More information required was the name of the game during Wednesday’s meeting of corporate services committee at the Niagara Region.
On the docket Wednesday was a discussion over accessing more information regarding ongoing legal expenses initiated by the Niagara Region and a report outlining options to establish a lobbyist registry.
The Leader of Canada’s Official Opposition Erin O’Toole didn’t pull any punches when discussing Canada’s poor performance in its rolling out of the COVID-19 vaccine. In an exclusive Niagara interview with The Niagara Independent O’Toole was frank in his assessment of the Liberal government’s handling of the situation. “The federal government is responsible for vaccines and last I checked this country was in 40th place. It’s Justin Trudeau’s fault,” said O’Toole during a weekend interview.
Andrews Moses has grown up around the property rental business. His family has been involved for years and Moses himself rented out his first property not that long ago. It didn’t go very well. Turned out the renter was arrested for armed robbery and his tenants were growing marijuana illegally in the basement. “I didn’t know what was happening. It was a crash course in property management,” said Moses who arrived in Canada in 2009 as an international student at Brock University where he earned his MBA.
In a letter issued to a variety of business owners including bars, restaurants, wineries and shopping malls, Niagara’s acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mustafa Hirji has put them on notice he is issuing orders under Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act that will add “modest restrictions” to local businesses.
With Niagara roughly one year into the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines in scarce supply from the federal government, the novel coronavirus is continuing to increase tensions within the Niagara community. Upon the recent provincial announcement that Niagara would remain in the grey ‘lockdown’ zone, a social media post was circulating calling for the firing […]
Dr. David Kirschman began his medical career as a spinal surgeon in Ohio. In addition to spending hours in the operating rooms trying to fix people’s spines, Kirschman has an entrepreneurial side to him. He likes to invent things that will solve problems and benefit people around the world.
John Van Vliet started in the floral industry back in 1993 buying and selling Ontario grown flowers. From 2006 until just last year he had a prosperous business distributing flowers into Rochester, NY and northern Pennsylvania. Thanks to the global pandemic that successful business was cut short.
Two Niagara women are competing for the chance to be on the cover of a magazine. But they aren’t competing against each other. Lisa Jeffrey of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Sarah Blain of Vineland are doing something they’ve never done before and are raising money for charity while doing it.
With transmission and positivity rates on a downward trend along with fewer Ontario residents being hospitalized for the COVID-19 virus the Ford government announced yesterday that a plan to ease back into a more normal state of living will be rolled out; albeit slowly.
Niagara’s elementary and high school students will be heading back to the classroom on Monday much to the celebration of many parents who’ve been trying to work from home and help home school their kids at the same time; particularly parents with younger children.
The President and CEO of a global corporation is voicing his frustration over Niagara Region’s procurement process and he looks forward to making his case face-to-face at the March Public Works Committee meeting.
It’s safe to say that there is no corner left unaffected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic here in Niagara or abroad; particularly so when it comes to businesses and agencies having to adapt to the new reality in order to serve their client base.
Niagara’s United Way is no different.
While a motion to have a company air their grievances in front of Regional council regarding on-going procurement issues was eventually withdrawn, APG-Neuros looks like they will get to have their say in front of Public Works Committee this coming March. In a brief exchange between Councillor Bob Gale and Regional Clerk Anne-Marie Norio, it was indicated by the clerk that APG-Neuros could speak at the committee level.
Niagara Health is hoping to land their share of new recruits at an upcoming job fair as the health system tries to add employees in a number of disciplines both clinical and non-clinical.
From registered nurses to clerical medical administration, Niagara’s largest employer will be hosting their annual job fair on-line this year due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Taking place on Thursday, Feb. 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. hundreds of hopefuls will look to join the Niagara Health team.
Regional Council has given their stamp of approval for its 2021 budget that will result in the regional portion of the tax bill rising 1.8 per cent.
The Region says for the average property assessed at $278,764, homeowners will see the regional portion increase by $29, totalling $1640 for 2021. Local and education taxes make up the remaining portions of the total bill.
While some Niagara politicians, doctors and local media have aimed their sights squarely at the provincial government for Niagara not receiving enough COVID-19 vaccines, two of Niagara’s federal members of parliament say the province can’t supply what it doesn’t have.
It wasn’t that long ago when regional councillors representing St. Catharines were lobbying their colleagues from other parts of the region to support funding a significant share of the cost of the proposed new St. Catharines hospital. The vote passed with support from councillors from other Niagara municipalities and the billion dollar health care facility opened in March of 2013.
For more than four decades the iconic Clifton Hill tourist attraction, Guinness World Records Museum, entertained and mesmerized millions of visitors from all over the globe. While the popular Niagara Falls landmark has closed its doors permanently, members of the public can soon bid on some of the unique items that were once on display.
The Niagara region had a rollercoaster ride this week when it came to the COVID-19 pandemic and all that surrounds it. Emotions went from frustration to jubilation to disappointment and even anger.
The feeling of frustration could be felt throughout Niagara from public health officials to frontline healthcare workers to politicians and regular taxpaying citizens as residents watched the daily COVID-19 case numbers climb well into the hundreds with constant reporting from public health of more citizens dying due to the virus. Yesterday’s numbers were 136 new cases with 1,538 active cases across the region.
It may be a new year but that isn’t stopping Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Bob Gale from continuing his laser focus into Niagara Region’s procurement regime.
At Tuesday’s meeting of the Public Works Committee, Gale probed specific portions of the Port Dalhousie wastewater treatment plant upgrade contract. The total contract was awarded by Regional Council in December at a value of $36.8 million despite concerns raised by the veteran councillor.
It’s no secret that YMCAs have struggled to adapt their business model in order to compete with the numerous fitness clubs that pop up on a regular basis in cities and towns across the country. Add to that the effects of the forced lockdowns due to COVID-19 and Niagara saw its first YMCA casualty this week with the announcement of the permanent closure of the Niagara Falls location.
Fred Bowering hasn’t had an easy ride. The 52-year-old St. Catharines resident has been through a lot to say the least. The things he’s been through would have been enough to bring any person to their knees but Bowering has soldiered on and faced his addictions and mental health demons head on. Instead of quitting he’s turned his attention to helping clean up the streets of St. Catharines.
The Niagara Region continues to work on its Official Plan, a document that the Region describes as “a long-range, policy planning document to shape Niagara’s physical, economic and social development.” Part of that document will contain policy on where new development, including housing, can take place and the environmental policy options being discussed thus far have caught the attention of many in the home building and development industry.
St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle is no stranger to sparking heated debate on social media. Not that long ago he did battle with a local business owner over the COVID-19 vaccine. Bittle went as far as to publicly post he would tell people not to shop at the place of business his social media combatant owns.
For 2021, Regional Council approved a 2 per cent combined budget increase for Niagara’s water and wastewater services and an uptick of 4.5 per cent for its waste management program.
These increases follow 2020 increases of 5.15 per cent and 9.9 per cent respectively.
There’s not much sense in spending a lot of keyboard strokes tapping out commentary on what dominated news headlines in 2020. Pretty much everything has been said about COVID-19. Unfortunately with COVID-19 distracting government officials and senior bureaucrats at all levels, not much else got accomplished in Niagara. It was a challenging year to be sure.
As a kid Tim Wiley didn’t just want to be a police officer. As someone who grew up with a family dog, Wiley’s ultimate goal was to join the K-9 unit. That dream recently came true as Wiley and his new partner Rudy graduated together from their training program.
Given the hustle and bustle of the holiday season it probably isn’t much of a surprise that Niagara’s COVID-19 case count keeps rising, the death toll continues to climb and local outbreaks are declared far too frequently.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) has sounded the alarm bells that businesses of all sizes, but particularly small businesses, were being hit with yet another body blow during an already horrific year.
Finding himself in a no-win situation Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford has put the province on notice that effective Boxing Day, Dec. 26, Ontario will be shut down for 28 days. The move was in response to COVID-19 cases continuing to climb not only in Ontario’s “hot spots” but also in parts of the province that up until recently were seeing very few cases.
The last meeting of Regional Council in 2020 saw the resurfacing of the Burgoyne Bridge forensic audit conducted by the previous term of Regional Council.
Councillors will now have access to the 2018 forensic audit to review its findings in light of the recent KPMG non-competitive procurement audit and the January 2020 procurement audits conducted by the now defunct Department of Internal Controls and Organizational Performance (ICOPS).
It’s a story that will resonate with too many Niagara residents during 2020. She had a job she loved working in a sector that she was passionate about and then the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to it all.
Joanna Gasparotto had built a solid career in tourism marketing but that sector, particularly in Niagara Falls, was essentially obliterated this past summer thanks to the global pandemic. Gasparotto, like so many others, suddenly found herself out of work. But as the old saying goes, one door closes…
The provincial government has enhanced a program that is designed to educate and train those who’ve lost their job due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yesterday, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton announced that an additional $77 million is being added to the program which will provide up to $28,000 for 2,750 people looking to develop new skills and enter a new career.
The Ontario government is investing an additional $761 million to build and renovate 74 long-term care homes across the province, including $38,205,194 across the Niagara region. The additional funding is part of the province’s new funding model that helps break down historic barriers and accelerates the construction of urgently needed long-term care projects, providing seniors with the quality care they deserve.
Every year Niagara’s Police Services Board wrestles with the balancing act of public safety and affordability when reviewing the proposed annual budget submitted by its Chief. For the most part this fiscal dance goes largely unnoticed by the majority of the public. Most just want good response times if they or their family is in need of help from local law enforcement, safe communities, and officers to act kindly and professionally.
The Ontario government has given a green light to the sale of alcohol with food takeout and delivery orders and has now made that service permanent.
“Ontario’s vibrant hospitality sector and its workers have been hard hit by COVID-19 in every community across our province,” said Attorney General Doug Downey. “We’re building on the actions we took early in the pandemic to support local restaurants, bars and other businesses by providing permanent help to workers and small businesses as they face these ongoing challenges.”
There’s clearly more work to be done was the takeaway after the Regional Audit Committee turned its collective head towards the KPMG audit report which revealed a number of issues around the Region’s non-competitive purchasing regime.
The report found that 67% of the non-competitive purchasing transactions at the Region, lacked clear justification for not having a competitive process.
A local business owner making a comment online about the COVID-19 vaccine drew the ire of St. Catharines Member of Parliament Chris Bittle who took part in a heated public exchange not often seen by an elected official.
After diving into the purchasing books at the Niagara Region, independent accounting firm KPMG found that 67% of the non-competitive purchasing transactions, “were without clear justification” for choosing a non-competitive route.
In raw numbers – that meant 163 cases out of the 245 samples that were reviewed. KPMG deemed the sample size of 245 to be “a statistically significant sample size”.
Niagara Parks is getting a financial boost as the Honourable Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries announced up to $12.81 million to help ensure the region remains one of the top tourism destinations in the world during and after the COVID-19 outbreak. The province is providing the one-time funding to help protect jobs, keep some attractions open, ensure compliance with public health protocols, and continue to keep visitors safe through policing and road maintenance activities.
“Our government is proud to support the Niagara Parks Commission, one of the most spectacular tourist areas that Ontario has to offer,” said MacLeod.
Earlier this month the C.D. Howe Institute released a report called Gimme Shelter: How High Municipal Housing Charges and Taxes Decrease Housing Supply.
While there has been much discussion amongst municipal politicians in cities and regions across the country about affordable housing, very few people understand the impact of the charges and taxes, as well as policies that restrict housing supply, on the cost of homes.
Living in Toronto and being in lockdown hasn’t stopped Niagara native Amy Graham from helping out with the annual Niagara Mega Rotary TV Auction. Being a part of Rotary is something Graham has in her blood. She’s been around it for more than two decades. Her mom, Sandy, is currently the president of the Welland Rotary Club while her dad, Hugh, is currently president of the Fonthill club.
Results from a recent Niagara Independent reader’s survey will be profiled in a series of articles called “Your Say”. Responding to a recent survey conducted by The Niagara Independent, 96 per cent (499) of Niagara Independent subscribers who took part say the Niagara Region should “re-establish an independent audit team to oversee the Region’s financial […]
If there is one thing Dr. Janice Giesbrecht has seen a lot of in her career as an oncologist, it would be change. Change in treatments, clinic size, survival rates and diagnostics just to name a few.
The Niagara-raised physician, who recently completed her second term as Chief of Oncology at Niagara Health and has handed the reigns over to her colleague Dr. Michael Levesque, has had a long and distinguished career navigating one of the busiest departments through numerous changes. But Dr. Giesbrecht didn’t always want to be a cancer doctor. It was essentially a summer job in Toronto that ignited an interest in caring for those with cancer.
Niagara Regional Council is staying tight-lipped over its decision to award its troubled biosolids program to Thomas Nutrient Solutions.
A motion moved by Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Bob Gale that would have seen interim reports of the whistleblower investigation come forward and listings of the actual procurement scores and pricing be made public was considered Thursday.
Regional Council unanimously called for the end to Niagara Region acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mustafa Hirji’s Order restricting Niagara’s restaurant tables to ‘household only’.
There’s only one catch – Hijri’s Order supersedes the authority of Regional Council.
The Order was issued under section-22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act and was in effect beginning Nov. 14, 2020. It is slated to expire January 1, 2021, at 11:59 pm. Hirji’s Order came seemingly from nowhere without the Chair of the Region’s Public Health Committee, Pat Chiocchio, being informed nor the balance of Regional Council.
Safari Niagara will be lit up this holiday season like never before. Glow Gardens has set up a three-kilometer, drive-thru Christmas lights display hosted in the outdoor park space at Safari Niagara in Stevensville.
The display officially opened earlier this week and will run until Jan. 2. Visitors will remain in their vehicles at all times on the 40-minute route, where they can tune into an exclusive holiday radio station, GLOW FM. Features include a towering three-storey light tree, an intricate Christmas castle, and 10-foot snowmen.
The federal government is set to introduce legislation shortly that will update Canada’s privacy regime for the first time in decades.
The bill, entitled “An Act to Enact the Consumer Privacy Protection Act and the Personal Information and Data Protection Tribunal Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts” appeared on the House of Commons notice paper last week.
Niagara Region’s Integrity Commissioner Edward McDermott has submitted his findings and decision regarding a complaint he received back in July of this year involving three members of regional council.
In a letter addressed to the Region’s Clerk Anne-Marie Norio, the Integrity Commissioner said no further action or discipline is necessary and that the decision and the entire report be shared in public at Council’s next meeting.
Hundreds of Niagara’s restaurant owners are hotter than the soup of the day over Niagara’s public health department imposing more restrictions on top of the already increased restrictions the province applied after Niagara moved from yellow to orange on the provincial COVID-19 alert chart.
Seemingly out of nowhere the Region’s Acting Medial Officer of Health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, under Section 22 of the Public Health Act, added on numerous restrictions and regulations to Niagara’s food and drink premises which according to those in the sector will only serve to shut them down under a cloud of bankruptcy.
Perhaps the only thing bigger than the title that follows his name is the immense responsibility he has during a global pandemic.
Dr. Karim Ali, Niagara Health Director, Division of Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Stewardship Program and Lead Physician for Emergency Preparedness is on the front line of caring for COVID-19 patients who end up in Niagara Health’s St. Catharines hospital. While he’s quick to point out that it is a team effort within the hospital walls, giving credit to fellow physicians, nurses and many others who play a role in caring for COVID patients, there’s no question that as an infectious disease expert Dr. Ali shoulders a lot of the responsibility.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in Hamilton yesterday providing his daily updates. While the announcement was made in the Steel City there was a Garden City tie to the news.
Ontario-based Heddle Shipyards has entered into a new long-term agreement with Vancouver-based shipyard Seaspan to fabricate Ontario-made ship components under the National Shipbuilding Strategy. This will have a positive impact on Heddle’s St. Catharines shipyard at the Port Weller dry docks.
Niagara resident Bruce Mair has served both his country and his community. Mair enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces back in 1987 while still a teenager. The now 51-year-old is currently a sergeant with Niagara Regional Police.
Serving primarily with the Lincoln-Welland Regiment in the army reserve, Mair has done tours in Namibia and Palestine.
It was an announcement that stunned the province yesterday. General Motors is pouring $1.3 billion into their Oshawa plant that was slated to close. The car manufacturer is also pumping another $109 million over three years into their St. Catharines plant on Glendale Avenue.
In terms of the St. Catharines plant, which currently employs more than 1,000 workers, Unifor National President Jerry Dias said it will mean additional transmissions to supply the Chevrolet Equinox and a new program to build transmissions for the Chevrolet Corvette as well as engines to complement the existing portfolio. “Introducing volume to prop up the existing portfolio,” Dias said.
A private member’s bill, Bill C-218, has been put forward by the federal Conservative party which aims to legalize single-game sports betting in Canada.
Earlier this week Niagara Falls MP Tony Baldinelli spoke to the bill in the House during second reading saying he’s fully supportive. He also thanked his NDP colleague from Windsor-West Brian Masse for being “one of Parliament’s most vocal supporters for legalizing single-game sports betting.”
Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Bob Gale is once again sounding the alarm over the Region’s recent awarding of a multi-year and multi-million dollar biosolids handling contract to Thomas Nutrient Solutions.
Gale, who presented a motion on the contract award for the next meeting of Regional Council, informed Niagara Falls City Council of potential problems during his regional update last Tuesday.
Niagara Region will have yet another “Acting” senior manager as Commissioner of Planning and Development Services, Rino Mostacci retires from his post today leaving another important position to fulfill. Both the Region’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Chief Administrative Officer have been acting positions for well over a year.
In a letter signed by four female former politicians, whose service to public life spans decades, Niagara Falls City Council is being encouraged to refocus their attention on the important issues facing the city and to stop getting bogged down on personal attacks, false allegations and expensive integrity commissioner reports.
Rotary clubs around the world are known for the many good things they do for their local communities but one of the most recognized good deeds is their global effort to eradicate polio.
It began in 1979 when Rotary International set out to immunize all children with a polio vaccine. That effort was so successful that the ultimate goal of eradicating the disease was set. With hundreds of millions of children being vaccinated every year and the number of world-wide cases dramatically reduced and countries such as Africa being declared this year as polio free, the efforts of Rotarians are paying off big time.
Two Niagara residents have created a new board game that has quickly been catching on with anyone who has tried the prototype.
Blake Sherk and Ben Gigone, both in their mid-twenties, would often hang out with friends and family pre-COVID and have a games night with the goal of just bringing friends together and having a few laughs. Both men realized that out of those conversations some people didn’t know each other as well as they thought. That’s when, ‘You Don’t Know Me’ the board game, was born.
In a letter dated June 30 of this year from both the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission (NFBC) and the Peace Bridge Authority (PBC) sent to four different federal ministers, the two organizations laid out their concerns about the impact of COVID-19 and the subsequent closing of the international crossings on their operations.
That letter has yet to even be acknowledged by the federal government.
There has been yet another complaint by a second company in the ongoing saga of the Niagara Region’s attempt to award a contract to operate its Liquid Biosolids and Residuals Management Program.
Last Friday Wessuc Ltd. who bid on the contract, submitted a formal letter challenging the Region’s awarding of the biosolids contract to Thomas Nutrient Solutions which has held the contract since 2013 and had already received a three-year renewal in 2017.
It was a tourist season that won’t soon be forgotten by those operating in that sector.
Despite COVID-19 shattering any hope for a profitable summer, tourism operators in Canada’s number one tourist destination displayed remarkable resilience just to even partially open attractions and restaurants amidst a plethora of restrictions.
It’s a process that began five years ago, has undergone name changes, countless studies, appeals, reviews and public meetings and now the Riverfront Community project has cleared another hurdle after Niagara Falls City Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of a revised plan that incorporated several council-instructed changes to the original staff report from 2018.
GR (Can) Investment Co. Ltd., has been planning the $1.5 billion tourism and housing development that will include a mix of residential and retail south of Niagara Falls, near Dorchester Road, the hydro canal and Chippawa Parkway.
Medical experts are pleading with Ontario residents to keep the number of chairs around the Thanksgiving dinner table to a minimum this year.
Yesterday saw Ontario hit a new single day high of COVID-19 cases with a reported 797. There were four new deaths.
Niagara will soon be home to a new renewable natural gas (RNG) facility, which will create local jobs and stimulate regional economic development, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Niagara Falls Renewable Natural Gas plant will be the largest of its kind in Ontario and will generate enough clean renewable energy from landfill waste to heat 8,750 homes across the country and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 48,000 tonnes.
Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development gave nearly 100 personal support worker (PSW) students a huge surprise yesterday morning in St. Catharines. The Minister was at Lifetime Learning, the District School Board of Niagara adult education centre that is running the training program to announce a half-million dollar investment that will pay for the tuition fee the students would otherwise have to fund on their own.
“It was amazing to see the students today and the looks on their faces when they found out there training will be covered,” said Minister McNaughton. While the government has been criticised by some, ironically mostly conservatives, for spending too much money, McNaughton said the spending on training is specific and “laser focused” in order to educate people for the jobs that are available.
Walker Industries has a long tradition of helping out community organizations, particularly those in the healthcare sector. The company has come through yet again.
Walker has pledged to donate $1.5 million to Hospice Niagara towards development of two new Hospice Palliative Care Centres of Excellence in Fort Erie and Welland. Each of the proposed centres will provide a home-like setting with 10 private rooms for people and their families to spend quality time during the final stages of life.
In just over two weeks residents of Niagara will be adjusting to a garbage collection regime that costs more and delivers less.
For residents of Fort Erie, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Pelham, St. Catharines, Thorold, Wainfleet and West Lincoln, their garbage will be collected the week of October 19. The bi-weekly pickup schedule means the following week these residents will need to hang on to their garbage.
While the number of COVID-19 daily reported cases in Niagara dropped significantly from 24 on Sunday to 12 on Monday, the provincial numbers continue to rise sharply with a reported 700 new cases yesterday. However, about 85 per cent of all cases are in Toronto and Ottawa. The Ontario Hospital Association has asked the government to put those two regions back to Stage 2.
At his daily news conference Premier Ford said, “We are now in the second wave of COVID-19. We know this wave will be more complicated, more complex, it will be worse than the first wave we faced earlier this year.”
What a difference a year makes.
After coming off of one of the best years in terms of attendance in the more than four decades of hosting its annual Ball’s Falls Thanksgiving Festival, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), will be hosting a virtual festival this Fall.
Tuesday Sept. 29 will see the running of the 85th Prince of Wales Stakes in Fort Erie.
The race is the second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown and this year’s running will have some local flavour as Truebelieve, owned by Centennial Farms (Niagara), will be in the starting gate.
At a special meeting of council Thursday, Regional Council awarded a multi-year and multi-million dollar contract to Thomas Nutrient Solutions to run its biosolids program.
The meeting proved to be contentious after Niagara Falls Regional councillor Bob Gale began fervently speaking against awarding the contract to Thomas due to an open whistleblower investigation and indications that Thomas was not the lowest cost option.
Niagara Regional Council turned their attention to the issue of decriminalization and legal regulation of all drugs in Canada following a recent St. Catharines City Council endorsement of a report issued by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.
The report noted that evidence suggests that “decriminalization for simple possession as an effective way to reduce the public health and public safety harms associated with substance use.” It also included a recognition that the criminal justice system “could be enhanced using health care diversion approaches proven to be effective.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed yet another large event. This time it’s the Canada Summer Games originally scheduled to take place in Niagara, August of 2021. That’s not happening.
Games’ organizers issued a media release Wednesday afternoon stating the Games will be delayed for one year. An exact date for the 2022 Games has not yet been announced.
Niagara Falls resident Sheila DeLuca has teamed up with Business Link Media Group and Spark Niagara to produce a new series of one-on-one interviews with local business leaders that will air monthly on Business Link’s YouTube channel.
Inspired by seeing how Niagara businesses pivoted their roles during the pandemic to help their communities, DeLuca, founder of DeLuca Leadership, wanted to shine a spotlight on community leaders who have stepped up to help others not only during the pandemic but throughout their careers. Guests will come from a variety of backgrounds like private business, healthcare, education and technology.
With a slight increase over the past few days in the number of Niagara residents testing positive for COVID-19, Niagara’s regional councillors will be discussing whether or not to extend its region-wide mask bylaw which is set to expire Oct. 1. The current by-law has been in place since July.
Monday saw seven new Niagara cases while there were five reported on Sunday and two cases reported Saturday. All seven of yesterday’s cases were in St. Catharines and it was reported that at least six of those were people who had returned from international travel.
Niagara Regional Council’s corporate services committee was asked this week to pony up $14 million for the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, a project that has been in the planning stages since the early 2000s. The current hospital is nearly 80 years old.
In a presentation to the committee, West Lincoln Memorial Hospital Foundation board chair Kevin Antonides outlined the financial breakdown and what services the new hospital will provide for Niagara.
Newly elected leader of the federal Conservative Party of Canada Erin O’Toole announced his shadow cabinet earlier this week and Niagara Falls MP Tony Baldinelli was among the 43 names on the list.
“I am proud to present the Conservative government in waiting that will defeat Justin Trudeau’s corrupt Liberal government in the next election,” O’Toole said in the release.
Hamilton has landed the big one.
Earlier this week, Amazon Canada announced their intent to create a fulfilment centre and delivery station in Hamilton. It will be one of the largest local investments in terms of square footage in the City’s history and is expected to bring over 1,500 new jobs when the facilities are scheduled to open in 2021.
With all the great hockey players who donned the famous blue and white jersey throughout the team’s storied history, no player had ever scored 50 goals until 1981-82 when Rick Vaive scored 54 times. In fact, he did it three years in a row scoring 51 and 52 the following two seasons. Then, just a few seasons later, he had the captain’s C taken off his jersey and was callously shipped out of town.
Del Rollo, vice president of industry and government relations for Arterra Wines Canada, is the new chair of Niagara College’s Board of Governors and Wendy Wing, senior vice-president of finance and administration for Rankin Construction Inc. and Port Colborne Quarries Inc., and president of Rankin Renewable Power Inc., is the new vice-chair.
The pair officially began their board leadership roles Sept. 1.
The Town of Lincoln (population 24,000) as it is known today is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary and while a lot has changed, a lot has remained the same.
The Niagara Independent sat down with the town’s mayor Sandra Easton just prior to the COVID-19 outbreak to chat about where the town has come from and where the Mayor Easton sees it going.
While many parents and children alike are excited to finally be back to school in a matter of days there is still some worry around infection prevention and control. School will look different and one thing that will change is the sharing of school supplies between classmates.
Due to COVID-19, the need for students to have their own school supplies is more important than ever and United Way wanted to make sure every student has the tools for successful learning online or at school.
Erin O’Toole won a third ballot victory over initial frontrunner Peter MacKay in the race to become the new federal Conservative Party of Canada leader.
On the final vote, after Derek Sloan and third place finisher Leslyn Lewis dropped off the ballots, O’Toole finished with 57% of the votes cast to MacKay’s 43%. In all, 174,404 votes were cast in the largest leadership election in Canadian history.
Last Thursday, Niagara Regional councillors were told that Niagara residents are able to pay higher taxes. According to a KPMG sustainability report received by Council, despite a lower level of household income than other Ontario municipalities, the average regional residential taxes per household is among the lowest. Oscar Poloni of KPMG was on-hand to provide […]
The shutting down of Canada’s parliament during a national economic crisis and a global health crisis isn’t sitting well with Niagara’s two Conservative MPs.
Just when more and more questions about the WE charity scandal are being asked, Finance Minister Bill Morneau resigns and heavily redacted documents are being and were about to be released, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prorogued parliament.
The Nitsopoulos family has been in the hospitality business for decades. Owning the majority of St. Catharines’ hotels as well as a number of restaurants over the years, they’ve seen ups and downs in the business cycle but nothing could have prepared them for the crushing financial blow that COVID-19 has delivered the family business over the past six months.
