Bradley blasted by fellow councillors for hosting exclusionary “private meeting”

by Nicholas Tibollo

Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley. Photo credit: YouTube/Niagara Region At the most recent Niagara Regional Council meeting, Chair Jim Bradley and his senior staff were upbraided by several council members for hosting what Pelham regional representative Diana Huson called a “private meeting” that excluded most regional councillors and went forward without public notice.  According to […]

Jim bradley

Crime rates dip across country, as Niagara remains one of Canada’s safest metro areas

by The Niagara Independent

Photo credit: Facebook/Niagara Regional Police Service Last week, Statistics Canada published its annual survey of police-reported crime, as measured by the Crime Severity Index (CSI), for the year 2020. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on crime rates across the country, ushering in the first year of decreases in both violent and non-violent […]

nrps vehicle

In their own words: Mayor Frank Campion of Welland

by Kaitlin Gibson

Mayor Frank Campion. Photo credit: Niagara Region Mayor Campion has a clear message for the residents of Welland: get vaccinated. The second term mayor emphasizes the need for Welland residents to protect themselves against COVID-19, noting that locally the town has hit a plateau in the rate of vaccinations. “The biggest thing we can do […]

mayor campion's headshot

Revamped Niagara Parks Power Station opens to the public

by Nicholas Tibollo

Niagara Parks CEO David Adames welcomes guests to tour the agency’s newest attraction following the ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Wednesday. Also pictured are chair of the Parks Sandie Bellows (seated, centre), Minister Lisa MacLeod (behind Bellows, left), and Regional Chair Jim Bradley (behind Bellows, right). Photo credit: The Niagara Independent After several months of assessment, planning, […]

CEO NPC Adames welcomes guests

Mountainview’s Mark Basciano “an everyday hero”

by Don Rickers

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

Mark Basciano

Regional council supports another tax increase for services beyond mandate

by Bruce Timms

Niagara Region headquarters in Thorold. Photo credit: The Niagara Independent On July 14, the corporate services committee discussed and recommended adding another $1 million to the property tax levy, an additional 0.25 per cent to the previously established 4.1 per cent increase: for a total increase of 4.35 per cent for the 2022 tax levy.  […]

niagara region HQ sign

Niagara wines wow at national championships

by The Niagara Independent

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery in St. Davids. Ravine was one of about a dozen Niagara wineries to earn multiple medals at this year’s All Canadian Wine Championships. Photo credit: Facebook/Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery Two weeks ago, the All Canadian Wine Championships held its annual competition in Picton, Ontario. The 2021 installment saw 217 wineries from […]

Ravine Winery

Democratic representative for New York’s 26th congressional district Brian Higgins speaks at the University of Buffalo, March 29, 2018. Congressman Higgins has arguably been the loudest and most consistent advocate for reopening the U.S.-Canada border both ways throughout the pandemic. Photo credit: University of Buffalo/Meredith Forrest Kulwicki Last week, just days after Canada announced it […]

Brian Higgins

Date set for twinning of Garden City Skyway

by Nicholas Tibollo

Garden City Skyway. The bridge connects Niagara-on-the-Lake to St. Catharines. Built in 1963, it will soon be one of two bridges to carry QEW traffic across the Welland Canal. Photo credit: The Niagara Independent  With work well-underway along the QEW in Niagara-on-the-Lake transforming the Glendale Avenue exit/intersection into Canada’s only third ever diverging diamond interchange, […]

skyway bridge in st catharines

In their own words: an interview with Mayor Jim Diodati of Niagara Falls

by Kaitlin Gibson

Mayor Jim Diodati. Photo credit: City of Niagara Falls After speaking to Mayor Jim Diodati at length, it’s very clear that he fully believes in the saying, ‘every cloud has a silver lining.’ More often than not, answers to questions about the economy, COVID-19, or the future of the city were sparkled with moral takeaways […]

Mayor Jim Diodati

South Niagara Hospital site at the corner of Montrose and Biggar roads in Niagara Falls. What was for many years just a sign and an unused farmer’s field will soon see shovels in the ground, as the more than $1 billion project is set to commence fall 2022. Photo credit: Niagara Health On July 21, […]

south niagara hospital site

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

by Don Rickers

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

tent encampment

Vehicles cross the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls from the U.S. into Canada. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons  On Monday, the federal government announced its plan to reopen Canada’s international border. Starting August 9, fully vaccinated U.S. citizens and permanent residents currently living in the U.S. will be able to travel to Canada for non-essential purposes […]

Rainbow Bridge

Local museums excited to welcome back patrons

by Nicholas Tibollo

On Friday, July 16, Ontario entered the final phase of its three-step reopening framework.

Expectedly, most are excited about once again being able to dine indoors, hit the gym, or attend a summer festival. But another activity now available to Ontarians that has somewhat flown under the radar, but is an integral part of Niagara’s tourism and culture industries, is visiting a museum or historic site.

Niagara-on-the-Lake museum

In their own words: an interview with Mayor Marvin Junkin of Pelham

by Kaitlin Gibson

“It was everything I thought it was.”
A phrase that has been used to describe countless life events like weddings, but rarely used in the world of politics. But Pelham’s mayor Marvin Junkin thinks it describes his first two and a half years in office quite well.

