General News

Rail trail gaining steam ouside county

Rail trail in Paris, Ont. (QMI Agency file photo)

Rail trail in Paris, Ont. (QMI Agency file photo)

Before there’s a trail where there used to be rail, the county wants some input.

There will be a public information session April 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Perth East Recreation Centre in Milverton to hear from property owners near the former CN rail line and other interested parties about the rail trail project.

Waterloo Region and Wellington County have already leased land from the province to create trails along the former CN line. Perth and Huron counties are both currently looking into doing the same. The idea is to get continuous trails from Guelph to Goderich.

The section of former railway relevant to Perth County goes from Millbank to Huron County.

Interest in the project has picked up steam, suggested Geoff VanderBaaren, a Perth County planner. A group of citizens has formed the Guelph to Goderich (G2G) Rail Trail Committee. They’ve had four meetings since November, he said.

“They’re keenly interested in having the trail go ahead,” he said.

Some landowners near the possible trail have been attending the G2G meetings and want more information, VanderBaaren said.

There are 159 properties that abut the proposed rail trail.

If the county leases the land from the province it would cost about $1,695 (HST included) for about 28 kilometres. The land would be for “passive” recreational uses such as hiking, biking and snowmobiling. Farmers would still be able to cross and cultivate land to the edge of the track.

Motor vehicles won’t be allowed during the summer.

The county would require comprehensive liability insurance of at least $5 million. The county could sublease the land. What isn’t clear is whether or not there will be additional insurance costs if the land is subleased. Also in question is whether or not the county’s insurance would cover stewardship groups like the Lions Club or if the groups would require their own insurance.

The county also wants to know if a farmer is liable if he or she crosses the trail and damages it or leaves debris that causes an injury.

If the county goes ahead with the project, it would be responsible for maintenance like weeding, drainage and fence repairs unless it’s subleased.

The lease would last five years with an option to renew.

From the Stratford Beacon Herald

‘Saving’ you from spending


Saving is a lost art. You’d think that with all the yada-yada about how important it is to save, what a big deal RRSPs and TFSAs are, and the scant resources we’ll have if we count on the government, that we’d all be squirrelling away money for the future at a wicked clip. We’re not.

People often misunderstand what “saving” is. Saving is “not spending money” and if you want to have “savings,” you have to take the money you didn’t spend and put it somewhere to accumulate for the future.

If you’re sticking money away for a vacation, for present buying or to pay your car insurance, that’s not savings; it’s “planned spending.” Yes, you’re smart to accumulate money for big spends along with your day-to-day needs, but it’s not savings. Unless it’s going into an emergency fund, a long-term savings — think retirement or school – it’s not “savings.”

If money burns a hole in your pocket, then you’re likely spending it faster than you make it. Saving isn’t even part of the game plan. But I have news for you: If you don’t start to save, you’re headed for disaster. Not saving is a sure way to have nothing later. And learning to save is a habit that anyone can establish. You start by picking an amount — even $20, $50 or $100 a month — and sending it automatically to a high-interest savings account.

There are heaps of ways to have a life and save too. Just because you’ve decided to become financially responsible does not mean you’re doomed to a life of boredom. Small luxuries will still have their place. You’re just going to trim back and really appreciate them when they come along.

Don’t give up coffee completely. Decide instead that you’re going to trim back your coffee habit by 25%, 30% or 50% a week, and send all the money you’re not spending to your savings. Forget about giving up all entertainment. It won’t stick. Don’t commit to spending nothing on clothes. Instead, learn to spend less, like hitting the second-hand store and becoming a bargain queen.

Money is an exhaustible resource. It runs out. This is not about hoarding all your money and having no fun. And it doesn’t matter how small you start. As long as you begin developing the saving habit, you’re heading in the right direction and momentum will carry you along.

Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s latest book, Money Rules, is published by HarperCollins and will make you say, “Really? I didn’t know that!” Visit her website at (article originally published in The Stratford Beacon Herald)

Healthy kids need to spend time in nature – David Suzuki

David Suzuki

Ontario’s Healthy Kids Panel recently proposed a strategy to help kids get onto a path to health.

