rural residents with greater access to primary-care services.

Maryhill will get new fire hall as Woolwich council changes course

Maryhill residents could have a new fire hall as early as later this year, or perhaps by 2023. Woolwich councillors voted February 28 to scrap tenders received to renovate the facility in favour of replacing it completely.

Having debated the issue of renovating or building new a couple of times already, councillors quickly chose the replacement option. That the latest staff report indicated a new station could be built for the original $1.4 million budget rather than $1.7 million to renovate was likely a factor in the decision.


$1-million donation a big boost to Wellesley rec. centre project

Charged with raising $2.5 million towards the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre, the fundraising committee got a big boost in the form a cheque for $1 million.

Bill Gies, who was born on a farm in St. Clements and who got his start as a developer in Wellesley, provided the signature on the cheque. His name will adorn the project’s main facility, which will be known as the Bill Gies Recreation Centre.

Mask usage to be eased

Citing continued improvements in the pandemic situation, the Ontario government announced March 9 it will remove the mandatory masking requirement for most situations on March 21, with the exception of the likes of public transit, health care facilities, long-term care homes and congregate care settings.

Region prepares to welcome Ukrainian refugees fleeing war

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, Waterloo Region is preparing to welcome refugees to the area, though just how many will arrive here remains up in the air.

“It makes it more difficult in some ways, but the same types of things need to happen, regardless of the number of people that are coming,” said Tara Bedard, executive director of Waterloo Immigration Partnership.

Bedard noted the system in place for Ukrainians coming to Canada is different from the normal refugee process.

Hospitals still experiencing staffing shortages, look to address backlogs

Local hospitals are playing catch-up again as they start to recover from the latest pandemic-related restrictions. From staffing shortages to backlogged surgeries, there’s been a big impact on their operations as restrictions lift, hospitals in the region are trying to return to normal.

Woolwich backs call for moratorium on gravel pits

While it has fewer gravel pits than North Dumfries, Woolwich is nonetheless joining its fellow rural township’s call for a moratorium on new operations and a comprehensive review of provincial policies related to aggregate extraction. North Dumfries’ resolution won the backing of Woolwich councillors meeting March 21.

Gravel pits are mostly smaller-scale in Woolwich, which isn’t a large producer of aggregate but sees benefits in changing the assessment system for such properties.

Region remains in emergency mode; pandemic not over yet

Along with the easing of pandemic restrictions, Woolwich, Wellesley and the other lower-tier municipalities have pulled the plug on the state of emergencies each declared. At the regional level, however, the declaration remains, though that means little to the average resident.

The decision came as the number of COVID-19 cases remained largely unchanged as mask mandates were lifted.

Region welcomes new deal leading to $10/day daycare

Administering licensed daycare centres got a whole lot more involved, but it’s a move being welcomed by regional officials.

There were few details, but a new agreement between the federal and provincial governments will move operations towards a $10-per-day target for childcare services. There was a 25 per cent reduction in fees charged at participating daycare facilities. That meant rolling out reimbursements retroactive to April 1 when the funding model – and the money itself – was finalized.

Volunteers step up to save minor baseball season

After some doubt about whether or not it could continue to operate, the South Woolwich Minor Baseball season was saved.

According to co-president Rob Elson, the pandemic, combined with multiple people stepping away from their committee volunteer roles, led to the possibility of the league shutting down permanently. After the organization put out the call for volunteers they had several people step forward to help.

Mennonite Central Committee Thrift shops celebrate golden anniversary

That its thrift stores have helped fund Mennonite Central Committee projects around the world for 50 years is due to the dedication of volunteer workers, the organization said.

MCC Thrift was started by four Manitoban women who opened what they thought would be a temporary location to receive clothing donations and raise money selling the items. Since that first shop opened in Altona, Man. in March of 1972, MCC Thrift has raised more than $300 million to help fund the myriad of activities undertaken by the charitable organization.