Niagara’s minor hockey players and parents have been eagerly awaiting news from their respective associations as to what this year’s season will look like. While normally this time of year tryouts for Niagara’s boys and girls travel teams would be ramping up in most rinks around the region, they remain fairly quiet for now. St. Catharines isn’t even putting their ice in until tomorrow – one of the last cities in the province to do so.
The Nitsopoulos family has been in the hospitality business for decades. Owning the majority of St. Catharines’ hotels as well as a number of restaurants over the years, they’ve seen ups and downs in the business cycle but nothing could have prepared them for the crushing financial blow that COVID-19 has delivered the family business over the past six months.
Just a week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he had “full confidence” in his Finance Minister Bill Morneau, the man responsible for the country’s budget is out.
Regional Council received another staff recommendation to sole source a large purchase, this time for its Niagara Recycling facility – a facility the Niagara Region may end up selling.
The recommendation was for $450,000 of public funds to purchase new equipment that would assist the facility in removing recyclable materials from transparent plastic bags.
In a marathon meeting lasting, in total about six hours, Niagara Regional Police Chief Bryan MacCulloch answered questions, provided context and educated regional councillors to the many improvements the force has made to better serve its community.
In the end, council approved a motion moved by St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik, to essentially forward a St. Catharines City Council motion on to the province. The St. Catharines motion passed last week, had a list of recommendations St. Catharines councillors want to see implemented to improve race relations between the NRP and Niagara’s minority citizens.
The first round of cash to support Niagara’s municipalities and its regional government through the COVID-19 pandemic has arrived. Not surprisingly Niagara’s two largest municipalities – St. Catharines and Niagara Falls received the most funding; $7,473,509 and $4,263,658 respectively. The Region received $12,794,293. In total Niagara received more than $28 million.
The provincial and federal governments are providing up to $4 billion in one-time assistance to Ontario’s 444 municipalities. Municipalities will be provided with up to $1.6 billion as part of the first round of emergency funding under the Safe Restart Agreement. The funding is designated to help municipalities deliver critical public services.
Earlier this week St. Catharines City Council opted to call on the Niagara Region and the Police Services Board – the civilian body that oversees the Niagara Regional Police – to “re-assess ‘adequate policing” requirements.
As if the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t cripple Niagara’s wineries enough but add to that the archaic provincial tax system that punishes Ontario’s craft wineries financially and now a deal with Australia that will add 50 cents per bottle tax to Ontario wine producers, the vast majority already operating on razor thin profit margins.
Niagara-on- the-Lake Town Council dealt with an updated draft noise bylaw last night that would have quieted the Town to almost a whisper.
The draft changes to the existing bylaw proposed to outlaw any noise above 55dB between 7:00 am and 11:00 pm while cutting that threshold to 50dB between 11:00pm and 7:00am. During last night’s meeting councillors were confused as to where the 50dB number came from.
The Niagara Independent has learned that a number of whistleblower complaints involving the troubled bio-solids contract worth $14 million were submitted under the Niagara Region’s first ever whistleblower policy and went unaddressed by senior staff for months.
Multiple sources at the Niagara Region confirmed that Regional Council discussed the troubling matter during a special meeting of Council held on July 30. Citing the need to maintain confidentiality due to an open tendering process, sources did not disclose the substance of the complaints, what actions Regional Council opted to take, who was responsible for overseeing the investigation and why no action had been taken to date.
It’s the kind of partnership, innovation and forward thinking that the provincial government has been hoping to see happen since they took office.
Earlier this week Premier Doug Ford was in west Niagara to announce a $2million investment into Beamsville manufacturers Clean Works Medical and Pure Life Machinery. The cash injection is expected to create 19 more jobs. The Premier was joined by Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, Niagara West MP Sam Oosterhoff, Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton and Mark VanderVeen, president of Clean Works.
Last week St. Catharines City Council endorsed a recent call by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police for the decriminalization of personal possession of illicit drugs.
Jennifer Johnston, co-founder of ‘Niagara Area Moms Ending Stigma, or NAMES voiced her support for the motion. NAMES was formed four years ago after a number of individuals banded together to support each other having lost a child to substance abuse.
Flying under the radar of the daily news cycle in this country is the upcoming Federal Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership election. With a global pandemic, WE scandal rocking the governing Liberal party, back-to-school plans announced and a myriad of other national and global events taking place, the leadership contest has primarily gone unnoticed to many Canadians.
Monday saw St. Catharines City Council deal with a motion that would kick off a consultation process over a proposal to relocate the Watson monument off of City Hall property.
Council received four delegations regarding the motion to move the Watson monument due to its association with the North-West Rebellion of 1885, a hallmark of anti-Metis and Indigenous sentiment and policy by the federal government at the time.
Weekend GO train service to the Niagara region will begin to roll once again starting on August 1. New schedules with four trips to and from Niagara Falls and St. Catharines each Saturday, Sunday and holiday will provide more service than in previous years and enable day or overnight trips, either in Niagara or Toronto.
The Ontario government announced today that it will be back to school for children across Ontario come September and not surprisingly teachers and their unions weren’t happy.
Education minister Stephen Lecce unveiled a plan that has increased health and safety measures, and provides school boards with “unprecedented” resources and flexibility, while accommodating regional differences in trends of key public health indicators.
With an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, regional finances bursting at the seams and a recent decision to not hear from local employers representing over 2,000 employees, Niagara Regional Council spent 44 minutes of its 167 minute meeting dealing with complaints put forward by local left-leaning political activist group A Better Niagara and dealing with councillors insulting and apologizing to their fellow councillors as well as being bogged down on numerous procedural issues.
A journalist who has spent five years researching and reporting on the WE Organization was attacked by St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle Wednesday during a committee meeting studying the WE Charity scandal currently rocking the Trudeau Liberal government.
“I found it unusual that I saw a reporter was agreeing to testify at a committee,” Bittle told Jesse Brown, publisher of the online news outlet Canadaland. “What expertise are you bringing to the table beyond what you’ve reported based on other people’s stories?”
Niagara-one-the-Lake pharmacist and business owner Sean Simpson said receiving the Anita Robertson Legacy Award is “bitter-sweet”. Both Simpson and Robertson spent countless hours volunteering with the United Way as well as many other boards and charities throughout the Region and knew each other well. Sadly, in a tragic accident, Anita, along with her husband Joe and their daughter Laura died in July 2018 after their plane crashed in rural Maine.
According to many of the largest tourist operators in Niagara Falls, heading into Stage 3 today really doesn’t change much. With the exception of being able to add additional seating inside restaurants, not much else will be different.
One thing that will change for all Niagara residents is having to wear a mask. Last night the Regional council voted to enact a mandatory mask by-law which comes into effect July 31.
Yesterday, Premier Doug Ford announced that Niagara would be entering Stage 3 of the province’s reopening plan beginning at 12:01am Friday morning.
Along with Niagara, Ford announced that Durham, Haldimand-Norfolk, Halton, Hamilton, Lambton, and York regions will also be entering Stage 3 Friday.
It’s not much of a surprise that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) has seen a significant increase to their properties over the past few weeks given Ontarians have been locked down in their own homes with limited access to the great outdoors. But now that things have slowly started to open up the NPCA says visitors to their green spaces still need to follow the regulations and guidelines to ensure public safety.
Niagara’s two casinos are beginning preparations to welcome back customers as the region inches towards entering Stage 3 of the provinces economic reopening. Not a die has been thrown nor a card dealt since the Fallsview Casino and Casino Niagara closed their doors back in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Niagara’s two largest cities have taken wildly different approaches to the controversial issue of implementing a mandatory mask bylaw due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Niagara Falls City Council on Tuesday delayed discussion of the item to allow the Niagara Region, which is responsible for public health initiatives in Niagara, to determine whether a Region-wide order is necessary.
An Alberta home building company is set to begin manufacturing its unique homes in Welland creating an initial 100 jobs with that number projected to increase to about 600. Management will arrive on site in the coming weeks with production scheduled to begin in mid-August.
It’s been a hotly debated topic for the past several weeks; to wear a mask or not to wear a mask? While public health experts initially flipped-flopped on whether or not wearing a mask actually did much to prevent the spread of COVID-19, most have now landed on the general consensus that indeed wearing a mask is beneficial, especially in closed areas where proper social distancing is tough to do. If one needed further proof, even U.S. President Donald Trump was seen wearing a mask late last week.
It was around 2011 that Niagara EMS noticed a significant rise in call volume. Up until that time they were seeing the standard 2-3% increase but into 2011 that number started to climb to 5 -6% and even 8%. It was cause for concern for those responsible for delivering Niagara’s land ambulance service.
It was 15 years ago that Niagara Emergency Medical Services (EMS) first launched a pilot project, with the blessing of the provincial government, to operate its own dispatch system. At that time dispatch for land ambulance services was run out of a central Hamilton location which had some advantages but also proved to have many disadvantages as well. Over the years, the pilot project has proved to be a major success and has lead to system improvements that weren’t even originally on the radar.
The only thing that became clear after almost five hours of discussion at Wednesday’s special meeting of Regional Council, was that elected officials are deeply divided on the issue of implementing mandatory masks in Niagara to limit the spread of COVID-19.
When the issue came to a vote, Regional Council was divided 15-15 between implementing the bylaw or taking more time for study.
There has been a significant reaction to the abrupt dismissal of a presentation last week to Regional Council by E.S. Fox president Spencer Fox. A number of residents and business owners took to social media to condemn the way council referred the presentation to a budget committee meeting that wasn’t even scheduled. In a close […]
Yesterday, St. Catharines City Council directed staff to prepare a by-law requiring individuals over the age of two to wear masks or face coverings while in enclosed spaces due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario (FAO), St. Catharines – Niagara’s employment fell by 15.2% between February and May and represents the second hardest hit area in the province due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Windsor experienced an employment drop of 19.1% in the same period.
Now going on nearly two years the continuing saga of the hiring of former Niagara Region CAO Carmen D’Angelo has taken a couple of important steps forward. Earlier this week the OPP stated that they have closed the books on any criminal wrong doing. There have also been two Ombudsman’s investigations into the matter.
Recently, the defendants – Alan Caslin, Robert D’Amboise and Jason Tamming – have filed their statement of defence with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
While Major League Baseball continues to try and salvage some form of a season, Minor League Baseball announced earlier this week that the 2020 season for all of its clubs, including the Buffalo Bisons, has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Canada Day will certainly be different this year. There will be no parades, concerts or celebrations in parks as precautions are still being taken to avoid the spread of COVID-19. This year Niagara residents will have to go online to enjoy their Canada Day entertainment as the 12 local municipalities, the Niagara Region and Niagara Parks Commission have banded together to offer Canada Day, The Niagara Way.
After a series of Niagara job creators called on the Niagara Region and local mayors to do their part and cut costs in order to blunt future COVID-19 tax increases, Regional Council referred the issue to the Region’s budget committee without any discussion.
Except that according to the Niagara Region website, no meeting of the Region’s budget committee is currently scheduled.
It was shaping up to be one of the best seasons yet for both Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours and Hornblower Niagara Cruises. Now, both businesses are hoping to do, at best, 50 per cent of what they normally would do.
But both of the iconic nautical tourist attractions are full steam ahead to make the best of a difficult situation. It all starts Canada Day, July 1.
With the snip of a blue ribbon by Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries reopened – in part – Niagara’s economy. The minister and the mayor were joined by Sandie Bellows, Chair of Niagara Parks Commission, Joel Noden, Chair of Niagara Falls Tourism and Rebecca Mackenzie, President and CEO of Culinary Tourism Alliance, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially welcome people back to the Niagara Region as part of Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan.
While the federal Liberal government has rolled out a long list of funding subsidies for businesses and individuals negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Niagara’s MPs say they are still getting numerous calls on a daily basis from constituents struggling or confused by how to access funding or gravely concerned that their existing funding is about to run out and they aren’t back to work yet.
Developers know that not everything is going to go perfectly during a construction project. There will inevitably be change orders, cost overruns and a few unforeseen hiccups. But when Sally McGarr and development partner Rainer Hummel joined forces with FirstOntario Credit Union to put a shovel in the ground back in September 2018 to develop a property McGarr’s been wanting to build something special on for years, nobody predicted a global pandemic. That isn’t just a hiccup.
It’s not what you would call a “grand opening” but for Niagara’s business owners, particularly those in the tourism capital of Niagara Falls, they’ll take what they can get.
Today marks the first day of Niagara moving into Stage 2 of the province’s economic reopening plan. This means stores, patios, hair salons and more can open their doors for business. It also means that tourism operators can finally call staff back to work and welcome tourists back to Niagara.
“Our team crunched the numbers. Our command table reviewed the data and provided the recommendation. On their advice I’m excited to announce today (yesterday) that as of this Friday the following Regions will be able to enter Stage 2…Niagara.” With those words from Premier Doug Ford business owners and employees from across Niagara who’ve been out of work for months felt hope and optimism for the first time in a long while.
Niagara’s tourism sector got a much-needed boost this week when the province’s Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod announced via a Zoom news conference that her Ministry will be providing one million dollars to help market the region’s attractions and destinations.
On Monday, the province announced the list of Region’s allowed to move to Stage 2 reopening. While 24 regions were on the list to reopen, 10 were denied. Among the 10 was Niagara.
Police forces around the globe are under the microscope now more than ever and many citizens have taken to social media criticizing everything from the size of police budgets to the equipment they use. Some citizens have even sated police forces are no longer needed and that the public can police themselves.
You could practically hear the frustration from Niagara’s business leaders when they realized the words “Niagara Region” weren’t on the province’s list of areas that can proceed to stage two of reopening the economy.
Home prices in Niagara have gone up. That may shock some people as the common sentiment is that the real estate sector, like practically every other one, has been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. In some ways that holds true particularly this past April which saw a nose dive in sales and listings but prices have continued to creep up in Niagara.
The Niagara Region is taking the lead on asking the provincial and federal governments to pony up some cash to help the Region and its 12 municipalities offset the costs incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Niagara Region’s acting medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji released municipal specific COVID-19 data Thursday after being ordered to do so by Regional politicians.
The data shows Welland, Pelham and Niagara Falls experienced the most COVID-19 cases per 10,000 population in the Niagara Region, although each municipality has experienced those cases differently. Welland has the highest rate at 37.5 cases per 10,000 population with roughly 74% being attributed to health care facility outbreaks. Pelham is experiencing 18.3 cases per 10,000 but unlike Welland and Niagara Falls, 85% of the cases were found in the general public. Niagara Falls sits at 17.3 cases per 10,000 population with 60% of them due to health care facility outbreaks.
Three prominent Niagara residents have recently been appointed to key provincial boards. Jessica Friesen, CEO of Gales Fuels was appointed to the Niagara Parks Commission Board while recently retired Niagara MP Rob Nicholson is now Chair of the Niagara Escarpment Commission and Niagara businessman Dragan Matovic has a seat on the Board of the LCBO.
The Ontario government announced yesterday that more businesses will be able to reopen in the next week provided the overall provincial health indicators continue to trend positively.
These businesses must comply with strict health and workplace safety measures to be permitted to reopen.
It’s not always easy for professional athletes to make a successful transition from playing the sport they love to a completely different career – one that probably won’t come with nice hotels, travel, being asked for an autograph and the thrill of scoring a goal or winning a championship in front of thousands of fans. But for most athletes the reality is there will be, has to be, a life after sport.
There were a lot of Niagara residents looking skyward on Sunday. They weren’t looking for the sun although you couldn’t blame them for wondering where it went after making a brief glorious appearance nearly a week ago. No, tens of thousands of Niagara residents stood on their driveways, sidewalks, back decks or in the middle of the road hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the most popular military flight demonstration teams in the world – Canada’s 431 Air Demonstration Squadron; Otherwise known simply as the Snowbirds.
Like many businesses around the province and across the country Niagara’s wineries have had to adapt, pivot and get creative to simply maintain a certain level of business. And while business would certainly be better in a non-pandemic environment, hard work and determination is keeping Niagara’s wine sector in a glass-half-full kind of state.
It was starting out to be a great season of Division 1 college baseball for Niagara Falls native Owen Diodati. He had a spectacular debut with the Alabama Crimson Tide where Diodati plays left field and is a designated hitter in his sophomore year. Then, like everywhere else in the world, the season came to an abrupt halt with the onset of a global pandemic. While most people are self isolating with family in their homes, the young Canadian is stuck in Alabama away from his parents and living with a teammate’s family.
The Ontario government has opened the door a tiny crack to slowly getting the provincial economy back on track by allowing some businesses to reopen. Premier Ford announced Friday that a select few businesses sectors will be allowed to open providing they follow strict public health guidelines. The Premier was quick to caution the public however that a continued trend downwards of the number of new COVID-19 cases will need to happen before the door is swung fully open.
They are truly the unsung heroes of healthcare. Rarely in the spotlight, quietly going about their job with a smile and friendly hello to patients and other staff, these essential workers have a very important job; stop the spread.
It was Easter long weekend when Niagara Falls resident Tiffany Aello had heard that those who had no place to call home found themselves in even more of a tough spot. With arenas, libraries, coffee shops and other facilities closed, the homeless had nowhere to go to warm up or clean up. “I got a phone call asking if I had any tents,” said Aello explaining how she got involved with a project that now consumes her life seven days a week. “I thought it was for one person, I didn’t realize there were 15,” she said.
There has been a lot written and a lot discussed about the impact of social isolation on people’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. From elite athletes to business leaders to stay-at-home parents who aren’t used to their significant other working from home, the new normal is wreaking havoc on motivation levels, focus and overall mood.
Niagara MPs Dean Allison and Tony Baldinelli are, like the rest of Canadians, trying to get accustomed to what has become the new normal. It’s a pretty big adjustment when you are used to spending most of the day in a large room with 337 other people, in constant communication, travelling back and forth from Niagara to Ottawa, attending grand openings, business roundtables and the many other events Members of Federal Parliament attend on a daily basis. Throw in the fact that you are part of the official opposition trying to hold a minority government to account during a national crisis and things are anything but normal.
As far as anyone can remember it’s the first time in the Shaw Festival’s history that the entire slate of season opening performances has been cancelled. To date the Shaw has had to cancel more than 180 shows in total. The first production was set to hit the stage on April 2. “We were days away from Charley’s Aunt being on stage,” said Shaw’s Executive Director Tim Jennings.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have peaked in Ontario according to the Ontario Government’s health experts.
Yesterday, the Government of Ontario released updated COVID-19 modelling, which shows that the enhanced public health measures, including staying home and physically distancing from each other, are working to contain the spread of the virus and flatten the curve.
A team of scientists just down the QEW at McMaster University in Hamilton have developed a COVID-19 testing kit that is similar to taking a home pregnancy test. A person will be able to swab their mouth, put the swab in a tube and wait no more than 30 minutes for a result. Essentially, if there is one line on the test stick the person is negative. If there is a double line the person is positive for the virus.
Throughout the dramatic last month of the advance of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ontarians have become accustomed to daily briefings given by Ontario Premier Ford. Most often he has been joined by his Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott. Other Ministers rotate in, including Minister of Finance Rod Philipps, Ministers of Economic Development and Small Business, Vic Fedeli and Prabmeet Sarkaria, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton and Education Minister Stephen Lecce. Also quite often, six to 10 feet from the Premier’s side, are his Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams, Peter Donnelly head of Public Health Ontario and/or CEO of Ontario Health Matt Anderson.
He wasn’t very big in stature. In fact, by today’s standards he’d be considered a very small NHL defenseman. But what he lacked in height he more than made up with his huge heart and infectious smile. Pat Stapleton, listed at 5’8”, who patrolled the blue line for the St. Catharines Teepees before landing in the windy city to become a Chicago Blackhawk, passed away last week. He was 79 years old.
A few years ago St. Catharines resident Jennifer Armstrong was working for a fashion design company when she was given a choice; move to Montreal with the company or stay and be out of a job. She decided to stay in Niagara to open her own boutique clothing manufacturing company called Ecolove and hasn’t looked back.
While sales climbed over the past few years, Ecolove like so many businesses in Niagara came to an abrupt stop with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like her former employer Calhoun, Jennifer has turned her attention to making masks to help Niagara residents stay safe. She’s also donating proceeds to the Niagara Health Foundation.
Niagara businesses continue to be financially hammered from the COVID-19 pandemic but that doesn’t stop them from continuing to step up to the plate and help their community fight back against the virus.
Frontline healthcare workers are not only putting their lives on the line caring for the sick but in many cases are also forced to be separated from their families to protect their loved ones. When John Petrie, owner of Niagara Trailers, heard about this he knew there was something his company could do; lend out RV’s so that those on the frontlines could come “home” and yet still be isolated.
Marty Myers started what many know today as Calhoun Sportswear (now called Calhoun) 47 years ago as a young graduate from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in St. Catharines. His initial business came from printing rock concert t-shirts for bands touring through the Toronto area and hiring his high school buddies as his first employees. The business grew with the help of his wife, Michelle, to a 40,000 square foot factory with sales all over North America. That’s all changed for now.
When praising emergency services workers, typically firefighters, police and paramedics – people often use the description ‘they are running into a burning building while the rest of us are running out’ as a way of explaining their heroism.
Ontario’s Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott says if all Ontarians do their part the Province will come out of the COVID-19 global pandemic and life can return to normal.
In an interview today with The Niagara Independent the Minister said she along with her cabinet colleagues and medical experts are working around the clock, seven days a week receiving and analyzing the latest information so that the province can try and get ahead of the outbreak and flatten the curve as soon as possible.
Both the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce and the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) are doing what they can to help local businesses try and survive the massive negative impact the COVID-19 global pandemic has had on Niagara’s small and medium sized businesses.
“We’re making calls to all 2,000 of our members,” said Dolores Fabiano, executive director of the South Niagara Chambers. She said while there’s no doubt her members are feeling the tight squeeze of little to no revenue they are trying to stay positive. “If you’re a business owner you’re resilient.”
The Niagara North Stars and Southern Tier Admirals were supposed to be heading to Toronto next week to participate in the OHL Cup. Like many sporting events and tournaments the OHL Cup has been cancelled. It’s a big tournament from a team perspective but as individual players, it’s also one of the most important tournaments of the year as it’s the last time scouts will see the players in game situations prior to the Ontario Hockey League draft which takes place April 4.
In a statement organizers said, “Since the start of the spread of Coronavirus/COVID-19, the OHL and GTHL have closely monitored the rapidly evolving situation with a view to the health and safety of players and their families, team and league staff, on and off ice officials, fans and the general public.”
They’re called SMRs, they will soon be a game changer for the world’s energy sector and Canada is at the forefront of their development.
SMRs or Small Nuclear Reactors have been around for a while, originally designed and built for naval use, but now they are coming online as part of the world’s power generating options. And they bring with them a lot of advantages.
The Region’s public works committee signed off on a proposal put forward by Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati to have the Niagara Region hire consultants to review current garbage collection practices and to determine how the system can be more cost effective to the taxpayer.
The proposal also called for the development of a plan to address the potential illegal dumping and public health problems “that could arise as a result of moving to bi-weekly pickup”. The City of Niagara Falls had previously expressed concern that the Niagara Region “did not adequately address concerns related to garbage and recycling collection methods”.
It will happen. That moment in time when something goes wrong, a tragedy occurs and the spotlight is shining brightly on a corporation for all the wrong reasons. How best to handle crisis communications in the corporate world in the twenty-first century? Two of the most experienced leaders in this space have put pen to paper and compiled their experiences and lessons learned over decades into a new book called Leaders Under Fire – The CEO’s Survival Guide to Navigating Corporate Crisis.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in St. Catharines Friday along with Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues to announce funding and strategy to combat the human trafficking problem Ontario is facing.
According to the province, human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide. Approximately two-thirds of police-reported human trafficking violations in Canada occur in Ontario with the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking at 13 years old.
What a difference a year can make.
This time last year Mory DiMaurizio and his team at Hornblower Niagara Cruises were wondering if they would ever get their iconic boats launched to take eager tourists on the famous voyage that gets visitors up close and personal with the world famous Niagara Falls. Eventually the boats were launched – 45 days later than scheduled.
There’s a lot going on in the world and the impact on the stock markets has been disastrous. From the potential of the Democrats south of the border electing a socialist leader in Bernie Sanders to take on current US president Donald Trump, to the Covid-19 virus that continues to spread across the globe to right here in Canada where protestors disrupted the national economy and tried to shut down Canada’s natural resource sector, markets around the globe are taking a serious hit.
The term “hallway medicine” is thrown around a lot these days and while the latest catch phrase to describe backlogs in local acute care hospitals is fairly new the problem is decades old. Despite healthcare spending eating nearly half of the entire provincial budget emergency department backlogs, crowded hallways and long wait times continue to plague the system. Niagara is no different. Despite the best efforts by management and staff and a number of funding announcements by the province, the frustration remains.
The Town of Grimsby’s budget committee approved a whopping 16.7% increase for homeowners’ property taxes.
“It’s really been a team effort,” the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer Harry Schlange said of the creation of the proposed budget. “Everybody has really contributed to this.”
A local resident with extensive knowledge in waste collection isn’t happy with what he’s been seeing and reading when it comes to the Region’s new plans for garbage and recycling collection – and he fully supports Niagara Falls City Council for wanting to go it alone.
Dean Rosiana has been an accountant for more than 30 years and is the former deputy director of finance with the Town of Fort Erie. He’s also been involved at the senior management level of waste management companies since 1996. “I’m retired and have no skin in the game with this particular contract but I’ve been through this process many times and as a resident and tax payer I have a problem with it.”
While much focus was placed on the weekend protests by various unions towards the Ford government, many of the MPPs and in particular cabinet ministers were meeting key stakeholders in Niagara on important issues like health, business, the economy and the skilled trades.
Monte McNaughton, the province’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development was one such MPP who took the time to meet with business owners and those working in the construction sector to discuss key issues like the province-wide labour shortage, skilled trades and new government initiatives at a roundtable discussion.
Niagara Regional Council decided last Thursday to look into the formation of a governance committee and to consult Niagara’s 12 chief administrative officers after considering St. Catharines Councillor Laura Ip’s motion for a citizen elected Regional Chair.
“I think it’s long past time to hear directly from the citizens of Niagara as to what they want,” Ip told Council.
Contrary to some municipalities in Niagara, Welland’s mayor, council and staff aren’t afraid of the ‘D’-word. Development in the Rose City set records in 2019 and there’s no sign it will slow down in 2020.
Whether it’s new home construction, redeveloping old industrial land or attracting new manufacturing businesses Welland has not shied away from growing it’s one time stagnate, in fact declining, city. Mayor Frank Campion, who recently delivered his annual state of the city address, told The Niagara Independent that job growth and prosperity are keys to growing his community.
It wasn’t that long ago that Niagara Falls native Owen Diodati had a tough decision to make; One that most teenagers or adults will never have to make in a lifetime. Sign with a professional baseball team and bank a cool million bucks or go to college to play ball. Diodati turned down the money and a chance to become a Toronto Blue Jay and instead head to Alabama and play for the Crimson Tide.
This past weekend reaffirmed his decision. Not that there was much doubt.
Despite Niagara Region’s Public Works Committee requesting specific information from Regional staff concerning past contracts with Thomas Nutrient Solutions (TNS), the Niagara Region’s contractor to manage its biosolids program, the information was not provided.
Last month, committee rejected a staff recommendation to extend – for the second time since 2013 – a $14 million contract to TNS for the management of the Region’s biosolids program and instead opted for a competitive process. The program oversees the management of materials removed during the treatment of drinking water.
A little over a decade ago 14 local business leaders came together all with the same mission – to establish a private sector investment group that would help local entrepreneurs launch their businesses. The Niagara Angel Network soon took flight and its current executive director Terry Kadwell has been there since the beginning; although that wasn’t necessarily his intention. “I got involved 11 years ago to help get it off the ground and seven years ago I became full time,” explained Kadwell.
