Stratford falls short again in smart city finale at Intelligent Community Forum

Stratford received its trophy in New York Thursday for being one of the Intelligent Community Forum's Top 7 smart cities in the world. (MIKE BEITZ, The Beacon Herald)

Stratford received its trophy in New York Thursday for being one of the Intelligent Community Forum’s Top 7 smart cities in the world. (MIKE BEITZ, The Beacon Herald)

NEW YORK - Intelligent Community Forum co-founder Lou Zacharilla called Stratford the “little engine that could” Thursday.

On Friday, it was the little engine that almost did.

But it fell just short in its bid for the 2013 Intelligent Community of the Year trophy, which went instead to Taichung City, Taiwan.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” said Mayor Dan Mathieson shortly after the announcement was made at Stage 6 of the Steiner Studios in Brooklyn. “You always want to win. But three years in the top seven, I think that says an awful lot about our community.”

Stratford was competing against nearby Toronto, which put in a strong bid anchored by its impressive waterfront revitalization project, as well as international competitors Columbus, Ohio; Oulu, Finland; Taichung City, Taiwan; Tallinn, Estonia and Taoyuan County, Taiwan.

This was Stratford’s third time on the top-seven list for the annual ICF program, which recognizes communities that use broadband technology, including high-speed Internet, to improve the lives of their citizens.

Mathieson said the city will not be entering the smart city competition again next year.

“We’ve been in it for four years now, and there’s been a lot of great opportunities that have come out of it,” he said. “But our volunteers deserve a break, and our corporate sponsors have been very generous. Council has also been very supportive, and now I think it’s time to take it to the operational phase.”

Failure to win the smart city crown this year does not diminish what the municipality has done over the past few years in terms of digital media and broadband communications, suggested Mathieson.

Gains in connectivity have had a definite impact on local businesses, industries, organizations and individuals that rely on a high-speed link to the rest of the world, he said.

He pointed out that the most recent Statistics Canada numbers show the unemployment rate for the Stratford region among the lowest in Ontario at 4.8%, well below the provincial average of 7.3%.

“I tend to think that our economic strategy is working,” said Mathieson, “and this is part of the strategy.”

Economic development officer Randy Mattice agreed that the positives take a bit of the sting out of not being named Intelligent Community of the Year.

“We’ve done some great things as a community,” he said after congratulating Taichung City as a deserving winner. “And making it to the top seven three years in a row puts us in a very elite group.”

Stratford’s loss in New York came despite a high-profile last-minute plug from BlackBerry co-founder Mike Lazaridis, who was being honoured Friday as the ICF’s Visionary of the Year.

“We’re all rooting for you Dan,” he said with a nod to the mayor and the large contingent of Stratford supporters in the room. “The fact that you’re on the list is incredible to me. But I’m not surprised.”

Stratford supporters made no attempt to hide their disappointment at not hearing the city’s named called, but quickly turned to levity to lighten the mood.

“We’re going to drink our sorrows away tomorrow,” said Ysni Semsedini, vice-president of engineering with Festival Hydro, as he contemplated the trip home from New York.

He was talking about Tim Hortons coffee.

From the Stratford Beacon Herald, Saturday June 8th, 2013 by Mike Beitz


A Tiger in Rural Ontario


Guest blog by Jenna Ujiye

A couple of weeks ago I decided to explore the hiking trails in Huron County. There are 29 public trails, so I made a plan to hike sections of three of them. I started off at the Sifto monument at the top of the hill across from the Huron Historic Gaol. This lookout area has a really great view of the Menesetung bridge, the Sifto Salt mine, the Maitland River and Lake Huron.

So you may be wondering why I mentioned a Tiger in the title of this blog. Well, Tiger is actually a person! William “Tiger” Dunlop was a physician, author, woodsman, soldier, politician and raconteur and  one of the founders of  Goderich. I hadn’t hiked the Dunlop trail in years so my next stop was the Tiger Dunlop Trail. This trail is 3.2 kilometers and is great for biking, walking, running, and cross country skiing in the winter. It ends at the Tiger Dunlop Tomb, where there are plaques explaining the history of the man.

This trail meets up with the Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail and the Maitland Trail. Seeing as I wanted to finish the trails in a couple of days I decided to drive to a parking area along the 48 km Maitland Trail. I hiked about 6 kilometeres along the Maitland River and took in some great views. I even caught a beaver working on his dam, watched two eagles dancing and witnessed a blue heron! I will say I was surprised at the damage that still existed from the 2011 tornado in the area. I know that nature (and the amazing trail volunteers) will take over soon though!

