Amherstburg Farmers Market opens for 2018 season

By Jonathan Martin


Bouts with rain, wind and cool temperatures didn’t keep shoppers away from the Amherstburg Farmers’ Market’s opening day.

Saturday’s 2018 season opener “satisfied” Rita Casagrande, one of the organization’s market managers.

Despite often rainy conditions at the opening day of the Amherstburg Farmers Market, people were still in good spirits. (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

“It’s rained every opening day (for the past five years),” she said.  “So, we’re right on schedule there.  I wish it wasn’t raining, but we’re here till October, so we have a lot of sunny days ahead of us.”

Casagrande is also a vendor at the marker.  She sells homemade cookies and cakes.  She said her items were selling despite the increment weather, so she was “happy.”

Steeve Bouchard is another vendor and one of the founding members of the market.  His family business, Bouchard Gardens, deals in both horticulture and agriculture.  He sits on the board, a three-person team, with Casagrande and his wife, Cynthia.  He said at its peak the board boasted a five-person directorship.  The organization is small, but Bouchard said that’s all they need.

“This event pretty much runs itself,” he said.  “Our loyal customers keep us going.  They always have.  We’re grateful to them.”

Christopher Chevalier pets
a rabbit at the Amherstburg Farmers’ Market’s opening day
last Saturday. (RTT Photo by Jonathan Martin)

The market hosts a variety of vendors, ranging from locally-caught fish to hand-crafted jewelry.

The Amherstburg Fort Malden Horticultural Society was also on-site, selling its flowers.  There were pony rides, live music, drinks, foodstuffs, artisanal crafts, produce, baked goods and even a little bunny who liked to be pet.

The Amherstburg Farmers’ Market will run every Saturday from now until Oct. 6, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Malden Community and Cultural Centre, located on County Road 20 at the foot of Howard Ave.

Amherstburg to spend upwards of $75,000 to devise new “branding strategy”



By Ron Giofu


Town council is moving ahead with a new branding strategy that could cost upwards of $75,000.

Council authorized administration to proceed with an agreement with Cinnamon Toast New Media Inc. at cost not to exceed $75,000 plus HST to develop a “branding strategy” for the town. Council approved up to $80,000 for such an initiative in the 2018 capital budget.

According to a report from manager of tourism and culture Anne Rota, the proposed branding strategy “will guide Amherstburg into a successfully integrated marketing and promotions plan that will be competitive with current and developing market trends. This will include a strong online and social media communications program with campaigns to raise the profile of Amherstburg.”

Key project deliverables for the Amherstburg branding strategy include development of a “comprehensive research paper” that will deal with perceptions of internal and external audiences, the source of the perceptions and suggestions for changing them through branding and marketing. Another goal that will be delivered through the strategy includes development of a new town logo and communications “for print and digital for the purpose of incenting visitation and targeting high yield consumer segments.”

Might we be seeing less of this logo in the future? A new branding strategy has been approved with a new logo part of that strategy.

The branding strategy will also lead to a new tourism website, a communications strategy and a “brand identity manual” and communications plan.

“Currently, Amherstburg has fallen behind in marketing and promotion in comparison to other municipalities in the region,” Rota said in her report. “Through the enhanced branding strategy, Amherstburg will build a competitive and sustainable tourism and economic vehicle attracting high yield consumers, maximizing the potential for growth as a destination of choice to visit and invest in.”

The strategic plan that council approved identified marketing, promotion and economic development as needs and goals for the community.

Not all council members were sold on the idea, however. Councillor Diane Pouget said she was opposed to the idea at budget time and remains opposed. She called it a “total waste of taxpayers’ money” and said the town’s logo and colours are not “tired,” but reflected the town’s military history.

The town’s ability to attract festivals and the possibility of a hotel announcement soon shows the town is gaining attention, she believed. The town must “live within its means” and the money could be used for other things, including infrastructure as it is “crumbling in rural areas.”

Kate Festeryga carrying banner for Liberals in Essex riding



By Ron Giofu


The Liberal Party has its candidate for the June 7 provincial election

Kate Festeryga has been nominated and will be the Liberal candidate in the Essex riding. If the name Festeryga is familiar, it is because her mother Audrey ran federally in the riding three years ago.

Festergya was nominated last week and she is pleased with her campaign thus far.

