Vote 2021: York-Simcoe resident Scot Davidson running for the Conservative Party of Canada

CANDIDATE NAME: Scot Davidson  RIDING: PARTY: Conservative Party of Canada AGE: 51  OCCUPATION: Member of Parliament  RESIDENCE: Georgina  PAST POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Member of Parliament, 2019 to present  WEBSITE: Bio: I was born and raised in Georgina and still reside there with my wife Suzanne and son Graydon. I started my business career as a restaurateur in my early 20s and went on to own and operate several successful businesses in York-Simcoe. I have a keen interest in the outdoors and enjoy golfing, fishing and piloting small aircraft.  Living and working within the farming and lakefront community for my entire life, I have developed a strong interest in the community and am committed to small business and the health of Lake Simcoe.  Vaccinated: Yes. I received my vaccination when eligible, as they are a safe and effective tool to stop the spread of COVID-19.  I encourage everyone who is able to get one — however, we must also respect the health choices of all Canadians and provide rapid testing to protect our most vulnerable.  If elected, I pledge to … Focus relentlessly on jobs, wages and getting Canada’s economy and finances back on track as quickly as possible, while making life more affordable for Canadian families.  Conservatives will also prioritize health funding, ensure accountability in Ottawa and secure our country by building up our domestic manufacturing capacity. 

‘A hand to those struggling’: Barrie launches water/wastewater assistance program for low-income residents

Barrie is opening the tap to help those struggling to pay their water and wastewater bills. The city has introduced a new financial assistance support program to help offset water and wastewater costs for low-income households. This allows successful applicants to be credited a portion of their bill. “Council understands that with more people working, learning and caring for people at home, water bills have become a larger part of people’s monthly costs,” Mayor Jeff Lehman said. “Through this new support program for low-income households, the city can give a hand to those struggling with the cost of living.” Program applicants must be permanent, full-time residents with a current residential water and wastewater billing account. The application must pertain to a principal residence and the applicant has to qualify as low-income based on the Canadian government’s 2020 cut-off. The city currently has 44,978 active water and wastewater billing accounts — 42,454 are residential. Supporting documentation will be required for proof of income, and applicants must reapply annually. Residents can fill out an application form (available through city hall’s Service Barrie desk or downloadable ) and either email it to , or drop it off at, or mail it to, city hall (, P.O Box 400, postal code: L4M 4T5). More details on the program can be found at .

