Cobourg looks at returning Christmas Magic to Victoria Park

By Cecilia Nasmith

At its committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday, Cobourg council voted to set up an ad hoc committee to examine the possibility of returning Christmas Magic to Victoria Park.

The Christmas decoration-and-lighting extravaganza took place there each holiday season for many years until, in 2015, it was moved to the harbourfront for a number of reasons. These included easing stress on the trees in the park and the superior electrical infrastructure of the harbourfront area.

At council, Bruce Moore made the appeal, based on his Facebook survey as well as his own wishes to see Victoria Park return to its former holiday glory.

In its current location, Moore said, it looks more like a private display for the owners of the harbourfront condominiums, while the park is left in the dark.

“People who voted (on his survey) say how they miss it from when they were young, seeing the bandshell lit up, and now not being able to share it with their kids,” he reported.

“Almost 1,300 voted, and over 1,200 said light the park. Forty-four said leave it where it is,” Moore added.

“This is not a small amount of people. Many of you, while you were campaigning, said you were here for the people, This is a way to prove it.”

Moore shared some of the comments his survey produced, including one respondent who pointed out that it is far safer to let children run about among the decorations in the park, than in the harbourfront where a roadway divides the display.

Councillor Adam Bureau made a motion to strike an ad hoc committee to examine the issue and to include it in budget deliberations. Councillor Brian Darling suggested that their work might include a survey to measure support for moving it back to Victoria Park, leaving it at the harbourfront, extending it from the harbourfront to Victoria Park, or discontinuing it altogether.

Cobourg opts in for cannabis retailing...barely

By Cecilia Nasmith

Cobourg council did heed the near-consensus of the town's citizens – expressed both through an on-line survey and in-person presentations at a special meeting – not to opt out of retail cannabis sales, but the vote at Monday's committee-of-the-whole meeting was four to three.

Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin was joined by Mayor John Henderson and Councillor Emily Chorley in supporting her motion to have staff notify the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario that the town will not permit cannabis retail stores.

Henderson was eloquent in his opposition to opting in, largely based on how Ontario Premier Doug Ford has rolled out legalization in the province.

“The dynamics and information change monthly and, right now, I feel like we have got the cart in front of the horse. That's not how I expect this council to run, and yet that's how cannabis has come out,” the mayor said.

Though he accepts that Cobourg stands to benefit as an innovative community that is friendly to business, he noted, he cannot reconcile that with the lack of control the town will have over where such retail establishments can be set up.

This is administered through the commission with a prescribed 150-metre separation distance from schools, but no consideration for proximity to other establishments like day-care centres and services for special-needs populations. It will entertain comments in objection, but only those filed within 15 days.

“That would be of significant concern,” the mayor said.

“Normally, our planning department controls planning in the Town of Cobourg – in my nine years here, they have done a brilliant job. Under the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, we lose all right to our planning and development. We have no say in the building, no say in the operation, no say in how the building is maintained.

“At this point, I am not supportive because of the governance expectations Mr, Ford has for all municipalities, including ours.”

In any event, Henderson added, a town Cobourg's size is not even eligible for the upcoming lottery for the first 25 licensed cannabis stores.

“For me, the carrot is this council has the right to opt in at any time through resolution. I would like to learn from other municipalities our size what's working, what fears are being put to rest, what issues are you dealing with as a municipality.”

Because the town can opt back in at any time, Henderson said, the motion does not truly disregard the support of cannabis retailing that so many of its citizens have expressed. However, Councillors Aaron Burchat, Brian Darling, Nicole Beatty and Adam Bureau supported an opt-in status at this time – after all, Darling noted, it could be years down the road before such a store sets up business in town.

Darling also had a point about the revenue-sharing arrangement that the province will adhere to. As he explained it, 50% of all the province's proceeds above $100-million will be shared only with municipalities that had opt-in status as of the Jan. 22 deadline Ontario has set to offer municipalities the one-time-only opportunity to opt out.

Though he admitted concern with ceding virtually all planning authority in this area to the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, director of planning Glenn McGlashon said this kind of thing is not unprecedented. For example, the Liberal government that Ford defeated had the Green Energy Act, under which local planning decisions could not impact a green-energy project. Still, he did characterize the 15-day period for comment as an unusually tight time frame.