While not much is known about the group and who is involved, Kadwell said that’s starting to change. “Originally we protected the anonymity of the angels but we realized lately that we are getting more traction by letting people know who’s in the group.”
While much of the attention in the federal Conservative Party leadership race has been focused on Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole a third contender is hoping to make history. Leslyn Lewis has entered the race and if she could pull off the upset would become the first black woman to lead a major Canadian political party. The current Conservative health and science critic Marilyn Gladu is also running.
Lewis was in Niagara Falls on the weekend at that riding’s annual general meeting where she had the chance to speak to members. Krystle Caputo who attended the meeting said, “It was awesome to have CPC leadership candidate Ms. Lewis come to Niagara Falls and share her vision for Canada. We’ve also recently hosted Mr. O’Toole in Niagara and I understand Mr. MacKay is coming this way soon as well.” Caputo said there is a strong Conservative base and members are eager to engage with the leadership candidates.
Niagara Falls wants out of the waste management contract it is currently a part of after the Region signed a deal with a new service provider that essentially sees taxpayers paying a lot more for a lot less.
“We’ve put a request into the Region to go it alone,” said Niagara Falls city councillor Victor Pietrangelo, who has been dead-set against the current agreement from the start.
It was 2008 when Niagara’s Jay Triano, NBA and Canadian national team coach, was in Las Vegas for the USA men’s Olympic basketball training camp. Even though he is a Canadian, Triano was one of the few NBA coaches with international experience and so American head coach Mike Krzyzewski tapped Triano to be one of his assistants. The “redeem team” was loaded with talent featuring the likes of LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Chris Bosh and Kobe Bryant.
In an exclusive interview from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Triano now serves as the head assistant coach for that city’s NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets, Triano recalls some of the encounters he had with Bryant throughout his many years as an NBA coach.
The race for the next leader of the Federal Conservative Party of Canada is on and someone many see as a front-runner for the position made a Niagara stop earlier this week.
Erin O’Toole, the veteran MP arrived at the Grantham House in St. Catharines for a meet and greet with about 60 Niagara conservatives. He wanted to hear their thoughts on the party, the recent federal election and what they are looking for in a leader. O’Toole, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran, took the time to speak with those in attendance individually before addressing the crowed and providing his vision of what the next leader of the Conservative party needs to bring to the table in order to form the next government.
The Order of St. George of Canada and the Americas has a rich history dating back nearly 700 years. King Charles I, Duke of Anjou, founded the Order in Hungary in 1326 as the first royal and secular charitable military order of its kind. In Canada, the order was established in Niagara Falls in 2003 at Christ Church, where about 70 members of the Order gathered recently to select a new Grand Master, Colonel Andrew Nellestynin (Retd) of Ottawa.
Less than a week after Niagara Region staff recommended a controversial sole sourced multi-million dollar contract, two bombshell audits were delivered to the audit committee outlining significant issues with its purchasing regime and sole sourcing.
When goods and services are required by Niagara Region’s various departments, they must work through a centralized purchasing department, known as procurement, to ensure proper processes are followed and fairness and accountability measures remain intact. For smaller purchases under $25,000, it is not required for Regional departments to engage with procurement staff; however, it is expected of departments to comply with the Regional policies overseeing these purchases.
Two audits covering significant issues in the Niagara Region’s purchasing regime, one of which was kept from elected officials for over a year, did not sit well with the Audit Committee or St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik Monday.
Sendzik, who is not a member of Audit Committee but was present to discuss the reports with the committee, left scathing words for Regional staff for their decision to withhold the audits from elected officials.
“I’m not interested in the past folks.” And with that blunt statement Hamilton representative Brenda Johnson began her term Wednesday as the newly elected Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Board Chair. Johnson went on to say, “We’ve dealt with the past. I’m more focused on today and what we’re going to do tomorrow. Let’s get to work.”
Johnson, who has served as a Hamilton city councillor since 2010, was elected Chair at the NPCA’s recent Annual General Meeting. Four individuals ran for the Chair’s seat; Rick Brady, David Bylsma, Ken Kawall and Johnson. Bylsma was seeking a second term but came under fire just days before the election for his views on climate change. He did not make it past the first ballot. There was a tie between Brady and Kawall. Eventually the vote came down to Johnson and Brady.
Fireworks were set off at Niagara Region’s public works committee meeting earlier this week over a staff recommendation to effectively sole source a multi-million dollar contract for liquid biosolids for a period of three years.
The contract, valued at $4.5 million in 2020 alone, was recommended by Niagara Region staff to be awarded to Thomas Nutrient Solutions of Hamilton for its Liquid Biosolids and Residuals Management Program. This program oversees the management of materials removed during the treatment of drinking water. Thomas Nutrient Solutions has held the contract since 2013 and has already received a three year renewal in 2017.
The negative impact of the massive popularity of online shopping on the bricks and mortar retailers is well known and been a topic of conversation for a few years now. But the local impact, particularly on family owned businesses in Niagara runs deeper than just their bottom lines.
The trend and its negative effect on communities of “showrooming” or “showroom shopping” was recently pointed out in a Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) report. The term refers to shoppers going into local retailers, having staff provide them with product information and suggestions or try on clothing items and then the customer leaves without making a purchase, goes home and orders the product online.
Niagara resident Michael Sommer says he’s never done what was expected of him. He took that motto a step further, several steps actually, as he trekked across the Sahara Dessert recently to raise money for Gillian’s Place a shelter for abused women and children.
The idea for the adventure of a lifetime started in 2018 when the local real estate agent was at a Royal LePage conference in Halifax. “Two years ago the trek was in Iceland and in 2018 they announced the 2019 trek would be through the Sahara Desert,” explained Sommer. He said as a corporation Royal LePage established its own foundation called the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation and it would have a bi-annual adventure to raise money.
He didn’t see nearly as much ice time as he would with his club team the Niagara IceDogs but Akil Thomas sure made the most of it.
Thomas, a fourth line forward for the Canadian junior team that captured gold this past weekend in a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Russia, scored the game winning goal late in the third period on a partial breakaway that required quick thinking and lots of skill.
Niagara’s small business owners received some welcomed news from the province to start their new year as the Ford government will be cutting their tax rate 8.7 per cent reducing the rate to 3.2 per cent. The change came into effect on January 1. The reduction, said the government, is part of its plan to attract investment and enable entrepreneurs and risk takers to grow their businesses and create high-paying, good quality jobs.
“Ontario has tremendous opportunity and potential, and we are working to create the conditions for job creators to grow and succeed. An important part of our plan is to reduce the tax rate for small businesses, as they play a vital role in the economy,” said Rod Phillips, Minister of Finance in a media release.
An estimated 60,000 people jammed Queen Victoria Park and surrounding areas in Niagara Falls on New Year’s Eve to ring in 2020 with Canadian rock icon Bryan Adams. Billed as one of the best New Year’s Eve concerts the city has hosted the large crowed danced, clapped, smiled and sang the lyrics to iconic Adams’ hits right up until midnight. City and Parks Commission leaders couldn’t have been happier.
Niagara IceDogs’ forward and Los Angeles Kings second round draft pick Akil Thomas celebrated his birthday in fine style yesterday turning in a solid effort helping his Canadian teammates secure a never-in-doubt 6-1 quarter-final victory over Slovakia.
Thomas has seen more ice time as the tournament has progressed and sources tell The Niagara Independent that the skilled forward is a highly regarded by bench boss Dale Hunter. The Canadian kids will now head to the semi-finals (Saturday at 1 p.m.) where they will face a much stiffer challenge in the Fins who knocked off the Americans 1-0 in their quarter final game. The other semi-final will feature a classic showdown between Russia and Sweden.
Niagara West Member of Federal Parliament Dean Allison is looking forward to a busy and productive 2020 with lots on the go both in his riding and the nation’s capital.
When looking back on 2019, not surprisingly, the first thing that the veteran MP mentions is the recent federal election campaign. “I’m grateful we did better in this last campaign but disappointed we didn’t win,” said Allison. One of the areas he feels the Conservatives could have made a better argument was climate change. “We didn’t do a good enough job talking about our environmental plan. The carbon tax is extremely punitive and hurts people on a fixed income.” Allison said a carbon tax is also out of touch with people in rural areas who have to drive to grocery stores and hockey arenas for example because they don’t have public transportation. He said the Liberals have no choice but to increase their carbon tax in a significant way if they want any hope of hitting the Parris Accord targets.
A few years ago local business owner Wolfgang Guembel started to realize that there were a lot of people in Niagara that go above and beyond every day helping others in the community and receive little to no recognition. He wanted to change that.
After some discussions and initial planning with business associates and friends, a Christmas Wish was born. This was the third year for the event. People in Niagara can nominate someone that has made a significant positive impact to their community. Once the organizers read through the applications a handful are selected to be recognized in a day of first class treatment.
Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott was in Niagara earlier this week to announce a substantial funding boost to help local hospitals address infrastructure needs. Minister Elliott was joined by her colleague Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff and NDP MPP Jenny Stevens at Niagara Health’s St. Catharines site along with hospital executives, staff and board members who were all pleased to hear the minister say they would be receiving a little over $1.6 million for facility upgrades.
Niagara’s two minor midget AAA hockey clubs are having themselves solid seasons. Currently both are in the top three of the standings with the Southern Tier Admirals sitting comfortably in first place while the Niagara North Stars are in third. It’s an important year for the 15 year-olds as they hope to catch the eye of the scouts and get drafted into the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Both teams are now past the half way point in their respective seasons and for Niagara North’s head coach Matt Miller things have gone pretty much according to plan. “We’re right where I expected us to be. We’ve been playing extremely well,” said Miller.
It was recently announced that a local athletic apparel company was selected as the official merchandiser for the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games. It’s a big job, big responsibility and huge opportunity; Nothing new to RegattaSport.
The company’s founders and current owners Joe Camillo and Chris Cookson first thought of the idea of starting a company that sold rowing specific clothing more than three decades ago. The story dates back to 1987 when both Joe and Chris were rowing at the St. Catharines Rowing Club. That same year the pair tried out for Canada’s national rowing team and made it. They were actually in the same boat. It was at the world championships in Denmark where Joe first had the idea to start a company that would eventually turn into ReggaSport.
There were nearly 300 high school student athletes braving the cold wind and the slippery snow covered trails in Sudbury at the recent Ontario high school (OFSAA) cross country championships. In the end, it was St. Cathairnes’ own Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs that captured the novice boys gold medal and the overall boys title while also showing a very strong performance on the girls side. The Bulldogs finished just one point away from the combined championship taking home silver.
It’s sickening. It’s real. It’s happening in our own backyard.
Human trafficking is a huge problem in Canada, Ontario and right here in Niagara. In fact, Niagara Regional Police Chief MacCulloch has created a special task force to deal with the problem. “While this issue is not singular to Niagara, we recognize that being a border community, human trafficking is a concern that has a direct and unique impact in our Region.” The Chief went on to say, “As part of the 2019 operating budget, we created a Human Trafficking Unit to further strengthen the assistance and support our investigators are able to give to victims and survivors of human trafficking.”
Long gone are the days when Niagara tourist operators would roll up the carpets, turn the store signs to close, switch off the lights and come back in April to get ready for the next wave of summertime tourists. Today, and over the past number of years, tourists flock to Niagara by the millions even in the cold and snowy months. It’s something that local politicians and tourism sector leaders have been chipping away at for years.
You know you’ve left a positive impression well beyond the walls of your workplace when staff, students, alumni, family, friends and community leaders fill a performing arts centre to say thank you.
Hundreds of well-wishers gathered inside Partridge Hall at the St. Catharines’ FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre Friday night to wish soon-to-be-retired Niagara College president Dr. Dan Patterson a fond farewell and to thank him for his quarter century of service to not only the post-secondary institution he lead but also for his massive impact on the Niagara community in general.
Niagara Falls residents and city councillors got a detailed look at what is being called an “iconic and architecturally significant” hotel being proposed for the tourist city. The massive 72-storey building, which will also be home to residential units and commercial space, is slated to stand at 6609 Stanley Avenue near the Fallsview Casino area. The site is currently surrounded by other hotels, restaurants and shops.
About a year and a half ago Bob Benner, CEO of Niagara manufacturing company Hamill Machine Company Inc. was faced with a challenge. Business was going well but certainly could’ve been better. Benner’s company was always looking at ways to diversify and change with the times to stay relevant. A grocer had asked Benner if he had a machine that could cut the tops off of leafy greens and micro greens. No such product existed so Benner and his team invented one. It was a risky but wise move.
Despite the lopsided score of the District School Board of Niagara’s senior boys’ championship football game Friday night, it wasn’t an easy win. It was a victory months in the making according to A.N. Myer head coach Dave Buchanan. “I don’t think it was anything Sir Winston did wrong, it’s just this group of players we have are completely motivated and focused,” Buchanan explained a couple of days after his Marauders beat the Bulldogs 52-0 in the final.
Michael Blais would like to see Canadian military veterans thanked for their service more than one day a year. Blais is a veteran himself and the Niagara Falls resident says it’s important for veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD, or other mental illnesses as a result of their combat service, to receive a smile and a thank you from their fellow Canadians. “I always tell people to say thank you on more than one day a year. It takes two seconds to shake that man or woman’s hand and say thank you because it really does a make a difference,” he said.
After a passionate debate at St. Catharines city council earlier this week on whether or not to pass a reconsideration motion moved by councillor Karrie Porter that simply asked to reopen discussion on the subject of Community Improvement Plan incentives, particularly as it applied to the Harbour Club, a Port Dalhousie condo development, council ended up very divided on the issue.
In the end, council voted 8-5 in favour of Porter’s motion. However, the motion needed two-thirds majority, or 9 votes, in order to pass. Thus it was defeated.
The Niagara region is becoming a regular stop on Rogers Hometown Hockey as hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone arrive this weekend in Welland to share the Rose City’s numerous hockey stories with hockey fans from across the country. Hometown Hockey has made previous stops in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.
Welland is one of 25 selected communities across the nation to host the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour and is the sixth stop on the tour, which began Oct. 5, 2019, in Halton Hills and will wrap up in March in Edmonton.
Vince DiCosimo receives his honorary diploma from Niagara College president Dan Patterson at last week’s convocation. Supplied photo. Vince DiCosimo, or “Mr. D” as he’s known to many, has spent the vast majority of his career helping build Niagara’s tourism sector. His most iconic achievement, the Hilton Fallsview, stands tall and proud overlooking Niagara Falls. […]
In an attempt to clarify a mountain of misinformation and misunderstanding with regard to how a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) grant actually works, St. Catharines city councillor Karrie Porter will be bringing a motion forward to Monday night’s council meeting that would ask her colleagues to have further discussion on the Harbour Club development condo project taking place in Port Dalhousie where the former Lincoln Fabrics building exists.
After months of repeating his frustration with the number of municipal politicians in Niagara premier Doug Ford has decided to change nothing when it comes to how the region of Niagara and the way its individual municipalities are governed.
During the summer months there were essentially two camps that surfaced when it came to a favoured new governance structure: a one-city model and a four-city model. Turns out neither group will get their way.
Trevin Stratton, Chief Economist for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce will be in Niagara this Friday speaking to those in attendance at the annual Niagara Economic Summit. The Niagara Independent columnist will be discussing the state of the nation’s economy including some of the key challenges and opportunities.
The South Niagara Chambers of Commerce is hosting their second annual Game Changers event and there’s no question this year’s topic truly was a game changer for Niagara – the Welland Canal.
A panel of experts will discuss the history and economic impact of the canal as well as its future on Oct. 29 at Taris on the Water in Welland. Known as an engineering marvel construction on the first canal, which began at Port Dalhousie and ran along the Twelve Mile Creek to Port Robinson, started in November of 1824.
Paul Bosc Sr. arrived in Canada from France in the early 1960s. He settled in Montreal and took a job with the liquor board. A fifth-generation French winegrower, Bosc knew a thing or two about wines and it quickly became apparent that Canada did not produce good wine. “Canada didn’t really have professional winemakers,” said Bosc. Not even 30 years old at the time, Bosc was often giving advice on winemaking. “I was lucky they had problems because I could fix them. They thought I was a genius, I wasn’t,” he said with a laugh.
There was a lot of hype a few weeks ago as to who would be the next captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. It consumed Toronto media and “Leafs Nation”. Eventually most hockey pundits were right in their prediction it would be veteran forward and former Islanders captain John Tavares who would skate onto the ice for the team’s home opener with the ‘C’ on his jersey.
Following Tavares’ first game as captain, a video showing the Leafs’ star forward walking into an office with GM Kyle Dubas was made public. They were met by team president Brendan Shanahan and Tavares’ wife and baby. It was a nice moment for Tavares, his family, the team and their fans and it was certainly different from how the captain was named in the past.
It’s the start of another busy day of campaigning and the Honorable Rob Nicholson, the Member of Parliament who has served the Niagara Falls riding for over 24 years is having coffee and reminiscing with Tony Baldinelli, the Conservative candidate who is hoping to succeed his former boss to become the riding’s next MP.
“It’s really a full circle story,” said Nicholson. “When I was first elected in 1984, over 30 years ago, Tony supported me and volunteered on my campaigns, and even worked for me in Ottawa beginning in 1988; now here I am volunteering on his campaign all these years later.”
To say the recent decision by St. Catharines City Council to not approve a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) grant to the development company breathing new life into the old Lincoln Fabrics building in Port Dalhousie was a surprise, is an understatement. “We were completely blindsided,” said Sheldon Rosen, President of Port Dalhousie Harbour Club.
Rosen said since day one the team behind the project has worked well with city staff and have “checked all the boxes” when it comes to what was asked of them by the city. “We’ve spent a great deal of time and funds working with the city,” explained Rosen. He acknowledged that city staff has been great to work with but the recent council vote to not approve the CIP funds, despite a staff recommendation to allow it, has him and the team very frustrated. Last Monday council voted 7-5 against providing the funding, which would amount to about $3 million, despite the fact that the project met all of the criteria to receive the grant.
She’s knocked on more than 40,000 doors trying to convince the residents of St. Catharines riding that she should be their next federal member of parliament. If that happens, Conservative candidate Krystina Waler would become the riding’s first federally elected female since the riding was formed in 1966.
“It’s something I don’t take for granted,” said Waler when asked about the potential of a groundbreaking victory on election night. She’s in a tight race with Liberal incumbent Chris Bittle.
The Niagara IceDogs lit the lamp eight times in front of a loud crowd at the Meridian Centre Friday night. The offensive explosion was lead by Philip Tomasino and Kyen Sopa who combined for a total of 11 points in an 8-4 victory. The IceDogs now sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-2-1-1 record good enough for eight points.
Not only did Tomasino and Sopa earn post-game star honours but they were both recognized by the Ontario Hockey League for their offensive efforts with Tomasino earring the league’s first star of the week and Sopa earning second star.
Niagara’s craft wineries received some good news recently that will help stabilize the industry and allow wineries to plan for the upcoming year. Last week, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman, was joined by MPP for Niagara West, Sam Oosterhoff to announce a one-year transition funding of over $15 million dollars. This investment will help small wineries, cideries and distilleries with key business decisions and planning while the government continues to conduct its review of the beverage alcohol sector.
While Ontario’s craft wineries, the vast majority of which are located throughout the Niagara region, continue to work with the government to try and eliminate what is essentially an import tax that is currently placed on wines produced in Ontario, this interim solution will help bridge the gap. The announcement gives the craft wine industry time and stability over the next year.
For the past seven years former NHL player and coach Steve Ludzik has put coaches and teammates in the line of fire at his annual celebrity roast. It seems this year his hockey pals have decided it’s time for Ludzik to get a taste of his own medicine.
“I guess they want to see if I can take it,” said Ludzik who will be the centre of attention as NHL players, coaches and other celebs line up to take their best shots at the man they call Ludzy. “They just need to figure out what stories they want to tell or can tell,” he said with a laugh.
Ross Romano, Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities was in Niagara this week holding a roundtable with local business owners. The Minister then attended the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce annual Niagara Networks Showcase. Minister Romano met with a select group of Niagara business owners to talk specifically about the labour shortage that Niagara businesses continue to wrestle with.
South Niagara Chamber CEO Dolores Fabiano said members and Chamber staff have been working on the issue for the better part of a year. “We’ve been working with the other Niagara Chambers and we’ve come up with some action items that we think will help and so we wanted to meet face-to-face with the Minister to share our thoughts and get his feedback.”
It’s a sure sign of fall. High school athletes are taking to the gridiron all across the region this week as high school football kicks off for another season.
The St. Paul Patriots look to repeat as Niagara Catholic Athletic Association (NCAA) senior boys champions while A.N. Myer in Niagara Falls looks to repeat as District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) champions.
While there have been doubts as to whether or not there will ever be a new south Niagara hospital built, a recent Infrastructure Ontario document titled P3 Market Update – Fall 2019 puts those doubts to rest.
The document lists a number of projects in the pre-procurement stage. Not surprisingly under the section titled “Hospitals and Other Social Facilities” the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital is listed. What came as a welcomed surprise to many was “Niagara Falls Hospital” also being listed in the document.
For the second year in a row Niagara Regional Police has received board approval to purchase a new vehicle that will assist in different emergency response situations. Last year the board approved the purchase of an armoured response vehicle. At last week’s Police Service’s board meeting, members approved the $4.15 million 2020 capital police budget that included $450,000 for a new mobile command centre.
Niagara Falls regional councillor Bob Gale and Wainfleet Mayor Kevin Gibson who sit on the police board voted against the purchase of the mobile command centre. That vote and the vote for the balance of the budget passed.
As a young boy growing up in St. Catharines Blake McNaughton says he was fortunate to know exactly what he wanted to do as an adult. “I was very lucky in that at a very early age I knew I wanted to be a military pilot,” said Captain McNaughton.
He not only met that goal but flew right past it on his way to piloting Snowbird number 10 for one of the most famous military air demonstration teams in the world. After flying for the team for the past three years, McNaughton is now an instructor and while his colleagues were dazzling on-lookers over the Niagara District Airport in Niagara-on-the-Lake earlier this week, Captain McNaughton was back in Saskatchewan helping train the next crop of potential Snowbirds as the Flight Safety Officer.
A couple of weeks ago Caddle CEO and Niagara native Ransom Hawley received an email with some exciting news but he wasn’t allowed to share it until yesterday. Hawley was informed that his four-year old tech start-up was named by Canadian Business and Maclean’s to the 2019 Startup 50 ranking of Canada’s Top New Growth Companies. Caddle was ranked 35th.
Caddle is like a 21st century focus group. It’s an app that can be downloaded to your smartphone. Essentially there are users on one side and brands on the other. The users take a few moments to watch a brand’s video, take a short survey or watch an ad. In return the user gets cash back and the brand gets critical market intelligence. “Almost everyone has a smartphone so it is a much faster and less expensive way for brands to collect market research data,” said Hawley.
Depending on who you talk to it’s either a necessary charge applied fairly to cover growth related infrastructure costs or a form of tax on home buyers that has over time become completely out of whack with other economic indicators. Regardless, development charges are a hot topic.
There has always been misunderstanding, confusion and discussion about development charges (DCs) since they were enacted in the Development Charges Act of 1997. Conversation has ramped up again with the province passing Bill 108 – More Homes, More Choice Act which addresses some of the issues with what some call the “housing tax”.
The final piece of the funding puzzle has been put in place for the 2021 Canada Summer Games.
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; along with feral colleagues Vance Badawey, Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre and Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines; Doug Hamilton, Chairman of the 2021 Canada Games and a host of other politicians and dignitaries were at the Welland Flatwater Centre yesterday to announce funding for the construction of two new sports facilities, the rehabilitation of seven other sporting venues, and the purchase of new specialized sports equipment for two events, all of which will be used for the 2021 Canada Games.
The deadline for submission on a massive shipbuilding project – several new icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard – was Friday, Aug. 30 and while Shaun Padulo, president of Heddle Marine Services – which took over the Port Weller Dry Docks in Niagara in 2017 – was happy his company got his submission in, he’s still frustrated over the federal government’s procurement process.
Padulo, who became Heddle’s president last year, feels there are signs the process favours a Quebec shipyard over all others. He said he’s been watching the federal government’s procurement processes closely for a couple of years and there have been a few red flags that it may not be a fair process. One such red flag occurred when the industry was asked to bid on the construction of two new ferries. One of the ferries being replaced was originally built at Port Weller. The contract went to Davie shipyard in Quebec after the sizing of the vessel was changed at the last minute. The only shipyard that qualified after the size change was Davie.
Former regional councillor Tony Quirk has been completely cleared by auditors MNP of any wrongdoing when it comes to his campaign financial statements from the last municipal election. The exercise cost Niagara taxpayers about $11,000 according to sources.
Quirk’s finances were forced under the microscope when St. Catharines resident and executive director of A Better Niagara Ed Smith, filed a complaint to the Niagara compliance audit committee back in May. Smith alleged that Quirk’s auditor contributed more than is allowed by one individual to Quirk’s campaign. “Based on the analysis MNP concludes that the Candidate’s filing was appropriate and when specifically reviewing the issue related to the valuation of audit services, the value assumed by the Candidate was within a plausible range for the service,” reads MNP’s conclusion.
For the top minor midget AAA hockey players in Canada it’s a year like no other. Same goes for the head coaches of those teams. That’s because this is the year the kids have played their entire minor hockey careers for – their major junior draft year. For those playing in Ontario it’s their shot to take their hockey careers to the next level – the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
It’s a pressure packed year for the young players, parents and the coaching staff. Niagara North Stars’ minor midget AAA coach is no stranger to guiding young OHL and NHL hopefuls through their most important minor hockey season. Matt Miller has been there and done that. Miller, a Pickering native who now lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake, played NCAA hockey before going behind the bench to pass along what he learned over the years as a player and from his former coaches.
From the locker room to the board room, Jessica Kemp and her younger brother Michael have had a tremendous amount of success. The siblings are extraordinary athletes, both attended U.S. colleges on athletic scholarships, Jessica for basketball and Michael for baseball (he would eventually transfer to Brock and play basketball for the Badgers). Both have followed in their parent’s footsteps off the court running a highly successful financial planning firm that bears the family name – Kemp Financial.
Jessica Kemp played basketball locally at A.N. Myer in Niagara Falls before heading across the river to continue her hoops on the hardwood at Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She had a stellar career playing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) as a Purple Eagle. She excelled on the court and in the classroom earning an MBA along with her impressive on-court statistics. In fact, in recognition of her academic and athletic success at Niagara University her name will be added to the MAAC Honor Roll at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. on Sept. 14.
While Canada’s Brooke Henderson, one of the top female golfers in the world attempted to defend her Canadian Open title in Aurora, Ontario, weekend warriors were hoping to hit the odd fairway at the 22nd annual Niagara Regional Chair’s Charity Golf Tournament this past Friday at Niagara Parks’ Legends on the Niagara Golf Course in Niagara Falls. The tournament was another sellout and another huge success.
The tournament is an annual end of summer tradition on the charity golf circuit and over the two decades, it has raised about $2 million for a variety of local charities. This year proceeds from the tournament were principally directed to the Education Foundation and Hotel Dieu Shaver.
The number of American tourists coming to Canada is at the highest point in a little over a decade according to recent figures.
In a new study, Statistics Canada revealed that nearly 12.3 million trips were taken to Canada by Americans in the first six months of 2019. It’s the highest number of American trips that Canada has seen in the first half of a year since 2007. The study also found that two-thirds of the American travellers spent at least one night in Canada which is good news for everyone but particularly restaurants and hotels.
Dozens of Niagara’s municipal and regional politicians descended upon the nation’s capital earlier this week attending the annual Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference. It’s an opportunity for local political leaders and senior staff to shake hands and bend the ears of provincial and federal ministers, network with municipal colleagues and attend educational sessions on various topics from economics to policy development.