My next stop was over to a loop of the main part of the Maitland Trail to check out the Balls Bridge. This bridge is really amazing and it’s story is even better. They say that it is the “bridge that love built,” the original builder built it so his wife didn’t have to get her feet wet walking through the river on her way to the market back in 1885. This bridge is also one of  the older bridges in Ontario and the design is very rare with less than a dozen left in existence. To find out more about the Balls Bridge visit The pictures tell it all!

I ended at the Goderich boardwalk. It’s a 1.5km trek along the three beaches in Goderich. My friend Cindy says it’s the best, because there are ice cream shops at both ends. While I was walking I probably passed 100 people enjoying the sun and getting a bit of exercise. I actually watched a couple of kids swimming at The Cove beach, but it was still pretty cold. I can’t wait for the water to be warm enough for me, this beach has the best waves and sand around!

To find out more about these wonderful trails visit

Keeping Your Kids Active Once the School Year Ends


Seventh Inning Stretch is a 500 piece puzzle by Cobble Hills. It is available at the Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario.

In many ways, today’s kids have busier schedules than any previous generation of youngsters. Many extracurricular activities, including sports, require a year-round commitment, and the dual-income household has landed many kids in after school programs where kids tend to do their schoolwork or engage in various activities that keep them from resting on their laurels.

But those busy schedules get a lot less hectic when the school year ends. Once school is out, kids used to a full schedule might find themselves with lots of time on their hands. Though it’s good for kids to squeeze in some rest and relaxation during their summer break, it’s also important for kids to stay active so they don’t develop poor habits as the summer goes on.

In addition, the American Psychological Association notes that kids who are physically active are more capable of coping with stress and tend to have higher self-esteem than kids who do not include physical activity as part of their regular routines. The following are a few suggestions for parents looking for ways to keep their kids active throughout the summer while still allowing them to recharge their batteries after a long school year.

*Plan an active vacation. Summer is when many families go on vacation, so why not choose a vacation that involves more than napping poolside? Though it’s still a good to leave some time for relaxation, find a locale where you can embrace activities like snorkeling, hiking, kayaking, or other adventures that get you and your youngsters off the poolside chaise and out exploring. Such a trip might inspire kids to embrace an activity more fully, getting them off the couch not only while they’re on vacation but also when they return home for the rest of summer.

*Teach kids to garden. Gardening might be seen as a peaceful and relaxing hobby, but it still requires a lot of elbow grease and hard work that pays physical dividends. A garden must be planted, hoed, weeded, and watered, and gardening gets kids out of the house to enjoy the great outdoors.

When growing a vegetable garden, kids might embrace the chance to be directly involved in the foods that will eventually end up on their dinner tables. Parents can embrace this as an opportunity to teach the value of eating locally-produced foods and the positive impact such behaviour has on the environment.

*Go swimming. Few adults who work in offices haven’t looked out their windows on a sunny summer day and thought how nice it would be to be spending that afternoon taking a few laps in a lake, at the beach or in a pool. Kids have the same daydreams during the summer, so take a day off every so often and take the kids for an afternoon of swimming.

Swimming is a great activity that exercises the entire body, including the shoulders, back, hips, legs, and abdominals. In addition, swimming helps kids and adults alike maintain a healthy weight while also improving their cardiovascular health. It’s hard for some people to find a place to swim once the warm weather departs, so take advantage of the summer weather and go swimming as often as possible while the kids are not in school.

*Limit how much time kids spend watching television, playing video games or surfing the internet. Many of today’s kids are as tech savvy as they are busy. But it’s important that kids don’t spend too much time online or on the couch watching television or playing video games. Such activities are largely sedentary, and they can set a bad precedent for the months ahead, even when the school year begins once again.

Parents should limit how much time their youngsters spend in front of the television or the computer during summer vacation, keeping track and turning the TV or computer off if they suspect kids are spending too much time staring at the screen instead of being active. Kids might not love it when you turn their video games off or minimize their access to social media, but explain the limitations at the onset of summer and let kids know you expect them to be physically active even if it’s summer vacation.

Credit: Stratford Gazette, May 16, 2013

REPAIR OUR AIR – Turn off vehicle engines – Idling By-law 133-2001


‘Two for the Road’ is a 1000 piece puzzle from Cobble Hills. It is available at the Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario.

Idling and Air Quality
The goal of this By-law is to improve air quality and respiratory health. Contaminates from vehicle exhaust are major contributors to deteriorating air quality in Stratford. Studies by Health Canada and other agencies link a number of contaminates from vehicle emissions to significant respiratory health effects.