John Head, executive director of MCC Ontario, and Debbie Sierstsema, manager of MCC Thrift’s Elmira location. [Bill Atwood]

Region hospitals to get $13.6 million to help offset pandemic

Hospitals in Waterloo Region got a funding boost of more than $13.6 million from the provincial government, a share of the $572 million that is being spent across the province to help reimburse hospitals for revenue lost during the pandemic.

Cambridge Memorial Hospital received $2,957,500 while St Mary’s General Hospital got $2,539,638. Grand River Hospital was tagged for the largest amount, $8,155,752, for a total of $13,652,890.

Woolwich site among reported cases of bird flu

Much of Woolwich was deemed a control zone for the avian flu after cases were found in the area. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) took extra precaution in their efforts to curb the spread of the virus, which was first found on a Guelph-area poultry farm on March 27. A second case was reported in a poultry flock closer to London before another instance of bird flu was found at a poultry operation in Woolwich on March 30.

Province looks to speed up planning process to boost supply of housing

Speeding up the process will allow developers to build more homes more quickly, leading to lower prices, the province stressed in its effort to ease Ontario’s affordability crisis, the More Homes for Everyone Act.

Among its measures, the new bill would impose penalties on municipalities that slow down the process by which developers seek to rezone land and obtain permissions to build new homes.

The legislation draws on the industry-led Housing Affordability Task Force that concluded an increased supply was the route needed to make housing more accessible to Ontarians. That group called for the construction of 1.5 million homes over the next 10 years.

Kings finish season in first, open playoffs vs Brantford

Having clinched top spot in the Midwestern Conference, the Elmira Sugar Kings took on the eighth-place Brantford Bandits in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings took two of the final three games of the regular season to finish with a record of 35-11-1-1, their 72 points three ahead of second-place Cambridge.

Going into the final week of the season, the Kings needed just one point to clinch first place. They did just that in the first opportunity, defeating the Caledon Bombers 4-2 on March 30.


Chartwell plans to sell off long-term care homes

Chartwell’s Long Term Care Residence and Retirement Residence in Elmira were sold along with the rest of Chartwell’s Ontario long-term care platform in a $446.5-million deal. Ownership of the facilities transitioned to AgeCare Health Services, pending government approvals.

AgeCare took on Chartwell’s Ontario Long Term Care platform, including 22 facilities and 3,284 beds, plus a home under construction with 244 beds, and management of the current 100-bed home on that site.

Chartwell’s Elmira location [Leah Gerber]

Bus route cancellations on the rise due to COVID-19

More school bus routes were being cancelled or delayed throughout Waterloo Region as drivers are forced to isolate due to COVID-19. In the first week of April, there were seven cancellations alone.

The measure to cancel bus routes due to COVID-19-related absenteeism was implemented as a last resort on January 24, and was expected to end in February. Since January there have been 36 route cancellations due to drivers isolating because of COVID-19, whereas earlier in March there were weeks with no cancellations.

Board reopening facilities to the public

The region’s high school gyms were re-opened for community bookings. The Waterloo Region  District School Board announced it’s cautiously reopening facilities for use by the public. The reopening was in four phases, beginning with allowing secondary school gyms to be booked during the weekends in phase one, which began the first week of April. Spectators were not allowed, however.

Long-term care homes receive provincial funding to help boost staffing numbers

Local long-term care homes shared in some $7.1 million in provincial funding to help with staffing shortages. The money was directed at the province’s commitment that residents of such homes receive an average of four hours of direct care each day by 2025.

Region looks to lower bag limits on garbage collection

The region rolled out new restrictions on garbage collection, dropping to three from four the number of bags that can be put at the curb every two weeks. The reduction followed 2017’s introduction of biweekly collection and bag limits. The new measures were planned for October .

Sugar Kings sweep through first round of GOJHL playoffs

The Elmira Sugar Kings swept through the Bandits, winning game four by a score of 6-1 April 12 in Brantford to wrap up the first round of the Midwestern Conference playoffs.

Breslau residents fed up with post office vandalism

Changes to the outlet in Breslau following a string of vandalism incidents that had some residents picking up their mail elsewhere.