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said that while the sessions are important and informative he finds the networking aspect a key to a productive conference. “The importance of networking and the exchanging of ideas is so important,” said Diodati. “You can roll up your sleeves, talk about important issues with no filters and have a very productive and useful conversation.”
Contrary to pundits recent talk of a Canadian housing bubble about to burst or at least a coming large correction in the Canadian housing market, July home sales across Canada showed a substantial uptick. And according to the Niagara Association of Realtors, Niagara was a leader of this trend. Between July 2018 and July 2019 residential home sales across the peninsula jumped from 588 units to 715, an increase of 21.6 per cent.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Lisa MacLeod announces the province’s intent to fund the Canada Summer Games while board chair Doug Hamilton, board member Sandie Bellows and MPP Sam Oosterhoff look on. Let’s get started! That was the consistent message heard around Henley Island earlier today when Lisa MacLeod, the province’s Minister of Tourism, […]
Metrolinx announced yesterday that they will be expanding weekend GO train service in Niagara year-round. “Weekend Niagara GO train service is becoming a year-round thing, so people in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines have options 365 days a year. The schedules will be the same as they are today,” read the statement.
“More service options for commuters in Niagara will make taking the GO more reliable and give customers more choice when they plan their trips,” said Niagara’s only conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff.
It was March 10, 1968. That’s when the Nitsopolous family moved to Toronto where they would begin a new life in Canada and a journey that would eventually take them to St. Catharines where they would become one of the most successful business families in the city’s history.
“In our third year in Toronto we bought a house and in our fourth year we bought a business,” explained Angelo Nitsopolous the third oldest of the five brothers that include from oldest to youngest; Chris, John, Jimmy and Peter. The business, as Angelo describes it, was a chicken burger joint. It would be a sign of things to come as the brothers would soon launch themselves into the restaurant and hotel industry in a city located down the QEW. It was a good start considering their father arrived with just $300 in his pocket.
Canada Summer games funding announcement expected tomorrow. It’s looking like it will be a happy Friday for those individuals leading the organizing of the 2021 Canada Summer Games to be held in Niagara. At 1:30 p.m. tomorrow Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport is scheduled to make an announcement at the St. Catharines […]
Niagara MPP Sam Oosterhoff was joined by Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in Throold this morning at the Niagara Detention Centre as they announced new Institutional Security Teams (ISTs). The specialized teams will be added at the Niagara Detention Centre and Toronto East Detention Centre.
“These new teams will keep our institutions and our frontline staff safe by gathering intelligence about criminal activity inside and outside our facilities,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Keeping gang activity, drugs and weapons out of our jails is critical to ensuring a safe work environment for the men and women who work on the front lines every day.”
Maclean’s magazine recently released their inaugural Canada’s Best Communities rankings and Grimsby finished second behind only Burlington. Niagara-on-the-Lake also made the top ten coming in at number eight.
First place finisher, Burlington, ranked in the top 25 per cent in six out of 10 categories Maclean’s measured. It was also selected as this year’s best place to raise a family.
What started out as a seasonal paving company has turned into one of the largest and most successful waste management companies in North America. Steve Washuta (who passed away in 2008) moved to Niagara from Saskatchewan in the middle of the twentieth century to join his family. There were four Washuta brothers in total (one of the brothers’ son Greg Washuta was a long-time St. Catharines city councillor) and Steve went to work for his older brothers at their sand and gravel operation. Then he rolled a company truck and his brothers promptly fired him.
After having some time to reflect on one of the most stressful decisions any 17 year-old (he turns 18 this month) will have to make, Niagara Falls native Owen Diodati is all business and all baseball.
It was just last month when the strong power-hitting catcher had to decide between turning pro after being drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays or pursue his education while playing the game he loves. The Jays approached Diodati in the early rounds and made him an offer. The youngster had a number in mind and said the Jays weren’t far off which made the decision even tougher. “I had a number in my head. The Jays came really close to it and it made it a really tough choice but I want to go to school,” explained Diodati. He ended up still being drafted. “For the Jays to still draft me in the later rounds was pretty special. So much thought goes into draft day leading up to it and then I had about five minutes to make a life changing decision.”
It was a perfect night to kick-off one of the biggest and most renowned regattas in North America and celebrate the two year-out anniversary until the launch of the 2021 Canada Summer Games.
A who’s who of Niagara politicians, athletes and business professionals gathered under the grandstand in Port Dalhousie for the dual celebration. After 11 year-old Ella Lambert sang a beautiful rendition of Oh Canada, emcee Rod Mawhood kept things moving as dignitaries and local politicians brought greetings and congratulations to the athletes in attendance.
A special addition to the evening’s agenda was the induction of the late Neil Campbell to the Rowing Canada Hall of Fame. Campbell, who coached numerous high school, club and Olympic crews was fondly remembered by two former members of the 1984 Olympic Games crew that won gold for Canada.
A real life treasure hunt is coming to Hamilton and Niagara adventure seekers are welcomed to participate.
GoldHunt, has already captivated residents of Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary, the popular challenge has become so successful that organizers have expanded east and Hamilton will be one of the stops.
It’s a unique type of lottery where people purchase a map and begin their hunt for the $100,000 of real treasure, consisting of gold and silver coins hidden in the city.
In some ways, it’s a good problem to have. Enrollment keeps climbing but all those students need a place to live. While Brad Clarke, Brock University’s Director of Student Life and Community Experience, is quick to point out the school is not in a “housing crunch” they are definitely looking to those in the community to open their doors to students.
Brock is even asking empty-nesters — or anyone with a surplus room or two — to consider renting it out to students.
It’s a game changer. That’s how the proposed massive development at Prudhomme’s Landing on the north side of the QEW in Vineland is being described as the project continues to move forward achieving another milestone last week. Town of Lincoln Council approved a zoning amendment and draft plan of subdivision agreement.
The purpose of a draft plan of subdivision is to develop land in an orderly manner by making sure that the proper infrastructure and municipal services will be in place. The lots may be developed individually, or as a group, and for a range of uses.
There’s a little something for everyone.
That’s the message Niagara Parks’ Chief Executive Officer David Adames would like tourists and locals to know about the numerous activities and attractions being offered this August long weekend by the Parks. “It’s very important for us to offer a variety of activities,” said Adames. He noted that there are different types of activities from passive trail walks, to arts and culture to more adventurous outings.
Gales Gas Bars is the latest Niagara business to become a certified living wage employer. More than 20 companies throughout the region are now certified and the list will no doubt continue to grow. The living wage for Niagara comes in at $17.99 per hour which is slightly below the average for Ontario according to Anne Coleman, campaign manager for the Ontario Living Wage Network. Windsor has the lowest calculated living wage at $15.15 and not surprisingly Toronto comes in at the highest point with a $21.75 per hour living wage. All wages are for a family of four.
There are three categories of a certified living wage company; Supporter, Leader and Champion. Gales is considered a Supporter which means they will be paying their full time employees a living wage with a commitment to pay their part time employees that same wage in the future.
“You’re faced with two paths in life. One is nicely manicured with nice grass and flowers and easy to travel. The other is rocky, covered in broken branches and pot holes and takes a lot more work to walk down. If you take the easy path early on in life then you have to navigate the difficult path later on when you’re older, weaker and have less money. If you take the more challenging route in your younger years then you usually end up walking down a much more pleasant path in your later years.”
That’s the philosophy that Niagara businessman Larry Vaughan shares with his kids, his young employees and something he eventually figured out at a young age himself. My father told me, “What you learn once you get out of school, that’s most important,” said Vaughan. “My first day working for him, I brought my college diplomas and asked him where I should hang them.” His dad was quick to reply, “in the bottom drawer of the filing cabinet.”
It’s a simple message printed in white on a bright red t-shirt: Be Nice. But it’s resonated with tourists in Niagara Falls and now across Canada.
Hugh Hockton, owner of the Niagara River Trading Company came up with the idea of putting the two words on a t-shirt while south of the border. “I was down in Florida and I saw something with ‘Be Nice” and I thought what a great simple message. It’s Just a nice thing to say and do.”
As the provincial government awaits the highly anticipated report from its advisors, Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn, on how best to move forward with governance change in a number of regions across Ontario, including Niagara, it appears that two locally developed models of governance are getting most of the attention. The One Niagara NOW model, primarily supported by a St. Catharines group, has published a document and hired a lobbyist to state their case locally and at Queen’s Park. A similar effort is being made by a group that is championing a four city model. They too have published a document and have submitted their case to the advisors.
The four cities model calls for the elimination of the region leaving behind four merged cities: 1) Niagara Falls (Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake), 2) Welland (Welland, Port Colborne, Thorold), 3) St. Catharines and 4) West Niagara (Wainfleet, Pelham Lincoln, West Lincoln and Grimsby).
Gale Wood has seen it all before. The CAO/Secretary Treasurer (the “acting” has been removed from her title) is no stranger to the politics and constant push and pull from special interest groups trying to influence their local conservation authority. The biggest challenge she said is getting the public to understand what exactly a conservation authority does and doesn’t do.
“Most of the confusion relates to our role with flood plain hazards and natural heritage and what we can comment on in terms of development,” said the seasoned conservation authority leader. “People believe we have a greater ability to protect natural heritage.” Wood said people in the public think the NPCA should be providing comment on everything when in fact there are really just three specific areas of responsibility for a conservation authority.
Canada’s public broadcaster should be ashamed of itself.
Word got out recently that the CBC was exploring the idea of doing a series about the horrific and brutal 1991 and 1992 killings of Kristen French, 15, and Leslie Mahaffy, 14. The man charged with those murders also admitted to raping more than a dozen other women between 1987 and 1990. His wife at the time, who, by all accounts, played a very significant role in those murders, and the killing of her own sister, is now enjoying her freedom and has been for several years. He continues to serve a life sentence for abduction, sexual assault and murder.
How do you go from owning a specialty food store in Guelph to owning one of the most successful craft wineries in the province? It’s not as much of a stretch as you might think. But like any successful business story the road is paved with hard work, a bit of luck and good timing. Such is the case for Louise Engel and David Johnson co-owners of Featherstone Winery located in Vineland.
At the age of 21 Louise and husband David started a specialty food store in the 1980s. At that time red meat was taboo. So the young couple specialized in selling poultry. “If it had feathers, we sold it,” said Engel. They both grew up on farms and David’s education is in agriculture. Engel’s is in business. “The more we got interested in food the more we got interested in wine.”
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, along with Vance Badawey, Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre, announced a FedDev Ontario contribution of $14 million to Niagara College to expand the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI). Badawey made the announcement on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario.
The $14-million investment will allow the network to grow to 10 partners, enhance its reach into the manufacturing community and support over 550 jobs.
Exceeding expectations. That’s how Welland Jackfish President and CEO Ryan Harrison would describe his ball team’s inaugural season in the Rose City. Well into the second half of their 36 game regular season schedule the Jackfish are an impressive 14-11 and sit in third place, five games back of first place Barrie Baycats.
“Our goal was to be 18 and 18 this season and knock on wood we should be above that at the end of the year,” said Harrison. This past weekend the Jackfish won two and lost one. “We had a big win against Guelph on Saturday as they are right behind us in the standings.”
Shoppers at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines can now grab a cold craft brew or glass of local wine while perusing the stores.
What began as a temporary pop-up kiosk has turned into a permanent beer garden located between the Ricki’s and Aldo stores. Back in October, Lock Street Brewery founder Wolfgang Guembel had the idea to try and bring his brews to the shoppers at the Pen Centre during Oktoberfest. The Lock Street Beer Garden was born and it was a success. It returned for the Black Friday weekend and then again for another 10 days over Christmas. “December was slamming every day from 10 a.m. to closing,” said Guembel.
Ever since the Toronto Raptors captivated Canadians with the country’s first ever NBA championship reports of kids flocking to community and schoolyard basketball courts have surfaced from city to city. A prime example is right here in Niagara where on any given summer night there can be up to 50 kids shooting hoops at the outdoor courts located at A.N. Myer high school. Both boys and girls of all ages are reenacting Kawhi Leonard’s now famous buzzer beater against the 76ers in the playoffs or driving to the hoop like Kyle Lowery.
Opened on Oct. 27 in 2016, the Phil Mazzone Sports Complex is home to four beautiful outdoor courts that were already used on a regular basis by local kids since they opened. It was the first public school in Niagara to have such a facility. However, since the Raptors playoff run the number of young NBA hopefuls has increased dramatically and that’s a good thing according to Vito DiMartino who at the time the idea of the complex was being discussed headed up the high schools physical education department. He was one of the driving forces behind the planning and building of the courts.
One of the biggest surprises leading up to this October’s federal election was the news that long-time and highly respected MP Rob Nicholson was not going to seek re-election. The 67 year old Nicholson has represented the Niagara Falls riding for 25 years in a federal capacity as well as serving his local constituents as a municipal politician in between his two stints in federal office.
Not surprisingly a number of people stepped forward to throw their hat in the ring and seek the nomination. In the end members of the Niagara Falls Conservative riding association selected Tony Baldinelli to represent them during the fall election.
Starting next week The Niagara Independent will be running a new series taking an in-depth look at Niagara’s most successful business leaders. In one-on-one interviews with the most successful entrepreneurs in the region we will go back in time and explore their stories from the very beginnings and map out their journey to success.
While Niagara may not be home to the global headquarters of Fortune 500 companies it is home to some of the most fascinating and inspiring business success stories in the country. Stories about people taking massive risks, working extremely hard, catching a few breaks and in the end providing good paying jobs and benefits to thousands of Niagara residents. They also contribute millions to local charities.
Alexander George is quickly becoming one of the best fiddle players in the country and this summer he has been given a chance to return home to Niagara where he will play in the musical comedy Oh Canada Eh in Niagara Falls.
The 18 year-old Humber College music student grew up in St. Catharines before moving to Ottawa to attend Cantebury high school which is home to a specialized arts program. He’s thrilled to be back in Niagara for the summer doing something he loves; and getting paid to do it. “My first fiddle teacher called me out of the blue in February or March and told me there was an opportunity with Oh Canada Eh,” said George. He auditioned and got the gig. “I got lucky because these gigs don’t come around often.”
It doesn’t take long to understand that Dr. Melanie Senechal was born to care for people.
The New Brunswick native arrived in Niagara in 2012 to become an emergency department physician with Niagara Health. She primarily works out of the St. Catharines site but also spends time caring for patients in Fort Erie once a week and since 2016 she’s been the medical director for the sexual assault and domestic violence care team.
A couple of weeks ago I participated in a great race in Niagara-on-the-Lake known as the Niagara Ultra. I highly recommend it for any of the runners out there. It’s well organized, has a great route down the Niagara Parkway and back and you can select from a number of distances including 10km, half and full marathon and even a 50km distance.
This year had an added special touch. Upon crossing the finish line runners were handed a water bottle and their finisher’s medal by members of our Canadian Armed Forces. There were at least six of them, maybe a couple more. They were young, wore the uniform with pride and very gracious and humble.
Even during her time as Chair of the Niagara Parks Commission, Janice Thomson didn’t believe in a “tourism season”. She still holds that belief in her new role as President and CEO of Niagara Falls Tourism. “We have four seasons of tourism and summer is the busiest of the four but Niagara Falls has plenty to offer tourists all year around,” she said.
Niagara Falls and its tourism operators are ready and willing to entertain the hundreds of thousands of tourists that will descend on Canada’s most famous address during this country’s birthday weekend. “There’s always a great mood on Canada Day weekend,” said Thomson who will attend Artistry by the Lake this weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake before heading down to the Falls and Clifton Hill to interact with tourists. “I love watching the kids’ expressions as they see the Falls for the first time or when they arrive on Clifton Hill and see all the great attractions.”
Niagara regional government’s budget meeting of June 20 signaled a significant change in regional financial policy.
While politicians and the public were preoccupied with the compensation and benefits of Niagara’s 31 regional councillors, there was very little attention given to the potential 3.3 per cent pay increase for 3,600 regional employees as a result of a staff recommendation to switch from using the Core Consumer Price Index (CPIX) to what is known as a Municipal Price Index (MPI) for guidance when preparing the Region’s 2020 budget.
Former Brock Badgers men’s basketball head coach Charles Kissi is now head assistant coach with Raptors 905. It was a view that will be etched into his memory for the rest of his life. In an interview with The Niagara Independent, former Brock Badgers men’s basketball coach Charles Kissi, who is now the head assistant […]
Niagara residents can rest assured that bidding on tax-payer funded capital projects being constructed by the Region, local municipalities, school boards, hospitals and post-secondary institutions are open to all qualified bidders both union and non-union. Not so in many other regions around the province until recently and still not the case in Toronto.
In a move that has enraged non-union smaller and medium sized contractors, Toronto City Council voted 20-4 yesterday to opt-out of legislation that would allow the city to accept bids for construction projects from non-union companies. Canada’s largest city is now poised to be the only municipality in Ontario to have publicly funded projects built exclusively by a select group of labour unions.
Mishka Balsom, President & CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce at the 2018 Niagara Business Achievement Awards. Some very familiar names will be honoured at this year’s edition of the 16th Annual Niagara Business Achievement Awards put on by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce. There are a number of successful small and […]
Paul Lemire and John Fillion aren’t going to give up on gathering 1,000 musicians together in one place to crank out some classic tunes.
Day of 1,000 Musicians returns to Niagara Falls for the second year on July 20, this time at the Gale Community Centre. Doors will open at 12 noon for the public and the concert is expected to wrap up around 7:30 p.m.
Who will Niagara residents send to Ottawa in October? The four races are shaping up to be very interesting. The Liberal red wave of four years ago under Justin Trudeau that sent Chris Bittle and Vance Badawey to the nation’s capital has taken a significant hit while the Andrew Scheer led conservatives have surged in the polls, but Canadians have seen that gap close before as momentum swings are a weekly occurrence leading up to election day. The NDP continue to be a distant third but with Niagara going mostly orange in the provincial election; will that translate over federally?
The Niagara Independent takes a look at the four Niagara ridings and provides a preview of the candidates from the three main parties running in each.
Walking through the halls with outgoing Brock University vice president of administration Brian Hutchings two things quickly become clear. One is that people are shocked he’s leaving. The second is he will be missed.
From the cashier at the Tim Horton’s kiosk, to faculty and staff passing by in the halls, everyone commented on Brock’s recent announcement that Hutchings will be leaving the academic world and heading back to the sector from whence he came; the municipal world.
There’s no question west Niagara MPP Sam Oosterhoff has had an interesting first year as a member of the governing party. There have been some highlights and some controversial moments but overall he continues to have the same enthusiasm and passion for the job.
Oosterhoff pointed to seeing many of his local priorities moving forward as some of the accomplishments he’s most proud of. Number one is the announcement to build a new hospital in West Lincoln, something that was promised and cancelled a number of times by the previous Liberal government. “I was born at that hospital, so to stand next to the premier and make the announcement at West Lincoln was very meaningful to me personally,” said Oosterhoff. “The government has made this project a priority.”
It’s been a long time coming.
There were many people in St. Catharines who thought they’d never see the day when a condo sales office in Port Dalhousie would actually open for business, welcome potential customers and sell units. But this past weekend the development known as Harbour Club launched its sales centre, known as the “Sails Pavilion” with a frenzy of interest.
By all accounts it was a successful opening with 40 units sold (out of 120) at an average price of $827,000. According to spokesperson Kate Carnegie, the majority of people are buying the two bedroom plus den units that are between 900 and 1,150 square feet.
Members of the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association walked off the job earlier this month when contract negations with Ontario General Contractors Association broke down. This week bus loads of sheet metal union members made the trek to picket in Niagara as part of what the union is calling their “solidarity bus tour”. About 4,000 sheet metal workers are on strike across Ontario.
Also on strike province-wide are Ontario’s plumbers and pipefitters. It’s the first time in 30 years that the sector has walked off the job. They’ve been on strike for a week while the sheet metal workers walked off the job more than a month ago.
Just a few months ago the first Airbus H145 helicopter to be delivered in Canada arrived at the RCMP’s base at Langley airport in Metro Vancouver. Why is that news in Niagara? Well because the state-of-the-art helicopter that allows the RCMP to support day and night operations over land and water, and conduct fast roping and hoisting, medical evacuations and search and rescue operations was manufactured, assembled and painted in Fort Erie.
While Airbus is a global company with offices in almost every country around the world most people in Niagara don’t realize that the Canadian headquarters is located in Fort Erie, employs nearly 300 people and is celebrating 35 years of operations.
He was a man on a mission. Five years ago Steve Ludzik started what has become a trio of fundraisers to help those in Niagara who suffer from Parkinson’s disease. His celebrity roast is one of the must attend annual fundraisers in the region, a golf ball drop at Eagle Valley Golf Course was added to the mix and of course there is the annual Steve Ludzik Golf Tournament.
The tournament itself has raised more than $140,000 in just five years. Proceeds support the Steve Ludzik Centre for Parkinson’s Rehab.
The crack of the starter’s pistol is quickly followed by the thundering sound of high school track stars racing towards the finish line while family, teammates and coaches scream encouragement from the sidelines.
Yesterday and today more than 1,200 student athletes representing high schools from Brampton and Georgetown all the way around to Fort Erie descended on St. Catharines to compete in the South Region finals and a chance to represent themselves and their school in Guelph next week at the Ontario high school track and field championships.
It’s a disconnected, inconsistent and complicated system for patients and family members to navigate and understand. That is the reason the provincial government announced this week their intention to create a mental health and addictions centre of excellence for Ontario.
Called the Foundations for Promoting and Protecting Mental Health and Addictions Services Act, the legislation, if passed, will set up a provincial body that will coordinate mental health and addiction services, set care standards and deliver a better and more consistent patient experience.
Flashy Margaritta with jockey Kirk Johnson won the first race of the 2018 season. Supplied photo/Michael Burns It’s just a matter of hours until the thunder of thoroughbred hoofs power through the dirt oval as Fort Erie Race Track kicks off its live racing season today with the first post time at 4:20 p.m. In […]
They were loud, enthusiastic and united.
About 200 kids from five different Niagara elementary schools filled a conference room at White Oakes Resort and Spa yesterday morning to learn how they can potentially be the one who names and/or designs the mascot for the upcoming Canada Summer Games 2021 to be held in Niagara.
The information session quickly turned into a Summer Games pep rally with emcee Bawe Nsame whipping the crowed into a frenzy. Students and teachers alike chanted, clapped and cheered their way through the session.
Regional Chair Jim Bradley along with 2021 Canada Summer Games Host Society Chair Doug Hamilton provided an update to about 100 people including elected officials and key stakeholders on the status of the Games Niagara will host in two years.
The message was clear – work is well underway and there’s a lot to be done but everyone must work together.
While the Host Society anxiously awaits funding announcements from provincial and federal governments, Games’ organizers continue to make headway on a number of fronts including infrastructure opportunities, legacy venues, the massive volunteer program, the brand, advocacy, cultural events and opening and closing ceremonies.
There are two prevailing theories on which way the Ontario government is going to go with governance restructuring in Niagara – four cities or one mega city.
The one city option has been discussed on and off for decades and is once again being trumpeted by a primarily St. Catharines based business group called One Niagara Now.
The Niagara Independent reached out to all of Niagara’s mayors for comment on which, if any, of the two popular governance models they prefer. Opinions varied with the common theme of wanting to maintain their individual communities and identities. The vast majority of Niagara’s mayors said they are against a one city model.
It was a packed house at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse last night as many of Niagara’s business leaders and elected officials were on hand to hear provincial Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli discuss the province’s recent budget.
The event, organized by the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce, was, not surprisingly, very well attended as it’s not often business owners get to hear directly from the person in charge of the province’s finances.
It’s been a tough 24 hours for the Niagara’s Ontario Hockey League franchise the Niagara IceDogs.
First, a Superior Court judge ordered a lawsuit unsealed that revealed a not-so-pretty picture of player recruitment and infighting amongst current ownership, former players and head coach. The lawsuit filed by former IceDogs player and Chicago native Zach Wilkie dealt with a secret side deal that Wilkie says was made prior to his agreeing to sign with the IceDogs. The deal would have provided money to cover his full university costs. The Icedogs ended up balking at the deal at the end of Wilkie’s OHL career telling him he had to take it up with the Sudbury Wolves, the team Wilkie was traded to from Niagara.
In addition to the legal mess and public embarrassment, word broke last night that a local group is making a pitch to buy Niagara’s OHL team from the current owners, Bill and Denise Burke.
Signing a professional contract to play hockey in North America doesn’t necessarily mean huge pay cheques, fancy cars and massive mansions. In fact, for the majority of professional hockey players their entire careers are short lived and spent mostly in the minor leagues like the American Hockey League (AHL) or East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
As a player’s time in professional hockey reaches the end of the line they are usually still young, somewhere in their late twenties or earl thirties. They need to think about transitioning into their next career and that can be stressful. After being a star on the team for many years and feeling very comfortable doing what they’ve always done, it can be humbling searching for a new job.
They produce half of all the energy generated in Ontario. They have a significant footprint in Niagara and Ontario Power Generation (OPG), under the leadership of its new President and Chief Executive Officer, Ken Hartwick, now sets its sites on their next 20 years.
This year marks the twentieth anniversary of OPG. The energy producer was established in April, 1999 under the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris as a precursor to deregulation of the province’s electricity market. While the production, distribution and cost of energy in Ontario has consistently generated attention, particularly around election time, OPG has quietly gone about its business expanding an innovating to provide the lowest cost energy in Ontario.
“We want to be seen as a valuable company in Ontario and we take a lot of pride in not only providing low cost energy but being good partners in the communities we operate in,” said Jessica Polak, OPG’s Vice-President of Operations for Niagara.
The dedicated group of rowing enthusiasts that year-after-year maintain the rowing course and facilities at Henley Island in St. Catharines, organize regattas and continuously promote the sport are once again aiming to host the rowing world.
While the initial target year to host a world event was 2020 the group now has their sights set on the World Rowing Championships of 2024. Regional councillor and long-time rowing volunteer Tim Rigby said the St. Catharines group that was working on the bid for the 2020 championships realized there were just too many roadblocks getting in the way of their bid submission. Rigby said the main hurdle was a strict financial piece that FISA (the governing body for world rowing) had in place at the time.
It’s the most anticipated arrival of any Blue Jay in the team’s history.
After Wednesday’s loss to the San Francisco Giants, Jays’ skipper Charlie Montoyo finally announced what Toronto baseball fans have been waiting to hear for a long time… their most prized prospect, the number one prospect in all of baseball, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is being called up to the show.
It’s being called V-day. Ticket sales and media interest spiked both in Canada and south of the border when news broke of Vladdy’s call-up. Guerrero’s Buffalo Bisons teammate and highly ranked prospect in his own right, Bo Bichette, tweeted out Wednesday night, “You’ve become like a brother to me and I can’t wait to watch you play. Wayyyyyy overdue. Yo te amo.”
“We’re like the race horse chomping at the bit ready to get out of the gate.”
That’s how Hornblower Niagara Cruises vice president and general manager, Mory DiMaurizio describes how he and his team feel at this time of year. Eager to launch their world famous vessels and anxiously awaiting the ice to melt or move down river, Hornblower Niagara is excited about the upcoming tourism season. “Everyone just wants to get going,” said DiMaurizio.
Hornblower arrived in Niagara in 2014 and officially launched on May 15 following a change in operators after the Maid of the Mist boats cruised up and down the Niagara River for decades. Current regional councillor Bob Gale was on the Niagara Parks Commission Board at the time and questioned why the Maid of the Mist operation seemed to be automatically renewed as the service provider every year. Gale pushed for an open bidding process which Hornblower won. The transition ended up being very favourable to the Parks Commission saving them at least $300 million.
They changed their approach and the results are impressive.
The City of Welland has undergone an economic transformation in the past few years. Once seen as an economically depressed and struggling community, the Rose City has pulled up its boot straps, changed its approach to business and is now a leader in economic activity.