Henderson said about half of Ontario's municipalities had not made the opt-in-opt-out decision as yet, but he had researched what municipalities that are about Cobourg's size had made a decision. Among those opting in were the Town of Orangeville, the Town of Owen Sound, the Municipality of Leamington, the Town of Huntsville, the Municipality of Chatham and Kent, and – just up the road within Northumberland County – the Municipality of Trent Hills,

He is hoping for a chance to learn from these municipalities and, meanwhile, to join those that have opted out. This list includes the Municipality of Bluewater, the Town of Ingersoll, the City of Markham, the City of Mississauga, the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Town of Wasaga Beach.

“We don't even have a bylaw for odour, we don't know the involvement of the health unit, we don't know the implications for enforcement,” Henderson said.

“It's already legal – those issues we will have to deal with, but I don't see any of those issues having any bearing on retail sales,” Darling countered.

“People are going to buy the product here or somewhere else, and all those issues are going to be there.”

In defeating the motion, Municipal Clerk Brent Larmer confirmed, the town would set its status as opting in.

Council will seek new ombudsman, integrity commissioner and closed-meeting investigator

By Cecilia Nasmith

At Monday's committee-of-the-whole meeting, Cobourg council voted to make three jobs of one, and to issue an RFP for each.

The motion came as a result of a review of the appointment of John Ewart (of Ewart O'Dwyer Barristers and Solicitors) as the town's integrity commissioner, ombudsman and closed-meeting investigator. In making the change, the motion noted, Ewart's appointment is to be extended for the purpose of concluding any final on-going investigations that remain with his office and reporting back to council upon their conclusion.

Council's vote was not only for a replacement, but for three – in effect, issuing separate RFPs for an integrity commissioner, ombudsman and closed-meeting investigator.

Over the course of his three years at the post, ending December 2018, Ewart has billed the town $6,278.17 for ombudsman services, $4,283.04 for integrity-commissioner services and nothing for closed-meeting-investigation services.

Cobourg Council Reviews New Procedural Bylaw Thoroughly

By Cecilia Nasmith

At its first committee-of-the-whole meeting Monday, the new Cobourg council took the time for a thorough review of the draft amended council procedural bylaw – a comprehensive 68-page document that could potentially result in big changes to how council is run.

In fact, Councillor Emily Chorley remarked at the outset of the review that she had a list of about 20 of her own amendments to put on the floor.

The report from Municipal Clerk Brent Larmer and Records and Committee Co-ordinator Robyn Bonneau set out the draft document to govern council and committee rules of order and procedure, with prospective changes in red. Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin presided over a review of the entire draft, heading by heading. The finished draft, with changes made, will be the subject of a Jan. 28 public meeting (at 6 p.m.) to allow public comment and review.

One immediate change could be the 4 p.m. starting time for council meetings. Chorley called it a barrier to participation for members of the public and suggested 6 p.m. That is the time council now reserves for public meetings on council and committee-of-the-whole days, but Chorley suggested public meetings could be scheduled separately on additional days.

Mayor John Henderson reminded Chorley that a previous council (which had been meeting at 7 p.m.) undertook a fairly extensive governance review.

“From that investigation, and from similar-size municipalities, we did agree to try it at 4 p.m.,” Henderson said.

“My personal experience is that we have had more people attend at 4 p.m. than we ever did at 7 p.m.”

This took into consideration staff time, he added, which is a concern not to be dismissed lightly. Staffers who attend council meetings, in many cases, have been at work since perhaps 8:30 a.m. With a 7 p.m. start time for council, that's long enough – but then there are times when a meeting has gone past 11 p.m., and those staffers who stick around for that have to be back at work at 8:30 a.m. next morning.

Councillor Brian Darling – a veteran of both 7 p.m. and 4 p.m. meetings – said he agreed with the adjustment to 6 p.m., as it was a complaint he had heard himself.

“If it were to move to 6 p.m., I would ask to reflect on how we then best approach our public meetings – we seem to be having more and more as we go through the years,” Henderson commented.