The post office was reported as being in rough shape: the glass in the front door was broken, and the door boarded up, a large hole was kicked in the vestibule drywall and holes punched in many of the small glass windows in the metal postboxes.

Kathleen Gardiner was among the residents concerned about vandalism incidents at the Breslau post office. [Leah Gerber]

Neighbours concerned about plans for former auto-wrecking site in Elmira

A northeast-Elmira neighbourhood abutted by industrial sites got a new worry in the form of a planned expansion of the operational area of a former auto-wrecking site. The owners of 39 Arthur St. N. are seeking zoning and official plan amendments to permit what is now some 7.7 acres of open space covered with trees and scrub-brush to be converted to a gravel parking lot. The applications were discussed at a public meeting as Woolwich councillors met April 11.

[File Photo]

Part of the property also sits atop a former municipal landfill site decommissioned decades ago, but with lingering methane issues.

New arrivals area opened at airport

In the morning, Waterloo Region Chair Karen Redman deemed it a “great day for the airport and our region,” in the afternoon the CEO of Flair, the very airline that is expected to lead service out of the newly expanded airport, had to reassure customers that it would be able to continue flying past May 3.

The region held the official opening of the domestic arrivals building on April 21, part of the $44- million terminal expansion at Waterloo Region International Airport in Breslau.

Sale of Quarry Integrated Communications

St. Jacobs-based Quarry Integrated Communications didn’t have far to go in changing hands: the company was acquired by long-time employees. The company was founded by former chair Alan Quarry’s father, Bob Quarry, in 1973. Alan joined in 1983 and bought out his father five years later.

The move sees Tony Mohr, Meredith Fuller, Mandey Moote and Richard Hill each take a 25 per cent stake in the company. While the actual sale was made in October 2020, the ownership succession plan was completed in April.

Kings defeat Stratford to advance

The Elmira Sugar Kings moved on to face Cambridge in the Midwestern Conference finals after defeating the Stratford Warriors in six games. The Kings closed out the second-round series April 29 with a 5-2 win in Stratford. That followed a 3-1 victory two nights earlier at home.


Breaking new ground

After years of anticipation, work finally began on the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre. A ground-breaking ceremony took place May 2 at the site, located at the corner of Queens Bush and Hutchison roads. The targeted completion date is in the fall of 2023. The project is budgeted to cost $27.2 million.

An official sod-turning ceremony kicked off construction of the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre. Those taking part included Wellesley rec. director Danny Roth, regional Chair Karen Redman, Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Mike Harris, capital campaign chair Chris Martin, Cam Ball and Brendon Aiken of Ball Construction, Matthew Delean and Albert Paquette of Architecture 49 and Wellesley CAO Rik Louwagie. [Leah Gerber]

Region looks to expropriate lands for new roundabout

Region of Waterloo staff sought approval to expropriate land to build a roundabout at the intersection of Floradale Road and Line 86 west of Elmira.

In this case, small portions of land near the roads at the intersection are being expropriated in a permanent easement to allow regional staff to enter the land at any time for the purpose of installing and maintaining stormwater management infrastructure.

Wellesley approves pilot project to allow food trucks

The weather finally allowing for food-truck season in earnest, Wellesley council approved a pilot project May 10 that allows such vehicles to operate on municipal property.

Elmira’s season ends after third-round playoff loss to Cambridge

A strong season that included finishing atop the Midwestern Conference came to an end May 12 when the Elmira Sugar Kings lost 4-1 to the Cambridge Redhawks, the same tally as the best-of-seven series. The Kings swept through the Brantford Bandits in the first round of the GOJHL playoffs, then defeated the Stratford Warriors in six games. But after winning the first game of the Cambridge series, the Kings lost the next four.

Jones family donates $500K to Wellesley rec. project

When the Wellesley Township Community Health Centre makes the move to the new rec. complex, the name above the entrance will be the Jones Family Health and Wellness Centre. Jeff and Julie Jones of Linwood pledged $500,000 to the construction of the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre.

Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak; Rosslyn Bentley, executive director of the Woolwich Community Health Centre; Julie and Jeff Jones; and Chris Martin, chair of the Something for Everyone Capital Campaign, are all smiles after the announcement the Jones will provide $500,000 towards the new Wellesley Township Recreation Centre, which will be the new home of the health centre. [Submitted]

Woolwich takes next step in converting Kiwanis House site into affordable housing

Plans to convert the former Kiwanis House property in Elmira into affordable housing moved closer May 30 as the township declared the land surplus.

The property at 28 South St. W. will also be rezoned to allow for medium-density residential use, with an eye on preparing the site for sale. Woolwich will also seek proposals from organizations able to build affordable/low-income housing there.

Woolwich is looking to redevelop the site at South Street and Snyder Avenue to clear the way for an affordable housing project.

Woolwich awards contract to build new Maryhill fire station

Maryhill will have a brand spanking new fire hall next year, with Woolwich council meeting May 30 awarding a $1.6-million contract to carry out the project. Domm Construction Ltd. was the lower of two bids received. The new 5,200-square-foot building will replace the aging 1966 structure located at 17 St. Charles St. E. The final price tag is some $200,000 higher than budgeted due to some additions beyond the winning bid’s specifications, including upgraded windows, the addition of a mezzanine and paving the parking lot.


Jakobstettel site to host Ukrainian refugees

The old Jakobstettel Country Inn in St. Jacobs will be put to good use in the coming months as community members work together to prepare it for welcoming and temporarily housing Ukrainian refugees.

St. Jacobs residents Anne Brubacher, Clint Rohr and Paul Kalbfleish in front of the former Jakobstettel Country Inn. [Leah Gerber]

Harris easily retains Kitchener-Conestoga seat

Mike Harris Jr. handily won re-election in the Kitchener-Conestoga riding as part of June 2’s big win for the Progressive Conservatives. Where the local race was close in 2018, Harris edging the NDP candidate by 700 votes, this time around the PC candidate won by more than 4,000.

Unofficial results from Elections Ontario show Harris captured 15,045 votes, just over 40 per cent of those cast in the riding. The NDP’s Karen Meissner was second with 10,851 votes (28.9 per cent), followed by Liberal Melanie Van Alphen (17.5 per cent) and Nasir Abdulle of the Green Party with 2,315 (6.2 per cent). The field was rounded out by Jim Karahalious of the New Blue Party (2,223 votes, 5.9 per cent), Elisabeth Perrin Snyder of the Ontario Party (501, 1.3 per cent) and Jason Adair of Populist Ontario (64, 0.17 per cent). Voter turnout was 48.55 per cent.

New WCHC facility will include dental facility for low-income seniors

A new dental facility for low-income seniors will be built at the new location of the Wellesley Township Community Health Centre, which will be part of the municipality’s new recreation complex.

The Ontario Seniors Dental Care program is a provincial program to help low-income seniors with their dental care that is already up and running, but patients must travel to facilities in Cambridge or Kitchener for treatment. The new facility is expected to lessen wait times.

Wellesley admin. trying out a four-day work week

There are more long weekends at the Wellesley Township office for full-time administrative staff. Meeting June 7, Wellesley council voted to allow fulltime administration staff at Wellesley township to work a compressed work week and flexible work arrangement in a year-long pilot.

Region’s hospitals to maintain mask mandate

While the provincial government lifted mask mandates in most settings, including public transit and healthcare settings, Waterloo-Wellington hospitals will keep the mandate in place for the time being.

Region looks to expand ambulance services to meet growing demand

Expanded ambulance services are on tap for Waterloo Region. Officials are looking at adding some 30 vehicles and 55 paramedics to the mix. Regional councillors unanimously approved a proposal that would implement three 12-hour ambulances, one emergency response unit and the required staff in October at a total cost of $717,000. It would add eight more ambulances in 2023 pending budget approval. Council also approved the pre-ordering of up to 17 more ambulances. The total cost of the ambulances would be $10 million, with $5.3 million coming out of the region’s tax stabilization reserve.