“We’ve been fortunate to attract a lot of private sector investment,” said Welland’s Chief Administrative Officer Gary Long. The city had $9.2 million in land sales in 2018 for both industrial and residential development and Long says the demand is still high.
Krystina Waler and April Jeffs have been paying close attention to the SNC-Lavallin scandal that has consumed much of the Canadian media’s and public’s attention over the past few months. Both women are running for the Conservative Party of Canada in the upcoming federal election, Waler in St. Catharines and Jeffs in Niagara Centre. Both women don’t like what they’ve seen from the Prime Minister and are sympathetic to their female colleagues even though they carry the flag of a different political party.
Scandals, of varying degrees, in Ottawa certainly aren’t new and have involved every political party at one time or another. They also tend to fade fairly quickly like a cheap pair of blue jeans put through the wash machine one too many times. SNC-Lavallin however has the real potential of not going anywhere fast.
The two casinos in Niagara Falls will soon be operated by an American company, Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment, and now thanks to a recent decision by the Ontario PC government, they will be able to do one thing their American casino counterparts have done for years, serve free alcohol to patrons.
“The cornerstone of putting people first is consumer choice and convenience,” Finance Minister Vic Fedeli said when presenting his government’s budget last week. “This is why our government is taking steps to modernize the way we sell, distribute and consume alcohol in Ontario.”
Part of the selling, distributing and consuming alcohol in Ontario mandate is to allow the province’s casinos to advertise free alcohol, something U.S. casinos have done for decades.
It’s one of the most impressive careers any Canadian has had in federal politics and now it’s time to step aside says Niagara Falls Conservative member of Parliament Rob Nicholson. After serving his constituents as their Ottawa representative for 24 years as well as serving all Canadians in his roles as a federal minister (including justice, defence and foreign affairs), Nicholson wants to spend more time with his family.
The father of three served under three prime ministers during his time as a conservative MP. He also spent six years as a Niagara regional councillor. “I’ve had a good run at it,” said Nicholson in an interview Wednesday with The Niagara Independent. “Serving over three decades in public office only works if you have the full support of your family as well as having a great staff,” explained the Conservative MP. “If you’re family doesn’t support you in this line of work, you won’t make it,” he said.
Niagara’s Regional Chair Jim Bradley highlighted numerous successes of the past Regional Council during his first state-of-the-region address last week, hosted by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and held at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls. With decades of political experience under his belt, the former Liberal MPP knows when to be diplomatic and when to turn the page on the past. Instead of beating the proverbial dead horse of hiring practices and lawsuits that some councillors still want to drag out, Bradley chose to give credit where credit is due by acknowledging the work of past council during his remarks to Niagara’s business and public sector leaders in attendance.
Using terms like “teamwork”, “shared vision” and “spirit of cooperation” early in his speech was about as close as the Chairman would come to addressing the past council’s negative press. He then quickly moved on to praising Niagara’s business community for “providing the jobs and economic opportunities needed to keep the region both strong and vibrant.”
He’s witnessed first-hand the enormous impact an organ donation and successful transplantation can have on a family. As a kid Hari Vasan spent a lot of time in hospitals. His father was sick and urgently needed a new kidney. “My father was on dialysis for years,” said Vasan. He recalls his basement being full of dialysis supplies when his father was receiving peritoneal dialysis from home. “He was self employed as a lawyer so having to receive dialysis several times a week for a few hours a time made it very difficult to have a career and support a family.”
Then the phone rang. “I can still remember getting that call,” recalled Vasan. The phone call was to say they had found a donor and that the elder Vasan was going to receive a life-saving kidney that would give him a quality of life he hadn’t had in years. The kidney came from someone who had passed away and decided to donate their organs. “We will be forever grateful to that person.”
The South Niagara Chambers of Commerce, consisting of Niagara Falls, Welland, Fort Erie and Port Colborne, along with the west Niagara Chambers of Commerce and the Niagara Centre Board of Trade have recently released a survey on the topic of governance review. The group totals about 4,000 Niagara businesses. This is the latest in several surveys available for residents of Niagara to participate in, however, it’s the first survey primarily focused on what business owners would like to see as a result of a governance shake up. The province, Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) and various municipalities have all completed or have surveys currently available for the public to complete.
The GNCC survey results are in and are now posted on their website. Their findings indicate that overwhelmingly Niagara residents feel a strong desire for governance reform (76% in favour), fewer politicians and faster decision making. Although some have tried to make the argument that more elected officials is a good thing for democracy and provides greater access to elected representatives, those who take the GNCC survey clearly stated that access to their councilor was not a priority in the least.
Niagara Independent contributor, Mark Towhey, will be joining Postmedia and specifically Sun News as Editor-in-Chief. He’ll replace Jamie Wallace who left the role in January. From the inception of The Niagara Independent, Towhey has been a valuable contributor providing columns and commentary on social and political issues including: the Police Services Act, the Province’s sex-ed curriculum, the opioid crisis and gun control.
Former Ontario Finance Minister Janet Ecker has been added to The Niagara Independent roster of contributors to fill Towhey’s void. Ecker will be writing on provincial issues and brings a wealth of knowledge on the most important issues facing Ontario.
It’s called The Harbour Club and the Port Dalhousie condo development is now starting to set sail.
The sales pavilion won’t open for another few weeks but the interest in what was the Lincoln Fabrics building, but soon to be high-end condos, has grown consistently since the project was first announced. Now that the development has essentially received the blessings needed by city staff and council to move forward and get a shovel in the ground, those involved with The Harbour Club say that word is spreading beyond Niagara’s borders.
“Interest is coming in from around Ontario and in particular the greater Toronto area,” said Sheldon Rosen, President of The Harbour Club project. Rosen said that initially awareness of the project was limited to local residents but since receiving more media coverage and an increase in marketing, people well beyond Niagara are taking notice. “Word has spread that Port Dalhousie is back and interest is 50-50 from within Niagara and outside of the region,” said Rosen.
In speaking with a number of wine industry leaders and combing through numerous studies, financial analyses and reports one thing is clear; Ontario’s craft wine industry is at a crossroads and the Ford government needs to make sure they choose the right road when making changes to legislation regarding alcohol sales in Ontario.
Simply putting booze in big box stores isn’t going to help. In fact it will do more harm than good when it comes to craft wineries. While many Ontarian’s, particularly in Niagara, fancy themselves sophisticated wine connoisseurs the fact of the matter is more often than not they will reach for $9.99 import bottle instead of the $14.99 VQA offering.
Some people are just born leaders. They don’t want anything handed to them and they earn every opportunity they get. Then, once they achieve some well earned early success, their first thought is, “how can I give back?” That’s Caroline Sherk and at age 24 she’s the youngest person ever to Chair a United Way campaign in Niagara. Add to that, the St. Catharines native and Brock graduate is the first to chair a campaign under the newly amalgamated United Way Niagara model that in 2018 saw St. Catharines, Fort Erie and Niagara Falls United Ways come together to operate as one organization under the leadership of Executive Director Frances Hallworth.
The Niagara Parks Commission, now lead by new Chair, Sandie Bellows, and vice-chair, April Jeffs can add CEO David Adames, to its leadership team. Adames becomes just the 12th CEO to serve in the Commission’s top administrative position since its inception in 1885.
The organization’s new leader is not new to the Niagara Parks however. He joined the organization in 2013, as Senior Director of Business Development. Adames then assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer in 2016 and Acting CEO in October 2018.
With the current provincial government set to make significant changes on how alcohol is sold in Ontario, The Niagara Independent is examining the challenges and opportunities facing Ontario’s wine industry and what type of impact the potential changes could have on this province’s wine makers.
Ontario’s craft wineries are excited about the province’s promise to expand retail options for wine sales in Ontario. It seems like a natural win-win but depending on how the proposed expansion ends up being structured it could be boon or bust for Ontario’s small and medium sized wineries. For decades now the craft wineries in Niagara and across the province have advocated to expand wine retailing to privately owned and operated businesses.
Ian Hamilton, President and CEO of the Hamilton Port Authority was in Niagara Wednesday speaking to politicians from across the region about intermodal transportation and how the city of Hamilton has leveraged their port for the benefit of an entire municipality.
The event, entitled, Building Niagara, was born five years ago as a result of the realization that there really wasn’t a time when Niagara’s politicians at all levels of government got together to discuss issues of the day. “We would get feedback from our municipal politicians after they returned from the AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) conference that they would say to each other how great it is to get together and so we thought why not have an annual event that allows that to happen right here in Niagara,” said Dolores Fabiano, Executive Director of the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce. The Chambers, along with lead sponsor, The Niagara Industrial Association hosted the event. About 65 politicians were in attendance for this year’s talk.
The provincial government has announced additional funding to help ensure long-term sustainability of Ontario’s horse racing industry.
The Ford government will provide $10 million a year to support programs for breeders and horsepeople through the Horse Improvement Program (HIP). This will support breeding and industry development for Ontario-bred horses and will be administered by Ontario Racing, replacing the Enhanced Horse Improvement Program previously administered by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
There was a time when trying to get a medical student to come to Niagara to receive clinical training was nearly impossible. Rundown and outdated hospitals, uncertain healthcare restructuring and no formal affiliation with any medical school made clinical teaching within the walls of a Niagara hospital seem like a pipe dream. Times have changed.
Today, the Niagara Health System averages just over 1,900 clinical and clinical support student placements a year and those students come from a whopping 96 different post-secondary institutions. More than sixty are Ontario schools, 18 are Canadian colleges and universities from outside of the province and 11 are American. Of the 1,900 students, 1,700 are clinical students with the remainder being students studying in support areas like bio-medical engineering, health information management, human resources or business. Nursing accounts for the highest number of clinical placements.
They don’t want special treatment. They just want fair treatment.
That’s the message the Ontario Craft Wineries are hammering home to the Ford government as the province explores ways to expand the sale of alcohol across Ontario. Yes, the association that represents small and medium sized VQA wineries throughout the province have ideas and recommendations about alcohol sale expansion but the more pressing concern is the archaic tax system under which they are forced to operate. It’s a system that when explained to people outside of the industry it usually elicits a jaw dropping, eyes widening response of, “that’s ridiculous!”
Essentially there are two different models of taxation that Ontario wineries face; one for when they sell product into the U.S. market and one for Ontario sales. The U.S. system is a three-tier distribution system where Ontario wineries must use a U.S. importer at which point they face a 35% markup (tax), then the product goes through a U.S. distributor where the wine faces another 35% markup and finally it ends up in a retail space where it gets slapped with another 35% tax for a total of a 100% markup.
Even in 2019 the construction industry is dominated by men but that isn’t stopping Jessica Garrett from pursuing her dream of one day having a very rewarding career in the field.
The Niagara College third-year Construction Engineering Technology student was recently awarded the College’s first Women in Construction Faculty Award. Established through the generosity of Welland resident Jan Erion, the award is a $500 donation toward a student’s tuition, designated specifically for a female student in one of the College’s construction programs.
There’s probably only one thing that could top being awarded Citizen of the Year and that would be having your daughter follow your acceptance speech with her own heartfelt words of thanks, congratulations and gratitude for what you mean to her. That’s exactly what happened to local businessman Rainer Hummel recently as he was presented the prestigious annual award from Lord Mayor Betty Disero and then fought back tears as his daughter, Raiana Schwenker, a successful businesswoman in her own right, praised her dad.
Disero mentioned in her remarks how often Hummel has acted as a mentor for Niagara-on-the-Lake businesses. Hummel’s own path to business success has been paved with hard work, strong values and relentless pursuit of excellence.
Young athletes from around the region who have aspirations of being an Olympian, will be put to the test this weekend as Brock University plays host to an Olympic combine talent search.
The first stop for RBC Training Ground in Ontario will be tomorrow at the university’s Sports Performance Centre.
Training Ground aims to provide amateur athletes a chance to compete in Canada’s Olympic pool. It’s the third time the combine will be held in Niagara.
There’s no doubt that most people in Niagara recognize that the tourism industry has an impact on the local economy but they probably don’t know the extent.
A new report from Niagara Economic Development has dug into the numbers and the numbers are big. In a first-of-it- kind report, titled Niagara Tourism Profile, it states that tourists visiting Niagara pumped $2.4 billion into the local economy. According to the region, the report, which uses data compiled in collaboration with Statistics Canada, is the first to provide a comprehensive understanding of the tourism industry’s contribution to Niagara’s economy.
The future of Ontario’s wine industry is at a crossroads. Changes are coming and depending on what those changes are, small and medium sized wineries in Ontario (the vast majority of which are in Niagara) could either flourish or potentially flounder.
The Niagara Independent will examine what’s at stake for the province’s wine industry over a series of articles that will examine the current tax structure on wine, location of product sales, the importing of foreign wines and comparing the regulatory burden on the wine industry versus the cannabis industry.
In the Niagara peninsula alone, the wine industry has a nearly $4 billion economic impact according to the latest studies. There are nearly 100 wineries just in Niagara and the number of wine related tourists that visit Niagara is over two million a year. Province-wide the wine industry is responsible for about 18,000 jobs totalling $870 million in wages. It’s big business.
Steve Ludzik is in yet another battle. The former NHL player and coach has been in as many battles off the ice as he as on it. It’s no secret that “Ludzy” as many affectionately know him, has battled health issues for decades. First it was Crohn’s disease which almost ended his hockey career while still playing junior. Then Ludzik was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease as an adult. Now he is in need of a liver transplant after being diagnosed two weeks ago with primary sclerosing cholangitis – the same disease that ultimately took the life of Walter “Sweetness” Payton, the legendary Chicago Bears running back.
Over the past few weeks there had been rumours about Ludzik’s health as it was apparent from his physical appearance something was wrong. “I don’t see why I should keep it a secret,” Ludzik told The Niagara Independent. “People start to guess; Is it cancer? Is alcoholism?”
In a much-anticipated announcement, Ontario’s health minister, Christine Elliott, laid out the government’s plan to make some significant changes to how healthcare is run in this province.
The Ford government has said all along that it wants to “end hallway medicine” in Ontario but until this week they had not put forth a detailed plan on how they would go about that. In the absence of details, the NDP filled the airwaves with speculation about privatisation and cuts. What Minister Elliott announced in fact, was a plan to bolster the use of technology, reduce bureaucracy by winding down and eventually eliminating the Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN), and bringing several existing (Ontario currently has a large network of provincial and regional agencies, clinical oversight bodies and 1,800 health service provider organizations) provincial healthcare programs under one roof called Ontario Health. One of those existing agencies that the ministry looked at as a very successful model to emulate is Cancer Care Ontario. “It’s a great example of what is working. Cancer Care Ontario is world class,” said Elliott.
There is renewed optimism amongst many residents now that one of the most respected business owners and residents in Niagara, Tom Rankin, has purchased the site in Port Dalhousie that has failed to see a proposed condo development become a reality for well over a decade.
The original developers proposed a 20-storey glass tower condo in 2004. That proposal faced opposition from local residents and was eventually shot down by the city council of the day. Fortress Union Waterfront purchased the property in 2015 and proposed a mixed-use 14-storey building. St. Catharines city council was awaiting a staff recommendation on that proposal when it was announced that the project yet again came to a grinding halt as Fortress went into receivership last year.
Brock University will be sending both its men’s and women’s curling teams east to the national championships in Fredericton, New Brunswick with impressive performances this past weekend at the Ontario finals.
“I’m very proud of our Varsity men and women for working so hard all year and achieving the goal of medalling at OUAs and reaching USport Nationals. Our entire curling program, from our developmental teams to our coaching staff and support people, share in our success,” said head coach Murray Etherington.
Niagara Falls Craft Distillers is banking on a very successful future. Part of that success is built on their recognition of the areas rich past. It’s a history the company ties into each product be it vodka, whiskey, rum or gin.
Established in 2017 under the leadership and vision of local businessman and Niagara native Chris Jeffries, the distillery has had some good success in a short time period. Niagara, once known solely for its wineries and vineyards, is now making a name for itself in the craft beer and spirits markets as well. Jeffries, who owns the Syndicate restaurant in Niagara Falls where he has been brewing craft beer for over a decade, decided to take the leap into the spirits market.
Many of Niagara’s regional councillors have had enough of confidential information being leaked to the public. The latest in a string of such code of conduct violations occurred this past summer. It was reported this week that someone secretly recorded the deliberations in a closed-session meeting last July then handed the recording to a local reporter, a clear violation of the council’s Code of Conduct (referenced at the bottom of this article).
Regional council members The Niagara Independent spoke with expressed frustration, anger and disappointment with the fact that one of their colleagues secretly recorded in-camera conversations.
Since opening its doors in 2011, the Scotiabank Convention Centre the 280,000 square foot facility continues to accomplish what it supporters hoped it would. The Centre, located across from the Fallsview Casino doesn’t receive a lot of publicity but that doesn’t mean things aren’t busy.
“Most of what happens inside these walls is business to business conventions and conferences and therefore they aren’t marketing to the public so people may have this impression that there isn’t much going on because they only hear about concerts or things like Comic Con,” said Noel Buckley, the Centre’s president and general manager. In fact about 70 per cent of the Centre’s revenue comes from the business to business conferences, conventions and trade-shows.
Contrary to news reports and memos from the Region last week, the Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo has not resigned.
D’Angelo, who was hired as the Region’s CAO in October of 2016, never did resign contrary to the numerous media reports and social media posts. D’Angelo’s hiring is a focus of a current provincial Ombudsman’s investigation which should wrap up later this month.
It was a busy end to the week as two high profile provincial cabinet ministers were in St. Catharines to make funding announcements. First, the province’s Minister of Infrastructure Monte McNaughton joined St. Catharines federal MP Chris Bittle to announce up to $400,000 to fund the replacement of 12 diesel engines for the St. Catharines transit bus fleet.
McNaughton then hustled over to Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre where he joined his cabinet colleague and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott to reaffirm that their government will indeed follow through with a half million dollar planning grant that originally was a campaign promise made by the then governing Liberals leading up to the provincial election. The actual cash was welcome news as past Liberal campaign promises, like a new hospital in Niagara Falls, which was announced by the Liberals twice during the past two provincial campaigns but never came to fruition.
The Goodman School of Business at Brock University has been transformed. At a ribbon cutting on Friday, university officials, students and dignitaries gathered inside the bright, modern facility to officially open the new digs.
The Canadian business school market is highly competitive with many well established schools like Ivey at the University of Western Ontario, Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and York University’s Schulich School of Business to name just a few. Brock is hoping that the $24 million project, which includes 79,000 square feet of new and renovated space, will give Goodman the push it needs to compete nationally and internationally with the big business school players that have been around much longer.
In just two weeks from today Red Deer, Alberta will kick-off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. At those games will be a contingent of Niagara representatives observing, asking questions and taking note of how to successfully run a national sporting event.
Doug Hamilton, chair of the 2021 Host Society Board of Directors, says there will be three groups heading to Red Deer at three different times. Ten Niagara representatives will be making the trip west in two weeks for the opening ceremonies while another group of similar numbers heads to Red Deer mid-games and the last group of 10 to 12 people will book their flight for the closing ceremonies.
While Niagara residents try and stay warm during this recent deep freeze, the Niagara River needs to keep its waters flowing in order to supply power to the province and electricity to homes and businesses. A frozen Niagara River can quickly cause a problem, from flooding to power failure. Enter the Niagara Queen II, an 85-tonne vessel, powered by two 1,720-horsepower diesel engines, the icebreaker smashes through the frozen waterway ensuring the rivers icy waters continue to flow.
First commissioned in 1992, the small, dependable icebreaker, owned and operated by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), helps keep the water flowing to OPG’s Adam Beck hydroelectric stations, which generate more than 2,000 megawatts of power for the province.
As Niagara’s Police Services Board works with Chief Bryan MacCulloch and his senior staff to finalize the 2019 budget, much has been made about recent reports of the services’ reserve funds being drained. The Niagara Regional Police (NRP), which has no-less than eight different reserve funds currently totalling $10 million, had a 2018 operating budget of $143 million. That was up 4.5% from 2017 and currently the board is dealing with an ask of a 6.5% increase for 2019.
In 2017, regional councillors directed the Region’s agencies, boards and commissions to present budgets with no more than a 1.5% increase. The police board however was forced to wrestle with an arbitration award that year which added $6.7 million in salary costs retroactive to 2016. Salaries and benefits make up more than 90 per cent of the NRP’s budget.
The South Niagara Chambers of Commerce will be kicking off a new series featuring conversations around initiatives that have changed the landscape of the Niagara Region.
On Thursday, January 31, former Niagara Falls Mayor Wayne Thomson will give audience members a behind the scenes look at how of one of the greatest economic investments the region has seen in the past 25 years unfolded. The fireside chat will reveal the vision, challenges and eventual success that lead to arguably Niagara’s biggest ever game changer.
Live auctions have a long history. In fact, reports suggest that history extends as far back as 500 B.C. The Roman Empire used auctions to liquidate property and estate goods. There’s also evidence of Buddhist monks in China using auctions to fund the creation of temples, as it became customary to auction off the property of deceased monks for this purpose. Early auction houses were created in the 18th century. Sotheby’s was created in 1744 and Christie’s was created in 1766.
Today, St. Catharines resident Mark Balanowski and business partner Frances Fripp have teamed up to launch a unique auction company that is changing the face of the industry.
“Let me be very clear; we are not touching the Greenbelt.” Those were the concise words of west Niagara MPP Sam Oosterhoff to regional councillors at last week’s council meeting during a discussion on the province’s Bill 66 entitled “Restoring Ontario’s Competiveness Act”.
Oosterhoff added that the proposed legislation “does not touch the Clean Water Act”. The MPP was forced to defend the bill at regional council after learning St. Catharines NDP MPP Jeff Burch would be making a presentation encouraging council to submit a response to the province opposing the Act.
The fact that there are no quality standards in place for pet food manufacturing may surprise people and it’s a little scary for pet food owners. But a Niagara company is not only producing a top quality raw dog food but is doing so in a facility that meets the most stringent regulations for making human food.
Located in a nondescript building on the border of St. Catharines and Niagara-on-the-Lake, Iron Will Raw pet food is a Niagara business success story on many fronts. President and CEO Matt Bonanno, a Niagara Falls native, started his working career as a carpenter in the Toronto area. At the same time he was training dogs that would eventually join the K-9 units for police forces around the province. It was during that time that Bonanno noticed a big difference in the animals when they were eating quality raw food. He started experimenting with his own recipes to come up with a food that had the proper balance of proteins, vitamins and minerals for strong, active canines. Eventually he moved back to Niagara where he took over a very small raw dog food making business from a Welland woman who was moving to Alberta. Bonanno bought her home and continued serving the few clients she had.
ra where he took over a very small raw dog food making business from a Welland woman who was moving to Alberta. Bonanno bought her home and continued serving the few clients she had.
Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the Hon. Sylvia Jones, was in Niagara Falls yesterday to address the Police Association of Ontario (PAO) which is the official voice and representative body for Ontario’s front-line police personnel. The Association provides representation, resource and support for 53 police associations across the province with a membership of over 18,000 police and civilian members.
As a former Minister of Tourism, Minister Jones said she was thrilled to see the PAO holding their annual winter membership meeting in Niagara Falls. The falls will be lit in blue this evening to recognize the Police Association of Ontario and honour deceased members. There will also be a fireworks display. “It’s a very nice gesture to our fallen officers,” said Minister Jones.
Niagara’s regional councillors are in budget mode and it appears a lot of money is going to be spent this term of council.
Helen Chamberlain, the Region’s Director of Financial Management and Planning provided a presentation to councillors at last Thursday’s Budget Review Committee of the Whole. In her presentation, Chamberlain informed councillors that capital spending would be increasing significantly from the $186.5 million spent in 2018 to $273.9 million this year. She broke the lump sum down into three areas: 1) Sustainability ($163.8 million), which makes up 60 per cent of the nearly $274 million; Strategic Investments ($53 million) such as regional transit is slated to make up 19 per cent; and Growth ($57 million) projects like the Martindale Road and QEW work in St. Catharines comes in at 21 per cent.
Ontario’s Chief Coroner is launching a review of suicides by police officers in the province after learning that a total of nine officers took their own lives in 2018. Dr. Dirk Huyer said that the spike in the number of deaths from suicide by police officers was “greater than we typically see”. The plan is to form a diverse panel of experts to dig deeper into the sudden increase, gain a better understanding of the root cause and try and reduce future deaths. The committee is expected to meet this spring with a report being finalized sometime in the summer.
The provincial government has begun an extensive consultation process called the Housing Supply Action Plan to explore the best ways to increase housing options for Ontario homebuyers. The consultation focuses on five areas: the length of time it takes to get development projects approved; the number of restrictions as to what type of housing can be built; development costs; renting; and innovative ways to increase housing supply.
Currently it takes years for a homebuilder to get the shovels in the ground on a housing project. Over the last 15 years a number of regulations and more red tape have been added to the process making it incredibly challenging to get a project off of the ground. The cost to home builders for navigating their way through the sea of red tape, public consultations and often times court battles with special interests groups, who are opposed to a project, can be in the millions. Add to that the various taxes (about 25 per cent of a cost of a new home is tax) and homes in Ontario quickly become unaffordable.
There’s no question basketball in this country has taken off like Michael Jordan launching from the free-throw line. Many Canadians would attribute that rise in popularity to the competitiveness of the Toronto Raptors and the influence of individual players in the past decade like Vince Carter, Steve Nash and the crop of young kids now playing in the NBA. But the foundation for basketball in Canada was laid by a select few, including Niagara Falls native and current lead Assistant Coach with the Charlotte Hornets, Jay Triano.
Triano recently released a book titled ‘Open Look’ in which he takes the reader on a highly entertaining and inspirational journey throughout his career. The stories he shares reveal an intimate behind the scenes look at what it was like to be one of the best basketball players in the country at a time when very few people paid much attention to a game invented by a Canadian. Triano spoke recently with The Niagara Independent about writing ‘Open Look’ and his time growing up in Niagara.
Canadian world junior teams have never failed to medal when the tournament was held in Canada, until now. Wednesday night in Vancouver, in a stunning and bizarre late turn of events, Canada was knocked out of this year’s tournament by Finland, losing 2-1 in overtime.
The game was a defensive struggle as both teams played things tight. Both goalies, Mikey DiPietro for Canada who made 32 stops and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen for Finland who made 24, played brilliantly.
After a scoreless first period, Canada opened the scoring early in the second when Barrett Hayton carried the puck into the Finland zone dishing off to defenceman Ian Mitchell joining the rush. Mitchell shot a laser over the left glove hand of Luukkonen.
Just as Niagara residents were enjoying a break at the pumps with gas prices as low as they have been in years, the cost of fuel is set to jump as much as ten cents a litre in a couple of months as the Trudeau government’s carbon tax will take effect April 1.
Fuel industry expert and former Liberal MP, Dan McTeague, also known as Canada’s Gas Guru, said at one point the tax on fuel was to take effect Jan. 1 which actually would have been the smarter move for both the government and consumer. McTeague says implementing the increase in April is “dumber than a bag of hammers.” He said April 1 is when the industry shifts from winter to summer gas and that comes with a cost increase – about five cents per litre. Add onto that the expected increase from the carbon tax and the cost of fuel is expected to rise anywhere between 15 and 18 cents per litre in Niagara. “The government is not taking the consumer into consideration,” said McTeague. He also said that there is rampant speculation that if the current Liberal government is re-elected the tax on fuel will increase dramatically during their second term.
Twenty Valley’s annual Winter WineFest will celebrate its 10th anniversary this coming weekend, Jan. 11-13 in Jordan. The unofficial launch to the icewine celebrations in Niagara has grown in both size and popularity over the last decade.
On average the event attracts around 10,000 people to Jordan and organizers are hoping, with some help from Mother Nature and more musical entertainment, that that number will be surpassed this year. “It’s the quintessential Canadian street party,” said Twenty Valley Tourism’s Erin Thomson.