Mayor Junkin

Province gives DSBN green light to go forward with new $50 million Beamsville high school

by The Niagara Independent

On Thursday, Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce joined his Parliamentary Assistant and MPP for Niagara West Sam Oosterhoff in Lincoln to announce that the provincial government has given the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) approval to award the tender for the new West Niagara Secondary School in Beamsville.

politicians and students in beamsville

Just who is Dr. Hirji? The local public health official pulling all the strings

by Nicholas Tibollo

Niagara Region’s current acting medical officer of health Dr. Mustafa Hirji (bottom left) in a campus newspaper montage of student union presidential candidates at the University of Alberta, March 2005. Photo credit: University of Alberta Libraries/The Gateway Back in February, when Niagara qualified to move out of ‘Grey – Lockdown’ into the less restrictive ‘Red […]

Conservative MP for Niagara Falls Tony Baldinelli (left) meets with Del Rollo, Secretary of Wine Growers Canada and VP of Industry and Government Relations of Arterra Wines, at Jackson-Triggs Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, October 2020. Photo credit: Facebook/Tony Baldinelli On July 7, Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and […]

MP Baldinelli at Jaackson Triggs

Niagara hotels look to post-pandemic recovery

by Don Rickers

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

holiday inn

Province provides Grimsby $16 million to support community infrastructure project

by Nicholas Tibollo

Ontario’s Minister of Infrastructure Kinga Surma joined Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff in Grimsby on Thursday to announce $16 million in provincial funding to expand and renovate the town’s Peach King Centre.

peach king centre

In their own words: an interview with Mayor Sandra Easton of Lincoln

by Kaitlin Gibson

Lincoln mayor Sandra Easton says that the dominant theme of the first two and a half years of her term has been, obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic. “You can’t think of anything except that.” The mayor of nearly 24,000 residents has been taken back by the scale of the pandemic and calls it her biggest challenge in office to date.

Mayor Sandra Easton

On Monday, July 5, the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable, in collaboration with local political and business leaders, held a press conference at the Niagara City Cruises lower landing on the Canadian side of the gorge in Niagara Falls.

mayor jim diotdati

The idea of modernizing Niagara Regional Council to have representatives serve as both upper and lower-tier councillors has been around for some time. The latest effort came from the City of Niagara Falls.

niagara region HQ sign

Niagara’s shortage of hospitality workers hinders pandemic recovery

by Don Rickers

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

Cliffton Hill from above

In their own words: an interview with Mayor Terry Ugulini of Thorold

by Kaitlin Gibson

According to Mayor Terry Ugulini, the new GTA is right here is in Niagara: the ‘Greater Thorold Area’.
Thanks to an influx of growth spurred on by Torontonians finding refuge from their fast-paced lives in Thorold’s quieter setting, the city’s mayor is outwardly confident about Thorold’s future prospects.

Mayor Terry Ugulini on a chair with his dog

At Monday evening’s regular council meeting, St. Catharines council announced that, as a municipality, it would not commemorate the 154th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.

Councillor Miller and Mayor Sendzik

Education funding in Ontario unfair and in need of reform

by Don Rickers

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

aerial shot of buildings

Housing board hands authority over to Regional Council

by Bruce Timms

Regional Council has become the sole voting member of Niagara Regional Housing (NRH), the not-for-profit agency responsible for providing low-income social housing to Niagara residents in-need.

apartment building

Minister of tourism and task force chair release pandemic recovery report

by Nicholas Tibollo

On Wednesday, Minister of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries Lisa MacLeod was on hand at the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake to release a report put together by the Tourism Economic Recovery Ministerial Task Force.

Minister MacLeod

In their own words: an interview with Mayor Wayne Redekop of Fort Erie

by Kaitlin Gibson

From revitalizing parks to restructuring the public transit system, it can be said that the Town of Fort Erie has a lot on the go. And that’s in part due to the town’s eager and ambitious mayor, Wayne Redekop. Over the past two and a half years he’s even created a website, called ‘Let’s Talk Fort Erie’, where residents can look up projects on the go. Some of his projects include investing in infrastructure, maintaining and protecting the town’s historical landmarks, and bringing new doctors into Fort Erie.

Mayor Redekop

Welland by-election attracts sizable slate of candidates

by Don Rickers

The Rose City is abloom in political aspirants.

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

Region accepts 4.1 per cent tax hike strategy, despite massive surplus

by Bruce Timms

The most significant Niagara Region budget meeting of the year was held by Zoom Thursday, June 17.

The meeting set the strategy for staff to use while working out the details of a budget for consideration in October.

Niagara Region HQ sign

Hirji wrestled with Niagara’s restaurants prior to pandemic

by Nicholas Tibollo

Despite Ontario entering Step 1 of its phased reopening plan on June 11, Niagara’s Acting Medical Officer of Health Dr. Mustafa Hirji continues to impose pandemic-related restrictions over and above provincial regulations.

Dr Hiriji

The small town of Niagara-on-the-Lake has a reputation that proceeds itself for being subtle and reserved. But there are no reservations on the part of Lord Mayor Betty Disero when it comes to the admiration she has for her constituents.

Disero headshot

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

diodati and redekop headshots

When Ontario entered Step One reopening on Friday, Niagara residents were delighted at the opportunity to return to restaurant patios. However, while those in other regions, including Hamilton and Toronto, were allowed to dine on patios with any four people, Niagara patio tables remained restricted to those of the same household.

niagara falls hotel-patio

Niagara names new top planner

by Nicholas Tibollo

With efforts to update Niagara’s Official Plan well underway, the Region has secured a new head of planning and development.

Michelle Sergi’s appointment was approved at a special council meeting on Thursday, June 10. It follows a thorough, nation-wide, recruitment process undertaken by an independent staffing agency.

Michelle Sergi headshot

In their own words: an interview with Mayor Kevin Gibson of Wainfleet

by Kaitlin Gibson

When it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Kevin Gibson of Wainfleet has faith that his community will prevail.

“We’re resilient people. We’re used to hardship.”