“We’re really happy with how things are unfolding,” she said. “I’m happy with how things are going.”

Festeryga said she has worked at Queen’s Park the last few years, in both the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth and at the Ministry of Energy. While noting that young females coming forward “is a very difficult thing to do,” the 26-year-old Festergya said she knows she has the knowledge base and vision and decided to put her name out there and run.

“I wanted to make sure our community was heard and I was making a difference,” she said.

When Doug Ford was elected as leader of the Progressive Conservative (PC) party, Festeryga said that also led her to want to run.

“This wasn’t something I could let happen,” she said. “I couldn’t sit back and not be fully involved in this election. I made the decision to put my name on the ballot instead of working behind the scenes.”

Festergya said the reception she has been receiving has been positive thus far.

“The reception in the community has been wonderful,” she said. “The community is excited about a fresh voice for the community.”

Believing the Liberals have the best plan for the economy, Festeryga said the New Democrats’ plan has many elements that have already been done by the Liberals while the PC’s don’t have a plan.

“We’re doing all the things Doug Ford said he is going to do,” said Festeryga. She added the NDP plan is “an outdated economic plan that doesn’t make sense for what Ontario is and what it is going to be.”

Festeryga said the Liberals have stood up for the auto industry, brought down the unemployment rate and removed over 800 regulations in an effort to grow the economy.

The issue of energy costs was addressed, with Festeryga stating the Liberals have made substantial investment in the area. She noted the grid hadn’t been invested in prior to the 2003 blackout so the Liberals invested in it, got into green energy and got off “dirty coal,” the latter being a major climate change initiative, Festergya stated.

“We really are leading the way in green energy and Windsor-Essex played a role in that,” she said.

The investments landed on people’s energy bills, she noted and people said it was too much, too soon so the Ontario Fair Hydro Act came about and Festergya said Essex NDP MPP Taras Natyshak was opposed. She said that has seen cuts to hydro bills.

During the Liberals time in office, there have been no smog days and $4 billion saved in health care costs, said Festeryga.

The NDP plan for energy won’t work, she believed, as buying back Hydro One shares “will not impact bills a single cent” and will cost taxpayers $8 billion. The PC’s aren’t any better, she added.

“When we look at the energy sector, the PC’s and NDP have regressive policies,” said Festeryga.

Health care is another big issue for Festeryga and she said there are $12 billion in cuts projected if the Doug Ford-led PC Party comes into power. That makes her question the future of the mega-hospital project as that amount of cuts “means the mega-hospital is on the verge of being on the chopping block.”

The Liberal Party has increased funding for Windsor and Leamington hospitals two per cent, she added, as well as adding 700 long-term care beds within the Erie Shores LHIN. The Liberals are assisting with more mental health initiatives and child care spaces as well, she stated. Regarding the latter, Festeryga said the PC’s propose $175 per year for families (“It’s not a plan.”) while the NDP plan does not address capacity issues.

“If a woman can’t get back into the workplace because of childcare, they are not fully participating,” she said.

Festeryga pointed out there have also been investments in education, noting new and renovated schools and the support of a tech hub in this area. She also criticized Ford’s stance on agriculture, stating he wanted to pave over the green belt because “it’s just farmland.” She said the area is rich in agriculture and produces a lot of great produce.

While the Liberals are in third place in most polls, Festeryga said that is “not reflective of what’s going on in Ontario.” Projections of only two seats for the party “is just not going to happen” and compared it to the United States where polls showed Donald Trump losing only to have him win the White House. That was painful for Festeryga, who noted she worked on the campaign for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

“Once you get rid of the noise, you realize things aren’t that bad. Things are going well,” she said. “I’m not going to worry about polls.”

“It’s going to be an interesting election in Essex,” Festeryga continued. “It’s the one to watch for sure.”


Rotary Ribfest has requests approved, looking for 2019 location


By Ron Giofu


The 9th annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest is returning to Centennial Park July 6-8, and the town is offering some help to organizers in presenting it.

However, the Ribfest committee is seeking additional help from the town in securing a location for next year’s event.

Carl Gibb and Laura George, both members of the Rotary Ribfest committee, appeared before town council and had the first two of their requests granted. Town council agreed to waive the fees for use of the park and also will allow them to use nine sign posts for 28 days prior to the event instead of 14 days, as stated in the town’s sign bylaw.