Althia Raj: Erin O’Toole has a big Jason Kenney problem

Conservative Leader must be wishing Alberta Premier could have held off a few extra days before announcing sweeping public health changes and a mea culpa to the province over his handling of COVID-19. Wednesday evening, Kenney acknowledged the fourth wave of the pandemic is ripping through his province at an alarming rate — in large part because of low vaccination numbers and inadequate public health measures which have allowed the virus to spread. Measures he loosened earlier this summer. The situation in Alberta is devastating. As my colleague wrote, 24 people died on Wednesday — a rate of one per hour. There were 269 patients fighting for their lives in intensive care units. Thousands of necessary surgeries were cancelled to care for the mostly unvaccinated flooding hospital wings. Kenney’s decision to call a state of emergency, to “reluctantly” adopt a vaccine passport (or as he calls it a “restriction exemption program”), and to stress that vaccination is not a personal health choice but one that has “real consequences for our whole society,” has the potential to . On the one hand, it may send potential Conservative voters — those upset with mandatory lockdowns and vaccine passports — into the arms of Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party of Canada. On the other hand, Kenney’s acknowledgment that he prematurely rushed into reopening the province — a move that likely cost lives — may make swing voters rethink casting a ballot for O’Toole, who’s on the record praising Kenney for his handling of the pandemic. Up until now, the Conservative leader has tried to make this election campaign a referendum on Justin Trudeau. On the campaign trail, his stump speech notes that the Liberal leader called an unnecessary and costly election— $600 million that could have been better spent elsewhere. Why should Trudeau be rewarded with another term after this egotistical act, O’Toole asks. Who do you trust to guide Canada through the next waves of COVID-19? The Liberals felt buoyed by their success on vaccine procurement — spending $9 billion on a diverse portfolio to ensure any Canadian who wanted to be vaccinated would be before much of the world, including G7 nations among whom we have the best vaccination rate. On Day 1 of this campaign, Trudeau made the handling of the pandemic a wedge issue. He stressed O’Toole’s opposition to mandatory vaccination, noted the Conservative leader wouldn’t require passengers on planes and trains be vaccinated, or insist all his candidates be fully vaccinated. In response, O’Toole stressed accommodation for the unvaccinated. He described vaccination as “personal health decisions” that he pledged to “respect,” and declined to call for vaccine passports, saying he’d respect the provinces’ decisions. (Meanwhile, Trudeau has set aside $1 billion to help the provinces adopt such systems.) The Conservatives have done themselves no favours on this issue. From Calgary Nose Hill incumbent Michelle Rempel Garner suggesting in the Commons last fall that the Liberals’ failure to demand vaccine manufacturing occur in Canada would leave Canadians unvaccinated until 2030, to Provencher incumbent that one was 13 times more likely to die from the Delta variant if you were double vaccinated than if you were unvaccinated. (This is false.) In Peterborough—Kawartha, Conservative candidate Michelle Ferreri was found campaigning in a long-term-care facility without being fully vaccinated, while Battlefords—Lloydminster incumbent Rosemarie Falk walked back the Tories oppose international vaccine passports. More damaging though are O’Toole’s own words, praising Kenney for handling the pandemic “far better than the federal government has” and, in a clip from October 2020 posted on Calgary Skyview Liberal candidate George Chahal’s Twitter profile, adding that “the federal Conservatives can learn a lot from our UCP cousins.” O’Toole’s gamble to position himself as a bridge builder between those who are uncomfortable with the state’s heavy hand mandating vaccines to participate in society, and those who believe everyone should get the jab so Canadians can avoid further lockdowns, may suggest to voters the Tory leader would be weak on public health at a time when the pandemic is back on the front burner. O’Toole was asked 10 times Thursday whether he still thinks Kenney handled the pandemic better than Justin Trudeau. He refused to answer. Althia Raj is an Ottawa-based national politics columnist for the Star. Follow her on Twitter:

A private boarding school principal in the Barrie area has an assault conviction. He recently lost his teacher’s licence for sexual abuse of a student