By-law Purpose
The By-law is intended to reduce unnecessary idling in the City. It limits idling to no more than 5 consecutive minutes. the by-law allows transit vehicles to idle when picking up or discharging passengers and allows limited idling when transit vehicles are waiting for passengers. The By-law also allows private transit vehicles equipped with air-conditioning systems to idle for 10 minutes to bring the temperature to a tolerable level for passengers. As well, the By-law provides for idling during extreme outdoor temperatures to ensure heating or cooling inside a vehicle.

How is the By-law enforced?
It is the City’s intention to achieve compliance through voluntary measures. However, the By-law stipulates a fine of up to a maximum of $5000.00 for infractions. City By-law Enforcement Officers will carry out enforcement. Contact By-law Enforcement at 519-271-0250, ext. 200 or 327.

Why should we reduce unnecessary idling?
There are known environmental impacts and economic costs associated with vehicle emissions. Motor vehicles and related activities are the major sources of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, suspended particles and volatile organic compounds in the City. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are the two main substances involved in the formation of ozone, a component of smog.

Ozone and suspended particles are included in the group of chemicals associated with significant respiratory health effects and hospital admissions.

Economic costs and operational impacts.

It has been estimated that idling wastes 3% of Ontario’s fuel. Lubricant contamination occurs from excessive idling.

Alternatives to unnecessary idling

From a cold start, it is better to warm up an engine by driving it rather than idling. Warm up times are reduced to half and fuel consumption is reduced. If you are concerned about turning off your engine because you may have trouble restarting it, a well-maintained starter system and engine is a better alternative than idling.

Repair Our Air – turn off your vehicle engine

A copy of the City’s idling By-law 133-2001 is available on the City’s website at or can be obtained by calling the City Clerk’s Office at 519-271-0250 ext. 237 during business hours. For By-law Enforcement, contact By-law Enforcement at 519-271-0250, ext. 200 or 327.

Credit – The Beacon Herald – Stratford Town Crier, Saturday, June 1, 2013

Walk – Don’t Ride on Stratford’s Sidewalks!


‘Sunday Morning’ is a 1000 piece puzzle from Cobble Hills. It is available at the Book Vault, in Stratford, Ontario.

Riding a bicycle on a sidewalk is contrary to By-law 159-2008 section 29(2) and can result in a $35.00 fine

WALK your bike on sidewalks

Cycling tips:
-Always wear a helmet
-Ride with a buddy if possible
-Obey traffic rules

Bikes are:
-A great way to get around
-Green and clean
-Great exercise

SAFE side WALKS for everyone!

Credit: Stratford Town Crier

Toastmasters Group the Talk of Town


“The Saloon” is a 1000 piece puzzle from SunsOut. It is available at the Book Vault Inc. in Stratford, Ontario.

Credit: Stratford Gazette – Wednesday, May 16, 2013

Toastmasters group the talk of town

The number one fear for most people is public speaking, and now residents of Stratford have a place to turn to help them overcome that phobia.

Speak Stratford Toastmasters has been holding meetings since the fall and currently meets every Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Stratford Country Club.

Founding members Lisa Stanley and Gezahgn Wordofa both saw a need and decided they were the ones to fill it. They felt their speaking skills needed improvement and a Toastmasters club seemed like the obvious way to reach that goal.

Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development. Its membership is 280,000. These members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 13,500 clubs in 116 countries that make up their global network of meeting locations.

“Membership in Toastmasters is one of the greatest investments you can make in yourself,” states a press release from local organizers. “It is also one of the most cost-effective skill-building tools available anywhere.”

The local Toastmasters group currently has 17 members and needs three more to reach its the number to officially become a chartered club.

If interested, you’re asked to contact Lisa Stanley at 519-276-1158 or find the club on Facebook at Speak Stratford Toastmasters

Lock it or lose it


Warm weather and sunshine are back so you take the bike out of the garage and go for a ride. You stop at a corner store and lean your bike against the wall as you zip in for just a second. You end up walking home.

Ross Taylor, owner of Ross’ Bikes, knows the feeling of walking out of an establishment and finding nothing where there should be a bike.

“It’s just this stunned moment. I had all my gear on and I had to walk home. I felt like an idiot. It leaves a bitter taste in your mouth,” he said.

In a perfect world a bike left leaning against the wall of a coffee shop or at the side of a house would still be there minutes, hours or days later. It’s not a perfect world.