Mayor Gibson

Local MPs weigh in on border reopening, vaccine passports

by Don Rickers

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

MP Tony Baldinelli and MP Dean Allison

Quick guide to Canada Summer Games satellite venues around the region

by Michael H. Willoughby

In just over a year, Niagara welcomes the nation for the 2022 Canada Summer Games. Over 5,000 young athletes from all 13 provinces and territories will converge in several towns and cities around the region to compete.

rendering of rowing facility

New York Congressman Chris Jacobs (right) with separated families at the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge in Niagara Falls, June 6, 2021. Jacobs recently added his name to a growing list of high-profile public officials actively campaigning to see the Canada-U.S. land border reopen. Photo credit: Twitter/Chris Jacobs On Sunday, June 6, U.S. Congressman Chris Jacobs held a […]

Congressman Chris Jacobs

It’s hiring season for Niagara’s municipal CAOs

by Don Rickers

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

David Oakes and Jason Burgess

In their own words: an interview with Mayor Jeff Jordan of Grimsby

by Kaitlin Gibson

More than halfway through his first term as mayor of Grimsby, Jeff Jordan maintains an upbeat attitude, looking back on what has been an undoubtably challenging term.

“It’s certainly been overall a very positive experience. I really feel that I’ve been able to, along with Council, do something for all of Grimsby, and move Grimsby forward.”

Mayor Jordan and company

Niagara lawyer appointed Ontario Superior Court judge

by Michael H. Willoughby

A Niagara lawyer has been appointed to the province’s Superior Court of Justice.
In a press release, Federal Justice Minister and Attorney General David Lametti announced Wednesday the appointment of Leanne Standryk.

Leanne Standryk

In the past year, the agenda package for regular Niagara Regional Council meetings have contained, on average, 950 pages of content. And that’s just for regular council meetings. Factor in special council sessions, committee material, and other council correspondence, and Niagara’s upper-tier elected officials are having to absorb well over 1,000 pages of complex, technical information per month.

niagara region HQ sign

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

by Don Rickers

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

Niagara Region HQ sign

On May 18, Brock University in St. Catharines announced that its president, Gervan Fearon, would be resigning his post, having accepted an offer to become president of George Brown College in Toronto. On the face of it, it’s an unusual career move for a top administrator working in the status-obsessed world of academia: Brock is a large public research university, while George Brown is a college that caters mostly to continuing-education students pursuing vocational programs.

Sir Isaac Brock statue

Niagara COVID-19 update – the downward trend continues

by The Niagara Independent

On Monday, Niagara Region Public Health reported just 33 new active cases of COVID-19 across the region. This was the lowest single day number of new cases since March 25, when just 24 new cases were reported.

Niagara is down to 992 total active cases, the lowest number since April 12 (946 cases).

covid dashboard

The life and legacy of local historian E.A. Cruikshank

by Nicholas Tibollo

On May 21, 1921, exactly 100 years ago last Friday, no less than nine historic sites from Niagara were officially added to the National Historic Sites of Canada (NHSC) registry. Among the additions were Fort George, Navy Island, and the Ridgeway Battlefield.

Ernest Alexander ‘E.A.’ Cruikshank

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

Mike Throne in front of a blue van

At its most recent meeting on May 12, Niagara Region’s Planning and Economic Development Committee endorsed a staff recommendation to establish a region-wide ‘Natural Environmental System’.

The system, if approved by council on May 20, could become part of the Region’s Official Plan next year.

neighbourhood

Is illegal dumping on the rise in Niagara?

by Nicholas Tibollo

Last week, The Niagara Independent published a piece arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic is, in all likelihood, more responsible for the perceived change in local waste disposal habits than the Region’s relatively recent shift to every-other-week garbage collection.

dumpster overflowing

Brock’s fiscal position solid

by Don Rickers

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

Good news, right?

Sir Issac Brock statue

Provinces continue to badger federal government to tighten international borders

by The Niagara Independent

Provincial governments of every political stripe continue to detect COVID-19 variants arriving in their provinces via loopholes in the federal screening and quarantining systems at their airports and land borders. On multiple occasions the premiers have asked the prime minister to clamp down on these loopholes.

man in mask at the bridge

Earlier this week, Niagara Region’s Public Works Committee received an impact analysis report regarding the effectiveness of last year’s shift to every-other-week curbside waste collection.

woman holding a bag

Niagara recently achieved an impressive milestone in its ongoing battle against COVID-19: 200,000 vaccine doses delivered.

A total of 40 per cent of the region’s residents are now at least partially vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, with 2.7 fully vaccinated.

Dr. Hirji , Premier Ford

Is Niagara set to surpass the half million mark?

by Nicholas Tibollo

With May 11 officially dubbed Census Day 2021, most Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast have completed or are in the process of completing the latest federal enumeration of the country’s population.

downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake

Schumer comes to Niagara Falls to push border reopening plan

by The Niagara Independent

Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer, the newly installed Senate Majority Leader and highest-ranking federal politician in the State of New York, held a press conference at the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, New York on Wednesday.

Senator Chuck Schumer

Falls to be illuminated red in honour of fallen firefighters

by Nicholas Tibollo

On Tuesday, Niagara’s famous Falls and Toronto’s CN Tower will be illuminated red in honour of all the firefighters worldwide who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Both the Canadian Horseshoe and American Falls will resemble the red of fire-engines and fire-houses the world over from 10:00pm to 10:15pm.

Niagara Falls in red

Buffalo begs for Biden to give Canada more vaccine

by The Niagara Independent

Former President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed accelerated not just the development of vaccines by companies like Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson and Johnson, it also assured that when ready the U.S. would be able to acquire vaccine in huge amounts at a rapid pace.

vials of Moderna vaccine

Regional councillors not happy with continued leaks, establish task force

by The Niagara Independent

Last week, Niagara’s Regional Council once again had to discuss the ongoing issue of confidential information being leaked to local media.

