Young entrepreneurs wrapped in red tape

by Don Rickers

Owner of Archives Wine and Spirit Merchants Robbie Raskin offers a toast to a group of whiskey aficionados. Raskin and his partner have been forced to jump through hoop after hoop by the City of St. Catharines to bring their tasting business to fruition. Supplied photo.   Robbie Raskin and his friend and business partner […]

Robbie Raskin

Seven in a row for Niagara West’s Dean Allison

by Don Rickers

Newly re-elected Conservative MP for Niagara West Dean Allison. Photo credit: Facebook/Dean Allison   When the election dust settled in Niagara West early Tuesday morning, no one was surprised at the result. The pollsters, and the historical record, had pointed to a landslide win for Conservative Dean Allison, and that’s exactly what happened. Just over […]

Dean Allison MP

Affordability key issue in Niagara’s enflamed housing market

by Don Rickers

Photo credit: Reuters/Mark Blinch   Some explain it as a classic case of supply and demand. Property costs have risen dramatically over the past decade, despite government measures to increase the housing supply and reduce demand. But many economists and housing experts question whether recent proposals by the federal Liberals are sufficient to restore affordability […]

for sale sign

Is Niagara home to the garlic capital of Canada? It very well could be

by Don Rickers

Jerry Winnicki and a flatbed-full of his garlic crop. Photo used by permission from the Voice of Pelham.   Jerry Winnicki is a farmer, not a doctor, but he is happy to dispense free health advice—at least when it comes to the nutritional and medicinal power of the humble garlic. It was the ancient Greek […]

jerry winnicki

American tourists and cottagers return to Niagara’s south shore

by Don Rickers

Elco Beach, part of Sherkston Shores Beach Resort and Campground. Located at the border between Port Colborne and Fort Erie, Sherkston, like Crystal Beach and many other areas on Niagara’s south shore along Lake Erie, is a popular destination for vacationing Americans throughout the warmer months. Photo credit: Toronto Life Canadian border crossings reopened to […]

 Strada West on Lundy’s Lane in Niagara Falls. Like so many restauranteurs in the region, Strada West proprietor Tom Roberto has had difficulty securing staff because of the pandemic and associated government measures. Photo credit: The Niagara Independent   Ontario’s Minister for Labour, Training, and Skills Development Monte McNaughton was in Niagara last week to […]

strada west restaurant

Case against former executives of Pelham pot grower pushed to late September

by Don Rickers

Former Pelham mayor Dave Augustyn (centre, black shirt) with CannTrust executives at the official opening of the cannabis producer’s Fenwick facility, June 2018. Three of the company’s former executives are currently facing a litany of charges related to alleged illegal growing efforts in 2018 and 2019. Photo credit: (c) 2018 The Voice of Pelham. Used […]

augustyn ribbon cutting

Mountainview’s Mark Basciano “an everyday hero”

by Don Rickers

Mountainview president Mark Basciano.  Talk to director of philanthropy and public relations at Pathstone Mental Health Kim Rossi about Mountainview president Mark Basciano the builder and she can speak volumes, without ever mentioning his successes in the construction industry. She references Mark Basciano the community builder, the man who learned from his father that creating […]

Mark Basciano

Homelessness on the rise in Niagara, long-term solution needed

by Don Rickers

A homeless encampment in Centennial Gardens off Gale Crescent in St. Catharines. Photo credit: Julia McLaren  Homelessness is an urgent problem in Niagara.  A study conducted by the Region in March provided a snapshot of the dire situation. The third annual Niagara Counts homelessness Point-in-Time (PiT) determined there are at least 665 people (including 121 […]

tent encampment

Niagara hotels look to post-pandemic recovery

by Don Rickers

An online survey of 22 Canadian hotel executives, representing 127 hotels and over 20,000 hotel rooms across Canada, was conducted by Nanos Research in May and June of 2021. The survey was conducted in an effort to capture the pulse of the Canadian hotel industry during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

holiday inn

Niagara’s shortage of hospitality workers hinders pandemic recovery

by Don Rickers

Niagara’s economy is more reliant on the tourism and hospitality industry than probably any other region in Ontario, with an estimated 60,000 jobs pre-pandemic. And no industry has been harder hit.

Cliffton Hill from above

Education funding in Ontario unfair and in need of reform

by Don Rickers

Trustees of the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) and Niagara Catholic District School Board (NCDSB) just rolled out their 2021-22 budgets: $523 million and $268 million respectively, which will serve a total of approximately 60,000 students, at an average cost to the taxpayer of just under $13,000 per enrollee.

aerial shot of buildings

Welland by-election attracts sizable slate of candidates

by Don Rickers

The Rose City is abloom in political aspirants.

Welland’s Ward 3 by-election has attracted a total of six candidates, all eager to fill the seat left vacant by Lucas Spinosa. Spinosa resigned in February, citing a pattern of harassment and threats against him. Nancy Dmytrow-Bilboe, Phill Gladman, John Mastroianni, Steven Soos, Douglas Thomas, and Cathy Connor have all filed nomination papers in the hopes of joining Welland city council come August.

A recent Toronto Star headline broadcasted, “Awash in vaccines, Canada plans to share with other countries.” But COVID-19 vaccine supplies in Niagara have not kept pace with the demand, as many thousands of Niagara residents have been shut out from online registration for second doses. As the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads rapidly throughout Ontario, border-city mayors are lobbying hard for creative solutions to get their communities vaccinated, including accessing surplus American vaccine doses which are currently filling New York and Michigan dumpsters.

diodati and redekop headshots

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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