The problem is that the path doesn’t lead them into nature. Though the report quotes parents’ comments and research showing kids spend dramatically less time outside than ever, it doesn’t encourage time in nature.

That said, many of the report’s recommendations should be implemented and supported locally, provincially and nationally to reduce the risks of obesity. Encouraging parents and children to be more critical about dietary choices and requiring more information and labelling from restaurants and food producers is long overdue.

Ontario isn’t the only province working to reduce obesity rates and support parents raising healthy children, particularly in the early years. Alberta released relevant reports in 2011 and Quebec has had a ban on advertising junk food to children since 1980. No one can argue against public awareness and education around the benefits of healthy eating and active living. But a provincial, patchwork approach to addressing these issues isn’t enough. We need a national strategy to get our kids eating healthy foods and being active in nature.

Although it seems logical that much of the time spent being active will take place outside, the Ontario report acknowledges that “many communities are not designed to encourage kids to move or be physically active…and have few safe green spaces.” One parent in a focus group explains that the parks in his community are either gated or locked up once school is closed. So, even when there is green space, it’s not always accessible.

Last year, the David Suzuki Foundation conducted a survey with young Canadians and found that 70% spend an hour or less a day outdoors. The 2012 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card says they spend almost eight hours a day in front of screens. So it’s not that kids don’t have time to be outside. It’s just not part of their lifestyle.

Much has been reported about a recommendation by the Ontario panel to ban junk food advertising that targets children under 12. This has worked in Quebec and is being discussed in Alberta. But the approach has invited criticism from those who argue that people should have the right to choose. It’s always tempting to focus on making bad things less accessible, but perhaps policy-makers should be more creative and focus on ways to make good things more accessible.

Being in nature is good for all of us. People who get outside regularly are less stressed, have more resilient immune systems and are generally happier. And it’s good for our kids. Studies show spending time in nature or green spaces helps reduce the symptoms of ADHD. Even in built playgrounds, kids spend twice as much time playing, use their imaginations more and engage in more aerobic and strengthening activities when the space incorporates natural elements like logs, flowers and small streams, according to research from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

Provincial and federal governments are failing to integrate a daily dose of nature into their policies. It’s also something we as a society are failing to make a priority in the lives of our children.

We need to make sure our neighbourhoods have green spaces where people can explore their connections with nature. We need to ask teachers and school board representatives to take students outside so that nature becomes a classroom. And we need to stop making the outdoors seem like a scary place for children by helping parents understand that the benefits of playing outside outweigh the risks.

Connecting kids to nature every day needs to be a priority policy objective in any strategy for healthy children and could easily have been integrated into the recommendations from the Ontario Healthy Kids Panel. Taking our kids by the hand and spending time outside with them will have the added benefit of making us healthier and happier adults.

David Suzuki, published in The Stratford Beacon Herald.

A curmudgeon talks personal finance


The personal finance rotation

Long study has persuaded me that there are only four personal-finance columns in newspapering, which rotate week to week every month:

1. Saving for your children’s college education

No way you can ever save enough. You’re screwed.

2. Saving for your retirement

It’s already too late to catch up. You’re screwed.

3. Investing in stocks

Too risky. You’re screwed.

4. Investing in bonds

Too little return. You’re screwed.


By John E. McIntyre, The Baltimore Sun, March 15, 2013

The story of Easter

Easter is Awesome

April 6, 2012 by saradobie

Allow me to get religious for a moment. Easter is this Sunday, and we all know the Bible-based Easter story. Oh, wait, you don’t? Okay, let me tell you about it.

There was this Jesus guy. (You know, the dude born on Christmas?) According to scripture, he grew up to be an awesome preacher/prophet/healer. The chief priests and scribes didn’t care for him much. They thought he was a fraud, so they wanted him dead. They talked Jesus’ pal, Judas, into betraying Jesus for thirty stinkin’ pieces of silver. I’m sure that was a lot of money back in Bible times, but still, how rude. Thanks to Judas, Jesus was arrested.