Under the name “Anthony Ross” he was twice disciplined for professional misconduct by Ontario’s teacher regulator, both times following allegations of sexually abusing a student. Last year, he lost his teaching licence after the regulator found him guilty of sexual misconduct with a student, and a criminal court found him guilty of assault. Now under the name “Antonio Ross” he has surfaced as the principal of Convoy International Academy, a private boarding school for Canadian and international students nestled on a 22-acre wooded property in Utopia, near Barrie. What has happened in the Ross case exposes a weakness in Ontario’s education system. Teachers and principals at a private school do not have to come under the provincial regulation system. Though his teaching credentials have been revoked, that only applies to publicly funded schools and any private schools that insist their educators have credentials from the Ontario College of Teachers (OCT). In his opening address to students at Convoy, recorded just before the summer break, Ross, 57, extended greetings to Grade 9-12 students heading to Convoy, either in person or online. “We work with each student, right from airport pickup to course selection each year and when you’re in your final year we help you get acceptance into the top universites in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, as well as other countries…I look forward to seeing each and every one of you on campus someday soon.” In his LinkedIn profile (taken down when the Star began asking questions last week), Antonio Ross boasts of his expertise in developing curriculum at the York Region public school board for teaching English as a second language, and describes how he conducted leadership training for teaching assistants in “emotional development” and “child abuse.” Convoy’s main campus is near Barrie, in a rural community called Utopia. There is a large red brick main building, small dormitories, and fields for a variety of sports offered as extracurriculars. Because of the pandemic, some students are having a difficult time getting to Canada from overseas. A school spokesperson said some students have arrived, with more to come. Tuition and boarding at the school is roughly $30,000 a year. Combined between its Markham and Barrie-area campuses, the school can accomodate about 200 students. Fifty students board at the Barrie campus. On the school website, Ross writes that the school works hard to “motivate and teach students to become lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and global citizens.” He said the school is guided by the “Ontario Ministry of Education” and he thanks all of the parents who have sent students to Convoy. “I am very grateful for their trust in us.” The Star has tried several times to speak to Ross, both at his school and his home in Richmond Hill. A woman who answered the door at his home warned a reporter to “get off the property or I am calling the police.” At the school, the administrator, Michelle (she would not give her last name), said Ross never told her of his past. “I (was) not aware of that before,” said Michelle. “I did not see anything weird or suspicious,” she said, then promised to “look into this.” Michelle said Ross has for two years previous worked as a consultant for the school, but then was hired as principal early in 2021. A former principal at another Convoy campus, Manal Labib, said she knew Ross only as a “marketing consultant.” As a principal in the private system, Convoy does not require OCT credentials. As to his disciplinary and criminal record, Convoy’s Michelle said she does not know if anyone at the school checked. She did not, she said. The Star did. Ross began his teaching career in 1992. His legal name is Antonio Ross, but he was certified as a teacher under the name “Anthony Ross.” He earned a bachelor’s degree in geography from Lakehead University, and a bachelors in education from York University. His teaching licence was issued by the Ontario College of Teachers which regulates most, but not all, teachers in Ontario. In 1992, he began teaching elementary school in Scarborough with the Scarborough Board of Education (one of the predecessors of the Toronto District School Board). His teaching certification includes specialties in physical and health education and guidance. In later years he was working towards becoming a principal. Something happened in the 1994-95 school year when he was in his early 30s that would surface years later. In 2010, a complaint was made to Toronto Police regarding what were by then, considered historical allegations. By this time, Ross had moved school boards and was now teaching in York Region. Police arrested and charged Ross with five counts of sexual assault. He was alleged to have masturbated and French kissed a male Grade 8 student. At trial, Ross was acquitted. Justice Timothy Lipson of the Ontario Court of Justice heard the testimony of both Ross and the complainant (by that time a grown man) and said in his judgment that he believes the student was “telling the truth” and he “preferred his evidence over that of the accused.” Justice Lipson said that despite this, the crown had not established Ross’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. During the protracted disciplinary proceedings that followed, the York board fired Ross, alleging that while in Scarborough he had participated in “grooming behaviour.” But after Ross and his teachers’ union appealed, a labour arbitrator