The popularity of magic may be at an all time high. With the superstardom of people like David Blaine, Chris Angel and of course the legendary Penn and Tellar taking up residency in Las Vegas as well as numerous Netflix shows featuring magicians and illusionists, it’s big business that generates millions.
Niagara’s Alex Kazam was five years old when he first met a magician at his local library. It was an encounter that would set him on a career path that has been truly magical.
Kazam moved to Niagara when he was 12 years old and other than a couple of short-term stays in Toronto he has called this region his home the majority of his life. He got his first magic kit when he was six and growing up he was constantly reading magic books and watching VHS tapes of magicians. “The stop and rewind buttons were my friends,” said Kazam. He did his first show in grade five when his teacher, who noticed her student’s talents, asked him to perform in front of the class. His first paid gig was at the Chippewa
The holiday season brings Canadians the gift of what has become the country’s favourite annual sporting event: The World Juniors. The tournament this year will be played in Victoria and Vancouver. Canada is in Pool A with Denmark, Switzerland, Russia and the Czech Republic. As usual, Canada kicks off its tournament play on boxing day when they face off against Denmark at 8 pm eastern. That will be followed by an 8 pm game on the 27th against Switzerland and a game on the 29th against the Czech Republic. The New Years eve game will feature Canada vs. Russia.
Canada’s team is made up of nine players from the OHL, six players from the WHL, five from the QMJHL, and two from the NCAA. The team is coached by former Calgary Flame Tim Hunter.
The Canadian team features from the 2017 NHL draft, five first round picks, five second rounders, two third rounders and two fourth round picks. From the 2018 NHL draft the Canadian team carries five first round picks and one second round pick. The team is rounded out with a 2019 draft eligible player and a 2020 draft eligible player in 17-year old Alexis Lafreniere from the QMJHL.
Monday morning at Niagara Region headquarters saw sweeping changes at the senior management level as acting CAO Ron Tripp, just one day on the job, fired four directors and one communications staffer. Tripp has stated publicly that the decision to terminate the five employees was his and his alone and was not politically motivated in […]
For the first time in Niagara an all female hockey wall of fame will be permanently on display. On Saturday at 4 p.m. inside the Seymour-Hannah Sports and Entertainment Centre, the St. Catharines Female Hockey Association (SCFHA) will unveil the women’s hockey wall of fame at a special ceremony.
The event will be the highlight of what is being called “Jr. Badger Day”. The SFHA’s teams are known as the Jr. Badgers and have an affiliation with the Brock University women’s hockey team.
SCFHA board president, Sue Guarasci said Saturday will be an exciting day for everyone involved. “As the president of SCFHA Brock Jr. Badgers this is a very proud day for our organization as we recognize these elite athletes and their outstanding careers and accomplishments in women’s hockey. It’s exciting that these players found their love for the game of hockey right here with our association and they were able to take that on to higher levels.”
As part of the first wave of direct mental health and addictions funding, Niagara Health System is receiving eight new mental health beds which will be added to the existing 80 beds. The province is investing in urgently-needed mental health and addiction services in the Niagara Region. They are also committed to engaging with health care leaders, front line staff and people with lived experiences to address the critical gaps in the province’s mental health care system.
“I have been asked over and over again from both constituents and stakeholders alike that we receive more mental health beds” said Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West. “I’m excited to announce that those voices have been heard.”
“We are committed to ensure that each dollar goes directly to services that will make a significant difference to patients. This immediate investment will help lower wait times for those in need of inpatient mental health and addictions treatment.”
Canada, and the Niagara Region in particular, is home to a burgeoning wine, beer and spirits industry, but Canadians can’t take full advantage of these products because of trade barriers that prevent the free-flow of beverage alcohol within Canada. The Canadian Global Cities Council (CGCC) and local Chambers of Commerce agree that it’s time to allow alcohol to travel across provincial borders, barrier free (particularly with growing online sales).
Earlier this month the Toronto Region Board of Trade raised the idea that federal and provincial First Ministers should sign an icebreaker deal on alcohol sales, allowing for e-commerce of any locally produced alcoholic beverage across any interprovincial border. The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and the CGCC, along with partners in the beverage alcohol sector, called on the First Ministers to discuss a more robust internal trade.
The blood-letting didn’t take long at Niagara Regional Headquarters, just one week before Christmas, as four senior staff and one communications specialist were all let go yesterday on what some have dubbed, “Bloody Monday”.
The official statement from the Region read: “Today Niagara Region has made a series of staff changes within our organization. These changes point our organization in the right direction and position us for success in 2019. Effective immediately Chris Carter, General Manager; Peter Wadsworth, Director of Human Resources; Jason Tamming, Director of Strategic Communications and Public Affairs; and Domenic Ursini, Director of Economic Development, are no longer with Niagara Region. We thank them for their service and wish them well in their future careers.”
Niagara Falls city council has decided not to rush into a decision on cannabis sales within its city limits. At this week’s meeting, many councillors still had too many questions and not enough answers to decide if the city is in or out. It’s a decision they will need to make by Jan. 22. Councillor Wayne Thomson made the motion to revisit the issue with public input at their Jan. 15 meeting. The motion passed with unanimous consent.
In the meantime city staff will do more research and consultation with the province as they make the case that Niagara Falls is not like most cities. Thomson asked staff to put together meaningful communication to the province stating that municipalities need more control over things like the number of cannabis stores and their locations. Thomson also presented a letter from Niagara Falls Tourism which asked for more involvement and control from municipalities.
There are many people in Niagara who fit the bill as an “unsung hero” when it comes to giving back to their community and helping their fellow residents. Last year one local businessman figured it was about time those individuals were recognized.
Wolfgang Guembel, who owns Lock Street Brewery in Port Dalhousie, remembers seeing the first WestJet Christmas miracle video and being so impressed by the random and surprise nature of how the company fulfilled the Christmas wishes of their customers that he was moved to want to help in some way in his own community. “I thought if I was suddenly worth millions, I’d be doing something like that every Christmas. I believe in the good feeling you get when you give to someone else,” said Guembel.
But, like most of us, Guembel said he quickly realized he was light years away from being so wealthy that he could afford such a charitable gesture year after year. He did however start wondering what he could do with the means available to him. His first couple of ideas didn’t get off the ground. “My first thought was to get a city bus and provide a ride for our homeless residents to the brewery and provide them with dinner.” City staff, for a variety of reasons, told Guembel that idea wasn’t going to fly. “My next thought was to somehow get a list of single parent families who might be struggling to get by, but there were privacy and liability issues with that idea as well.”
With schools closing and the town’s population filling up with Toronto retirees, it’s impressive that Niagara-on-the-Lakes youth soccer program continues to hold steady with its registration numbers. Last year close to 400 kids, 80 of them first time participants, signed up to play the beautiful game in the historic town. The number of participants has held steady for the better part of a decade according to club President, Ted Vanderkaay.
“It’s always a challenge for minor sports organizations to maintain participation numbers in a town that’s primarily a retirement community. There just aren’t a lot of kids,” said Vanderkaay. The organization, which has kids in all age groups from four year olds to 18, has a few things going for it that contributes positively to the stead enrollment numbers. One of them is there technical director Matt Hahn. “He’s a great resource for all of our coaches,” said Vanderkaay. Hahn, who also coaches the girls travel team, will also come out to other teams’ practices and observe and provide feedback to the coaches, many of whom are volunteers who may not have an extensive soccer background either as a player or a coach. He also runs coaching clinics throughout the year. “It helps us ensure that as best as possible the kids are receiving consistent coaching and learning the proper skills to improve their game,” explained Vanderkaay. “We strive for uniform development throughout our system.”
Welland, once seen as a run-down industrial wasteland, continues to make a comeback by attracting private investment. The city received headlines and a major economic shot in the arm when GE announced it would be locating an advanced manufacturing plant on highway 140. GE then sold the plant to Advent International for $3 billion. That plant is now up and running and providing quality, good paying jobs. Welland recently announced that it has once again attracted a private sector business to set up shop in its city limits providing more employment opportunities for Niagara residents.
Kanetix Ltd., Canada’s largest comparison website for insurance and financial products recently announced that it will be opening an office in the Rose City next month. The company says it expects that it will be creating about 100 jobs within a year.
2019 federal Conservative candidate April Jeffs joins Conservative MP Larry Maguire and Janet Madume, Executive Director of the Welland Heritage Council and Multicultural Centre Conservative MP Larry Maguire (Manitoba) who is a member of the federal Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, spent yesterday afternoon touring the Welland Heritage Council and Multicultural Centre. The tour […]
It took an hour and a half but after the three candidates standing for election to be Niagara’s next Regional Chair fielded a series of questions from their councillor colleagues, the result wasn’t close. Former Liberal MPP Jim Bradley walked away with 19 of a total of 31 votes to claim the Chair’s seat. Sixteen votes were needed to secure a win.
Niagara Falls Mayor and someone who will been seen as a leader of this council, Jim Diodati, said; “I congratulate Jim and now it is time for all camps to come together for the common good of Niagara. Our number one priority will be to ensure a good relationship with Queen’s Park and keeping GO transit on track.”
Bradley was nominated by St. Catharines Mayor, Walter Sendzik and that nomination was seconded by Barbara Greenwood of Niagara Falls. Running against the veteran politician were rookie regional councillors Leanna Villella of Welland and Rob Foster of Lincoln. Villella was nominated by Sandie Bellows of St. Catharines and seconded by Diodati. Foster who represents Lincoln was also nominated. Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Gary Zalepa was his nominator and Tom Insinna of Fort Erie was the seconder. Villella captured seven votes while Foster had five supporters.
The province is shifting gears with how it wants to proceed with planned GO train projects, including the one scheduled for Niagara.
It appears that Niagara residents eagerly awaiting the arrival of GO train services in the region may have to wait a little longer than the original timeline. In a letter from Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster to Ontario municipalities expecting new GO services, the executive stated: “… the current delivery process for new GO stations, including Grimsby GO proposed with the Lakeshore West corridor extension to Niagara, will be stopped while we work with you and development partners to determine where there are opportunities for third party investment to deliver them.”
Metrolinx is a regional transportation agency created by the province in 2006 to improve transportation services across Ontario.
After all the door knocking, literature dropping and get-out-the-vote efforts, the newest iteration of regional council is set to be sworn in tomorrow. Among the rookie crop of councillors is an impressive list of women, eight in all; twice as many as 2014.
St. Catharines regional councillor-elect, Sandie Bellows, says she is excited to get on with the job. “Just being at orientation you could feel the positive energy from everyone.” Bellows said it is nice to see such a strong group of elected women. “The energy is so positive; everyone just wants to do the right thing. We always have to remember that if it wasn’t for the residents who voted for us, we wouldn’t be here,” said the former city councillor.
Bellows said the current new council needs to learn from the past, but not dwell on it. “Nobody is perfect, you might make mistakes but you learn from them and move forward.” She said she has learned a lot about regional services just from attending the orientation session. “We are all thirsty for information,” she said. As an example, Bellows said she went on a ride-along with regional transit and learned about accessibility, the different routes and challenges and success of the system. “It’s very interesting to see all of the services that the Region provides.”
The province is shifting gears with how it wants to proceed with planned GO train projects including the one scheduled for Niagara.
It appears that Niagara residents eagerly awaiting the arrival of GO train services in Niagara may have to wait a little longer than the original timeline. In a letter from Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster to Ontario municipalities expecting new GO services, it states; “… the current delivery process for new GO stations, including Grimsby GO proposed with the Lakeshore West corridor extension to Niagara, will be stopped while we work with you and development partners to determine where there are opportunities for third party investment to deliver them.”
Metrolinx is a regional transportation agency created by the Province in 2006, to improve transportation services across the province.
Niagara Regional Council is set to select its next chair in the coming days. While the prevailing theory is that newly elected regional councillor and long-time Liberal MPP Jim Bradley will win easily, others are saying it may not be the cakewalk that has been predicted.
First, there has been a lot of discussion about municipalities from outside of St. Catharines not wanting another chair from the Garden City. Dating back to 2003, three of the council’s last four terms have been headed by a St. Catharines native.
The more obvious predicament with Bradley (longest serving Liberal MPP in history) as chair, however, is how he will move Niagara’s agenda forward with the province run by a political party he battled with for decades. Add to that, Niagara has three NDP MPPs to just one PC MPP and so many political pundits are left wondering if electing Bradley is the best strategic move. “I don’t think they need to elect a conservative, but I’m not sure electing a die-hard Liberal is the best move either,” said one local business leader who wanted to remain anonymous.
It seemed almost fitting that Premier Doug Ford announced his government would rebuild West Lincoln Memorial Hospital from the ground up while standing in the basement of the aging healthcare facility that is well past its best before date.
In a packed room in the bowels of the hospital, Premier Ford, along with Health Minister Christine Elliott, Minister of Infrastructure, Monte McNaughton and local MPP Sam Oosterhoff, announced the government will be moving immediately to start on major renovations and planning for a new hospital.
Those in attendance, including local mayors and hospital management, erupted in thunderous applause when the premier announced an immediate $500,000 grant to initiate the planning process for a new hospital and $8.5 million for immediate upgrades to basic infrastructure at WLMH – including modernizing outdated emergency generators, air handling units and elevators.
Despite the recent departure of former Canada Summer Games 2021 CEO Wayne Parrish, the organization’s board chair, Doug Hamilton, said it’s full steam ahead with planning and preparation.
While the CEO is an important part of the team, explained Hamilton, it is only one of many positions. Existing senior staff and board members plan to push on with the task of planning a world class athletic competition in 2021.
Hamilton said one of the things they learned from watching and talking with other boards of previous Canada Summer Games is that they don’t operate like a traditional board that focuses solely on governance issues. “It’s not a normal policy and governance approach when it comes to operating a board like this,” he explained. Hamilton said this will serve them well while they recruit for a new CEO.
Niagara Falls’ own Derek Sanderson will have a target on his back Friday night, as the former Boston Bruin great will be on the hot seat taking shots from his former NHL colleagues at the Ludzy’s Celebrity Roast.
Set to take place at the Scotiabank Convention Centre, the annual event – now in its seventh year – has raised more than $850,000 for the Steve Ludzik Centre for Parkinson’s Rehab at Hotel Dieu Shaver in St. Catharines. The Centre first opened in June of 2013.
Ludzik himself was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 39 while coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning. While it was a shock to his family, they decided to keep the news quiet for some time, until Ludzik was ready to acknowledge it publicly.
There’s no shortage of excuses one can come up with to avoid exercise. One of the most common is life is just too busy, particularly after work. There’s the kid’s sports activities, volunteer board meetings, yard work, and the fact you’re just too tired from a long day at the office. Well, two Niagara women have started a business that takes those excuses away, while helping to increase productivity and focus in the workplace.
Vanessa Groeneveld and Catherine Beler first met while taking their yoga training program together. One evening after class they decided to have dinner and it was while breaking bread that the idea of a mobile yoga studio first came to light. Groeneveld says her job at the time was very stressful and both women realized they didn’t want to work for someone else any longer.
“We talked about how we enjoyed travelling and we both wanted more free time,” said Groeneveld. They talked about how stress in the workplace causes a decrease in productivity and hurts the bottom line. “One in five people call in sick every week due to stress,” Groeneveld explained. So the two wellness professionals turned entrepreneurs decided to ditch the bricks and mortar traditional yoga studio and set out to take wellness to the workplace. Bodhi YogaWellness was born.
The Saint Paul Patriots high school football team from Niagara Falls is headed to Ottawa next Monday for a one game championship showdown with the Lorne Park Spartans from Mississauga.
After a somewhat surprising playoff run that saw them defeat A.N. Myer and then Hamilton Westmount, the Patriots find themselves in a position to win the Golden Horseshoe Bowl in the nation’s capital Tuesday morning. Head coach Rick Oreskovich said the key to the team’s success is not looking too far ahead. “We’re the kind of team that does it play by play and handles the challenge in front of us.”
The Patriots, who lost to the Spartans in an exhibition game back in mid-September, know they will have to be better this time around. “The team we’re playing is one of the top teams in the province and when we played them in that exhibition game, they handled us,” said Oreskovich. But he added: “They were ready and we weren’t.” Oreskovich said the Spartans’ quarterback is: “a big, strong kid and he’ll be a handful.”
The trip that almost didn’t happen ended up being a great success, according to organizers and attendees. After some regional councillors turned the recent trade mission trip to China by Niagara business leaders into a political football, arguing that the Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo shouldn’t be allowed to attend, those who did go said it was very much worth the time and effort.
A total of 12 Niagara companies from a variety of sectors, including wineries, craft breweries, food producers, skin care manufacturers, and immigration consultants, all attended the China International Import Expo.
The trip was spearheaded by Larry Vaughan and Kevin Jacobi from Canada BW Logistics: a full service, custom bonded warehouse in Niagara Falls. A total of 160 countries participated in the 10 day event which ran from Nov. 2 to the 11. Canada was one of only 12 countries to have a pavilion. Others included New Zealand, Japan, Austria, and a handful Latin American countries. Canada was the only nation present without a formal trade agreement with China. The United States did not participate.
Not that long ago a push was made by what was then known as the St. Catharines and Thorold Chamber of Commerce to amalgamate all of Niagara’s chambers into one. Many local chambers got their backs up against the wall, seeing this move as a forced amalgamation and didn’t buy into the concept. In the end, what is now known as the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) is essentially still very much St. Catharines focused. Thorold, once a part of the GNCC, has gone on their own and are now the Niagara Centre Board of Trade.
While the St. Catharines-led amalgamation didn’t work out, what has organically happened is the coming together of numerous southern-tier chambers. In fact, Port Colborne-Wainfleet, Niagara Falls and Welland-Pelham have all merged to form a strong business voice for southern Niagara.
Running one of the top AAA hockey organizations in the province can be like a full-time job, but for Niagara North Stars President Paul Allan the success on and off the ice is worth every minute.
The organization recently hosted its first tournament, sponsored by Front Row Sports, for Atom and Peewee divisions. It’s been a long time since St. Catharines has hosted a AAA (the highest level in minor hockey) tournament, so Allan and his board decided to explore the idea of hosting one a couple of years ago.
“The big thing was finding that sweet spot where it was on a weekend with less tournament competition and then working with the city to get enough ice time,” explained Allan. “In order to have enough time to market the tournament properly to other teams, we needed to secure the ice well in advance which meant putting a proposal together and presenting it to city council.” The plan was approved and the result was a very successful first year tournament with 32 teams and over 500 families.
What better place to kick-off a cross-Canada tour to discuss ways to bolster the nation’s tourism sector than in one of the most famous tourist spots in the world: Niagara Falls.
Canada’s visitor economy is a fast-growing sector that provides economic benefits and good middle-class jobs in every region of the country. That was the message delivered yesterday morning by the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Minister of Tourism, Official Languages and La Francophonie, standing in front of the famous falls, as she began her tour to speak with tourism and travel experts.
The main announcement by the minister was the creation of the Advisory Council on Jobs and the Visitor Economy. The Council is composed of business owners, entrepreneurs, and tourism operators and professionals who recognize the economic importance of the tourism sector. Former Premier of New Brunswick Frank McKenna, who was also in attendance yesterday morning, will chair the committee.
Don’t mess with west Niagara’s hospital. That’s the message coming out of the communities that surround West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) after a Hamilton Health Sciences board decision to temporarily pull a number of services from the community hospital and relocate them to Hamilton, blindsided medical staff a couple of weeks ago.
In just under a week, the WLMH Community Action Group, had more than 18,000 signatures on a petition opposing the proposed changes. Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West, tabled a petition last Wednesday that called on the Government of Ontario to engage in community consultations with respect to hospital service delivery in the Niagara West region, and to expedite the process of rebuilding the WLMH.
Michael Blais would like to see Canadian military veterans thanked for their service more than one day a year. Blais is a veteran himself and the Niagara Falls resident says it’s important for veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD, or other mental illnesses as a result of their combat service, to receive a smile and a thank you from their fellow Canadians. “I always tell people to say thank you on more than one day a year. It takes two seconds to shake that man or woman’s hand and say thank you because it really does a make a difference,” he said.
Blais says it’s important for the community to know who their veterans are. He said this year in particular there is no excuse for people not to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony given that Nov. 11 falls on a Sunday.
Paul, Matthew and Daniel Speck have been the faces of Henry of Pelham wine for three decades now. This year marks the 30th anniversary of what is one of the Region’s greatest success stories in the wine industry – and it all started because their father, in 1982, purchased a piece of land for sentimental reasons.
Paul Speck recalls the time when his dad, Paul Speck Sr., called him two years after he purchased that land, across the street from where the current winery sits, and told him to come home and help his brothers plant grapes. Paul was in Toronto delivering pizzas for Pizza Pizza at the time. “We had no idea what we were doing,” Paul says with a laugh.
At last night’s regional council meeting, the last for many councillors who chose not to seek re-election or were not re-elected, regional chairman Alan Caslin was forced into casting a tie breaking vote on whether or not to send CAO Carmen D’Angelo to China as part of a trade mission. D’Angelo told council when providing an update on the mission that he had informed the organizers (private sector businesses) that he would not attend for fear of being a distraction to their good work. D’Angelo would be going in place of the Director of Economic Development who was already committed to attend the H2O conference and the Manager of Trade and Investment, whom D’Angelo recommended should attend, will also be out of the country at that time.
It was made clear that D’Angelo did not ask to attend but in fact was invited to attend as the most senior staff person at the Region.
Councillor Bart Maves spoke in support of allowing the CAO to attend, stating that the private sector led trade mission was in jeopardy at one point and that organizers said it may not have happened if not for the quick actions of D’Angelo and the Economic Development staff. He scolded council for letting petty politics interfere with one of the most important trade missions the Region has ever had the opportunity to participate in.
Last week the PC government made public their omnibus legislation titled, Making Ontario Open for Business Act. The bill makes changes to several employment standards that were modified by the previous Liberal government. One of the more significant changes is the closure of the Ontario College of Trades (OCOT).
OCOT opened its doors on April 8, 2013 and is the regulatory body that took over the governance of skilled trades in Ontario. Its activities are mandated by the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009.
Four years ago, during the last provincial election, the PCs, lead at the time by Tim Hudak, also promised to abolish OCOT. Unions aggressively fought back against the idea, claiming worker safety was at risk and that getting rid of the college of trades would open the door for cheaper labour. Debate has raged back and forth on the importance of the college ever since.
It’s been a struggle that has lasted more than two decades. It’s been full of false hope and promises by former governments and now residents and medical staff in West Niagara that rely on their West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) feel like the rug has been pulled out from under them.
Last week, in a surprise move, Hamilton Health Sciences, with which WLMH is affiliated, announced they would be temporarily moving several services and clinics to Hamilton. These services include endoscopy, obstetrics and some surgical services. The problem is that the aging facility wasn’t up to code and so HHS says they were left with no choice but to put patient safety first and relocate the clinical services that the community and surrounding municipalities rely so heavily on.
The new Intercounty Baseball League team that will call Welland home for the upcoming season officially has a new name and look. The Welland Baseball Club announced the Jackfish as the new name for the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) team. The name represents the city of Welland fishing past time along with the river that is home to the northern pike, also called jackfish.
Team officials also unveiled the colors and uniforms during a news conference at Welland Stadium, which will serve as home field for the new team. Officials on hand for the team announcement included Welland Jackfish Majority Owner and CEO, Ryan Harrison, local Welland Owners Brent Coulombe and Mike Konderka and Intercounty Baseball League Commissioner John Kastner.
The President of the Province’s Treasury Board, the Hon. Peter Bethlenfalvy, was in Niagara-on-the-Lake yesterday speaking to about 90 business leaders at the Royal Niagara Golf Club. Minister Bethlenfalvy was joined by the Hon. Jim Wilson, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade along with Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education.
Organized by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, the gathering was a chance to hear about the state of Ontario’s finances and how the current government plans to deal with the massive debt they assumed when they took over from the former Liberal government.
Niagara IceDogs goalie Stephen Dhillon keeps an eye on the play while wearing his superhero jersey Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd versus the Windsor Spitfires. Not even a stretch of home cooked meals or an arena full of superheroes could help the IceDogs secure the maximum number of points over a rare, […]
In Niagara, only the towns of Grimsby and Lincoln have taken the leap to online voting for this year’s municipal election but a Brock University professor says the increasing participation in advance election polls is an indication that perhaps we are ready for online voting.
Although overall voter turnout is declining or staying low, particularly in municipal elections, Political Science Assistant Professor Nicole Goodman says the public’s desire is for more flexibility when it comes to voting.
This year 194 Ontario cities and towns are expected to use online voting, a significant increase over 2014 when just 97 of the province’s 444 municipalities tried a more technologically advanced way of casting a ballot. The hope is to increase voter turnout which for municipal elections lags around 30 to 40%.
While more and more municipalities are offering online voting as an option, federally and provincially, there has been less of a desire to move towards an electronic ballot. Elections Canada takes its marching orders from Parliament when it comes to running elections.
Niagara’s superheroes of ages gathered at Brock University’s campus on Sunday to raise money for the Niagara Children’s Centre. Hundreds of supporters arrived wearing their favourite superhero costume and ready to walk or run either a one or five kilometre route.
The Niagara Children’s Centre, located across the street from Brock, is Niagara’s provider of rehabilitation and support services to children and youth with physical, developmental and communicative delays and disabilities. Core services offered at the centre include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language services, augmentative and alternative communication, family services and therapeutic recreation.
Last week Brock University released a policy brief outlining the economic impact, about a half a billion dollars, the post-secondary school has on Niagara. The document was developed by Niagara Community Observatory and the numbers were impressive. While Brock is often top-of-mind, and deservedly so, for the contributions it makes to Niagara, the tourism sector is often overlooked or not seen in the same positive light as a post-secondary institution. This is despite the fact that its economic impact is staggering. It’s also a business sector built by business people and entrepreneurs investing their own money to help grow the local economy.
Niagara Falls restaurant and hotel owner, Rick Dritsacos, points out that Niagara has an interesting advantage with having a university, college and a sector that employs thousands of people that are high school and post-secondary ages. “The highest unemployment rate in Canada is that age range of 18 to 24; those kids who are trying to earn money to pay for schooling,” Dritsacos explained. “In Niagara, the hospitality and tourism sector provides hundreds of jobs that give students the opportunity to pay for their tuition and meal plans so they can attend great places to learn like Brock and Niagara College.”
The City of Niagara Falls has announced the dates for its annual Sleep Cheap fundraiser. The popular annual event has become much anticipated amongst locals who can stay at some of the most prestigious hotels in the honeymoon city. But the event is much more than a great deal on a hotel room in the most famous address in the world.
The idea originated in 2004 when then city councillor and now Mayor, Jim Diodati, came up with the idea to celebrate the city’s 100th birthday as well as promote goodwill between the tourism industry and residents. “The following year I had both hotel owners and residents asking if we could continue Sleep Cheap,” explained Diodati. “People really loved the concept of being able to stay in these world-class hotels for a fraction of the normal cost and having 100 per cent of the profits go to local charities.” To date, the event has raised approximately $1.8 million for local charities.
Niagara’s municipal election is now just 10 days away and there’s no doubt the online rhetoric will reach a feverish pitch in what’s left of the campaign. One group in particular, A Better Niagara, has been aggressively pushing a message of change through their website and social media channels. The group has been politically active for months, holding seminars on how to run a proper campaign, recruiting candidates that will agree with what A Better Niagara espouses, and attacking certain current councillors (conservative) while promoting others (usually NDP affiliated) that suit their ideology.
Recently, a website, abetterniagara.ca has surfaced which exposes the left-wing connections behind A Better Niagara. Using photos, documents and social media posts – the site picks apart A Better Niagara’s claim to be non-partisan, exposing the group as a left-wing NDP front who are simply trying to get as many of their endorsed candidates elected as possible. In exchange for their endorsement, A Better Niagara goes so far as to make candidates sign a pledge to the group to uphold their values and agree to justify their actions if required.