In 2011, there were 94 bikes reported stolen to Stratford police. The good news is that number fell in 2012 to 66. The majority of bikes are stolen from the core area but others are swiped from front porches, said Stratford police Insp. Sam Theocharis.

From January until May 13 there have been 14 bikes reported stolen, which is on pace with this time last year.

“I’ve never had a bike stolen that was locked,” Taylor noted.

That’s the key.

Taylor, police and Joel Curtis, co-owner of Totally Spoke’d, agree the only way to keep your bike from becoming temporary transportation for someone else, a source of income for thieves who strip them for parts or income for someone looking for a quick buck to buy drugs, is to lock it up.

“About this time of year is when it starts to peak,” Theocharis said.

The problem isn’t as bad as it has been in the past but that bitter taste lingers.

“People come in with the mindset they don’t want anything too good because it’s going to get stolen. The thieves win,” Curtis said.

From the Stratford Beacon Herald Saturday May 8, 2013 .. by Laura Cudworth

Meet Our Neighbours – On Stage Dance Studio


On Stage Dance Studio – 172 Ontario Street, Stratford, Ontario.

There is no doubt in the minds of Stratford’s many business entrepreneurs that this generous community has been the perfect place to open up their business, and allow them to follow their dreams. Meghan Seaman, Owner and Artistic Director of On Stage Dance Studio located on Ontario Street, is proof of just that.

“I’m living my dream,” says Meghan. “I’m so privileged to enjoy going to work every day! I’ve been dancing my entire life and I never have to stop. How cool is that?”

It is clear from her work in the community and her great accomplishments at such a young age that Meghan’s passion for dance and working with children runs through her blood. Teaching the perfect combination of high-calibre dance and positivity, Meghan has lead her students to success, and many of her students have gone on to study with The National Ballet of Canada, The Alberta School of Ballet, The Stratford Festival, and York University among many others! Meghan also organized and choreographed what is Stratford’s most well-known flashmob, in which she and her dancers shared their joy of dance to over 65,000 viewers on YouTube. However, Meghan’s dance studio is much more than a place of work; rather she sees it more of a “dance” family.

When I opened the studio,” Meghan explains, “having a supportive, nurturing place for kids to explore dance was really important to me. I’m so happy to see that the studio has developed into a place where kids can be themselves, express themselves and feel safe.

Not only has Meghan become a role model for her students and youth throughout Stratford, she has also become a tremendous contributor and supporter in her community. On Stage Dance Studio has offered a scholarship program to dancers, has been the main financial sponsor of the ‘Teen Esteem’ and ‘Elements’ programs, has donated and volunteered time to local causes such as Optimism Place and, among countless other involvements, runs On Stage’s Community Performance Company, a performance group that dances at local fundraisers and events.

Meghan has also been heavily recognized for her business and her contributions for the community winning “Stratford’s Favourite Dance Studio” in multiple years, and has just recently won the “Young Entrepreneur” award at this year’s Stratford Business Excellence Awards. Her competitive dance team has competed across North America, and her dancers have been recognized with multiple accolades for their performances.

Meghan, who is now in her 8th year of owning the business, enjoys looking back at how it all started and reminisces about what she wrote in her journal when she was in the first grade – a journal that her family still treasures.

“When I grow up,” Meghan’s journal reads. “I want to be a dance teacher.”

Credit: Stratford Gazette, May 16, 2013

Meet our neighbours – Stratford Accelerator Centre


For the past century, Stratford has been well-known particularly for its arts and theatre lifestyle, especially since the inception of its Shakespeare Festival Theatre. However, quite recently the city has seen its home rapidly become a blossoming technology culture, making the shortlist as one of the ICF’s smartest communities three years in a row, with–among other advancements– the installation of the University of Waterloo’s Stratford Campus and now the Stratford Accelerator Centre located on Wellington Street.

Opening up their doors for the official Grand Opening on May 9th, the SAC’s Shane Pegg, Director of Strategic, and Office Manager Joanne Schmidt are excited to be in Stratford to finally have the chance to show the community what local entrepreneurs are creating!

Although Shane and Joanne have led different paths leading up to joining the SAC, both have extended roots in Stratford as well as a diverse work history.

Shane worked for Blackberry in Waterloo for many years before joining the SAC late last year. Although Shane was born and raised just outside of Wingham in the town of Bluevale, Shane happily visited Stratford regularly during his childhood, since his mother and grandparents were born and raised here.

“I appreciate the strong, supportive community in Stratford,” Shane explains, “I’m excited to be part of the Stratford Accelerator Centre and to connect with local businesses and entrepreneurs!”