As per corporate policy and proper governance, organizations must go in-camera to discuss certain matters like personnel issues or real estate business, among others. Leaks from such closed sessions were a big problem for regional council last term and have continued into this term.

Niagara Region

Properly locked down borders today will help Niagara open up for good tomorrow

by The Niagara Independent

After immense pressure put on by the provincial premiers, on April 22 the federal government finally announced a ban on direct commercial and private flights from India and Pakistan. The federal government belatedly moved on the ban after dozens of cases of B.1.617, the dominant strain of COVID-19 in India, showed up in B.C., Quebec, and Alberta.

empty airport terminal

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

by Don Rickers

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

Dean Allison MP

Regional chair calls for more subsidies to support media

by Catherine Swift

Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley. Photo credit: YouTube/Niagara Region An odd statement came from Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley last week, as he called for the federal government to do even more to protect the news media sector than it is already doing. Bradley claimed that as the industry continues to struggle, and many local […]

Overwhelmed Niagara Health continues to take in patients from outside region

by The Niagara Independent

Despite last Monday issuing a press release and a widely circulated social media warning about the St. Catharines critical care units being over capacity, as late as Friday St. Catharines hospital was still accepting COVID-19 patients from other overwhelmed regions.

st catharines ospital

Family’s plea to premier goes viral, as calls to reopen golf courses grow

by Nicholas Tibollo

Last week, the Ford government put forward several new restrictions and regulations in its most recent effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Ontario. While some of the more draconian elements of the preventative order were quickly walked back following widespread backlash, most of the new measures made it past public outcry: including the closure of golf courses.

golfers

Case rates continue to rise in Niagara, plus another anti-lockdown rally

by The Niagara Independent

Photo credit: The Niagara Independent The week of April 13 to 19 saw a total of 1,176 new cases of COVID-19 in the region, an average of 168 per day for the week, compared to an average of 116 new cases per day last week. Monday, April 19 saw an active daily total case count […]

computer screen with covid dashoboard

Opioid crisis “out of control” in Niagara

by Don Rickers

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

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

spoon and lighter

United Way Niagara helped over quarter of region’s population in 2020

by Nicholas Tibollo

Like much of Canada, Niagara has hardly escaped the socioeconomic havoc wreaked by the ongoing health crisis.

Unemployment rates, food insecurity, and social isolation have all reached record highs over the past year. Niagara’s typically robust tourism, culture and hospitality industries have been particularly hard hit. As Ontario’s minister responsible for tourism Lisa MacLeod commented during a visit to Niagara Falls last month, the city has lost some 40,000 tourism-related jobs due to the pandemic.

volunteer carrying a box

Liberal leader speaks to Niagara chamber

by Catherine Swift

This week the leader of Ontario’s Liberal Party made a presentation – virtually, of course – to the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce (GNCC) about his plans to govern the province, should he become premier in the next election expected to take place mid-2022.

Delduca MPP

Local pandemic update, plus St. Catharines council reacts to rally

by The Niagara Independent

Somewhat expectedly, the Easter long weekend proved to be a Covid-19 breeding ground in Niagara. April 6 to 12 saw a total of 813 new cases of the virus in the region, an average of 116 per day for the week. Monday, April 12 saw an active daily case count of 1,062. This represents the […]

computer with Covid -19dashboard

Niagara posts stellar showing in latest ‘best communities’ ranking

by Nicholas Tibollo

The Niagara Region faired particularly well in Maclean’s most recent iteration of its ‘Canada’s best communities’ list. Six of Niagara’s 12 municipalities cracked the top 100, with Welland and Niagara Falls leading the pack.

cyclist

Should the Canada-U.S. border be reopened to those with proof of vaccination?

by Nicholas Tibollo

In a recent opinion piece for the Globe and Mail, Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Edward Alden argued that it’s high-time Canada’s prime minister work with his American counterparts to examine options for reopening the world’s longest land border.

rainbow bridge

Niagara teachers and school staff moved up in vaccination queue

by Nicholas Tibollo

Starting April 9, education workers and support staff at Niagara’s public and Catholic school boards will be able to register for the Covid-19 vaccine. Full-time, part-time, and casual teachers, administrators, library technicians, custodial staff, school bus drivers, and crossing guards are all eligible to receive the vaccination. Come Friday, some 4,000 personnel employed by the […]

vaccination

Niagara Covid Update

by The Niagara Independent

The Easter weekend was not good to Niagara when it comes to new covid-19 cases.

As of yesterday, Monday April 5th, there are now 858 active cases of people with covid-19. This is the highest number of current active cases since January 16th when there was a 2020 high of 1,168. Active cases declined from that point to a low of 123 on February 25th. They have gone up virtually every day since then. The month of April has seen an average of 100 new cases per day.

reading on the train

Updated plans for West Niagara hospital sent for final approval

by Nicholas Tibollo

After nearly a quarter-century of tilting at politico-economic giants, last week residents of West Niagara finally laid eyes on renderings of what their long-promised, oft-deferred hospital redevelopment may well look like.

The exact building design will naturally evolve as the project continues to progress, but given site constraints and the comprehensive specifications outlined in the tender package, it’s all but certain the new development will look something like the above (and below) depicted.

West Lincoln Memorial Hospital rendering

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

by Don Rickers

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

Former generating station to start new life as tourist attraction

by Nicholas Tibollo

Twelve years after acquiring the decommissioned Canadian Niagara Power generating station, Niagara Parks is set to reopen the plant’s doors as the region’s newest tourist attraction this Canada Day.

power station

Premier Ford comes to Niagara with support for tourism

by The Niagara Independent

On the heels of releasing the 2021 provincial budget last week at Queen’s Park, Premier Doug Ford along with Finance Minister Peter Bethlenfalvy and Tourism Minister Lisa MacLeod provided new details around support for the tourism industry in Niagara.