The City of Welland recently announced a three-year contract that will bring an elite minor league baseball team to Welland. The new franchise, yet to be named, will play in the Intercounty Baseball League (IBL) beginning in the 2019 season.
For the first time in Niagara, an IBL team will play at the city’s 2,500 seat Welland Stadium and showcase Minor League Baseball. The official announcement was made last week by Welland Baseball’s Chief Executive Officer, Ryan Harrison who explained that the league’s Burlington team is relocating to the Rose City and calling the Welland Stadium home.
The governing PC Party of Ontario announced it is expanding access to long-term care, reducing the strain on the health care system in advance of the upcoming flu season and working with front line health care professionals and other experts to transform the province’s health care system.
Premier Doug Ford and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, announced that Ontario is moving forward with building 6,000 new long-term care beds across Ontario, representing the first wave of more than 15,000 new long-term care beds that the government has committed to build over the next five years.
Raised in Grimsby, Mary Hays left the west Niagara community and became a teacher in the GTA. Her career lead her into the workforce placement sector where she worked with digital education platforms and decided what she was doing in education could be brought into the business world and potentially help solve the skills gap.
Hays developed a platform called Workbay which helps connect employers and employees but also provides a lot more tools to both. A customized version has been developed for Niagara, called Opportunity Niagara. A cross section of employers and academics got a firsthand look at what the platform’s capabilities are this week at SPARK Niagara, a local tech incubator. Those in attendance included representatives from Niagara College, Brock University, the tourism industry as well as economic development officers from the Region and Niagara Falls.
Across the globe female hockey players, coaches, referees and volunteers are celebrating World Girls Hockey Weekend. The female game continues to grow both among young girls as well as adults who are playing the game they love longer along with women who are picking up the game for the first time. Hockey Canada is celebrating girl’s hockey across the country this weekend and here in Niagara, local organizations are as well. Locally, the St. Catharines Female Hockey Association, known as the Jr. Badgers, had several teams represented at last night’s Niagara IceDogs game.
The growth and respect of the female game can be seen on a number of fronts. While most international competitions still come down to a gold medal showdown between Canada and the United States, the round robin games against other nations are far more competitive than they used to be. Added to that are the number of former Canadian national team members who are now respected commentators in the media as well as the recent hiring of the top player in women’s hockey history, Haley Wickenheiser, by the Toronto Maple Leafs as their new assistant director of player development.
He was just two years old when his father was first elected as the Member of Parliament representing Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie. Since that 1984 election win, Niagara Falls Regional Councillor candidate Peter Nicholson has grown up surrounded by politics of the highest level and took a keen interest in politics watching and learning from his father, Rob, a highly respected MP now serving as the Conservative’s Shadow Minister for Procurement and Public Affairs. Throughout his career the elder Nicholson also held the positions of Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
Peter has two siblings, an older brother and younger sister. Although they are very supportive of his political ambitions he says: “they’ve left the politics to me”. The 35-year-old Nicholson said his parents were proud of him when he first informed them of his intentions to run for Regional Council in the upcoming election. “My dad was very encouraging and told me to always listen to people and work hard,” he said.
It’s a piece of legislation that had a nice title; The Green Energy Act; but the reality was it was shrouded in controversy from the start. Gigantic wind turbines filled the horizon and divided communities. Energy costs soared and many argued that the province vastly overpaid for energy production it didn’t need.
The Conservatives didn’t waste any time cancelling over 700 hundred renewable energy contracts once they secured their majority government. This was followed by cancelling the Green Energy Act altogether. Premier Ford promised he would repeal the legislation during his campaign. The Act was originally introduced in 2009 by the previous Liberal government.
Football fans in Niagara Falls will be treated to what is expected to be a competitive and entertaining high school gridiron battle this afternoon between Westlane-Stamford and A.N. Myer. The game will be played at Stamford and is the first football game played there since their football program merged with Westlane. The Junior teams play at 1 p.m. while the Senior squads kickoff at 3 p.m.
While still favored to come out with a victory, Myer knows they are going into a hornet’s nest at the smaller confines of Stamford High.
The province’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, released her much anticipated report on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) yesterday.
For years now there has been mounting pressure from special interest groups, lead by its new union OPSEU, to investigate the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. Environmentalists felt the Board and staff were too cozy with developers; the developers felt the NPCA were a bunch of tree huggers; and private landowners felt the NPCA had no business telling them what they could or could not do on their own properties.
And then it got political.
One of Niagara’s most recognized and successful homebuilders, Mountainview Homes, was named Outstanding Corporation by the Association of Fundraising Professionals for their philanthropic endeavors. This award is presented annually to a company that has demonstrated outstanding financial support, community involvement and motivation of others to take leadership roles.
Never an organization to rest on its laurels, Mountainview celebrated their award by continuing their giving ways. This week they made a lead gift of $450,000 to Pathstone Foundation in support of their Natural Playground and Healing Garden, a 10,000 square foot outdoor space that will be built at the Branscombe Mental Health Centre in St. Catharines.
Those in charge of running Niagara’s transit options have found themselves stuck in a good-news bad-news situation. It came to the attention of regional Council this week that the Niagara Specialized Transit (NST) program continues to be very popular and the demand from users has continued to grow, largely since the enhanced service reduced its fares to $6 roundtrip anywhere in Niagara. Increased utilization is the good news. The skyrocketing budget is the bad news.
To deal with the issue, the Region explored some service delivery changes to NST in an effort to address serious funding shortfalls in the budget. These changes, although heavily communicated by staff in a variety of ways, including directly to every individual user, caused some confusion and concern.
Since the Region lowered the fare for NST to be equal to the fares offered by Niagara Region Transit (provincial legislation requires specialized transit to be the same fare as conventional transit), along with convenient door-to-door service, the demand for Niagara Specialized Transit service has dramatically increased.
As the Toronto Maple Leafs wrapped up their training camp in Niagara Falls and begin the exhibition season and then finally onto the games that matter, Niagara resident and former Leafs captain Rick Vaive reflects on the past and eagerly awaits the future. It’s a roster full of talented young guns with Leafs nation having high expectations.
Vaive took part in the alumni game Saturday night at the Gale Centre in Niagara Falls. The game was sold out and the crowd was a sea of blue and white Leafs jerseys. Fans came to see their favourite players from years past including the likes of; Vaive, Darcy Tucker, Brad May, Darryl Sittler, Dan Daoust, Al Iafrate, Nik Antropov and of course Doug Gilmour.
This is the first in a two-part series discussing the Toronto Maple Leafs with former captian Rick Vaive as the Leafs begin training camp in Niagara Falls this weekend.
The Toronto Maple Leafs begin their training camp in Niagara Falls today at the Gale Centre and according to one former Leaf great, training camps aren’t what they use to be.
Former Toronto Maple Leafs captain and Niagara resident, Rick Vaive says the way training camps are run today is different in many ways then when played but also similar in others. When asked about the often heard comment about players showed up to camp 30 years ago to get into shape whereas today they show up to camp already in shape, Vaive, now 59, says there is some truth to that, but camps were structured differently. “We had two full weeks of two-a-day practices before we played an exhibition game,” said the three-time NHL 50 goal scorer. “Now, guys are playing in exhibition games three days into camp so if you’re not in shape when you arrive, you might get hurt or cut from the team.”
Niagara’s post-secondary institutions are at the top of the class when it comes to enrollment numbers.
Brock University is starting the new school year with its largest incoming class in a decade, and it’s largest-ever enrolment. Not to be outdone, Niagara College saw their enrollment numbers hit the record books as well.
In what is being hailed as a win for Niagara’s casinos, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) has selected Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment (MGE) as the service provider for the Niagara Gaming Bundle, following a competitive procurement process.
The Niagara Gaming Bundle includes Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara. MGE will also operate the future 5,000-seat Niagara Falls Entertainment Centre being built at the Hilton Fallsview, located adjacent to the Fallsview Casino.
OLG expects MGE will take over day-to-day operations in the summer of 2019. The agreement is for 21 years.
Heading into its fourth year, the Empire United Niagara soccer program has made a lot of local soccer stakeholders sit up and take notice.
There are four teams, two boys’ teams and two girls’ teams, featuring Canadian kids and Canadian coaches, practicing in Canada but playing their home games in the United States – Buffalo and Rochester. Oh, and the director of the Empire United Niagara is Italian.
The name is a bit misleading. They serve a lot more than soup.
The Niagara Falls Community Outreach centre, affectionately known as “the soup kitchen” served more than 42,000 meals last year. They serve anywhere between 100 and 130 meals per day to Niagara Falls residents who are in need of a healthy meal and simply can’t afford one.
The backgrounds of the more than 300 volunteers that help prepare and serve the meals as well as clean up afterwards are as varied as the clientele, including retirees, students, former clients and the city’s own CAO as well as other business leaders. The organization is operated by a volunteer board of 12 members and one paid staff person.
The Niagara Catholic Athletic Association’s 2018 high school football season is shaping up to be a highly competitive one. St. Paul Patriot’s head coach Rick Oreskovich has a feeling the 2018 season will feature a lot of parity. “I think all teams will be competitive this year. St. Michael’s will be good, they will be an exciting team to watch; Notre Dame is always good and Blessed Trinity will have a good team,” predicts the veteran coach. “If you take any team lightly it will come back to bite you.”
One thing that has helped with creating good competition throughout the league is good coaching. “There are good coaches all around,” said Oreskovich.
When it comes to attracting investment to Niagara, one of things that the Region has going for it is its geographical location. Niagara is within a one day’s drive of 130 million people. That’s a lot of people to ship product to. It’s also home to five border crossings, a canal system, two international rail crossings, four 400 series highways and is within 100 kilometers of six international airports. Needless to say, these are all things that the Region highly touts when courting potential investors.
“Entrepreneurs and business executives certainly see that as valuable,” said the Region’s Economic Development Director, Domenic Ursini when asked about the advantages of having a wealth of transportation options in and around Niagara. He also pointed out that discussions with the Province are on-going with regards to developing a trade corridor, which has been discussed for several years. Essentially it would be a new highway that would run from the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie to the Hamilton International Airport. “The province has been receptive in having those conversations,” he said.
It’s a relatively new industry but it’s one that continues to grow and shows no signs of being simply a trend. With many households in Canada having two working parents or, with the high divorce rate, single parent homes where that parent is also working full time, there’s no wonder the meal-kit industry is on the rise.
Meal-kit usage is growing at an explosive rate in Canada. According to a recent report by The NPD Group, the meal-kit business is among the fastest growing food segments in the Canadian marketplace. Data shows that the industry has roughly doubled since 2014, and is expected to exceed $400 million over the next year.
A.N. Myer football coach Dave Buchanan knows there will be some stiff competition in this year’s top high school football league, and he’s looking forward to it.
“There’s some good parity this season. Teams like Fort Erie, Grimsby and Stanford/Westlane have strong programs and good coaches,” said Buchanan after putting his troops through the paces Thursday afternoon.
Each team will play five games and then head into the playoffs. The championship team coming out of the public board will then play the championship team from the Niagara Catholic board. The winner of that game goes on to compete at the Southern Ontario (SOSSA) championship and potentially the provincial final (OFSSA).
While many people in Niagara are generally aware of the fact that the region produces quality fruit like grapes and peaches as well as being home to several green houses, most have no clue as to the massive economic impact the agri-business has on Niagara’s economy.
In fact, Niagara produces 80 per cent of the country’s grapes and wine. But the agri-business here in Niagara extends far beyond the wineries and the local fruit stands. The region has always offered some of North America’s best growing conditions, but today, with the help of advances in technology, research and new approaches, the face of farming is changing in a most profitable way.
It has read your license plate and determined if you are a wanted criminal, if your license plate sticker has expired or if you have a suspended driver’s license, in a matter of seconds. It’s a black SUV with three cameras affixed to the roof and they are known as Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) vehicles or “plate readers”.
In July 2017 the Niagara Regional Police (NRP) began using their first ALPR and has recently added a second.
Each morning the database of information is updated and provided to the officer assigned to driving the ALPR with the most up-to-date information on Ontario residents who’s license plate stickers haven’t been renewed, who’s license is suspended due to impaired driving or other such charge, or who’s wanted for a more serious crime.
A large crowd gathered at Henry of Pelham Winery last night to meet the province’s Attorney General, Caroline Mulroney, along with the woman who will be carrying the Conservative Party flag in the 2019 federal election, Krystina Waler.
In addition to Mulroney and Waler, there was a host of prominent Conservative politicians including; Niagara Falls MP Rob Nicholson, Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement, federal candidate April Jeffs and former MPP Bart Maves.
A $100,000 donation by Homes by DeSantis to the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) Foundation has sent another strong single that the residents of West Niagara haven’t forgotten about their need for a new, larger hospital to serve their communities.
The most recent donation will be added to the $14 million that has already been raised over several years in anticipation of construction of the new hospital. The former Liberal government never came through on its promise to build a new hospital for the ever-expanding west Niagara area, deciding instead to stall plans for cost cutting purposes.
After having the pleasure of interviewing a number of Niagara’s business leaders on the topic of philanthropy, it’s become quite clear that this region is very fortunate to have a business community whose generosity knows no bounds.
Business owners of companies of all sizes continue to support Niagara’s charities, post-secondary schools and healthcare facilities. On a daily basis these businesses are inundated with requests for funding from hundreds of not-for-profits, sports teams and service clubs. From major gifts in support of large capital campaigns to sponsoring a hole at a charity golf tournament to providing food and clothing to organizations like Community Care, these individuals aren’t just business leaders; they are community leaders.
What is going on at the Region?
That’s a question many residents have been asking themselves, their neighbours and their Regional Councillors for a few months. There’s no doubt the questions are focused on the hiring process around the Region’s CAO, Carmen D’Angelo who began his tenure at the Region in November of 2016. Most of the discussion takes place in-camera and only part of the information has been leaked so the general public has never heard the full story. In fact, Councillors feel they haven’t heard the full story. They hope to have their questions answered at a meeting this Thursday. In the meantime the business of the Region must go on.
Welland resident Kyle Jones has experienced the ultimate highs and the some significant lows throughout his athletic career. Originally from Oakville, the husband and father of two children has been to two Olympic Games and in a very controversial decision was left off a third Canadian Olympic triathlon team.
Jones was a runner early on in his life. As a ten-year-old he raced in some local Kids of Steel races – mini triathlons for youngsters. His performances were impressive.
He credits his introduction to triathlon (swim, bike and run) to his father who would participate in six or seven races a year around Ontario. “We’d go and watch my dad and cheer him on and that was my exposure to the sport early on,” said Jones.
In previous articles The Niagara Independent looked at the extraordinary generosity of Niagara’s business community when it comes to supporting local charities. Businesses of all sizes, and in particular their owners, are asked over and over to make a financial contributions to charities large and small. And they always answer the call.
For decades business leaders in Niagara have provided philanthropic support to charities in another way as well. Niagara is home to some very successful, active and generous family foundations that have for many years been key players in helping make buildings rise, programs grow and services expand.
Three of the most well known in Niagara are the Leonard B. Herzog Foundation, Fowler Family Foundation and Branscombe Foundation.
The Niagara Region is in need of a good plumber.
The OPP, Auditor General, Ontario Ombudsman and the Integrity Commissioner have all commented to one extent or another about the constant leaks of confidential information. Several confidential documents have found their way to the public and local media along with numerous confidential conversations that have taken place behind closed doors as part of in-camera meetings. This, despite every councillor having to sign a confidentiality agreement after being elected.
Most recently, Regional Councillor Bob Gale was clearly frustrated at yesterday’s special meeting dealing with the hiring process of the Region’s CAO, as he asked: “Why do we go in-camera at all if we are just going to leak everything?”
After eight years as Mayor of Wainfleet and a Regional Councillor, April Jeffs was recently acclaimed as the Conservative candidate for the riding of Niagara Centre. The riding is currently held by Liberal MP Vance Badawey.
Jeffs recently ran for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario in the recent provincial election. Although ultimately unsuccessful she had a very strong showing getting well over 18,000 votes and finishing a close second to eventual winner, NDP Jeff Burch. In a traditionally very orange riding, the large support Jeffs received was impressive. She said that’s what got her thinking about running in the 2019 federal election.
As Peter Scott, Chairman of the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta describes it, there are basically two levels of action taking place at the annual event held in St. Catharines – what’s happing on land and what’s happening on the water.
In fact Scott’s been so busy dealing with issues off the water that he hasn’t had time to see a single race. He arrives at 4:45 a.m. and doesn’t return home until close to 9 p.m. where he walks his dog then settles in to review the results of the day. He’s quick to point out that there is an army of volunteers that make one of the top regattas in the world run as smooth as possible.
Many tourists and local residents have probably been wondering what’s being constructed at the Hilton Fallsview Hotel in Niagara Falls. Most will likely assume that it’s an addition of more rooms or conference space. They would be wrong.
In fact, the hotel owners and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) have partnered to build a state-of-the-art 5,000 seat theatre that’s expected to attract A-level entertainment acts, the likes of which Niagara has never hosted before.
It’s difficult to go anywhere in Niagara without seeing a sign recognizing their contributions. The owners of these three companies have sat on boards, volunteered their time and donated millions to a variety of hospitals, schools and other charities. They don’t do it for recognition – to get their name on a building or to be honoured at a ribbon cutting. When you talk to them it’s clear that they are business owners with a strong social conscious.
Rankin Construction, Mountainview Homes and Walker Industries are three companies that literally and figuratively have helped build Niagara. There’s a theatre, cancer centre, YMCA, Technology Centre and other buildings that bear the name of either these companies or the men or families that own them. But there is so much more to what they contribute to this society. Much of it goes unnoticed by the general public but certainly not be the charities and families they’ve helped along the way.
When Tony Quirk decided to run for Regional Council in 2014, he knew it would be an uphill battle. Long time Councillor and former Regional Chair, Debbie Zimmerman, had not made her intentions known and rumours were that, if she chose not to run, former Mayor and well-liked Nick Anderychuk would be running.
“It was always going to be a long shot,” said Quirk, “but I knew that I wanted to find a new way to serve the people of Grimsby, and if I wasn’t successful, at least people would know I was interested in the role next time around.”
It was a prime example of how business leaders come together to support Niagara charities and those less fortunate. In 2009, ten men from Niagara Falls lived together in a tent for five days. By the end of those five days they had managed to help raise $302,000 for Project SHARE.
Most of the same crew was back in 2010 for 10 Men in a Tent 2.0. An all women version called 12 Women Who Care was held in 2011 and 2012.
The concept was the brainchild of Niagara Falls businessman and regional councillor, Bob Gale. He was joined by former Niagara Falls Review publisher Dave Martineau, Niagara Falls Mayor (then city councillor) Jim Diodati, Niagara Ice Dogs owner Bill Burke, radio personality Rob White, Ripley’s Entertainment manager Tim Parker, Dino Fazio who at the time managed the Winter Festival of Lights, Dr. George Zimakas, and businessmen Brian Pellow and Kevin Grealy.
This weekend more than 2,000 athletes and coaches will descend on Port Dalhousie to compete in one of the most historic and prized rowing competitions on the planet – the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta.
With crews from all over the world, including the feel good story crew from Zimbabwe, this week-long regatta which gets started Sunday with the Masters competition, is an annual rite of passage for many young rowers. In its 136th year the Henley is, too most crews, the regatta to win.
The serious number crunching won’t take place until September but tourism leaders in Niagara are feeling pretty good about the season thus far.
There’s an old saying in the tourism industry when it comes to outdoor attractions according to John Kinney, owner of Whirpool jet boat tours in Niagara-on-the-Lake; “When the weather is great you’re a marketing genius, when it’s not you’re a marketing buffoon.” So far, thanks in part to Mother Nature, Niagara’s tourism operators are indeed looking like marketing geniuses.
This is the first article in a series on the generousity of the local business community in Niagara.
At the risk of stating the obvious, Niagara isn’t home to numerous multi-billion dollar corporations. Companies like GM have downsized dramatically over the years and public sector jobs like government, healthcare and education are the leading employers. This type of corporate landscape can make it a challenge for non-profit social welfare organizations to raise money in order to help those they serve as part of their mandate.
Thankfully, Niagara is home to hundreds of small, medium and some larger size businesses that step up year after year contributing money and time to local charities. Business owners are asked daily for gifts ranging from golf prizes, sponsorship money, gifts-in-kind and large gifts supporting capital campaigns for hospitals, colleges and universities.
Girls soccer in Niagara is taking off like a jet.
The St. Catharines Jets soccer organizations is one of the most well established in the Region and in the province. Founded in 1972 the program has developed hundreds of girls into well rounded soccer players and good kids on and off the field.
Although the structure of the elite travel teams in Niagara for girls soccer has changed, there was a time when the Jets organization was graduating players to NCAA Division One schools on a regular basis. In fact, between 2008 and 2014, 44 girls went on to receive scholarships to play soccer in the United States. But it’s not just about getting to that level. There is a house league division at all age levels where the focus is on exercise and fun.
You can certainly tell a municipal election is around the corner. Throw a couple of Ombudsman’s reports into the mix and you’ve got yourself a powder keg ready to blow. The focus of both reports is Carmen D’Angelo, the Niagara Region’s Chief Administrative Officer.
First, a municipal Ombudsman investigated the hiring process of the CAO position that took place in 2016. Local media reports suggested shenanigans were afoot and so council called in Marvin Huberman, the integrity commissioner and independent lawyer, to investigate. Mr. Huberman noted a few recommendations but at the end of the day, after reviewing more than 200,000 documents and interviewing 16 people, he came to the conclusion that the complaints were based on “rumour, gossip, innuendo, hearsay of doubtful veracity or accuracy, misinformation (seen as simply false) or disinformation (seen as deliberately false). Based on the report, Council passed a motion to apologize to the CAO, accept the report and consider the matter closed.
Ontario’s youngest MPP is taking it upon himself to improve palliative care services and access in this province, something most people associate with the elderly.
Oosterhoff once again tabled his first Private Member’s Bill, the Compassionate Care Act. Bill 3, as it is now known, last week. The bill would establish a hospice palliative care framework for the province of Ontario.
This week, members of Niagara Region’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, Chaired by Councillor Selina Volpatti, got a look at what the proposed development on the old Prudhommes land will look like on Wednesday and it was met with overwhelming support.
Presented by John Ariens of project consultants, IBI Group, the planned development is to be diverse and walkable with a mixed use waterfront. Councillor after councillor praised all those involved in the project. Niagara Falls Councillor Bart Maves said; “To have this many groups of people arrive at a generally agreed upon plan in this day and age in Ontario is almost a miracle.”
Regional Council has sent staff back to sharpen their pencils when it comes to preparing the next budget.
At the Budget Review Committee of the Whole, staff presented, as per Council’s policy, a budget based on a two per cent increase. Although generally pleased with staff’s work, Councillor Bruce Timms of St. Catharines asked to see what the budget would look like with a 1.5 per cent increase.
Now that the post-provincial election dust has settled and Premier Ford has selected his cabinet and filled other positions in his provincial government, Progressive Conservative MPPs know their roles and can begin to focus on the future. With a large majority government that future will last four years.
Niagara’s only PC MPP, the soon-to-be 21 year old Sam Oosterhoff who represents Niagara West-Glanbrook (capturing nearly 53% of the vote), has his sights set on a number of priorities both locally and provincially. This will be Oosterhoff’s first time as a sitting government MPP. He spent the beginning of his political career in opposition after first being elected at the age of 19 in a November 2016 byelection. That election victory gave him the title of youngest Ontario MPP to ever be elected. The previous record was held by Reid Scott who was elected as a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation MPP in 1948 at the age of 21.
One can’t walk into a Niagara hospital, new arena, community centre or many other such venues, without seeing front and centre a donor wall with the names of dozens, if not hundreds, of generous businesses and individuals whose cumulative gifts made the facility possible. Businesses and business people make by far the lion’s share of all charitable donations to fundraising initiatives in Niagara – always have, probably always will.
Drive around and you’ll see the Meridian Arena, the Gale Centre, Scotiabank Convention Centre, McBain Community Centre, Walker Cancer Centre, Rankin Technology Centre and First Ontario Place to name just a few. Donor walls are filled with the names of big, medium and small local businesses and with the who’s-who in any particular business community.
Rarely do these walls have the names of public sector workers or their unions. Not that these individuals and organizations don’t give, they surely do, especially through workplace source deduction plans that are often set up with groups like the United Way.
Rumour, gossip, innuendo, hearsay, misinformation, speculation and conjecture; Those were the words used by Municipal Ombudsman, Marvin Huberman, an independent third-party investigator and a lawyer with ADR Chambers, to describe the allegations of impropriety that were made with regard to the 2016 hiring of Niagara Region’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Carmen D’Angelo.
In 2016 Regional Council struck a CAO Recruitment Committee to handle the search for and recommendation of a new CAO. They were assisted by The Phelps Group, an executive search firm with extensive experience in executive recruitment, particularly in government organizations. At a special Regional Council meeting held on October 21, 2016, Regional Council passed a motion that Carmen D’Angelo be appointed as the CAO for the Regional Municipality of Niagara. On October 31, 2016 Regional Chair Alan Caslin publicly announced the hiring of Carmen D’Angelo as the new CAO effective October 31, 2016.
In August of 2015, when Mark Shaprio was hired to run the Toronto Blue Jays organization, he was coming off of a successful rebuild of the Cleveland Indians. Shapiro had been with the Indians since 1991, rising through the ranks of player development to the top of the front office.
When he arrived with the Jays, they had a veteran laden team, having traded off prospects to acquire the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin and R.A. Dickey. The lineup featured All Star Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Buehrle. Jays fans fretted that Shapiro would immediately tear apart the team and rebuild it in his own vision but having these stars under contract the Cleveland’s front office tandem, now ensconced at the Rogers Centre, decided to give the playoffs another serious run in 2016 and to a certain extent in 2017. But with many of these stars now gone or on the injured reserved list, the Jays are now featuring their future prospects night in and night out in their sub .500 lineup. The rebuild is officially here.
After nearly a century of reliable operation, Niagara’s Sir Adam Beck Power Canal is gradually showing signs of age. Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is in the planning stages of addressing that issue as it prepares to undertake the biggest project on the canal since 1964/1965 – the one and only time the canal was completely drained and repaired under the watch of what was then known as the Hydro Electric Power Commission of Ontario.
In 1981, some additional work was done to remove accumulated debris without dewatering the canal. That work was carried out using what is called ‘wet’ dredging. Since then, technology has moved at a rapid pace and has allowed OPG, and its partner companies on this project, to use many innovative technologies to perform condition assessments so they can better understand the potential size and extent of the work. Some of the technology applied was designed specifically for the canal project.
The City of Welland has attracted almost 1.5 million sq. ft. of new industrial development since 2015 as a result of its “pro-development” approach and its financial incentive programs.
The Rose City has made a concerted effort to attract new industrial development by offering a variety of Community Improvement Plan (CIP) programs and financial incentives to attract investment through its Brownfield CIP; Downtown and Health and Wellness Cluster CIP; Gateway Economic Zone CIP; Development Charge Reduction Programs, and Tax Increment Grants (TIGs). Many of these programs are funded jointly by the City of Welland and the Region of Niagara.
Ontario’s new PC government was sworn in today at a ceremony inside Queen’s Park. Shortly after the official swearing-in, another ceremony was held outside on the front steps of Queen’s Park that was attended by thousands.
As expected it is a smaller cabinet than the Liberal government which had 28 Ministers. Doug Ford’s cabinet will have just 21. It’s a strong cabinet with experienced MPPs.
Premier Ford will serve as his own Intergovernmental Affairs Minister. Ford took former Finance Critic, Vic Fedelli, and made him Chair of Cabinet and Minister of Finance. This choice demonstrates a great deal of political astuteness on Ford’s part. The former Caucus had named Fedelli as Interim Leader after Patrick Brown resigned. To have appointed a caucus favorite in Fedelli to this key portfolio will certainly go a long way in uniting the PC team.