Joanne, who lives and was raised in Stratford, has an Office Administration background combined with 15 years experience within the Stratford community.

“I’m excited to work with new and existing Stratford Accelerator clients,” says Joanne. “So stop by and say hi!”

So when you get the chance take Joanne’s advice, and stop by the Stratford Accelerator Centre to meet her and Shane as well as the other great clients and entrepreneurs!

Stratford Gazette, May 16, 2013.

To avoid money fights, take a ‘mine, yours, ours’ approach, says Gail Vaz-Oxlade

"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.

Celebrity money expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade has helped many budget-challenged Canadians put their bank accounts back in order on national television.

Now, with her new series “Money Moron” (premiering Friday on Slice), the frank-talking financial guru comes to the aid of those who feel they are victims of such over-spenders — from spouses and friends, to parents and their children.

In each episode, Vaz-Oxlade helps a “tattler” confront a “money moron” in hopes of saving their ailing relationship. If they follow through on the tasks she assigns, which include a spending journal and a cash-flow budget, she gives them up to $10,000.

“People at home will watch this and all to learn how to tell the truth, how to lovingly tell the person that they’re genuinely interested in helping, ‘This is not working, we have to do something,“’ says Vaz-Oxlade, who previously hosted the series “Til Debt Do Us Part” and “Princess.”

Telling the truth is also the key to avoid fighting with a spouse about money, says Vaz-Oxlade, who recently spoke with The Canadian Press about that very topic.

Here are Vaz-Oxlade’s five tips for preventing money meltdowns in relationships:

1. Simply fess up about your financial issues, whether they concern your own money or your partner’s.
“The majority of people fight about money because they’re not honest, so rule No. 1 for not fighting about money is to be honest with each other,” says the author of over a dozen books, the latest of which is “Money Rules.”

“Tell each other what you’re thinking. Don’t expect the other person to know what you’re thinking. Please, we don’t read minds, OK?”

2. Don’t deceive each other in money matters.
“Don’t do things like bring home stuff and take the tags off or stuff in bags and bring it into the house and hide it in the laundry hamper,” says Vaz-Oxlade, who also has a weekly radio show on Toronto’s Newstalk 1010.

“That kind of deception, you may think it’s not a big deal but it is fundamentally saying you don’t trust your partner and you’re telling your partner not to trust you.”

There is one exception to the rule: If you’re married to a money moron, you may have to keep financial information from your partner, she notes.

3. Have constructive — not confrontational — cash chats. And communicate your longer-term financial goals to find a common ground.
“Talking about the money outside of just, ‘The bills need to be paid,“’ says the straight-talking Jamaican native.

“Have conversations about what it is you’re trying to achieve. Don’t just assume you both want to buy a house, and even if you say you want to buy a house, do you want to buy the same kind of house? You have to have the conversations and you can’t just assume that the other person is on track with you if you don’t ask the question.”

4. Choose when you talk about finances carefully.
“If you do this at the end of a busy day, if you do this just when you’ve found out somebody overdrew the account, if you do it during heightened emotional times, what you’re going to do is set yourself up for a fight,” says Vaz-Oxlade.

“If you get into a fight over the money, call a time out. Say, ’This is not working for us anymore, this is too emotionally inflated. We’ll stop now but set the date for the next meeting,’ so you don’t just walk away from it.”

5. Don’t let one person take all control over the money.
“You need to have both people in the game if you want to have both people committed to the game plan,” she says.

“So yes, one person may have more time and may be better attuned to doing things like paying the bills. But you still have to sit down and show your partner, ‘These are the bills I paid this week, this is how much money we put in savings.“’

Vaz-Oxlade recommends a “mine, yours, ours” approach to managing household finances.

“So, ‘Together we decide what our joint expenses are, we open a joint account, we contribute to that joint account proportionate to our income,“’ she said. “Fifty-50 isn’t always fair. If one person makes three times as much as the other person, 50-50 definitely isn’t fair.

“Contribute proportionate to your income so you’re each paying proportionate on the joint expenses, and then everything else you do as individuals: You have your own credit, you have your own savings, you have your own insurance.”

In the case of a stay-at-home mom or dad, the couple still has to make allowance for the fact that both parties need their own money to manage, she adds.

“Which means that you handle the joint expenses and whatever else is left over, you divvy it up and you share it so that you can build your own savings and you can build your own emergency fund and you can manage your own credit.”

“Money Moron” premieres with back-to-back episodes on Friday at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Slice. A special sneak peek presentation will air Thursday at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. PT.

By Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press, Wednesday, Apr. 17 2013.