Doug Millroy: A debt of gratitude to a dog and a cat


In one of those strange twists of fate, it turns out my family and I will forever owe a debt of gratitude to a dog and a cat, Buster and Yuri respectively.

Because they probably saved the lives of grandson Billy Swain’s wife, Morgan, and the couple’s two children, Hailey, 9, and Harmony, 8.

The Swain’s home five kilometres north of Bruce Mines burned to the ground sometime during the night of March 20-21 and thanks to Buster and Yuri, Morgan and the girls weren’t in it.

Billy was in White River at the time, working on winter highway maintenance as a plow driver with Broad Spectrum.

Buster was actually just visiting as he is owned by Sharon Swain, Billy’s mother, who was in Timmins on behalf of the Red Cross at the time.

Neither Buster nor Yuri would come back into the house after being let out for the last time the evening of March 20 so Morgan called Sharon to ask if it would be OK to take the children and the animals to her place, at Ophir about 10 kilometres farther north of Bruce Mines, for the night.

Neither the dog nor the cat had any trouble jumping into the car or entering Sharon’s home, so it seems obvious they were spooked by something in the house that burned.

Faulty wiring apparently is suspected as being the cause of the blaze.

Morgan and the girls woke on the morning of March 21 to discover all they had left of their belongings were the clothes on their backs and the fresh ones they had taken with them for school that morning.

Fortunately the house and contents were insured.

But, more importantly, they were alive.


I SUPPOSE YOU could give some trustees of the Algoma District School Board some credit for wanting to reduce the board’s number from 10 to 9 to save taxpayer money in view of Ontario’s burgeon debt, even though it would be, as Trustee Graham suggested, mostly a symbolic gesture

“Everybody needs to tighten their belt a little bit,” he was quoted as saying. “I don’t want to leave a legacy of debt with kids.”

Sounds good, I thought, but as I read on in the story by Brian Kelly of The Sault Star, I began to question what the benefits of cutting one trustee would be for the board against the drawbacks.

Was something symbolic worth what was being proposed?

In the end, enough trustees decided it wasn’t to keep the proposal from being implemented.

I believe, considering how minuscule symbolic turns out to be in this case, they made the right decision.

A trustee gets an honorarium of $7,500 but expenses can run higher for many as they must travel from the district for board meetings, in many cases having to stay overnight. As well, there can be expenses for professional development, bringing the cost to $15,000.

Board Chair Jennifer Sarlo told me the board has a $150 million budget.

When I look at taking $15,000 out of a $150 million budget by taking away one representative from probably a district point, I have to question the logic of the proposal.

Sarlo told me she originally thought the proposal would pass, that she was in favour of it herself, but after hearing the comments of those who wanted to maintain the status quo, she changed her mind and cast the vote that made it a 5-5 tie, killing it.

Brent Rankin, Gladys Wiggins, Russell Reid and Robert McEachren were others to vote against the proposal.

Lidstone, Susan Thayer, Sandra Edwards, Karen Morin and Sheryl Evans-Price voted in favour.

The vote was almost split along the lines of Sault Ste. Marie representatives against those who represent district points.

Sarlo is a Sault representative but she voted along with Rankin (Central Algoma), Wiggins (Elliot Lake), Reid (Michipicoten, Chapleau, Hornepayne) and McEachren (North Shore). Evans-Price, who represents Prince and unorganized townships, voted along with four representatives from the Sault.

None of those proposing the change offered to resign to ease the way to a yes vote.

Sarlo said looking at trustee determination and distribution is an exercise all boards must go through every four years, prior to an election.

Since 2006, apparently student numbers have been on a steady decline from 14,000 to 9,000. But considering how the numbers are spread across a vast area, I don’t think at this point you can tie trustee representation to student numbers.

I really think in cases like this, with district representatives covering such large territories, geography has to come into play.


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