Local MPs weigh in on border reopening, vaccine passports

by Don Rickers

The Canada-U.S. border’s land crossings were closed in March of 2020 to nonessential travel in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and have remained closed ever since – but that may be changing soon.

MP Tony Baldinelli and MP Dean Allison

It’s hiring season for Niagara’s municipal CAOs

by Don Rickers

Elected municipal politicians have one employee to hire and fire: the chief administrative officer (CAO). It’s an important chair to fill, since all municipal employees report to the CAO, who is charged with making important decisions about hiring employees, planning budgets, and managing operations. The CAO is also the primary member of municipal staff to interact with the elected council, and to implement its policies. Undoubtedly the CAO’s greatest responsibility is in the preparation and submission of the annual budget and, following council approval, the administering of that financial plan on behalf of the municipality.

David Oakes and Jason Burgess

Don’t expect tax breaks from Niagara Region’s $96 million surplus

by Don Rickers

Niagara’s 2020 consolidated financial statements, independently audited by the financial mavens at Deloitte, were recently approved by the Region’s audit committee. A cursory reading of the report might lead one to believe that the coffers are flush, given a reported $96 million in surpluses.

Niagara Region HQ sign

Mike Thorne ruminated on the expression “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” and figured that there might also be treasure in simply moving the junk.

Mike Throne in front of a blue van

Brock’s fiscal position solid

by Don Rickers

Laurentian University in Sudbury saw its tuition revenue grow by 74 per cent in the last decade.

Good news, right?

Sir Issac Brock statue

MP Dean Allison sponsors local social advocate’s petition on mental health

by Don Rickers

Niagara West MP Dean Allison (left), July 2018. Photo credit: Facebook/Dean Allison “Mental health is a human issue, not a [political] party one. It touches the lives of Canadians and Niagara residents from all walks of life.” With this statement as a guiding principle, Welland-based social advocate Steven Soos has crafted a petition calling on […]

Dean Allison MP

Opioid crisis “out of control” in Niagara

by Don Rickers

Glen Walker isn’t apologetic about sounding the clarion call.

As executive director of Positive Living Niagara, Walker is responsible for staff and volunteers who provide support, education, and advocacy for individuals affected by a number of blood-borne infections such as HIV and Hepatitis C. The organization’s deep involvement with AIDS-related drug users has spilled over to opioid addiction and overdose, which is currently at a critical juncture in Niagara.

spoon and lighter

The pandemic’s affect on the mental health of Niagara’s youth

by Don Rickers

A week ago, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole issued a motion in Parliament, calling on the Trudeau Liberals to present a clear, data-driven plan to support a gradual, safe, and permanent lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. In a press release, he stated “Canadians need a plan for hope…a plan that shows there are better days ahead for our country.”

An Olympic dilemma: boycott Beijing? Local MPs weigh in

by Don Rickers

Some Canadian politicians and social activists are calling it the “Genocide Games.”

The reference is to the impending Beijing Winter Olympics, and China’s alleged human rights abuses, including systematic rape and torture, against millions of Muslim Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other minorities within its borders. Throw in the suppression of democracy in Hong Kong through an oppressive program of mass surveillance, detention, and indoctrination, and the arbitrary confinement of two Canadian businessmen in China on trumped-up national security charges, and it’s easy to see why diplomatic relations between Ottawa and Beijing are at a record low ebb.

Olympic flag

Regional councillor Tom Insinna insists that his motion will achieve the most desirable result. Political hopeful and social crusader Steven Soos begs to differ.

boy with mask

Grey Zone has Niagara residents seeing red

by Don Rickers

Consider the colour grey, associated with business suits, sophistication, and wisdom (think grey hair.) It’s a diplomatic color, negotiating the distance between black and white. Mark Zuckerberg’s grey t-shirt has become his trademark, his sartorial stance. Given the Facebook CEO’s billionaire status, one might assume it’s also the colour of success.

closed due to covid sign

Pandemic prompts universities to offer optional gradeless assessment

by Don Rickers

Grades have long been considered essential markers for student academic performance in our universities. But would students slack off if the grade point average (GPA) system disappeared? Would their quality of learning be compromised, or perhaps enhanced?

Mcmaster University building

Hamilton Auditor raises the bar for Niagara Region

by Don Rickers

Transparency and accountability are all the rage these days, a modern-day mantra of good government.

The City of Hamilton appears to have taken this contemporary business vernacular to a new level.

Hamilton city hall

Haldimand mayor feels undermined by St. Catharines “leftist agenda”

by Don Rickers

Renaissance polymath Leonardo de Vinci once aphorized “the greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.”

Let’s give the benefit of the doubt to the City of St. Catharines’ Anti-Racism Advisory Committee, and City Council. Perhaps their motive was simply to be instructively helpful to the citizens of Haldimand County, suggesting the fashion in which the Indigenous blockades at an urban development construction site in Caledonia should be handled. Communication, not confrontation. Talk, not tasers.

protestors at a housing development set tires on fire.

Regional Council’s senior statesman

by Don Rickers

If Alex Trebek’s Final Jeopardy answer was “the still-active grand old man of Niagara politics,” one might reasonably answer “who is Jim Bradley?,” a long-time Liberal first elected to Ontario’s Legislature in 1977, who currently sits as Regional Chair. But if chronological age is the measure, Bradley, at age 75, concedes top spot to political veteran and octogenarian Tim Rigby.

It all started in 1996, when Rigby was an insurance broker in St. Catharines. His major community focus at the time was rowing, as he was a driving force to bring the 1999 World Championships to the Henley Course (a feat he has repeated for the 2024 regatta).

Councillor Tim Rigby

A pair of high-ranking Niagara Region staff members may not be onstage performers, but their “acting” roles are getting noticed.

Ron Tripp, formerly the Commissioner of Public Works, assumed the CAO’s duties in December 2018, and has been in an “acting” capacity ever since. His predecessor, Carmen D’Angelo, had gone on medical leave, and formally left the Region’s employment in February 2019. One of Tripp’s first acts was to fire four key managers linked to controversial events and the CAO selection process at the Region. A restructuring of staff and departments followed soon thereafter.

niagara region

Wayne Olson wins big in Pelham by-election

by Don Rickers

The suspense only lasted 15 minutes.

Last Tuesday night’s election polls closed at 8 pm in Pelham’s Ward 1. A quarter-hour later, the Town’s website transmitted the unofficial results, which proclaimed retired executive Wayne Olson the winner by a wide margin, garnering more than twice as many votes as his closest competitor.

mayor junkin and wayne olson

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