Developer unveils plan for 166-unit subdivision in Wellesley village

Plans for a 166-unit residential subdivision in Wellesley village were rolled out at a public meeting during a June 21 township council session.

Located on Gerber Road, the proposed subdivision includes 66 single-detached units, 34 semi-detached and 66 townhouse units. The development also includes a park, linear park and stormwater management facility. It would include five roads and two walkways. Strohvest Ontario Inc. needs a change to the zoning bylaw to proceed. The 25-acre site is currently used for agriculture. Tim Van Hinte, director of development for the township who presented the report to council, suggested the project could expand the housing mix in the village.

Access to the Grand

Woolwich formally launched a new partnership with the West Montrose Family Camp, and Regional Tourism Organization 4 to create a new river access point in West Montrose. Tubers, kayakers, canoers, and other water users can access the new point via the campground located at 6344 Line 86 from mid-May to mid-October.

Woolwich to look at video cameras to counter vandalism

Cameras are to appear in Breslau Memorial Park and Lions Park in Elmira in response to acts of vandalism. The township had seen some $8,000 in damage at the two locations, along with vandalism at some of its other recreation facilities. Woolwich councillors agreed to the option of video surveillance. Beyond graffiti, the principal areas of destructive vandalism have been park washroom facilities and fieldhouses, manager of operations and projects Thomas van der Hoff told councillors meeting June 27.

Woolwich to buy former childcare site in Elmira

Given the $2 price tag, buying the former Elmira Children’s Centre at 22 Mockingbird Dr. in Elmira was an easy decision for Woolwich council. Deciding what to do with the property may require more thought.

At just under an acre, the landlocked site owned by the Region of Waterloo is surrounded by Park Manor Park. In buying the property, Woolwich plans to tear down the existing 6,700-square-foot building, which has been vacant since 2016 and is in poor repair. Recreation staff suggest a new storage facility be built on the site, but that idea met with some reservations at councillors agreed to the land deal on June 27.


Airport makes it official with latest terminal expansion

In a move to further accommodate the increasing number of passengers leaving from the region, a new departure lounge opened at Waterloo Airport July 5. The lounge is part of the $44-million terminal expansion project at the airport, which is expected to see between 500,000 and 700,000 pass through by the end of the year.

Flair Airlines CEO Stephen Jones, regional Chair Karen Redman, airport manager Chris Wood and MP Tim Louis cut the ribbon to officially open the new departure lounge at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. [Bill Atwood]

Province looking to chemical producer to check for Canagagigue hotspots

The Ministry of Environment asked Lanxess and consultants to do more evaluation of the hotspots along the Canagagigue Creek, among other requests related to the Elmira chemical plant. Provincial staff looked over and provided comments on the human health and ecological risk assessment draft prepared last month by Lanxess Canada and its environmental consultants.

[Leah Gerber]

Rotary Club fetes new Drayton park

To mark their 75th anniversary, the Drayton Rotary Club, along with the Township of Mapleton, held a grand-opening event July 16 at the new park on Queen Street East. The township financed the $100,000 cost of the park, with the Rotary Club fundraising to reimburse the municipality.

Drayton Rotary Club president Bob Bignell cuts the ribbon July 16 to officially open the new Rotary Park in Drayton as Mapletown Mayor Gregg Davidson (middle) and Perth-Wellington MPP Mathew Rea (back right) look on. [Bill Atwood]

Data breached at school board

In July, the Waterloo Region District Schoolboard was the victim of illegal cybercrime when attackers gained unauthorized access to the board’s information technology system.

The attackers gained access to the personal information of current and past employees, as well as students. The information they gained about employees included names, birthdates, banking information and social insurance numbers of current and past employees back to 1970. Payment history to 2012 was also accessed.

