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YEAR IN REVIEW, Part 4: Angry voters, remembrance, and high times

October was all about the elections, and a stunning computer glitch on election day
October was all about the municipal election, which returned the incumbent Council in BWG. Miriam King/Bradford Today

Cost of culture. On Oct. 2, in the final meeting of council before the municipal election, councillors voted to adopt the new cultural master plan by MDB Consulting, as a way to promote arts, culture and heritage in the municipality – but in principle, only. The actual recommendations, which include a $5.3 million performing arts space, were referred to future budget discussions. Other recommendations: increasing diversity and intercultural experiences at the town’s festivals, and hiring consultants for future arts and heritage master plans. 

Bylaw turmoil. Also on Oct. 2, BWG council was presented with a report recommending changes to the bylaws governing in-home businesses. The changes were intended to legitimize businesses operating out of a home, but certain restrictions alarmed entrepreneurs – especially proposals that would ban pick-ups at the home business, making delivery mandatory, and limits on the hours of operation, to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. The concerns led council to defer a decision to 2019, reaching out to local business owners and asking for input. 

High times. Recreational marijuana became legal across Canada on Oct. 17 – and South Simcoe police were ready, trained to administer roadside screening tests for cannabis. From Oct. 17-20, South Simcoe police partnered with Barrie Police, OPP, Rama Police, and CFB Borden to conduct a series of R.I.D.E. checkpoints, specifically looking for drivers under the influence of marijuana. On Oct. 20, a RIDE check was set up at County Road 89 and Highway 400 that laid nine charges of cannabis readily available to driver, one charge for possession of cocaine, and one charge of impaired by alcohol. 

BWG Votes. With the municipal elections just weeks away, the Town of BWG ramped up efforts to reach the public, and demonstrate how to cast a ballot – by phone or using the Internet, the only options in 2018. Voter Education Nights were held at the Library to explain the process, starting Oct. 3, and voter help centres set up at the library and town administration office between Oct. 13 and voting day, Oct. 22. 

Election drop out. Just before the election, mayoral candidate Pat Roberge dropped out of the running, leaving incumbent Rob Keffer as the only real candidate. Roberge cited “personal reasons” for his decision to withdraw, announcing, “I prefer to focus on family first.” The timing of the announcement, on Oct. 4, meant that Roberge’s name remained on the ballot. He garnered 829 votes in the election, to Keffer’s 7,283 votes.

Angry voters. The state-of-the-art voting system adopted by Bradford West Gwillimbury lived up, or down, to some residents’ worst fears. Late in the afternoon of Oct. 22, the system crashed for 90 minutes – a “glitch” traced to a hosting service in Toronto, that apparently began limited bandwidth when traffic on the Dominion Voting Systems sites increased. It wasn’t only BWG; 51 municipalities using Dominion Voting were impacted. The town opted to extend the voting by another full day, Oct. 23. 

Status quo. After two days of voting, the results were in. Only 33.5 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in BWG, in 2018, but those who did vote resoundingly supported the status quo. Every single incumbent candidate was returned to office. The new old council was sworn in on Dec. 4.  

Pedestrian fatality. On Oct. 27, at 7:23 p.m., South Simcoe police were called to Holland Street West and West Park Avenue, where a pedestrian had been struck by a vehicle that reportedly failed to remain. The 40-year-old Bradford woman, later identified as Cheryl Carre, was pronounced dead at the scene. Police were faced with conflicting reports, but determined that at least one vehicle that had struck the woman had remained on scene. A request for surveillance video footage led to the conclusion that a second vehicle was involved, that had not remained. On Oct. 31, police tracked down and seized the second vehicle for forensic investigation. 