They accused him of religious treason, since people claimed he was the Messiah. “Messiah” refers to a spiritual savior, redeemer, and in the case of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus was brought before Pilate—a Roman prefect and judge. Now, Pilate’s wife was a smart lady. She’d had a dream the night before about some Jesus guy, and she warned her husband to steer clear. Of course, being a politician, Pilate just had to get involved. He gave the people a choice: release Jesus or release a psycho murderer named Barabbas. In true angry mob fashion, the crowd chose to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus.

Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead. Uh, gross, right? Jesus being Jesus knew this was coming. He’d prayed about it the night before on the Mount of Olives: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.” Thankfully, Jesus was a big picture kind of guy … He was nailed to a cross, yet even in his agony, he said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And the mob didn’t know, did they? They thought they were executing a liar or lunatic. They didn’t realize they were slaughtering the Son of God.

Then, Jesus died. The sky turned black, and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. I imagine the weather resembled those post-nuclear apocalypse skies you see in movies—the clouds black, red, and boiling. I imagine the priests and scribes looked at each other and thought, “Uh-oh,” because I imagine in that moment, they finally got it. They understood what they had done … and that Jesus had already forgiven them for it. But that’s hardly the end of the story.

The tomb is empty!

Days after his death, women came to tend to Jesus’ body and tomb. However, upon their arrival, they found the tomb had been opened. Jesus’ body was gone. In its place were two men in dazzling clothes. No, not drag queens—ANGELS!! Angels were waiting for Jesus’ followers so that they could say, “He is not here, but has risen!” I bet the angels did a little jig when they said it. I wouldn’t have been able to contain my joy. What great news! Jesus appeared to many after his resurrection, showing the nail marks in his hands and performing miracles among the masses. Then, finally, he ascended into Heaven, where he got to hang with good old Dad with a capital “D.”

So what does Easter mean to us? It means we’re saved. Jesus died for you. He died for me. We’re sinners, and we needed His help to get to Heaven. By His blood, we have been redeemed. Today is the day He died. Sunday is the day when He rose from the dead. What will you do in remembrance of Him? You can start by listening to the hippie classic He is Risen. Then, pick up a Bible and read the whole story (I prefer the Book of Luke). Check out your neighborhood church on Sunday. Most of all have a happy and blessed Easter! Celebrate what an ancient dude did for you, out of pure and unconditional love. Hallelujah! Christ is risen, indeed!

Free your mind and let ideas soar

"Balloon Bonanza" is a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle by Springbok.  Available from The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario

“Balloon Bonanza” is a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle by Springbok. Available from The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario


CREATIVITYFree your mind and let ideas soar
by HARVEY SCHACHTER, Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Sunday, Nov. 25 2012

If creativity is essential for success these days, then we must become profligate with ideas. On his blog, entrepreneur James Altucher shares these ideas for becoming an idea machine:

Capture fresh thoughts

Ideas floating about in your brain, uncaptured, will never get you anywhere. So take time every day to write down 10 new ideas. They can be on anything. “It doesn’t matter if they are business ideas, book ideas, ideas for surprising your spouse in bed, ideas for what you should do if you are arrested for shoplifting, ideas for how to make a better tennis racquet, anything you want. The key is that it has to be 10 or more,” Mr. Altucher declares. “You want your brain to sweat.”

Don’t limit yourself to ideas you can put into practice today – or ever. It can be helpful to list 10 ideas too big for you to carry out, some perhaps not even possible at all, just for the value of outlining the notion. He stresses that you never have to look at these ideas again. The purpose is not to come up with a good idea but just to have thousands of ideas over time.

Activate new parts of your brain

Mr. Altucher recounts taking a watercolour class with his wife. He wasn’t all that great at it, but his brain felt terrific, because he was diversifying, trying something new.

Dip into four books a day

Every day, read some chapters from or skim books on four different topics, including some issues you know nothing about (he cites a genetic engineering book he explored recently).

Ease up on yourself

Make sure that as you play with ideas, you limit the pressure on yourself. You should not have to feel that every seed you bury will grow into a lush plant. That will just set you up for disappointment and burnout.

Shake up your day

He has a precise routine every day, starting with reading and writing, and continuing through meetings and meals. But sometimes when he needs to rejuvenate, he’ll spice it up with something different – perhaps a walk first thing in the morning instead of reading, or sleeping in four-hour shifts instead of eight hours. Shaking up the conscious mind allows the unconscious to be freed, and good ideas can emerge.