With friends and family gathered at Eagle Valley Golf Course in Niagara Falls, Steve Ludzik began his remarks talking about his upcoming charity golf tournament and celebrity roast that raises money for the Parkinson’s rehab clinic named after him at Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre.
Ludzik thanked his committee and family for their support, invited a few of them to come up and say a few words and when he announced that Derek Sanderson will be the this year’s former NHLer being roasted many assumed that was the big announcement of the morning. But there was one more thing Ludzik announced. He’s running for city Council.
Lifelong Niagara resident and former Welland mayor Damian Goulbourne has officially thrown his political hat into the ring. The Niagara College employee and small business owner is seeking the Regional Chair’s seat as Niagara residents will, for the first time in its history, vote specifically for the Regional Chair in the upcoming municipal election.
Former Chicago Blackhawk player and Tampa Bay Lightning coach turned philanthropist Steve Ludzik, is gearing up for his annual golf tournament and celebrity roast. The Steve Ludzik Foundation is hosting the 5th Annual Ludzy’s Charity Golf Classic on Thursday, July 12, at Thundering Waters Golf Club in Niagara Falls.
Ludzy’s Charity Golf Classic, combined with contributions from Ludzy’s Celebrity Roast and The Light of Day Concert, all support the Steve Ludzik Centre for Parkinson’s Rehab at the Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre in St. Catharines. The Centre was opened in June of 2013.
The baseball season is in full swing and most people in this neck of the Ontario woods are focused, frustratingly focused, on the “Canada’s Team”, the Toronto Blue Jays. There is, however, a professional ball club just a baseball throw away, over the bridge that is near the top of the division and playing entertaining ball night in and night out.
The Buffalo Bisons are the Triple A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays and play in the International League. Niagara and Ontario Jays fans, have the unique opportunity of watching future Jays, current Jays who are rehabbing, or sent down to the farm to work out kinks in their swings or pitching mechanics before making it back permanently to Toronto.
A new program at Niagara Health is enhancing care and access to services for people with complex mental health needs.
The Wellness Recovery Integrated Comprehensive Care program helps people to fully understand their mental health needs and to identify and develop strategies to improve their mental wellness. A goal of the program is to reduce readmissions to hospital and visits to the Emergency Department for non-urgent mental health issues which typically represent between five and 10 per cent of emergency department visits annually.
The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce recognized outstanding business leaders recently at its 15th annual Business Achievement Awards ceremony.
Hosted by 610 CKTB’s Tim Dennis, the 400 people in attendance celebrated some of Niagara’s best in business, including a legend in the wine industry who was recognized with the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Despite the efforts of many individuals and organizations, there still is not enough young people entering the skilled trades as a career.
Skills Canada estimates almost half of new jobs created in the next decade will be in skilled trades, but only 26 per cent of young people are considering that type of career. Jon Whyte from the Niagara Home Builders’ Association (NHBA) says not enough is being done to promote the skilled trades. “One of the things we, and others, have been recommending is a one-to-one journeyperson to apprentice ratio,” said Whyte. According to the NHBA most provinces already have a one-to-one ratio whereas Ontario has one of the highest tradesperson to apprentice ratios for residential construction trades in Canada.
Local NDP candidates held onto ridings they were expected to win and some might say surprisingly stole one away from the longest serving MPP in the Province. Meanwhile Ontario voters handed the PC Party a convincing majority government winning 75 seats to the NDPs 39. The Conservatives even won the popular vote at 40.5%. For Niagara Conservatives it’s a bitter sweet election night.
NDP incumbent Wayne Gates kept control of his Niagara Falls riding defeating PC candidate Chuck McShane and Liberal candidate Dean Demizio. In a heated battle with accusations of NDP bullying tactics and tampering of lawn signs, Gates managed to keep his riding orange. When asked for his thoughts on the provincial outcome, McShane said: “I’m very happy for the people of Ontario for electing a majority progressive conservative government. So many things can now be fixed by Mr. Ford and his team that will put Ontario back on track.”
Although unsuccessful at his bid to become an MPP McShane said: “Locally, I am of course disappointed that neither April, Sandie or I were able to win a PC seat for Niagara but all three of us will continue to work hard for the betterment of this region regardless. That’s who we are and what we believe in.”
Diversity is key. tt’s a philosophy that has kept a Niagara manufacturing company going strong for the past two decades since its current CEO Bob Benner took over in 1998.
Hamill Machine, a Niagara Falls based small manufacturing facility, is currently expanding from 4,000 square feet to 9,000 square feet. In an era where cities are constantly looking at ways to move away from manufacturing to something sexier like the hi-tech sector, Benner says there is still plenty of work for manufacturing companies that are comfortable with going outside of the traditional sector space.
“We invested $30,000 into 3D software during the last recession so that we can be ahead of the curve when the recession ended,” explained Benner. He said 20 years ago he didn’t even have a computer at the shop. The company also made a conscious decision to stay away from the steel and auto market because, as Benner says, “it’s feast or famine”.
The high cost of housing has been a hot topic in Canada for a while now. Most shows talk about the rapid escalation of real estate prices in Toronto and the GTA or Vancouver and increasingly Montreal – but even here in Niagara, everyone is well aware of the same phenomenon. The Big City runaway home prices are clearly spilling over into surrounding smaller commuter communities. Lots of GTA residents are cashing in and moving to Niagara. This has escalated demand and with a restricted local supply has caused significant price escalations. The 1,500 square foot wartime era homes, listed for half a million dollars are everywhere.
According to the Ontario Real Estate Association, between 2001 and 2014 house prices grew by 133 per cent while household income grew only 36 per cent. The average down payment on a home purchase in 2017 was $38,000.
One “solution” has been to put a tax on foreign home ownership. Stop foreign ‘investment’ in real estate the story goes and you will dampen demand and therefore dampen prices. But evidence suggests that foreign ownership represents only about five per cent of the purchases. So what else is pushing up home prices?
Clifton Hill’s world famous street of fun has a new attraction that has tourists all revved up and racing to get in line.
Canada’s first ever elevated go-kart race course is now open. Towering over forty-two feet high, the Niagara Speedway is the latest and most exciting addition to Clifton Hill’s Street of Fun in Niagara Falls.
The Speedway is a world-class attraction that combines the adrenaline inducing thrill of kart racing with the remarkable experience of a roller coaster ride. The course is spread out over four acres with over 2,000 linear feet of concrete racing surface, running through a four-story helical spiral followed by a two tiered coaster style ramp that runs into another spiral. Though riders may feel like they are flying over a cliff at certain points during the ride, extensive safety features were built into the Speedway attraction.
Three Niagara PC candidates are making a strong push to change the political colours of their respective ridings. Add the fact that PC Party Leader Doug Ford will be making yet another stop in Niagara today, his third this campaign and just 10 days after attending a rally in Niagara Falls for candidate Chuck McShane, and that tells you the party thinks they have a strong shot to turn Niagara blue.
Sandie Bellows is in a tight race in St. Catharines hoping to upset long-time MPP Jim Bradley and hold off NDP candidate Jennie Stevens. In Niagara Centre, a traditionally orange riding and one that includes Welland, Thorold, Port Colborne and parts of St. Catharines, April Jeffs is making a strong push to turn it blue. The Niagara Falls riding is also seeing a closer than expected race between McShane and NDP incumbent Wayne Gates.
It’s come a long way since the days of combing through thick books of basic information or doing a simple Google search. Today, Niagara Region staff are using a highly advanced system combining various information technology applications to gather real time data on Niagara’s businesses.
Lead by John Docker from the Planning and Development department as well as Nicole Guglielmi from the IT Solutions department and with the help of post secondary students the Niagara Region is collecting a wealth of information that will help council make strategic decisions while providing vital information to a host of various departments from transportation to economic development to community services.
It’s a tough election year to be carrying the Liberal party flag but that hasn’t stopped Niagara Liberal candidates from soldiering on the campaign trail.
In St. Catharines veteran MPP Jim Bradley, first elected in 1977, attempts to extend his distinguished career while on the other end of the spectrum retired teacher Benoit Mercier takes his first run at provincial politics in the riding of Niagara Centre.
A recent U.S. Supreme Court decision on sports gambling could have a major impact right here in Niagara. America’s top court struck down a longstanding federal law that had barred most state-authorized sports betting outside of Nevada. The recent ruling now makes sports betting possible nationwide south of the border. It will now be up to individual states to decide if they want to offer sports betting. Currently there are 16 states that have expressed serious interest.
Experts believe that if American states move quickly to offer single-game bets, it will have an enormous impact on an industry that is already losing billions to offshore companies.
Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati continues to lobby for the same opportunity north of the U.S. border.
And their off!
In an odd twist to the Niagara Falls Riding’s provincial election race, a mayor and a race track CEO joined forces with the riding’s NDP candidate to criticize PC opponent Chuck McShane for vowing to improve the Fort Erie Race Track.
McShane made what Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop and race track CEO Jim Thibert called “inflammatory” comments while introducing PC Party Leader Doug Ford at a rally in Niagara Falls earlier this week. McShane pointed out that the track has been on life support since the province pulled the plug on the track’s slot machines.
Another provincial election is upon us. While you would think that political types would have moved on from the distant past and instead be more concerned about telling voters about their plans for Ontario’s future, residents of this province are once again being exposed to horrifying tales of the 1990’s.
Ontario PC Party Leader Doug Ford spent yesterday making stops across Niagara during his campaign tour. Ford started his day in Niagara Falls where he was joined by Niagara Falls candidate Chuck McShane and West Niagara’s Sam Oosterhoff where the three held a photo-op next to an “Ontario is Open for Business” sign that overlooked the falls.
The setting shifted to a third floor terrace at the Marriott Hotel where the PC Leader took to the podium to discuss his plan to improve the Ontario economy and boost job creation.
Inspired by one of the greatest marketing and advertising minds this country has known Innovate Niagara is hosting its second annual Big Thinkers: Innovation in Business event May 16 at the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre.
Innovate’s CEO Jeff Chesebrough said it was through a lunch meeting with marketing legend and proud St. Catharines resident, Terry O’Malley, that the event was born. “Terry said to me that we in Niagara don’t celebrate our business success enough and we need a big event to do that and to let people know what Innovate Niagara is doing,” said Chesebrough.
The Niagara Region and Brock University have formed a partnership to evaluate the impact of the Niagara Prosperity Initiative (NPI) on Niagara’s communities. Now in its 10th year, the NPI provides $1.5 million annually to support poverty reduction and prevention activities throughout the region.
The evaluation project is supported by $470,000 in funding delivered through the Government of Ontario’s Local Poverty Reduction Fund (LPRF). The grant, administered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation, is helping Niagara Region to support those in need by identifying the effect of the NPI over the last decade.
n early March, Mayor Steve Parish of Ajax, received the same gut wrenching news about his community that Fort Erie received in 2002. The Wynne Liberals informed Parrish that Ajax Downs, home of quarter horse racing, was losing its slots and the revenues and jobs that went along with it.
“We are still in the dark,” said Mayor Parish in an interview with The Niagara Independent. “It appears that the government has signed off on the relocation of the slots but there is a provincial election coming up and we will see what, if any, impact that has.”
It seems March madness isn’t limited to the basketball courts south of the border.
In Ottawa, the spending frenzy that occurred annually prior to the fiscal year end of March 31 appears to be back in full swing. Federal bureaucrats ordered about 31,000 smartphones (nearly 15 per cent of the government’s total) and required delivery within five weeks so they can be charged to the 2017-2018 budget. Total cost to tax payers is about $23 million.
After years of angry tourists, controversy, confusion and negative publicity regarding the Destination Marketing Fee (DMF), Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati knew something needed to be done to fix the problem. That something was a standardized $2 per room, per night fee that will begin Jan. 1 and apply to all accommodations in the city. It is estimated to generate around $5 million annually. City council passed staff’s recommendation of the fee at this week’s council meeting.
The fee will be in place for five years and will be reviewed after three years. Funds generated will support major events in Niagara Falls like the New Year’s Eve celebration, fireworks and concerts. The newly formed Niagara Falls Hotel Association will distribute the funds. There are currently 132 hotels/motels in Niagara Falls for a total of 13,500 rooms.
It’s very rare for a freshman quarterback to start a Canadian University football game. But when you have the skill set and the confidence of Niagara’s Tre Ford it’s really no surprise he bucked that trend.
The former A.N. Myer student-athlete is now behind centre with the University of Waterloo Warriors. Ford just finished his first year with the team, used primarily in a platoon role but also getting a start. His performances were so impressive Ford claimed the Norm Marshall trophy as the Ontario University Athletics’ rookie of the year becoming just the second player in school history to do so.
As another tourism season approaches the Niagara businesses that rely on the influx of visitors eagerly anticipate the busy months and cross their fingers for good weather. The Niagara tourism sector has evolved over the years with some amazing success stories but like any industry there are always challenges looming around the corner.
One of the big players in Niagara’s tourism sector is Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours. Heading into their twenty-sixth season of operation their owner John Kinney can’t help but smile with some degree of satisfaction when he remembers people saying the business wouldn’t last long.
“When we first told people what we wanted to do they rolled their eyes and said it wouldn’t last three or four months,” said Kinney. “One boat became two, which became four which became eight.”
“There’s a lot of marketing on the internet mixed in with a lot of unproven recommendations.” That was a key message from one Canada’s top neurosurgeons talking about concussions.
Dr. Charles Tator, a world-renowned expert in concussions and spinal cord injuries, spoke to The Niagara Independent prior to his talk, Concussions — What Are They and What Can I Do? held at Brock University last Thursday.
Dr. Tator joined a panel of Brock faculty members, students and alumni to provide an overview of the current state of concussions from a broad perspective. Members of the panel included: Dr. Omar Khan (working with concussion patients through ODK Physical Medicine at Hotel Dieu Shaver’s Medical Clinic) Hilary Findlay, PhD (Associate Professor, Sport Management— legalities around concussions for sport organizations), Caitlyn Gallant (Brock University doctoral candidate — research focusing on the ability to understand others’ thoughts and emotions, Theory of Mind, among individuals with concussions/mild traumatic brain injuries) and Stephanie Cowle, Manager, Knowledge Translation, Parachute.
Two things may surprise a lot of people in Niagara. One is that sixty per cent of Ontario’s power is nuclear. The second is that one of the biggest players in helping to provide that power is a Niagara company that started out as a small plumbing and heating shop more than eight decades ago.
E.S. Fox Ltd., the Niagara based contracting company and one of the largest third generation companies in Canada, is playing an important role in the refurbishment of this province’s nuclear generating stations. In fact, the company has being doing nuclear work for over 40 years. Currently nearly half of the company’s tradespeople are working in nuclear.
In a disturbing trend that seems to have developed over the past couple of years in Niagara, a municipal/regional council meeting was hijacked by a special interest group (in this case a group called SORE – Save Our Randwood Estate) displayed what those in attendance and local media described as rude, ignorant and disrespectful behaviour during a Niagara-on-the-Lake meeting Monday night.
In addition, councillor Jamie King described the actions of the SORE group as “not civil, not constructive and not healthy”.
The issue at hand is a planned development in Niagara-on-the-Lake, a town known for its not-in-my-backyard stance on practically every development proposal that comes forward. In this instance, Two Sisters Resort Corp., lead by developer Benny Marotta, has a proposal before the town for a hotel and conference centre on the Randwood Estate property located on John Street. Marotta purchased the property, which is zoned commercial, for $8 million.
As the Niagara Independent wraps up its five-part series on the impacts of Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, it has become clear that the legislation is stifling the growth of local companies. Small and medium-sized business owners in particular have stated they will have to lay-off employees, reduce hours or not hire seasonal workers to the extent they have in the past.
It’s not only the rapid minimum wage increase that has added unanticipated costs to the bottom line but several other amendments to the Act as well including equal pay for full or part-time employees, vacation entitlements and scheduling. Business owners that The Niagara Independent spoke with said they have no issue with increasing minimum wage. The issue they have is with the phoney consultation process and rapid implementation.
As the Niagara IceDogs cleaned out their lockers and reflected on their season that ended recently with a 4-2 loss to their k-9 rivals the Hamilton Bulldogs who won the hard-fought second round series four games to one, much is expected of the 2018-19 edition of the IceDogs.
This year’s team had a successful year with 35 wins, 23 losses, seven overtime losses and three shootout losses for a season total of 80 points, good enough for a fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference. Overager Sam Miletic who split his time between the London Knights and Niagara lead the team in scoring with 92 points in 63 games played (28 with Niagara). He finished sixth in OHL scoring. Second year centre and top rated NHL prospect Akil Thomas had an impressive sophomore season with 81 points in 68 games.
Despite calls for “a better Niagara” from some political hopefuls in the Region it appears one sector that is doing just fine is the regional economy. Blake Landry, Manager of Economic Research and Analysis, along with Regional Chair Alan Caslin, walked through the latest economic findings with reporters this week.
It’s the first time in the Region’s history that such detailed economic statistics have been researched, compiled and analyzed. The results are impressive. Landry, who worked in Economic Development through the recession of 2008-2009, said he’s never seen this level of job creation in Niagara. Landry said the unemployment rate in Niagara in those dark economic years hovered around 11 to 12 percent. Now it is just over five per cent.
While much of the focus regarding the province’s Bill 148 – Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, which contains a slew of items that has created huge cost increases to employers, has been focused on private businesses there is an entirely different sector that has been hit just as hard if not harder – the not for profit sector. A November 22, 2017 story in The Financial Post called the legislation “both a massive boon and possible job-killer for Canada’s most populous province.”
The legislation called for implementation of a significant raise in the minimum wage, an almost immediate increase from $11.60 to $14 an hour as of January 1, 2018 (less than two months after passage), and then up again to $15 an hour as of January 1, 2019.
After last week’s stop in Welland and St. Catharines, Doug Ford left a flurry of transit controversy in his wake. It was being reported that the PC Party Leader was not on-side with GO train service coming to the Region after Ford made a comment in Welland at M.T. Bellies that he would need to review the plan. As one might expect, social media was on fire with politicians and residents weighing in on what this means for the future of GO train service in Niagara.
Ford wasn’t asked if he would support GO coming to Niagara. He was asked if he could speed up the process and deliver GO by 2021. The actual scheduled timeline for the arrival of the green-and-white double-decker trains is 2023. Regional council has been lobbying the government to get that date pushed up to 2021 to have the transportation service ready for the Canada Summer Games.
Niagara IceDogs team pastor, Moe Gillard, did a lot of reflecting over the weekend in the wake of the horrific bus crash that claimed the lives of 15 players, coaches and staff of the Humboldt Broncos Junior A hockey team in Saskatchewan.
While watching the Sunday evening’s service, one of the comments that the Bronco’s team chaplain made resonated with Pastor Moe, as he’s affectionately known by the IceDogs’ players and staff. “Their chaplain, Sean Brandow, said that while the players play for the name on the front of their hockey jersey, he prays for the name on the back,” said Pastor Gillard.
Winning the right to host more sporting events in the Niagara Region is what a group from Brock University hopes to convince the Region they can do if given the opportunity to lead the process, at least temporarily.
Dr. Julie Stevens, an Associate Professor in Brock’s Sport Management program and Director of Brock’s Centre for Sport Capacity was at the Region’s Planning and Economic Development Committee meeting this week outlining a proposal that would see Brock’s Centre for Sport Capacity manage the sport hosting process, data collection and post event analysis for the Region, at least on an interim basis.
With Rocky theme song Eye of the Tiger pumping out of the ballroom speakers, Ontario PC Party leader Doug Ford took to the stage to a thunderous applause Wednesday night from more than 400 supporters. The entrance fit Ford’s boisterous and man-of-the-people personality. A rousing standing ovation greeted the former Toronto City councillor turned Ontario premier hopeful. He wasted no time firing up the party faithful.
Ford was at M.T. Bellies in Welland earlier in the afternoon and met with local business leaders at the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce prior to his arrival at the Holiday Inn on Ontario Street in St. Catharines. He was introduced to the enthusiastic crowd by Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP, Sam Oosterhoff.
The United Way of St. Catharines and District has wrapped up its final campaign, under its current governance structure, in record-setting fashion raising an unprecedented 3.8 million dollars. This marks the most successful year in the organization’s 64-year history.
The money raised will fund more than 70 programs and special initiatives helping nearly 100,000 people in Niagara, including the most vulnerable citizens; at-risk youth, adults with disabilities, and people living in poverty.
Ontario’s Minister of Finance, Charles Sousa has presented the Liberal Government’s last budget before the June election. Although filled with a number of interesting proposals and big-spending initiatives in a variety of areas, the question remains how will it be paid for?
Not surprisingly, local reaction by sitting MPPs, as well as candidates for the upcoming election, has been mixed. Long-time St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley praised the budget for the number of progressive policies including a significant investment in mental health and addiction services, a provincial drug and dental program, free child-care for kids two and half years old (up to the time they start kindergarten,) and a significant investment of 822 million dollars for hospitals. “It’s a budget that reflects what we heard from people during the consultation phase,” said Bradley.
Significant job creation, an active construction industry and the largest community consultation process the Region has ever held were three highlights of the State-of-the-Region address this past Wednesday. Regional Chair Alan Caslin delivered updates on these and other topics in his annual speech to business and community leaders held at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls.
Something new for this year was the addition of municipal leader colleagues Hamilton Mayor, Fred Eisenberger, and Waterloo Regional Chairman, Ken Seiling. Eisenberger, Seiling and Caslin participated in a roundtable discussion moderated by Niagara Workforce Planning Board CEO, Mario De Divitiis.
The Wynne Liberal government, continued their post-throne speech tour across Ontario ahead of the formal provincial budget to be held March 28th. On Friday they made a multi-year funding announcement for the Ontario horse-racing industry. They have pledged over 100 million dollars per year for 19 years, conveniently starting in 2019 after the next election. Not surprisingly, many are seeing this as a cynical attempt to buy votes by putting yet another bauble in the window.
In Niagara, it is reminiscent of the 2014 election promise to build a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital in south Niagara Falls, a promise that came complete with billboard and on-site press conference. The billboard is still there, but no hospital.
After another impressive run in the Ontario high school hockey season, for the second year in a row, Denis Morris Catholic High School hockey coach Billy McLaren hopes the game at the post-secondary level will start to get the respect it deserves. Recently finishing a very impressive fourth in Ontario, McLaren is proud of his troops and their dedication both on and off the ice. “These kids are true student-athletes with great character,” the coach said. “We emphasize effort in the classroom as much as we do effort on the ice and we hold them accountable to both,” he added. The Reds lost to Lakeshore Catholic in the Southern Ontario Secondary School Association (SOSSA) but were automatically entered into the provincial tournament as the host team. The Reds had a very impressive regular season and proved they belonged in the provincial tournament going undefeated in pool play.
High school hockey in Niagara and across the province has improved in both quality and reputation in recent years. McLaren admits it used to be seen as a bit of a goon league and was never taken too seriously. There were, and at times still is, a lack of cooperation between local travel hockey coaches and the high school teams. Many higher-end travel hockey coaches discourage their players from suiting up with their school teams for fear of injury or fatigue. When kids at that level do join their high school teams, it happens during the playoffs. “Some teams in the GTA for example will have AAA kids play a couple of games during the regular season with their high school team so they get their eligibility, and then come playoff time, when their club team is finished, some schools will parachute-in several AAA players to their team and make a run in the provincial championships,” McLaren explained.
It was nearly a decade ago, April 8, 2008, that Jeff Chesebrough walked into One St. Paul Street with his own personal laptop, no staff, no board, no policies and no money. He couldn’t have been more excited. It was the start of a bold new initiative for Niagara. It was the start of trying to shift the mindset of a traditionally blue-collar industrial region into a high-tech, start-up, job-creating machine.
From market intelligence-research companies, to video-game developers, Innovate Niagara and its network of incubators: iHub, The Generator at One, BioLinc (Brock University), Vineland Research Station and Research & Innovation (Niagara College) have spawned one success story after another. The hip office space is abuzz with activity. You can feel the energy as you walk through the halls watching bright young minds turn concepts into reality.
One of the most exciting events in the Meridian Centre’s history was the gold medal women’s under-18 hockey game in January of 2016. It was a sea of red and white, and one of the largest crowds ever to fill the downtown St. Catharines sports and entertainment facility. The enthusiasm should have come as no surprise, given the rise in popularity of girl’s hockey across the country and right here in Niagara. The St. Catharines Female Hockey Association (SCFHA) has formed a unique partnership with the top female hockey teams in the region to help continue that growth.
St. Catharines CYO Minor Hockey introduced a girl’s hockey program back in 1995. In 2008, the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association officially sanctioned the merger of the St. Catharines CYO Chaos Rep Hockey Association and the St. Catharines CYO Girls House League to form the SCFHA. The only all-female hockey association in St. Catharines, the SCFMA – branded as the Jr. Badgers, offers both a house-league and rep (travel) program for girls aged 4 to 21 years of age.
Niagara residents crossing the Peace Bridge for a Sabres game, or a pound of wings, will have noticed some significant construction taking place on the international crossing.
A 186-million-dollar, three-year rehabilitation project to the Peace Bridge in Fort Erie is two-thirds of the way complete, and according to officials things are moving along nicely. After a somewhat rocky beginning in which original plans called for an actual twinning of the bridge, the capital project has moved along relatively smoothly. Improvements include a rebuild of the U.S. customs plaza, a widening of the bridge approach on the U.S. side, and a complete restructuring of the bridge-deck including widening of the sidewalk for pedestrian and bike traffic, a new overlook, railings and lighting.
The project is fully self-financed. There are no tax dollars involved.
As Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati prepares for his annual state of the city address there is one area of concern that he won’t let go without a fight. Despite well articulated arguments by local politicians at all levels and from all parties, as well as experts from the gaming industry, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation continues to move forward with its request for proposal (RFP) on new operators for Niagara’s two casinos.
The process made headlines several months ago when it was speculated that the current RFP, as it is written, could potentially result in the loss of 14 hundred jobs. Some argued it was fear-mongering, but as the process played out and Diodati and others dug deeper into the numbers, it appears the job losses could very well be a reality.
A century after it first opened its doors at a ferry landing in Fort Erie, customs brokerage and logistics company, Willson International, is celebrating its 100th anniversary helping clients navigate cross-border trade between Canada and the United States.
While the fourth-generation, family-owned and operated business has grown and diversified its services significantly over the decades, its primary goal remains the same today as it did when it began in 1918 — helping companies across North America manage their supply chains so they can focus on the day-to-day challenges of running their businesses.
Former Niagara Regional Police Chief Jeff Maguire and the current Police Services Board agreed to part ways in June of 2017. It wasn’t until early this year that the cost of that “buyout” was made public causing the typical social media firestorm anytime public money is used in a manner in which armchair politicians deem inappropriate.
What hasn’t been discussed however is how the Chief ended up with a three-year contract extension by the previous Police Services Board, seemingly going unnoticed, just before they turned things over to the incoming Board. McGuire became Niagara’s top cop in 2012 when he arrived from Toronto and his contract was to run to 2017.
The Brock University curling program continues to experience its winning ways in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Curling Championships. The Men’s Varsity won the Gold and the Women’s Varsity rink captured Bronze in Sault Ste. Marie in late February.
Brock curling has quietly experienced great success since Head Coach Murray Etherington took over nine years ago. In the last five seasons alone, the Brock Varsity Men have won three OUA Bronze Medals and one OUA Gold Medal, while the Varsity Women have won two OUA Silver Medals and one OUA Bronze Medal. While these Brock teams haven’t medalled in the last few tries at the U-sports Championships, the Varsity women did win silver in 2011 and 2012; the Varsity men won Bronze in 2012 at the national championships.