Dry spell putting pressure on farmers in Ontario

Farmers in the area are faced a time of dryness. Agriculture Canada classified most of southwestern Ontario as “abnormally dry” in a July 30 report, with little relief since. Abnormally dry is considered a one-in-three year event. That said, local farmers and researchers may say it is much, much drier than normal. That lack of rain could impact crop yields in the fall, particularly corn, which relies on precipitation in June and July.


Rezoned Conestogo mill property back on the market

The former mill in Conestogo, which could be redeveloped into an event space, was back up for sale or lease. After a multi-year process to change the zoning to allow for a commercial space, the owners put the properties at 1795 and 1805 Sawmill Rd. back on the market. The planning report submitted to the township outlines a plan to operate the site as an event venue, but the owners say they never intended to operate the venue themselves.

After a process of at least four years to change the zoning to allow for a commercial space, the owners put the properties at 1795 and 1805 Sawmill Road up for sale or lease. [Leah Gerber]

Woolwich backs decreased land allocation as region moves on needs assessment

Higher densities and less land designated for development are targets in the latest version of Waterloo Region’s growth forecast for the next 30 years. In Woolwich, where councillors on August 8 endorsed the revisions, that means the allocation of some 560 acres of land for development of residential, commercial and industrial projects instead of the 1,165 acres earmarked in the draft from just two months ago.

Cost recovery is key as Woolwich continues vetting on-farm businesses

Concerned about recovering costs of the program, Woolwich nonetheless pressed ahead with an effort to bring problematic on-farm business into legal compliance.

Township planning staff began contacting farm operators two years ago, seeking out non-compliant operations and trying to bring them back into conformity with zoning bylaws and the building code.

The process began in the north end of the township and is moving south, manager of planning Jeremy Vink told councillors meeting August 8. The agricultural enforcement program had then covered about a third of the township. At the current pace, he expects it would take another six years to get to all the operations.

Council takes on ABC Fest

Wellesley council voted August 30 to establish the Apple Butter and Cheese Festival committee as an official committee of the township. The move was requested by ABC Fest chair Jamie Reid in June, citing the rising cost of insurance to cover the event. As an official committee of council, this expense would be covered under the township’s blanket insurance policy.

Woolwich councillor receiving criticism following rainbow comment

A request to be inclusive quickly got divisive at a Woolwich council meeting August 22, provoking some heated comments and generating an ongoing controversy.

The discussion was prompted by a letter from the Canadian Mental Health Association Waterloo Wellington about the creation of a “progress rainbow crosswalk” for the town of Elmira in support of the 2SLGBTQI+ community. Comments from Coun. Murray Martin taking issue with the use of the rainbow symbol on religious grounds immediately shifted the tenor of the meeting.

“I’m not in favour of it. It’s not in keeping with the values of this community They can send this letter right back where it came from,” Martin said of the CMHA’s request, objecting to the co-opting of the rainbow symbol: “So now we use that and we trash it to promote a lifestyle that is not correct.”

Screen capture of online meeting of Woolwich council August 22, 2022.


Local hydro merger now official

In the works for several years, the merger of Waterloo North Hydro and Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro was completed. Waterloo North Hydro, which was owned by the City of Waterloo (73.2 per cent) and the Townships of Woolwich (20.2 per cent) and Wellesley (6.6 per cent), began exploring options for merging with other local distribution companies in 2017.

The merger with Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro was announced on October 1 of 2021. Representatives from the two local distribution companies (LDCs) and the five impacted municipalities were on hand September 8 to celebrate the merger and announce the name of the newly formed Enova Power Corp. The company officially began operations on September 12.

Co-CEO Rene Gatien, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky, Wilmot Mayor Les Armstrong, board chair Rosa Lupo, Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz, Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Wellesley Mayor Joe Nowak and co-CEO Jerry Van Ooteghem at merger event. [Bill Atwood]

Ali Khan named first male ambassador of Wellesley Fall Fair

On top of being feted as the township’s junior citizen of the year September 13, Ali Khan was named the first male ambassador in the Wellesley Fall Fair’s 169-year history. Alexis Boyd Koudys was named as a co-ambassador and will be asked to participate in events throughout the year.