Recall childhood passions

Years ago, you had some interests as a child that consumed you but are now gone from your life. Try to recall them, write them on a list, and think about what you knew – still know – about them. The more, different notions at play in your mind increases the chances of two different thoughts cross-fertilizing into a new passion or idea.

Tickle your brain

Mr. Altucher recalls how he was advised to turn off his computer to be creative. That might be true. But so might the reverse. “With the entire world of knowledge at our fingertips it sometimes is fun to get sucked down the rabbit hole like Alice and drift around in Wonderland,” he writes. “It tickles the brain and lights things up that may have been dormant.”

Special to The Globe and Mail

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance.

Going penniless: how will this impact your business?

"Loose Change" is a 550 piece puzzle by White Mountain Puzzles.  Available at The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario.

“Loose Change” is a 550 piece puzzle by White Mountain Puzzles. Available at The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario.


Going penniless: how will this impact your business?

By the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, reposted by The Book Vault Inc. on January 31, 2013

Joining the ranks of Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, Canada ceased production of the penny in May, 2012 after 154 years. Effective February 4, 2013, pennies will be withdrawn.

What does this mean for your business?

  • There will be no changes to transactions using cheques, credit or debit cards.
  • Pennies are still legal tender, so if a customer has pennies on hand, they’ll pay as usual.
  • If a customer doesn’t have exact change, round their purchase up or down to the nearest five-cents. For example, an item that costs $1.01 or $1.02 will be rounded down to $1. An item that costs $1.03 or $1.04 will be rounded up to $1.05.
  • Rounding only happens after the calculation of the GST or HST, so don’t start rounding prices on individual items. You also don’t need to update your cash register.

Music education can help with school skills

The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario

The Book Vault Inc., Stratford, Ontario

Music education can help with school skills

Learning to play an instrument can pay dividends inside the classroom.

The Stratford Gazette, January 10, 2013

Music’s effectiveness as a teaching tool has long been studied.  Though some still doubt if music has any effect on student performance, a strong body of evidence suggests otherwise.

Studies into the effects of music on learning are nothing new.  Such studies have been conducted for decades, gaining popularity during the 1950s when research was done on something called the “Mozart Effect.”  The Mozart Effect theorizes that listening to Mozart can temporarily improve performance and may even boost a person’s IQ.  In response, many parents started playing Mozart and other classical music in their homes.   By the late 1990s, Baby Einstein, a company that offers a wide range of developmental and entertainment products for babies and toddlers, released a series of CDs and videos that prominently featured classical music amid visual learning sequences for young children.  “Baby Mozart,” “Baby Bach” and “Baby Beethoven” were just a few of the videos capitalizing on the evidence that children learn more when exposed to classical music.

Ongoing research continues to support the theory that music education can help children on many levels.  In Canada, a research group from McMaster University conducted their own study into music education.  That study, which was published in the journal Brain in 2006, examined two groups of children, ages 4 to 6.  Each were taught the same lessons, but one group was also given musical instruction.  The study found that the group of children who received musical instruction scored much better than their peers in literacy, mathematics, IQ, and memory skills.

Long Island University researchers Joseph Piro and Camilo Ortiz found that children exposed to a multi-year program of music instruction, involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills, displayed superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared to their peers who did not receive musical training.  The authors concluded that, “because neural response to music is a widely distributed system within the brain, it would not be unreasonable to expect that some processing networks for music and language behaviours, namely reading, located in both hemispheres of the brain would overlap.”

Music education is not just for the average student.  Other research shows it my be beneficial to children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.  A study completed at Stanford University showed that mastering a musical instrument improves the ability to process parts of the spoken language.  The researchers believe that additional research might develop a way to use the knowledge obtained in the study to increase language development for individuals with dyslexia or cognitive disorders.

In many schools, music education is being drastically reduced or eliminated.  Parents may want to look outside the classroom for music instruction or play more music at home.





The 50 Business + Life Lessons 2012 Taught Me – by Robin Sharma


2012′s coming to a close.   I’m in reflection mode as I review the past 12 months, record what I learned in my journal and set precise and clear goals+plans for 2013.

