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YEAR IN REVIEW, Part 2: Election, tragic deaths, and a visiting Justin Trudeau

A look at the top stories of 2018. June and July in Bradford West Gwillimbury were hot, dry, and filled with news
2018-09-07-bert hogg
Bert Hogg at the June 8 unveiling of the new veterans’ bench at the Bradford legion on Back Street in Bradford West Gwillimbury. Miriam King/Bradford Today

Election time: June was, at least initially, all about the provincial election. On June 2, then-Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne acknowledged she would not be premier after June 7. It was a prediction that came true. On voting day, not only did MPP candidate Caroline Mulroney win 57 per cent of the vote in York-Simcoe, her win reflected a conservative sweep, and the complete ouster of the provincial Liberals. With only seven seats, the Liberals lost party status. Mulroney was quickly appointed to cabinet as attorney general and minister of Francophone affairs. 

Hold and secure in Bradford: In a related story, several polling stations in Bradford West Gwillimbury had to stay open late after a police manhunt led to a hold and secure at Chris Hadfield Public School, St. Angela Merici School, and W.H. Day Elementary. The situation began when South Simcoe police learned that a male suspect in a shooting in Barrie was at a Bradford address. The 20-year-old male suspect was spotted, but fled on foot, sparking the manhunt. He was later arrested at a residence on Faris Street. Chris Hadfield extended its polling hours to 11:25 p.m., W.H. Day to 9:55 p.m. At St. Angela Merici, a security guard not only let parents in to pick up their children, but also voters to cast their ballots. The school was later criticized by some parents for its approach. 

'Recipe for disaster': Bradford residents are used to thinking of Dissette Street as an industrial/commercial area, but developer Cachet Harbour Development Inc. hoped to change that. The company proposed seven blocks of back-to-back townhouses, and two mixed-used commercial/residential blocks on a 2.4 hectare property on the west side of Dissette, south of Jay Street. In the proposal presented at a planning meeting, there would be a single driveway in and out of the development, and 108 fewer parking spaces than required by the town’s zoning bylaw. One resident at the meeting called it a “recipe for disaster.” The proposal was referred to staff for review and a recommendation. 

New life for the Auld Kirk: For the first time in decades, music filled the Auld Kirk on Line 6 BWG. Founded in 1819 by the 17 families that settled in West Gwillimbury after returning from Lord Selkirk’s failed Red River Settlement, the existing brick church was built in 1869 but closed years later, after the congregation split over divisions in the Scottish Presbyterian Church. The building sat shuttered and empty, until the BWG Local History Association made its restoration and designation as a heritage site a priority – and on June 12 welcomed visitors, for a service of song and prayer. 

Vanished. June 12 was also the last time anyone saw Bradford resident Christian Robinson. The 46-year-old was seen leaving his home at 3:30 p.m., wearing shorts, a grey golf shirt, flip flops and glasses. Then he vanished. One week later, fiancée Andrea Buettner issued an appeal, asking Robinson to contact his loved ones. There still has been no response. 

'Politically improbable': Back in 2017, BWG council asked staff to look into the costs and ramifications of leaving Simcoe County – becoming part of York Region, or a separated city like Barrie and Orillia. On June 19, councillors received their answer. A report suggested that joining York Region would actually lead to a bigger bill for social housing and paramedic services. And while becoming a separated city would decrease costs, the report also warned that any change would be “politically improbable,” unlikely to be approved by the county. The request was sparked by a sharp increase in assessment in BWG and a spike in county taxation. BWG’s contributions to the county increased 72 per cent, from 2011 to 2017, and continue to rise – not matched by any increase in services. 

Goodbye to Garan: Retired Police Service Dog Garan passed away on June 19 at the age of 12. Garan served seven years with the South Simcoe police, retiring in 2013 to become the pet of long-time handler Const. Joe Ferreri and his family. Ferreri retired in 2015. 