Chorley had other amendments that remove any limits from delegations, while Larmer attempted to explain that he would like to see an informal cap at four delegations per meeting just for the sake of not overloading agendas and making meetings run more efficiently. When he asks a delegation to delay for a week or two and they object, Larmer said, he usually allows them to proceed.

“We had a meeting last year with 13 delegations,” he said.

“There's more public engagement now than ever, and more information coming to council through staff reports. My job is to try to get meetings to run effectively and efficiently.”

“I don't want to give the sense we are trying to limit anyone coming before council. I agree we should not have limitations,” the mayor allowed.

Chorley even put forth an amendment banning a subsequent presentation by someone unless he or she had substantial new information. This kind of request comes in several times a year, Larmer said, and his commitment to efficient meetings typically means he is inclined to refuse such a request (noting that, in each case, his decision can be appealed).

Sometimes people just want to take a second shot, Chorley argued.

“I consider this to be far too restrictive. It is already difficult for members of the public to come forward and make their views heard. I don't think we need to add an additional restriction.”

Chorley's amendment to that effect carried four to three.

A new requirement for petitions is that, in addition to legible names, they carry legible addresses for each signatory. And, of course, no obscene or improper language is permitted.

The proposal for a quarterly open forum was changed on motions from Chorley and Nicole Beatty to an open forum to be tacked on to the end of each committee-of-the-whole meeting as an opportunity for anyone to address council, make informal comments or have questions answered on matters of municipal business. Each person wishing to take advantage of this opportunity must sign in with the municipal clerk and adhere to a 10-minute maximum.

Henderson reminded council that, over his nine years, he has seen meetings increase in length to the point that four hours is no longer uncommon.

“At what point do we become exhausted?” he wondered.

“I just want to caution you to find a balance if you are just starting out, for ourselves, for the public, for the staff – what's the balance? We could be here five, six or seven hours.”

At that point, Chorley proposed a five-minute maximum instead - “because 10 minutes is essentially the same as a delegation.” The amendment was carried.

Larmer will prepare a new draft in time for the Jan. 28 meeting.

Capitol Theatre Announces the Appointments of New Artistic Director and Managing Director


Olga Cwiek, Board Chair of the Capitol Theatre, Port Hope, announced on January 4th the hiring of Susan Ferley as Artistic Director and Mike Forrester as Managing Director.

Says Cwiek, “Susan brings a rich history as a director and artistic director. She has worked in theatres across Canada including Stratford Festival and Shaw Festival Theatre. Her work embraces a rich range of genres that includes comedy, drama, classics, musical theatre and theatre for young audiences. As an Artistic Director she has lead two professional theatres, The Globe Theatre, a unique theatre in the round in Regina Saskatchewan, and London Ontario’s Grand Theatre.”

Ferley recently returned from London England where she spent an “invigorating” year of study at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama enriching her work as an actor trainer, coach and theatre artist. She will begin work at the Capitol in mid February.

Says Ferley, “I am excited to begin this new adventure, and together with the Capitol’s board, staff and volunteers, building on the strengths of this beautiful and historically significant theatre. I love the beauty of Port Hope — an exquisite setting for this jewel of a theatre, and I am looking forward to becoming an active member of the community.”

Mike Forrester, the new Managing Director, will be relocating from Vancouver, following several years as the Executive Director of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, where he oversaw tremendous growth, incorporated a Foundation to support the organization, and prepared the company for its next ten years of operation. His background in arts management also includes nine years at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, most recently as Executive Vice President.

Says Forrester, “I am thrilled to join the staff, board and volunteers of the Capitol Theatre for the next chapter in the storied history of the venue.”

A one-time resident of Cobourg for several years, Mike worked in local radio. He and his family are delighted to be returning to Northumberland County and look forward to becoming enthusiastic and engaged members of the Port Hope community, and actively representing and growing the historic Capitol Theatre. Mike will begin work at the Capitol on January 14th.

Adds Cwiek, “The Theatre’s Board and I are very excited and confident that these two outstanding and talented individuals will allow the Capitol Theatre to continue its on-going journey of entertainment excellence. They were selected from a great number of worthy applicants — we are very impressed with their comprehensive theatre experience.”