reversed the decision in 2015, saying the school board had not proved its case “on the balance of probabilities.” Ross was reinstated at the school board. During the labour arbitration, it was also learned that over the years, Ross has also worked as a tutor (separate from his teaching duties) and for 25 years was both a summer day camp counsellor and supervisor of counsellors in training. A former camper testified during the labour arbitration hearing that when he was “14 and 15” he had odd interactions with Ross, who kissed him quickly several times and told him he “loved” him. Separate from the labour arbitration, related allegations from 1994-95 made their way to an Ontario College of Teachers hearing in 2016 and Ross pleaded guilty to professional misconduct involving the same student, but relating to lesser incidents in comparison with the criminal charges. Here is a summary of what he said happened, according to an agreed statement of facts between Ross and the college. Ross was the home room teacher for a Grade 8 student whose father was diagnosed with cancer. The student’s mother asked Ross to provide additional academic help, including tutoring the student at the student’s home. “In or about October 1994, (Ross) began telling the student that he cared for him and loved him,” Ross’ agreed statement of facts reads. Ross frequently drove the student home from school hockey games. One time, the student’s mother saw Ross and her son holding hands. In his testimony, Ross told the arbitrator that he recalls heading to a school hockey game (Ross was in the back seat with the student while the parents were in the front seat) and putting his hand on the boy’s hand and “encouraging (him) to play well that day.” Ross told the arbitrator “their hands were not together for the whole drive, but a shorter period of time.” Ross did not testify at the college hearing, but in the agreed statement of facts “he acknowledges that his conduct was inappropriate and could have been misconstrued as a romantic gesture.” The former student, during the labour arbitration (where he testified that Ross had masturbated and French kissed him numerous times) said he had been crushed by his interactions with Ross, something he had kept secret from his parents, and later his wife, out of shame and embarassment. The college found Ross guilty of professional misconduct and gave him a three-month teaching suspension. In 2016, he was ordered to take a course on boundary violations. Two years later, in June 2018, police were back at the his door. He was by this time teaching high school. Ross was arrested and charged with sexual assault on a male high school student. There was a plea agreement and Ross pleaded guilty in early 2019 to the lesser included offence of assault — the more severe charge of sexual assault was dropped by the crown. In an agreed statement of fact, Ross admitted to meeting a student in the guidance office where the student was going to write a science test. The student was described to the court as having a learning disability. Ross asked the student personal questions about his family and “his body” and then “extended his right hand, grabbed the victim’s right breast, squeezed it for 25-30 seconds.” Then, according to the guilty plea, Ross asked the victim about his arms and ran his index finger up and down the victim’s right bicep. Then Ross grabbed the victim’s breast again and squeezed it for five seconds. In a victim impact statement read into court, the student said this has caused him to have “very low self-confidence” and to feel “sad, depressed, anxious, disgusted.” The student’s mother also provided a victim impact statement. She told court that she trusted Ross who, she said, told her his school was “a perfect school” for her son, who struggled with academics. On January 7, 2019, Justice Mary Ellen Misener handed Ross a 12-month conditional sentence, with the first four months to be served in his home, only leaving for necessities. (Ross requested he be allowed to go to out on Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. to watch his daughter’s soccer games but the judge denied that request.) Though not convicted of sexual assault, Ross was required by the judge to provide a sample of his DNA to be stored in the national databank. He was banned by the judge from taking any teaching position, paid or voluntary, for one year. By that time, Ross, using the name “Antonio Ross,” had set up a private education consulting company. Information posted on international education websites shows Ross was trying to recruit teachers to teach English overseas. He had also started with Convoy International Academy as a consultant, helping them attract students to the private boarding school. He became principal just after his probation ended in early 2020. Neither Michelle nor Ross have responded to a dozen emails and calls by the Star since Monday. The Star provided a summary of its investigation to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce. A spokesperson responded that as far as publicly funded schools go, the ministry prevents any teacher or principal from working in the school system if they have been found to have sexually abused a student, a move that came about after two high profile investigations by the Star over the past decade. Those rules, the spokesperson said, only apply to a private school if it chooses to follow them. “Private schools operate as businesses or non-profit organizations,” the spokesperson said.