Premier Ford walking through vaccine clinic

Region urges province to move teachers up the vaccination priority list

by The Niagara Independent

Who gets vaccinated next was a unifying topic at Niagara Regional Council last night.

During discussion of the Public Health Committee minutes, St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik asked chief medical officer of Health Dr. Mustafa Hirji if personal caregivers of the elderly could get moved up the vaccination priority list.

a teacher cleaning desks in a classroom

$100k+ Club: City Hall top dogs steal the show

by The Niagara Independent

Despite 2020 being an extremely difficult year for most in Niagara, local chief administrative officers (CAOs) across Niagara appeared to be exempt from any financial distress.
Particularly, Fort Erie and Port Colborne CAOs Tom Kuchyt and Scott Luey who both saw large double digit increases to their compensation last year versus 2019.

St. Catharines City Hall

Niagara’s $100K+ club grows during pandemic

by The Niagara Independent

Normally, March is that time of year where the residents of Niagara come together to see which local public servants had made it into the prestigious Ontario Sunshine List: The $100k+ club.

niagara region

Despite rhetoric, affordable housing apparently low priority for St. Catharines

by Nicholas Tibollo

  Single-loaded building example off QEW at Casablanca in Grimsby Outside of the ongoing pandemic, the single biggest socioeconomic issue facing a majority of communities across Ontario is the high cost of housing. Costs have been increasing dramatically for several years now, driven by low interest-rates, speculation, exponentially increasing government-imposed costs, and, most importantly, an […]

apartment building

Ford Government steps up to combat human trafficking in Niagara

by The Niagara Independent

The Ford government is taking major steps towards eliminating human trafficking in Niagara and Ontario while investing in support programs to help victims heal from the heinous crime.
Last week, $1.4 million was announced over the next five years to create a new community-based program to provide more young victims and survivors of human trafficking in Niagara with access to the supports they need.

human trafficking

Developer suing Niagara-on-the-Lake over bylaw

by John Chick

Court documents that are part of a $500,000 lawsuit against the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake allege that the community’s mayor and council enacted its Interim Control Bylaw (ICBL) mainly to penalize one specific developer.

Hummel Properties buidling

Local clinics set to open as vaccine rollout ramps up

by Nicholas Tibollo

The final stage of Phase One of the provincial government’s COVID-19 vaccination plan allows newly eligible residents to schedule immunization sessions online via a centralized booking portal.

As of Monday, March 15, Ontarians aged 80 years or older, staff, caregivers and residents of retirement homes, high-priority health care workers, adult recipients of chronic home care, and all Indigenous adults non-yet vaccinated are qualified to book an appointment.

covid 19 injection

Mayors send joint letter to Niagara on one-year anniversary of Covid Pandemic

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara’s 12 mayors joined together to pen an open-letter to all Niagara citizens to mark the one-year anniversary of the first case of Covid-19 in Niagara. The letter comes at a time when societies around the globe are starting to feel very good about the slowing of the devastation of the pandemic because of more effective treatments but especially due to the dissemination of vaccines worldwide.

covid19

Companies testimonies confirm region procurement problems

by The Niagara Independent

After multiple attempts by Niagara Falls Councillor Bob Gale to get some answers over the procurement of turbo blowers at the Port Dalhousie wastewater treatment plant, Gale got right to the heart of the matter this week at Public Works Committee.

APG Neuros building

An Olympic dilemma: boycott Beijing? Local MPs weigh in

by Don Rickers

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

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

Olympic flag

Diodati points out the positive, calls recent COVID-19 update “encouraging”

by Nicholas Tibollo

On Friday last week, Niagara’s chief medical officer Dr. Mustafa Hirji provided regional council with a COVID-19 status update.

Amongst a few other considerations, Dr. Hirji’s near-hour long presentation focused on the perceived and potential rise of viral Variants of Concern (VOCs), Niagara’s relatively robust rollout of vaccines to date, and the health unit’s phased vaccination plan for 2021.

Dr. Mustafa Hirji & Mayor Jim Diodati

Bradley praises Ford Government for additional COVID aid

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley was unequivocal in his praise to the Ford government’s announcement last week providing Niagara’s municipalities an additional $16.5 million in COVID-19 support.

In total, Niagara is slated to receive $16,486,587 and of the funding announced, the top three recipients were the Niagara Region, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls having received $6.6 million, $2.9 million, and $1.9 million respectively.

Jim Bradley

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

boy with mask

This Regional Council needs a plumber too

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara’s Regional Chair Jim Bradley flexed his procedural might on Thursday over a call for an Integrity Commissioner investigation into the source of recently leaked confidential information to the local media. Lack of professionalism in this regard has plagued regional council for years as councillors often go into ‘in-camera’ meetings to discuss sensitive information that is supposed to remain confidential, only to have some of that conversation leaked just moments after the meeting has ended. Under the Municipal Act, items like real-estate, legal issues and human resources are supposed to be dealt with in ‘closed-session’ or ‘’in-camera.

council chambers

Province provides Niagara post-secondary schools increased funding for mental health

by The Niagara Independent

It’s undeniable: Canadian post-secondary students are suffering.

According to the latest available statistics from the National College Health Assessment survey, 52 per cent of students enrolled at Canadian colleges and universities in 2019 reported feeling so depressed that, at some point in the 12 months preceding the study, “it was difficult to function.”