Allegation of plagiarism. Trustee-elect for the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) for Bradford and New Tecumseth, Debbie Connors was accused of plagiarizing her campaign material from that of sitting trustee for Adjala-Tosorontio, Brandy Rafeek. Rafeek, who lost her bid for re-election, was shocked to see paragraphs taken “word for word” from her own campaign, in a write-up Connors submitted to BradfordToday. Connors originally denied knowing who Rafeek was, or anything about material, but later said that she had “someone help me write some of my campaign,” and called the situation “truly an honest mistake.” Contacted, the SCDSB said it could not act: Connors had been duly elected on Oct. 22, and the plagiarism dated from a period before she was sworn in as trustee, on Dec. 1. 

Virtual memorial. Simcoe County Archives launched a virtual First World War Honour Role in October – a memorial listing the names of 1,006 men and women who lost their lives in service during the First World War or who died of the injuries received. Simcoe County Remembers consolidates the information collated by local communities across the county, to create a single database that can be accessed at The memorial marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. 

Long service. On Oct. 30, Police Service Dog Ronin passed away at the age of 13, after serving the South Simcoe police and communities of BWG and Innisfil for nine years. Ronin retired in 2015, and lived with the family of his handler, Const. Matt Tomlin. 

Abrupt resignation. Long-time Simcoe-Grey MPP Jim Wilson resigned from Progressive Conservative caucus and from his role as Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. Wilson, who has been an MPP since 1990, said he was resigning to address “addiction issues.” Since his Nov. 2 announcement, there has been no further comment, either from the PC Party or from Wilson’s constituency office, which has remained open. However, there have been additional allegations against Wilson of sexually inappropriate behaviour.  

Remembrance. Each year, Bradford West Gwillimbury celebrates Remembrance Day on a grander scale than many small communities. There’s the Remembrance Dinner at the legion, this year held Nov. 10; the Remembrance Parade and wreath-laying ceremony, always held on the first Sunday before Remembrance Day itself; the Remembrance Service on Nov. 11; and the poppy campaign. This year, the town also hung veterans’ banners on the lamp posts in town, and participated in an initiative that sounded a bell 100 times, to mark the 100 years since the end of the First World War. And local resident Francine Grenon made more than 150 posters reading “Thank you," which thanked veterans for their service, to be displayed in local windows and stores. 

Extreme athlete. Thirteen-year-old Avery Steyn of BWG, a Grade 8 student, competed in the Spartan Kids World Championship Race in Nevada, and won gold in the category for 10 to 13 year olds on Nov. 17. She ran a five-kilometre obstacle course in the best time for the win. Steyn plans to continue, eventually competing in the adult category. 

Murals for health. Students in Bradford District High School’s art club painted two murals on the doors of a wing at Bradford Valley Care Community, designed to help reduce stress levels in residents with dementia. Those residents were drawn to the doors through which people came and went, and became anxious; the murals aimed to help make the doorway areas more calming and home-like. The concept was developed by fourth-year York University nursing students Nick Touchette and Rayanne White, as part of a health promotion placement. The art students volunteered their time, and provided the art supplies. 

Leaving a trail. Police were called to a Bradford store on Holland Street West, for a report of shoplifting on Nov. 24. A loss prevention officer had confronted two suspects outside the store, but when told they were under arrest the pair fled on foot. They were seen running behind a building under construction. Police were able to follow the trail of footprints – and arrest a 26 year old Toronto woman and 34 year old Mississauga male, both of whom were charged with theft under $5,000. 

Fatal collision. On Nov. 30, emergency responders were called to Yonge Street at Line 12 BWG, for a collision between an SUV and a transport truck. The 71-year-old male driver of the SUV was killed in the crash; his female passenger was transported to hospital with serious injuries. The driver of the transport was treated on the scene for minor injuries. Residents have long warned that the intersection is dangerous, and sensitive – with an elementary school west of Yonge, and Bradford Greenhouses and agricultural businesses to the east, on Line 12. The County of Simcoe, which has jurisdiction over Yonge Street, has said that intersection improvements, including lights, are part of the planned widening of Yonge to four lanes – with construction slated to begin in 2021.