‘There is a time, place and subject’: Nurses’ association, RVH denounce protests against COVID-19 restrictions

In front of a large sign thanking health-care staff for their time and dedication during the pandemic, fewer than 100 people gathered to express outrage over vaccine passports, masks and other restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19 and keeping Ontario’s medical system from becoming overwhelmed. The rally, arranged by the Canadian Frontline Nurses group, took place Sept. 13 on the sidewalk along Georgian Drive, just outside in Barrie. No one in attendance who was asked could provide proof that they worked in nursing or the health-care sector; nor could anyone there direct to an on-site organizer. This was one of more than a dozen rallies planned at government buildings and hospitals across the country. One protester, who claimed to be a registered nurse at RVH, but refused to provide proof or give her name, argued vaccines are making people sick. “It’s being highly censored right now,” she said from behind a mask. “The whole world is.” In August, with hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses distributed in the region, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit recorded — for a rate of 0.8 per 100,000 administrations — and two incidents of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia. The Ontario Nurses’ Association (ONA) was quick to denounce the protests. “Ontario’s nurses and health-care professionals are dedicated and exhausted professionals who are continuing to care for extremely sick patients under challenging conditions as the pandemic’s fourth wave rages on,” said president Vicki McKenna. “ONA is not opposed to peaceful protests, but there is a time, place and subject — and what we are seeing today definitely isn’t it. We know from previous protests … that nurses and health-care professionals, along with their patients and their families, were harassed. Hospitals must be safe zones for patients, families and staff.” The RVH protest was peaceful and attendees did appear to stay off hospital property. Barrie police and RVH security were also present to keep entranceways around the property clear. “People throughout our region depend on RVH to care for them and keep them safe,” RVH president and CEO Janice Skot said. “Rest assured, if a person needs help — whether they believe in the safety measures or not — Team RVH is there to care for them with commitment and compassion. “As a health-care centre, RVH must to everything possible to protect our patients and the people who care for them. Those precautions include strict adherence to safety protocols, universal mask-wearing and mandatory vaccination of staff, physicians, students, volunteers and anyone who does business in our health centre.”  A lone counter-protester kept her distance, but also treaded a path along Georgian Drive. “The loud minority is out here trying to prolong the pandemic,” the woman, who declined to give her name, but said she lives in Barrie, told “We need more people to be out here showing support, rather than throwing rocks. You drive on the right side of the road, you wear your seatbelt. Why wouldn’t you do the bare minimum to keep your fellow Canadians safe?”

Six people — four from Orillia — face cocaine trafficking charges: OPP

Six people are facing drug trafficking charges after search warrants were executed in Orillia on Aug. 31, said Orillia OPP.  According to police, search warrants were executed at three different homes shortly after midnight where they allegedly seized “quantities of cocaine and Canadian currency.” An 18-year-old from Etobicoke, 30-year-old from Orillia, 31-year-old from Orillia, and a 37-year-old from Orillia were all charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking, OPP said. Also, an 18-year-old from Scarborough and 50-year-old from Orillia are charged with possession of cocaine for the purpose of trafficking and possession of proceeds of property obtained by crime under $5,000.  All parties were released from custody and are scheduled to appear on Oct. 5 in Orillia court.  If you have any information about crime in Orillia contact OPP at or report minor occurrences online at . You can also call Crime Stoppers at , or submit information online at .

3 things to consider to support Indigenous communities this election

Chippewas Of Rama First Nation Chief Ted Williams offers tips for voters to keep in mind at the ballot box. 1. To keep Indigenous issues at the forefront this election, Chippewas Of Rama First Nation Chief Ted Williams said voters should question if candidates have read the whole and what the parties’ plans are for reconciliation. With 94 calls to action, the report includes Aboriginal languages, culture, economics, policing system, education and more. 2. Voters should examine the political parties’ intentions for the . There was a national inquiry that compiled stories of trauma and survival, Williams said. “Are (candidates) even aware of the inquiry?” Voters should learn how the parties will act on the findings, he said. 3. Finally, voters should scrutinize what the parties will do to bring drinking water to reservations and how will they address climate change. “Everyone, regardless of where you are, deserves quality water,” Williams said. And the earth is experiencing a climate crisis, regardless of the season. “How are the candidates proposing to protect our land and resources?”