Brock University aerial shot

Grey Zone has Niagara residents seeing red

by Don Rickers

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

closed due to covid sign

Region committee seeks more info on legal expenses, lobbyist registry

by Kevin Vallier

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.

niagara region HQ

COVID Vaccine: Trudeau failed Canadians says O’Toole

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Erin O'Toole MP

Designing a game changer for rental industry

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Andrews Moses

Brock Earth Sciences professor lands Mars mission role

by The Niagara Independent

When the Perseverance rover landed on Mars yesterday, Mariek Schmidt will be ready to search for signs of ancient life — albeit from millions of miles away.

mars rover

Hirji re-issues orders for shopping and dining

by Kevin Vallier

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.

an empty restaurant

COVID 19 continuing to drive tension in Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

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 […]

closed due to covid sign

Pandemic prompts universities to offer optional gradeless assessment

by Don Rickers

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

Mcmaster University building

Niagara women vie for cover girl win while raising money for charity

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Lisa Jefferey and Sarah Blain

Possible light in the COVID tunnel

by Kevin Vallier

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.

covid asssessment centre

Back to school…again

by Kevin Vallier

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.

a teacher cleaning desks in a classroom

CEO speaks out against Region’s procurement process

by Kevin Vallier

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.

APG Neuros building

In a tough year, United Way invests record amount

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Peter Partridge Jr. and United Way CEO Frances Hallworth holding a sign sign

Company to have their day in front of Regional committee

by Kevin Vallier

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.

APG Neuros building

Hundreds expected to attend Niagara Health virtual job fair

by Kevin Vallier

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.

niagara health team

Provincial-Federal funding bails out Region at budget time

by Kevin Vallier

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.

council chambers

World of gourmet cuisine at Niagara’s doorstep despite lockdown

by Sherri Haigh

Whether you are taking a bite out of Karma Kameleon’s lobster grilled cheese sandwich or savouring Treadwell’s homemade pappardelle, it’s a reminder that the Niagara region is a blessed culinary destination.
Local restaurants, reeling from another shut down, have had to pivot to survive, leaving customers with a learning curve about how important and fragile the industry is right now.

plates of food on a table

MPs: Feds failed at vaccine procurement leaving Niagara short

by Kevin Vallier

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.

covid vaccine and a syringe

Martin Luther King and Canada

by Nicholas Tibollo

Monday marked the 35th annual observance of MLK Day in the United States. The federal holiday, celebrated on the third Monday of every January, commemorates the birth of Black civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

Russel Small, Rev. Martin Luther King, Rev. Theodore Boone, Walter Perry

A crazy COVID week in Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

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.

nurse getting the covid-19 vaccine

Gale continues to probe procurement at Region

by Kevin Vallier

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.

water treatment plant

Niagara is ready for arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara residents have been waiting for the arrival of the vaccine. That wait is supposed to end today.
Billed by Niagara Health and Niagara Public Health as a “turning point in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Niagara” the Pfizer vaccine will be administered shortly after arrival. “We expect delivery of the Pfizer vaccine in Niagara on Tuesday or Wednesday, and we are prepared to get doses into arms as soon as the shipment arrives,” said Niagara health officials in a statement released yesterday.

YMCA Niagara Falls not financially fit to stay open

by Kevin Vallier

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.

YMCA gym

One man’s mission to clean up St. Catharines

by Kevin Vallier

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.

sharps containers in park

Land restrictions drive up cost of housing

by Kevin Vallier

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.

construction site

MPs battle of border opening

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Tony Baldinelli MP

Niagara Region ups 2021 budgets for water and waste

by Kevin Vallier

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.

water treatment plant

Niagara – looking back, moving forward

by Kevin Vallier

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.

niagara falls fireworks

Predictions and thoughts from TNI contributors on what 2021 might look like

by The Niagara Independent

There’s no doubt pretty much every human being living on this planet is anxious to put 2020 behind them and then quickly walk, no flat out sprint, through the door to 2021. We’ve asked our regular Niagara Independent contributors to tell us some of their predictions for what the New Year might bring.

crystal ball

Man’s best friend – on and off the job

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Officer Tim Wiley with his partner Rudy

Niagara under siege with rising COVID cases

by Kevin Vallier

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.

greater Niagara General hospital

Distracted from distraction by distraction

by Bishop Gerard Bergie

T.S. Elliot, the great poet and playwright, wrote in his poem “Burnt Norton” that we are “distracted from distraction by distraction.” Although written more than 80 years ago, these words seem an apt description of what we are experiencing at this present moment. Right now COVID-19 is a huge distraction in our lives.

Most Reverend Gerard Bergie, D.D.

How Christmas lights came to be

by Nicholas Tibollo

The modern Christmas tradition in North America and much of Europe is a colourful amalgam of Christian scripture, pagan lore, Dickensian adaptation, and a touch of good old-fashioned consumerism.

From the evergreen tree to advent calendar, the symbols and ceremonies we now employ every holiday season have come to us from far and wide across time and place.

christmas lights

Boxing Day becomes Lockdown Day for Niagara and Ontario

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Premier Ford and Minister Elliott

Region’s Burgoyne Bridge Forensic Audit Resurfaces; CAO Recruitment Begins

by Kevin Vallier

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).

niagara region council chambers

One door closes…

by Kevin Vallier

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…

Joanna Gasparotto

Enhanced program aims to get people back to work faster

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Minister McNaughton in a classroom

Hamilton Auditor raises the bar for Niagara Region

by Don Rickers

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

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

Hamilton city hall

Niagara’s long-term care homes get massive funding boost

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Jonathan Zwier, Director of Finance and Administration, Shalom Manor; John Peneycad, CEO, Shalom Manor; Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West, and Carolyn Bilson, Architect with MMMC Architects.