Susan Ferley

Susan Ferley

Mike Forrester

Mike Forrester

Cobourg encourages public engagement in 2019 budget

By Cecilia Nasmith

The Town of Cobourg has announced a public budget meeting to allow citizens to share ideas on municipal service priorities (and how they would like to see municipal tax dollars spent), as it begins the process of drawing up its 2019 municipal operating and capital budget.

The meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Jan. 14 in council chambers on the third floor east at Victoria Hall (55 King St. W.). The agenda will be published at

The budget-review process begins in October, when the management team reviews their respective departments' preliminary budget numbers. The budget committee (consisting of Chief Administrative Officer Stephen Peacock, Deputy Mayor Suzanne Seguin and Treasurer Ian Davey) then review the proposed budget and invite citizens to provide their feedback before a submission to council for review. This process allows for more consultation among departmental budgets with a week's time given to each for discussion.

Input and submissions for the Jan. 14 public meeting can be e-mailed to the deputy mayor at or in person at the meeting. If you wish to make a presentation to council at that time provide a written submission to Municipal Clerk Brent Larmer (e-mail address Each presenter will be allotted a maximum of 15 minutes.

The public input will help inform the town of citizens' priorities for programs and services for the upcoming budget year, and members of the public are highly encouraged to participate in upcoming community-council sessions.

Dates are still to be determined for the special council budget session and for final approval of the municipal budget by council (which will take place at a regular council meeting). All upcoming budget dates will be posted at once they are determined.

All open public meetings will take place in council chambers at Victoria Hall, and will also be broadcast live on the town's YouTube channel (

For more information on Cobourg's 2019 operating and capital budget, visit

Northumberland begins work on its 10-year EAB plan

By Cecilia Nasmith

The new year has marked the beginning of work on Northumberland County's 10-year hazard-removal, -replacement and tree-diversification plan in response to the presence of the Emerald Ash Borer in the county.

Its first step is the removal of trees from county roads, and the initial work will see removal in Hamilton Township and the Town of Cobourg between now and Feb. 28.

The county press release specifies where this will take place:

  • County Road 2, from Hamilton Road to County Road 18 and from the east boundary of the Town of Cobourg to Carruthers Road.

  • County Road 9, between County Road 28 and County Road 45.

  • All of County Road 15.

  • County Road 19, from Elgin Street to Corkery Road.

  • All of County Road 20.

  • County Road 28, from the 5th Line to the Peterborough boundary.

  • County Road 45, from the Cobourg boundary to Pioneer Road.

Tree removal is planned for all seven county municipalities over the next 10 years.

The press release explained that the Emerald Ash Borer is an invasive species of beetle that kills ash trees by feeding on the inner bark and disrupting the flow of water and nutrients throughout the tree. With ash trees throughout Northumberland left dead or dying as a result, the county is working with a contractor to remove these hazards before they can fall and cause any damage or injury.

For more information about the county's Emerald Ash Borere management plan, visit www.NorthumberlandCountyca/EABPlan.

Northumberland Hills Hospital welcomes first 2019 baby

By Cecilia Nasmith

Northumberland Hills Hospital did not have long to wait for its the first baby born in its maternal-child care unit in 2019 – fewer than three hours, in fact, as young Robin Lyle was born to Lindsey Drake-Shalapata and Alex Shalapata at 2:56 a.m. Jan. 1.

Having the little guy turn out to be the hospital's official New Year's Baby was a surprise, the hospital's press release added, as his due date was not for another two weeks.

The Oshawa couple's new son (their second born at NHH) weighed seven lb. three oz. and measured 19.5 inches. He is welcomed by big brothers Ty and Aaron.

The couple said in the press release that they had really enjoyed the experience at NHH several years back when their second son was born, especially the teamwork and mutual respect that was evident among hospital staffers and their midwife, Kory McGrath of New Life Midwives.

It was the same story with Robin's birth, they reported.

“The nurses, our midwife, the doctor and the anesthesiologist – everyone involved was just amazing, and we're very grateful,” the mother said.