The latter was a point of concern for Councillor Joan Courtney, who worried the town would be setting a precedent. She suggested three weeks prior to the event instead of four, but the Ribfest committee members said they had four weeks for the sign posts last year.

Gibb said they have been looking for a 2019 location, as this year will be the final year at Centennial Park due to a portion of it being sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board for a new public high school. Gibb said they need approximately four acres and have yet to come across a suitable site.

“Council has to decide whether they want it or not,” he said.

Councillor Rick Fryer suggested the Libro Centre, stating there is room for festivals there, but Gibb said part of the attraction of Centennial Park is it has fencing. Fencing costs rise three times if it is moved to any other site, he said.

CAO John Miceli said the fencing and track will be removed from Centennial Park as condition of sale with the Greater Essex County District School Board. He said he will work with Gibb and the committee to try and find a suitable location. He added there are 178 acres at the Libro Centre that can still be developed.

Provincial candidates face off in debate



By Ron Giofu


Candidates in the riding of Essex faced off as part of a series of debates presented by the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Windsor and District Labour Council.

NDP incumbent Taras Natyshak faced challengers that included PC candidate Chris Lewis, Green Party candidate Nancy Pancheshan and Liberal candidate Kate Festeryga.

Natyshak said “we are on the cusp of change in Ontario” and that “New Democrats believe we don’t have to choose between bad and worse.” He said the NDP has a fully costed plan if elected.

Lewis said that “to say I’m grassroots is an understatement” and that he is “results and action driven.”

“I know what it takes to get the job done,” he said.

Liberal candidate Kate Festeryga

Festeryga acknowledged that the “Liberals aren’t the most popular party in the room right now” but said Liberal policies have led to big gains in the Windsor-Essex region including the unemployment rate dropping below the national average, reductions in small business tax rates and cutting regulations to businesses.

“We could go on forever on what we’re doing for the economy,” she said.

As it relates to agriculture, Lewis said it was an issue “near and dear to me,” adding the PC’s will be the only party to cut the carbon tax. He said he doesn’t claim to have all the answers but he and the PC Party will surround themselves with the right people and “we’ll get the job done.”

Festeryga said she comes from a third generation family farm and criticized PC leader Doug Ford for comments about paving over the green belt as “it’s just farmer’s fields.” She said Liberals have helped cut hydro rates for 500,000 small businesses and farms.

PC candidate Chris Lewis

Pancheshan said the Greens support small businesses and farms and support the promotion of craft breweries and wineries.

Natyshak said “my PC colleague says he doesn’t have the answers because he has no plan whatsoever.” He said the NDP will invest in broadband internet because farms are “high tech” operations. The NDP will also end the rural delivery charges and also will end time-of-use billing, noting it is “ruining” some farm operations. He said while Premier Kathleen Wynne has called the NDP position on energy “a dream,” the Liberal plan is “a nightmare.”

Natyshak added the NDP will buy back Hydro One shares as the party believes hydro should always be in public hands. He accused the PC’s of actually wanting to adopt some of Wynne’s plans regarding energy.

NDP candidate Taras Natyshak (incumbent)

Festeryga said Natyshak voted against the Ontario Fair Hydro Plan and said the NDP plan will not result in any billing decreases as rates are set by the Ontario Energy Board. Lewis said the Green Energy Act is having an adverse effect and is driving business away while Pancheshan said the Greens support not continuing to subsidize big business. The Green platform calls for a long-term energy plan that would see Ontario powered with 100 per cent renewable energy.

Pancheshan said the Greens support the idea of one school board with savings from administration costs passed down to the “front lines” such as students in classrooms. They will also eliminate EQAO testing, something Natyshak said the NDP will do as well.

There is also a failed funding formula in education, Natyshak added, something that has been passed down from as far back as the Mike Harris PC government.

Green Party candidate Nancy Pancheshan

On the health care front, Natyshak said the health system is “chronically underfunded.” Lewis indicated the party will end “hallway healthcare” and that the PC’s will “take care of front line workers” and assist mental health initiatives.

Festeryga indicated there were hospital closures and cuts under both NDP and PC governments while Pancheshan said the Greens want to prioritize front line investment.

The provincial election is June 7.