Your Say: Readers say “No” to defunding police

by Kevin Vallier

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.

police car

Province gives permanent green light to the sale of alcohol with food takeout

by Kevin Vallier

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.”

take out booze

Audit Committee directs more study into Region’s purchasing woes

by Kevin Vallier

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 desktop with a laptop

St. Catharines MP calls local businessman “pro-death” over vaccine spat

by Kevin Vallier

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.

store of Gibby's Electronics Supermarket

KPMG: Two thirds of Region’s non-competitive purchases lacking justification

by Kevin Vallier

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 region council chambers

UPDATED: Tourism Minister makes back-to-back funding announcements in Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

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.

politicians in front of west lincoln town hall

The hidden fees that drive up housing costs

by Kevin Vallier

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.

residential development land

Rotary TV auction is all in the family for these Rotarians

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Your Say: Niagara Region should re-introduce independent audit team

by Kevin Vallier

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 […]

niagara region

Niagara Region remains tight-lipped over biosolids contract

by Kevin Vallier

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.

council chambers

Regional Council calls for end to local restaurant restrictions

by Kevin Vallier

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.

an empty restaurant

Massive Christmas lights display arrives at Safari Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Christmas lights display

Sincere apology more than satisfies Integrity Commissioner

by Kevin Vallier

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.

niagara region

Restaurant owners steaming over additional rules imposed by public health

by Kevin Vallier

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.

mark wood

Costco move from St. Catharines to Niagara Falls complete

by The Niagara Independent

Today marks the latest chapter in Niagara Falls’ ever-expanding economic success story, with the grand opening of Costco Niagara Falls at 7500 Pin Oak Dr.

The new store, located on the former Niagara Square site, will bring 200 new jobs to the city and anchor adjacent businesses currently in operation or under redevelopment around the Montrose Rd. retail node.

costco storefront

On the front line of caring for COVID patients

by Kevin Vallier

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.

dr ali

Majority of today’s COVID cases linked to Lincoln

by The Niagara Independent

While alarm bells sounded over the significant spike in Niagara’s daily COVID-19 case count hitting 63 today the Town of Lincoln has released a statement saying that the vast majority of those cases – 45 – are “related to a workplace outbreak on an agricultural operation in the Town of Lincoln.” Mayor Sandra Easton and […]

covid-19

What Biden could mean for Niagara

by Brock Dickinson

Unless you’ve been hiding in a bunker for the past week, you’ve probably been inundated with articles asking “What will a Biden presidency mean for Canada?” Poor Donald Trump… no one has been willing to tell him yet that he’s lost the election, and here we are, north of the border, already imagining that we’re in 2021.
In looking at the impacts of a Biden presidency, most people are thinking nationally. For example, Biden has famously said that he will cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project, slated to run from Alberta to Texas. But while we can debate the relative merits of pipeline projects, the truth is this kind of action will have only minimal impacts on Niagara. So what will a Biden presidency mean for this region?

Serving country and community

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Bruce Mair

Major investment shocks Ontario’s auto sector

by Kevin Vallier

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.

GM Canada

Conservative bill hopes to score big with sports betting

by Kevin Vallier

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.”

sports bar

Veteran gives back to help other Vets

by Shawn McCart

For 26 years, Retired Sergeant Garrick Halinen would keep all of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to himself. It wasn’t until last year that his sister and her family came to his rescue and sought out the necessary help and medical treatment.

“I was overtaken” stated Halinen. Having to witness three friends and fellow Canadian soldiers dying in his arms during his time of service had finally taken its toll.

Sergeant Garrick Halinen with his son

Gale sounds alarm over Region’s award of multi-million dollar contract

by Kevin Vallier

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.

biosolids

Six abandoned sites to get you in the Halloween spirit

by Nicholas Tibollo

Hushed, darkened, and decayed by the void of human life, relinquished to the ravenous elements: there’s something about an abandoned site, regardless of its prior life, that provokes a tandem sense of intrigue and apprehension.

Whether an insane asylum or an amusement park, once a place passes into ruin —disordered, useless, and obscure — it becomes alluringly eerie.

chair

Niagara’s head of Planning and Development leaves strong legacy

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Rino Mostacci

Former female councillors address misogyny allegations

by Kevin Vallier

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.

niagara falls council chambers

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

by Don Rickers

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

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

protestors at a housing development set tires on fire.

Local Rotarians pedal for polio

by Kevin Vallier

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.

cyclists standing with their bikes

Annual ‘Sleep Cheap Charities Reap’ event returns

by The Niagara Independent

Though it may look different this year, Sleep Cheap will take place in 2020.
The annual fundraising event officially called Sleep Cheap Charities Reap, is now in its 17th year and has become a long standing community tradition. Since its inception in 2004 the event has raised over $2,150,000 for local charities.

hilton in niagara falls

Bridges now 16 weeks without a response from feds

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Regional Council’s senior statesman

by Don Rickers

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

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

Councillor Tim Rigby

And the winner is… Niagara’s musicians honoured at annual awards

by Shawn McCart

The 13th Niagara Music Awards, which were originally planned to take place at the Scotiabank Convention Centre, recently took place online. There were 26 awards handed out, with Port Colborne’s solo artist Gravely James taking home the most hardware with three wins (Blues, Folk, and Singer/Songwriter).

The 82 minute pre-recorded show featured several live off-the-floor recordings from Jukasa Studios.

Stephan Moccio

A second company takes issue with the Region’s biosolids contract

by Kevin Vallier

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.

pipes

Riverfront Community development in Niagara Falls clears yet another hurdle

by Kevin Vallier

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.

rendering of the proposed Paradise development in Niagara Falls

Enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with household only

by Kevin Vallier

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.

masks

Innovation leads to cleaner environment and economic boost for Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and Bill Walker, Associate Minister of Energy, joined representatives from Enbridge and Walker Industries

Personal support worker students receive surprise announcement from Minister

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Minister McNaughton

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.

Hospice Niagara

October 19: Niagara to see more expensive bi-weekly garbage pickup

by Kevin Vallier

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.