Wellesley Fair board president Karen Schlueter Pilecki with ambassador Ali Khan, Alexis Boyd Koudys and the outgoing ambassador, Avery Flynn [Bill Atwood

Region reducing school-zone speeds, rolling out more cameras

The Region of Waterloo launched a new pilot program to slow the speed limit in school zones, fully operating its automated speed enforcement program. The speed limit can adjust depending on the time of day, week and month to reflect when kids are in school. School zone areas are reduce speed by 10 to 20 kilometres per hour, set it at 40 kilometres per hour in others.


Education workers vote in favour of strike

Gearing up for a battle with the province, educational support staff have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action if needed. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) reported October 3 that 96.5 per cent of workers – the likes of educational assistants, early childhood educators and custodians – supported the stance. CUPE represents some 55,000 such school workers.

Bivalent booster available for those aged 12 and up

The Moderna spikevax bivalent vaccine was made available from mid-September. It is recommended as a booster dose for people 18 and up. Now, as of October 17, the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty bivalent vaccine is available in Ontario, and is recommended as a booster dose for people ages 12 and up.

Still rolling on down the road after 30 years

Kiwanis Transit, the Elmira-based specialty transportation service, celebrated 30 years of being a fixture in the community. The service grew from one bus and 85 riders in 1992 to nine buses and almost 60,000 riders per year before the pandemic hit.

Cheryl Fisher, Carie Stroszka and Lawrence Lambkin with one of the Kiwanis Transit vehicles at the Elmira office. [Bill Atwood]

Shantz re-elected mayor in Woolwich

Re-elected for a third term October 24, Woolwich Mayor Sandy Shantz would see new faces around the council table in the next term. Shantz garnered 3,929 votes in the municipal election, while challenger Patrick Merlihan, a Ward 1 councillor at the time, received 2,857.

Neither incumbent ran in Ward 1, so two newcomers – Evan Burgess and Nathan Cadeau – joined council following the vote.  In Ward 2, Eric Schwindt defeated incumbent Fred Redekop, while in Ward 3, former councillor Bonnie Bryant and first-time candidate Kayla Grant prevailed.

Woolwich Council

Wellesley sees three new faces at the council table

Wellesley council got three new faces – two who won seats in the October 24 municipal election and one by acclamation – in the new session.

In Ward 2, Derek Brick defeated Mary Lichty by 613 to 356, while Claude Hergott beat Robert Caskanette 423 votes to 297 to take Ward 4. The newly elected representatives joined Mayor Nowak, who was acclaimed to a third term, and Ward 1 Coun. Shelley Wagner, who was acclaimed to a fifth term. Newcomer Lori Sebben was acclaimed in Ward 2.

Wellesley Council

Company gets nod for new Elmira gas station

The gas station proposed by Grant Castle Corp.  for Arthur Street South and Earl Martin Drive in Elmira was approved. Construction is expected to begin in May. It will be the third gas station, and fourth carwash in a 700-metre radius at the south end of town.

The gas station proposed for Arthur Street South and Earl Martin Drive in Elmira has been approved by the township and construction is expected to begin in May. [Leah Gerber]

Development approved for Barnswallow Drive site

A piece of vacant land on Elmira’s west side slated for commercial development will now be predominantly residential, as Woolwich council approved the switch.

Nomadiq Elmira Towns Ltd. can now go ahead with the development of the 1.5-acre site at 15 Barnswallow Dr., which was originally slated for a one-level strip mall-type building. Instead, the location will be home to 45 stacked-townhouses along with six residential units above a much smaller ground-floor commercial space. Meeting October 31, councillors gave the go-ahead to the necessary changes to the township’s official plan and zoning on the property.

Woolwich council approved plans for stacked townhomes at the corner of Church Street and Barnswallow Drive in Elmira. The land was previously designated for commercial use. [Submitted]


Ambulance wait times, offloading delays worsen

Waterloo Region paramedics lost A total of 465 days in offload delay times through the first nine months of this year. That’s up dramatically from the 249 days lost during all of 2021.