Three Midland parks to receive new playground equipment

Bayview Park, Little Lake Park East and Pete Pettersen Park will all be receiving new playground structures in early 2022. The town has awarded contracts to two companies and ordered replacement equipment for the three parks following an extensive public input process. “We were able to get some good feedback on themes and preferences, along with feedback on overall feel and design,” said Dylan Flannery, manager of operations for the Town of Midland. “We were also able to make use of some good feedback on how important accessibility features were and where we should incorporate them.” Last summer, play structures at eight Midland parks were cordoned off after failing annual safety inspections. Nine structures were removed, as the equipment was deemed beyond repair. Council set aside $500,000 to replace equipment at four parks this year. However, after costing out the new equipment, the town wasn’t able to include Tiffin Park in this year’s replacement project. Replacing structures at the three parks will cost the town $486,000. Bayview Park and Little Lake Park East playground projects were awarded to Play Power Canada, while the Pete Pettersen Park project was awarded to Openspace Solutions Inc. “We are trying to have them installed as early as we can in spring, but we have to have a little flexibility in case we have a late winter,” said Flannery, noting that the town hopes to have the new equipment installed in early to mid-May. Replacing playground equipment at the five other parks, including Edgehill Park, Gawley Park, Mac McAllen Park, Quota Park and Tiffin Park will have to wait. Council is expected to discuss funds for a 2022 playground equipment replacement project during upcoming budget deliberations. “We are hopeful that we can get some additional funds approved so that we can replace some more equipment,” said Flannery. “Through the engagement process, we were able to see what residents prioritized in terms of locations. We were not able to get to everything that residents feel need to be replaced.” Preliminary budget discussions were held at the Sept. 15 meeting in order to give staff members direction as they begin to prepare a 2022 draft budget.

They’re back: Simcoe County drivers reminded to keep an eye out for big yellow school buses

Those big yellow school buses will be back on our roads on Sept. 7 — a sight that hasn’t been seen for some time. Police services and bus drivers in Simcoe County are reminding motorists to be patient and follow the rules of the road. “We would like to remind all drivers that a large number of students are back to school after a very lengthy period of time away,” OPP Const. Dave Hobson said. “Drivers should adjust their speed and be aware of extra vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic during school times, especially in school areas and zones.” Drivers should: • Focus 100 per cent of their attention on the road and put away unnecessary distractions. • Slow down in school zones and respect the posted speed limit. There will be a high volume of students travelling between home and school by bus, on foot and by bicycle. • Be aware of school buses with their flashing lights activated. The fine for passing a school bus with its lights activated is $490, at minimum, and six demerit points. The top pet peeves for school bus drivers are motorists who continue to pass a bus when it stops to pick up or drop off students, tailgaters and drivers who cut the bus off while making turns.

‘It dissuades economic development’: Barrie councillor pushes to ban payday loan shops from downtown core

You may soon have to go outside of the downtown for your next quick monetary fix. Barrie Coun. Sergio Morales is introducing a motion at the city’s general committee meeting Sept. 13 that would pave the way for payday loan sites to be banned from operating along Dunlop Street. This restriction specifically targets the historic core and would be included as part of the municipality’s upcoming zoning bylaw update. “Other businesses have a tough time operating beside payday loan places,” Morales, also the chair of the Downtown Barrie BIA, told “The east-end of Dunlop usually hasn’t had this issue. But we need to start creating a critical mass of businesses and giving residents a reason to stay in the west-end for shopping.” Morales says the city has invested millions of dollars into fixing Dunlop and the infrastructure underneath. “Businesses have invested incredible amounts of money redoing their facades and patios and pivoting business models on COVID. This is one very small but hopefully impactful thing city hall can do to allow businesses to emerge into the west end.” Now is the “perfect” time to explore such a measure because the last remaining site closed awhile ago — so new rules won’t affect an existing business, he said. These types of restrictions aren’t new. Hamilton took similar steps recently. And while Barrie hasn’t introduced limitation specifically targeting payday services in the past, it does already restrict how and where certain types of businesses (like, say, strip clubs) can operate throughout the city, Morales said. Payday establishments have been criticized by Canadian media and financial experts in the past for charging high interest rates and taking advantage of vulnerable residents with low credit scores who cannot secure loans through traditional banking institutions. But Morales says he’ll “leave the morality to the provincial and federal legislators.” “It dissuades economic development,” he said. “The intention behind my motion is solely to make it easier for west-end businesses to have complementary neighbours and give people reason to go to the west end.” The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and it can be viewed on the city’s . To download the agenda, visit