I wanted to share 50 of my best lessons learned (or reinforced) from 2012. So here you go:


Hard work is a force multiplier.

Don’t participate in recessions.

Exercising for 20 minutes first thing in the morning is a game-changer.

If you’re not innovating daily, you’re on the path to obsolescence.

If you want an A-Level company, you can’t afford to hire B-Level players.

Procrastination is an escape mechanism for people scared to do their best work.

Give your customers 10X the value they expect and they’ll tell everyone they know about you.

Don’t do it if you’re not having fun.

If you’re not scared a lot you’re not growing very much.

Invest the time to create great social media content and your base will go global + viral.

There’s never been a better time to be a social entrepreneur.

It’s never been easier to be of service to a large amount of people (and few things are as rewarding).

When no one else believes in your vision, you absolutely must stay true to your vision. (Have the guts to stay in the game far longer than makes any sense).

The quickest way to build a superb business is to quickly develop the leadership potential of every teammate.

A job is only a job if you choose to see your work as a job. All work is a noble sport. (The reality is all work is a chance to express your genius–and to inspire the world).

People are craving transparency+authenticity and community. Give it to them.

Creativity comes in seasons. There’s a time to harvest your ideas. And there’s a time to let the field sit fallow. (I’ve been working on integrating this lesson for years).

Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is relax (When you relax, your brain shifts into alpha state–the time when million-dollar ideas present themselves).

Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. (And without change, there is no progress).

Someone’s going to win in your space. Why not you?

10X the size of your dreams because if you don’t, you’ll wish you did.

Pursue excellence versus chasing perfection.

Celebrate small wins and you’ll unleash a huge amount of momentum and positive energy.

Learn for an hour a day, no matter what. That’s not a waste of work time. It’s a brilliant use of your work time because you’re paid to know more than anyone who has ever done your job.

Why go for good at what you do when you can stand for iconic?

Transform your fitness and you’ll transform your business.

Delete victimspeak from your languaging. No more “I can’t” and “It’s not possible” and “It’s so hard.” More “I will” and “This is awesome” and “What’s the opportunity here?”

If you inspire one person each day, your day hasn’t been a waste. It’s been a blessing.

Living in the past is disrespecting your future.

Build an amazing career but enjoy your lifestyle along the way. What’s the point of becoming a business legend but a failed human being.

Look people in the eyes when you talk to them. Smile at people when you see them. Say “please” to respect them. And “thank you” to appreciate them.

Don’t be on time–Be early.

The person who tries to do everything achieves nothing. Focus. Focus. Focus.

Spend the first 90 minutes of your work day on real work versus fake work. (Another game-changing tactic that served me so very well in 2012).

Spend time in silence each day. You’ll never do Jay-Z level work if you’re overstimulated by technology.

Goal-setting is mission-critical. (Review your Big 5, quarterly goals and daily goals constantly).

Your daily behavior broadcasts your truest beliefs.

To have the results only 5% of businesspeople have, have the guts to do what only 5% of businesspeople are willing to do.

World-class begins when you think you’ve done a great job but know you can do a better job.

Remember that your greatest gift is so much stronger than your deepest fear.

Everyone’s in Human Resources. And we are all paid to develop the talents of the people we work with.

Mediocrity is a mindset. Avoid the mental viruses of negative people.

Be the most honest person you know. It generally takes 30 years to build a fantastic reputation. And 30 seconds to lose it by a single silly move.

Become a lion–not a sheep.

People are always willing to pay for the best.

The more devoted you become to serving others, the more your career begins to build itself.

Problems come to test your commitment to your goals, hopes and dreams.

As you become more successful, get more hungry.

Join Traffic University. Use every possible moment in the car to upgrade your skills, polish your gifts and elevate your mindset.

Use your life to make the world a better place.

When a Pet Dies

Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month. The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so, and she dictated these words:Dear God,Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.

I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, ‘To Meredith’ in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, ‘When a Pet Dies.’ Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.

Abbey isn’t sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don’t need our bodies in heaven, I don’t have any pockets to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I’m easy to find. I am wherever there is love.

Love, God