Offload delays measure the gap between the time an ambulance arrives at the hospital and the patient is transferred into the hospital’s care, releasing the ambulance back into service.

New provincial measures curtail development charges

Soaring development charges that add tens of thousands to the cost of a new home were a big target as the province rolled out Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act.

The bill impacts ten pieces of legislation, including the Conservation Authorities, Development Charges, Municipal, Ontario Heritage, Ontario Land Tribunal and Planning acts. Key changes have been made to the fees collected from builders for future development. When it comes to certain kinds of affordable, non-profit and inclusionary zoning housing, developers will be exempted from paying municipal development charges and other fees. The act also requires municipalities to spend or allocate 60 per cent of their reserve funds annually.

Education workers’ strike short-lived

Ontario’s 55,000 education workers were back on the job November 8 after ending their strike action when the province withdrew back-to-work legislation, but a new contract remains to be negotiated.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says its ready to take action again if a deal is not reached. The workers – custodians, educational assistants and early childhood educators – walked November 4 and 7 in contravention of Ontario’s Bill 28, which made the strike illegal and imposed a new contract, the Ford government opting to use the Charter of Right’s notwithstanding clause to pre-empt legal action.

Greenbelt supporters protest at MPP’s office

Two weeks earlier it was education workers picketing outside the Elmira office of MPP Mike Harris. On November16, the people gathered out in front were protesting the Ford government’s plans to alter the Greenbelt. Some 30 people rallied at the location to air concerns about recent government proposals to allow development in the Greenbelt, the protected area of green space, farms, forests and other land surrounding the Greater Golden Horseshoe.

EDSS senior girls capture first regional basketball title

The EDSS senior girls’ basketball team captured its first-ever regional AAA championship with a 48-45 win over the St. Benedict Saints at the November 21 final in Guelph. The win followed a disappointing finish in the WCSSAA final in which they were defeated 42-33 by Waterloo-Oxford after a 10-0 season. It was that loss that helped propel the team to the Central Western Ontario Secondary Schools Association (CWOSSA) championship.

The EDSS senior girls’ basketball team captured its first-ever regional AAA championship with a 48-45 win over the St. Benedict Saints at Monday night’s final in Guelph. [Bill Atwood]

Hospitals see increase in emergency visits

The number of patients under 18 years of age visiting the emergency department at Grand River Hospital with respiratory illnesses nearly tripled over the course of the year compared to 2021.

From April through September of this year there were 1,242 patients who went to the emergency department, up from 456 over the same period last year. The number of pediatric patients being admitted to the hospital for respiratory illness has also gone up over the same timeframe, with 28 kids in GRH in 2021 versus 156 in 2022, a 457 per cent increase. The increase comes as cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in kids are going up across the province.


Municipalities have concerns about Bill 23

Staff at Woolwich and Wellesley townships raised what they see are red flags about Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act. The wide-reaching bill affects multiple pieces of legislation at once.

Staff at both townships say they are worried this will reduce their capacity to fund the infrastructure needed for growth, that infrastructure projects and services could be eliminated, costs be passed on to existing taxpayers, or townships may be forced to rely on debt. Woolwich notes it already has an exemption on development charges for affordable housing.

Wellesley eyes large tax increase

Wellesley homeowners can expect A 14 per cent increase in the township portion of their property taxes in 2023, led by payments on the loan for the new township rec. complex. Ratepayers will see a jump of $179.29 based on an average home assessed at $389,000. Of that, just shy of $100 will go towards repaying the debenture on the $27-million Wellesley Township Recreation Centre. That accounts for a 7.77 per cent increase in taxes.

The township is currently looking at a 4.43 per cent general tax levy increase, along with an extra one per cent for infrastructure projects and 0.75 per cent for greening initiatives. Those figures were arrived at following preliminary budget deliberations by Wellesley councillors.

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