Good morning, Greater Sudbury! Here are a few stories to start your day on this Friday morning.
It may look completed, but another construction season ahead for the twinning of MR 35
The twinning of Municipal Road 35 between Azilda and Chelmsford appears completed, but it’s still slated for another season of construction. Only two of its three layers of asphalt have been laid, city director of engineering services David Shelsted said, adding that construction is expected to be completed by mid-summer 2022. “We appreciate people’s patience in dealing with construction and having to go through gravel sections as we build one side of the road, pave it and move people to the other side of the road,” he said, adding that the stretch of road will be fully accessible throughout the winter. Crew members might still be on site cleaning it up for the winter, but he said work is done for the season and will recommence as soon as possible in the spring. The widening of MR 35 was recommended in the Sudbury Regional Transportation Study in March 1992 and reaffirmed in the 2005 and 2015 Transportation Master Plan studies. Area city councillors actively advocated for the project in 2016 and city council approved it the following year, with construction beginning in 2018 at a budgeted cost of $40 million. The city managed to pare the project’s cost down to approximately $35 million as a result of lower than expected tender rates and minimizing costs associated with property takings.
GSPS errors led to lesser charge, lower sentence in former reporter’s child pornography case
Former Sudbury reporter Callam Senyk-O’Flanagan was handed a nine-month conditional sentence on Thursday after pleading guilty to committing an indecent act by making child sexual abuse material available to the public through the use of digital file-sharing software. That conditional sentence will see Senyk-O’Flanagan serve 4.5 months under house arrest, followed by a strict curfew for the remainder of the conditional sentence, then one year of probation. Senyk-O’Flanagan will be fitted with electronic monitoring equipment. He will also have to surrender a DNA sample, and numerous restrictions have been placed on him during both his house arrest and probation. He is not required to register with the Sex Offender Registry. When he was arrrested on Feb. 13, 2019, he was charged with two counts of accessing, five counts of possession and three counts of making available child pornography. The Crown withdrew those charges. Assistant Crown attorney Christina Croteau reiterated to the court police located 464 items identified as child sexual abuse material on Senyk-O’Flanagan’s computer. Croteau said the Crown agreed to a lesser offence in this case, as well as a lower sentence that an offence of this type would ordinarily attract, as there were significant issues stemming from the investigation by Greater Sudbury Police Service had it gone to trial. Lacy told the court there was “troubling police conduct” in this case, and that the detective, Det. Const. Chris Kerr, engaged in “questionable and unconstitutional conduct” that would have “given rise to significant triable and constitutional issues.” Specifically, Senyk-O’Flanagan was not brought to bail court within 24 hours of his arrest. He was also questioned briefly by a detective after being advised of his right to counsel, but before he was able to exercise that right, both the defence and Crown said.
Northern Ontario's Hideaway Pictures inks new $150M, 25-picture production deal
Business for Northern Ontario’s lucrative film and television sector will continue to be brisk with a new $150-million, 25-picture deal between Hideaway Pictures and the Motion Picture Corporation of America. The agreement will see 25 movies and one television series be produced in Ontario. It is the second contract between the two companies. The previous $100-million, 25-picture deal resulted in several popular productions, including the Brooke Shields vehicle “Flower Shop Mysteries”, “Crossword Mysteries” starring Lacy Chabert and the popular Hallmark broadcast series, “When Hope Calls”. The partnership also resulted in several Netflix productions, including “The Knight Before Christmas” starring Vanessa Hudgens and “The Holiday Calendar” starring Kat Graham, as well as multiple Christmas-themed movies for CBS, Lifetime, the Hallmark Channel, GAC Family, Peacock, and Amazon/IMDBTV. David Anselmo, the president of production at Hideaway Pictures, the largest production company in Northern Ontario, said he is excited to be able to ensure the North’s film sector, and the hundreds of people it employs, remains healthy.
City council unanimous in supporting funds for transitional housing
It remains to be seen whether city council is able to reduce a tentative 2022 tax levy increase of 3.2 per cent, but it isn't likely to be at the expense of tackling the homelessness/opioid crises. This much was made clear during tonight’s budget deliberations when the city’s elected officials offered their unanimous support for spending $600,000 on a transitional housing project. “We feel it is a very high priority for our community,” Ward 7 Coun. Mike Jakubo told local media during a conference call that followed tonight’s meeting. That said, Jakubo, who also serves as chair of the city’s finance and administration committee, pointed out that the city is continuing to put pressure on the provincial government to fund it. The funding decision came during the third night of 2022 budget talks tonight, which are far from over and expected to continue during a meeting scheduled for Dec. 7. This transitional housing expense includes the redirection of $250,000 in savings that are expected to come as a result of a recent investment in technology improvements and process changes, such as the one-stop-shop at Tom Davies Square.
Lysyk says efforts by Laurentian to hinder auditor general’s probe of its finances are ‘unprecedented’
“Such a pervasive restriction of our audit work is unprecedented.” That was one of the key phrases in an update on the special audit of Laurentian University released Dec. 1 by the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. In the 13-page report, Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s office outlines Laurentian’s refusal to provide its office with privileged information as it completes a value-for-money audit of the insolvent university’s finances. Earlier this year, Laurentian University declared insolvency, and filed for court-supervised restructuring under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA). Until Laurentian’s filing on Feb. 1, the CCAA process had been used exclusively in the private sector. On April 28, the Office of the Auditor General was asked by the province’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts to conduct a value-for-money audit on Laurentian’s operations for the period of 2010-2020. Lysyk said her office is entitled to privileged (confidential) information under the Auditor General Act as it completes its audits, but Laurentian disagrees. This dispute is currently before the courts, with the auditor general filing an application before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in September, asking for a declaration that her office has “a right of access to privileged information and documents.” A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for Dec. 6.
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath commits to $20/hr minimum wage
The NDP has released details of its plan to implement a minimum wage of $20/hr in Ontario. Leader Andrea Horwath says if her party wins power in next June's provincial election, it will raise the minimum wage by one dollar in Oct. 2022, followed by annual increases of one dollar an hour each May 1st until 2026. Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservative government recently announced a plan to raise the minimum from the current $14.35/hr to $15/hr on Jan. 1, 2022. Horwath on Tuesday said Ford previously cancelled a minimum wage increase planned by the previous Liberal administration, and froze the basic rate for three years. She said her plan offers businesses a predictable path so they can prepare for the changes.
Sunny, but a frigid wind chill this morning
Expect sunny skies for your Friday and a high of -8. Wind will be blowing at 15 km/h, making a wind chill of -22 in the morning and -13 in the afternoon. The UV index will be one, or low. For tonight expect periods of snow and a low of -10.