GFL garbage truck

Niagara Music Awards will be virtually possible

by Shawn McCart

Last year at this time, organizers of the Niagara Music Awards were getting ready to host the 12th annual awards ceremony at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls – a venue that is ideal for hosting live performances with outstanding sound, amazing lighting, and ample seating.

Fast forward to 2020, and organizers were faced with the decision of whether or not to have the Niagara Music Awards take place at all.

niagara music awards

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

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

niagara region

Tradition continues with Thanksgiving Festival

by Kevin Vallier

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.

thanksgiving festival welcome sign

Niagara Parks declines Ramsar designation

by The Niagara Independent

The Niagara Parks Commission did their due diligence on a proposal to affix a Ramsar designation to the Niagara River and in the end withdrew as a potential nominator of the designation.

A Ramsar designation is acquired when advocates are successful at having property owners, agencies, and local and provincial governments agree to designate a wetland, lake, river, bog or some other water-based ecosystem as a Ramsar site. The proposed sites only need to meet one of nine defining criteria. The name and regime behind the designation stem from the Ramsar Convention signed by number of countries in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.

the niagara river

Region awards large contract despite open investigation

by Kevin Vallier

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.

biosolids

Regional Council considers decriminalizing and legalizing all drugs

by Kevin Vallier

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.”

handcuffs, syringes, and a gavel

Wayne Olson wins big in Pelham by-election

by Don Rickers

The suspense only lasted 15 minutes.

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

mayor junkin and wayne olson

Canada Summer Games delayed one year

by Kevin Vallier

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.

canada games construction

Niagara Falls councillor Ioannoni disciplined… again

by The Niagara Independent

“It’s unreal. It’s unacceptable. The money, what you could do with a quarter million dollars – you could build a homeless shelter on city property right now for that.”
That’s what Niagara Falls Councillor Mike Strange had to say when presented with a report outlining the fact that nine integrity commissioner complaints and two workplace harassment investigations since 2015 have cost the city $273,000.

niagara falls council chambers

How a chance encounter and a fatal plane crash brought Fleet to Fort Erie

by The Niagara Independent

Located only a stone’s throw west of the town’s famous horse racing track, Fort Erie’s Fleet — in one corporate incarnation or another — has been manufacturing aerospace structures and components along Gilmore Rd. for the better part of a century.

From its humble beginnings at the outset of the Great Depression up to the present day, Fleet has employed thousands of Niagara residents and done a great deal to help buttress the local economy. Throughout the years, the company has weathered numerous labour strikes, changes in ownership, and out-and-out closure.

Fleet Aircraft in Fort Erie

Region to debate extending mask bylaw

by Kevin Vallier

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.

couple wearing masks

Region asked for its share of new West Niagara hospital funding

by Kevin Vallier

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.

West Lincoln Memorial Hospital

Niagara Falls MP part of O’Toole shadow cabinet

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Tony Baldinelli MP

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.

chair Del Rollo and vice-chair Wendy Wing

Lincoln celebrates a half century

by Kevin Vallier

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.

mayor sandra easton

COVID-19 roundup: what to expect when schools open

by The Niagara Independent

From elementary schools to high schools, Niagara College to Brock University, Niagara’s students are gearing up to return to the classroom next week amidst significant COVID-19 related changes.
The District School Board of Niagara announced on Tuesday its decision to allocate an additional 1%, or $4.5 million, to hire 60 to 70 additional teachers so that elementary school class sizes can be reduced for the upcoming school year.

classroom

Port Colborne’s little-known National Historic Site

by The Niagara Independent

Labour Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer for most Canadians. While this year may be a little different, many will still pack up the family vehicle and head out for some late-season fun in the sun.

Naturally, some trips will necessitate a stop at the gas station: today, a fairly banal experience at an undistinguished row of pumps.

Shickluna Service Station’

Niagara musicians not singing the blues during pandemic

by Shawn McCart

Rehearsing, recording, and performing are the usual routines for musicians.
Over the past six months, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, things are not as routine as they used to be for area music artists.

musicians

The nasty world of politics and social media

by The Niagara Independent

Online bullying, particularly against local elected officials, has been in the news recently as politicians at all levels, including many here in Niagara, continue to be personally attacked on social media. Several are speaking out now, citing a number of negative, insulting and sexist messages they have received during their time in office.

Niagara Falls mayor Jim Diodati even released a brief video expressing his frustration over the same issue and declaring he has established a social media “neutral zone” that will be home to respectful dialogue.

Ecker, Swift, Moulton

United Way continues backpacks for kids

by Kevin Vallier

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.

New Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole fared well in Niagara voting results

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Erin O'Toole MP

Region told residents can afford higher taxes

by Kevin Vallier

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 […]

niagara region

OPP busts “significant” illegal cannabis network

by The Niagara Independent

Dried and packaged cannabis at an undisclosed location. OPP PHOTO A large-scale illegal cannabis production and distribution network has been shut down by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) and partners after a 12-month investigation. Several residents of the Niagara Region and GTA are facing numerous charges, according to an OPP statement released Friday, August 21. […]

packaged cannibis

Local MPs react to prorogued parliament

by Kevin Vallier

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.

parliament hill

Local politicians try to make their pitch to province on-line

by Kevin Vallier

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.

amo on zoom

Another Regional sole source questioned by council

by Kevin Vallier

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.

niagara region

Police Chief praised for progress

by Kevin Vallier

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.

Police Chief Bryan MacCulloch

Brock research could be a game-changer for goalies

by The Niagara Independent

The position of hockey goalie has changed dramatically over the years from the modernization of the equipment making it lighter and sleeker, to the physical style of play. Now, thanks to research conducted at Brock University, hockey goaltenders could have another new competitive advantage in stopping the puck thanks.

Colin Dunne as he performs a goaltending move as part of a kinesiology research study.

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