Twin watermain on back burner: The proposed “twinning” of the water pipeline from Innisfil’s Lakeshore Water Treatment Plant to the Fennell Reservoir in Bradford has been put on hold – until 2029. According to Mayor Rob Keffer, in council on June 19, increased water conservation by residents and the fact that “we’ve been spending an awful lot of money on infrastructure” led to the decision to delay the project. Council was warned that, without twinning the line, it would have to make maintenance of existing infrastructure a priority. 

Goodbye to a veteran: On June 20, Second World War veteran Bert Hogg passed away in his 96th year. Hogg was a beloved figure at the Bradford legion, and at local schools where he shared his stories and experiences for Remembrance Day. 

Another loss: On June 28, Mike Kilkenny passed away at the age of 73. Kilkenny, a Bradford native, was a former Major League Baseball player, best known for playing for four teams in his final year in the majors in 1973: Detroit Tigers, Oakland As, San Diego Padres and Cleveland Indians. Kilkenny played with the Tigers from 1969 to 1972, and was rookie of the year. The left-handed pitcher was credited with a higher-than-average number of walks, but also recorded 301 shutouts in 410 innings – also higher than average. He was credited with 23 wins, 18 losses, four saves and 32 games, with an ERA of 4.43. After his major-league career, he went on to play with the London Majors, winning MVP and the John Bell Memorial Trophy. 

Moore Street fire: July 1 was memorable for BWG’s Canada Day celebration, but also for the unexplained fire that seriously damaged a vacant heritage home at 108 Moore St., built circa 1860. Firefighters were called out in the early morning, and arrived to find the upper storey ablaze. They extinguished the fire and kept it from spreading to neighbouring homes. Damage to 108 Moore was extensive. The Office of the Ontario Fire Marshal was called in, and deemed the fire "criminally suspicious," and a Pall Mall matchbook was found on the scene. Council gave the property heritage status in August, and ordered the owners to preserve the home. 

Attempted murder: On July 4 around 9:30 p.m., South Simcoe police were called to Flex-N-Gate automotive parts producer on Reagens Industrial Parkway, for what was reported as a "possible industrial accident." They arrived to find a woman being treated for critical injuries by paramedics. The woman was transported to a Toronto trauma centre. Investigation revealed she had been attacked by a co-worker, who then left the building. Officers arrested a suspect at Simcoe Road and Line 6. The suspect, identified as Mothy Chheng, was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. The woman was last reported in stable condition and Chheng's court appearances are ongoing. 

Connor Ramsay: In the early morning hours of July 9, a single-vehicle collision took the life of one teen, and sent another to hospital with serious injuries. A grey Toyota Corolla reportedly ran off the road in Ansnorveldt, in the Holland Marsh, and struck a tree. The crash left 18-year-old Connor Ramsay, a stellar junior curler with the Bradford Curling Club and recent high school grad, dead. He had been planning to study psychology at Ryerson University. The driver, a 17-year-old Bradford girl, was taken to hospital with serious injuries. 

Happy 50 for Happy Seniors: Bradford’s original seniors’ group, the Happy 60s, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the club in July. Members get together weekly at the St. Mary’s school building on Frederick Street in Bradford to play euchre. To celebrate the anniversary, they travelled by bus to the Pickering area, where they enjoyed lunch and a performance at Herongate Barn Theatre.

Trudeau's visit: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was a surprise visitor at Caldense Bakery in Bradford on July 20. On his way from Barrie to Markham, the PM stopped in Bradford to meet with shoppers, including Coun. Raj Sandhu and his family. Bakery owner Alex Bournazakis said he was notified about 15 minutes before the PM and his security detail arrived. 

Long, hot summer: July saw a burn ban imposed on most Simcoe County municipalities as a result of the hot, dry weather. The rains finally moved in toward the end of July, resulting in a lifting of the ban – but not before a grass fire threatened crops and barns in Innisfil. On July 20, a fire in the recently cut straw on the Innisfil farm of Bruce Drybrough, just east of Yonge St. on Shoreacres Drive, threatened nearby fields of corn and wheat. Firefighters responded, but so did farmers – using tractors to create a firebreak.