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Niagarans get a seat at the table

by Kevin Vallier

Three prominent Niagara residents have recently been appointed to key provincial boards. Jessica Friesen, CEO of Gales Fuels was appointed to the Niagara Parks Commission Board while recently retired Niagara MP Rob Nicholson is now Chair of the Niagara Escarpment Commission and Niagara businessman Dragan Matovic has a seat on the Board of the LCBO.

board room table

Niagara craft breweries try and stay ahead

by Anne-Marie Iemmolo

Craft beer has gained popularity over the last few years. Many consumers love to indulge in finely crafted beer produced by microbreweries. Breweries, located in the Niagara region, were obtaining a larger share of the beer market. Locals could enjoy brewers such as Decew Falls Brewing Company, Lock street, and Bench. These companies are expanding their business to grocery and liquor stores across Ontario. However, amid a global pandemic, businesses have been negatively affected by economic restrictions, and the brewery business is no exception.

a pint of beer

Province Reopens More Businesses, Niagara Eyes Public Testing Facility

by Kevin Vallier

The Ontario government announced yesterday that more businesses will be able to reopen in the next week provided the overall provincial health indicators continue to trend positively.

These businesses must comply with strict health and workplace safety measures to be permitted to reopen.

open sign on a door

Canadian scholar, academic leader to be Brock’s next Provost

by The Niagara Independent

Lynn Wells, an accomplished scholar and academic leader, will be Brock University’s new Provost and Vice-President Academic, effective July 1, 2020.
Brock President Gervan Fearon made the announcement Monday, May 11, welcoming the scholar and researcher to Niagara. Wells is currently the Associate Vice-President, Students and Teaching at MacEwan University in Edmonton, and previously served as the Provost and Vice-President, Academic, and Acting President at the First Nations University of Canada, in Regina. She has many years experience as a professor, teacher and researcher in the Department of English, including scholarly work in contemporary British fiction.

Lynn Wells

Snowbirds make spirits soar

by Kevin Vallier

There were a lot of Niagara residents looking skyward on Sunday. They weren’t looking for the sun although you couldn’t blame them for wondering where it went after making a brief glorious appearance nearly a week ago. No, tens of thousands of Niagara residents stood on their driveways, sidewalks, back decks or in the middle of the road hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the most popular military flight demonstration teams in the world – Canada’s 431 Air Demonstration Squadron; Otherwise known simply as the Snowbirds.

snowbirds flying over a group of firefighters

Club Italia Safely Serving Meals to the Niagara Community

by Anne-Marie Iemmolo

During these unprecedented times, it is essential to support regional businesses and remain connected to the Niagara community. With the new social distancing measures resulting in events cancelling or postponing to a later date, Niagara’s leading hospitality and event centre, Club Italia Centre is currently offering curbside take out every Wednesday and Friday. This has provided an opportunity for Club Italia to modify their business during this time, to continue to serve meals and bring positive experiences to locals around the Niagara region in a convenient and safe environment.

Staff and volunteers at Club Italia

A Cautious Light at the End of the COVID-19 Tunnel

by The Niagara Independent

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced that all retail stores with a street entrance will be permitted to provide curbside pickup and delivery, as well as in-store payment and purchases at garden centres, nurseries, hardware stores and safety supply stores.

garden centre

Local wineries adapting to new normal

by Kevin Vallier

Like many businesses around the province and across the country Niagara’s wineries have had to adapt, pivot and get creative to simply maintain a certain level of business. And while business would certainly be better in a non-pandemic environment, hard work and determination is keeping Niagara’s wine sector in a glass-half-full kind of state.

wine glass and barrels

Reopening business, slowly

by Kevin Vallier

The Ontario government has opened the door a tiny crack to slowly getting the provincial economy back on track by allowing some businesses to reopen. Premier Ford announced Friday that a select few businesses sectors will be allowed to open providing they follow strict public health guidelines. The Premier was quick to caution the public however that a continued trend downwards of the number of new COVID-19 cases will need to happen before the door is swung fully open.

Open for business sign in a door

Keeping it clean

by Kevin Vallier

They are truly the unsung heroes of healthcare. Rarely in the spotlight, quietly going about their job with a smile and friendly hello to patients and other staff, these essential workers have a very important job; stop the spread.

Jocelyn Malangis

Niagara Taking the Fight to COVID-19

by The Niagara Independent

On Wednesday and in response to an emergency order issued by the provincial government, Niagara Health is taking new action to further support Niagara’s long-term care and retirement homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New measures include clinical consultation, supporting retirement and long-term care home staffing needs and assistance in managing outbreaks to help stabilize care and the environment for residents and staff.

covid-19

Residents not pleased with Region’s response to help homeless

by Kevin Vallier

It was Easter long weekend when Niagara Falls resident Tiffany Aello had heard that those who had no place to call home found themselves in even more of a tough spot. With arenas, libraries, coffee shops and other facilities closed, the homeless had nowhere to go to warm up or clean up. “I got a phone call asking if I had any tents,” said Aello explaining how she got involved with a project that now consumes her life seven days a week. “I thought it was for one person, I didn’t realize there were 15,” she said.

sleeping bag and teddy bear inside of a tent

Province to Use Data Driven Approach to Staged Re-Opening of Economy

by The Niagara Independent

Instead of a hard date many had expected, Premier Ford along with several key ministers outlined criteria that Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and other health experts will use as a basis to begin a staged reopening of Ontario.

Premier Ford and ministers

Coping with mental side of COVID

by Kevin Vallier

There has been a lot written and a lot discussed about the impact of social isolation on people’s mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. From elite athletes to business leaders to stay-at-home parents who aren’t used to their significant other working from home, the new normal is wreaking havoc on motivation levels, focus and overall mood.

man on couch wearing mask

Niagara MPs want back in the House

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara MPs Dean Allison and Tony Baldinelli are, like the rest of Canadians, trying to get accustomed to what has become the new normal. It’s a pretty big adjustment when you are used to spending most of the day in a large room with 337 other people, in constant communication, travelling back and forth from Niagara to Ottawa, attending grand openings, business roundtables and the many other events Members of Federal Parliament attend on a daily basis. Throw in the fact that you are part of the official opposition trying to hold a minority government to account during a national crisis and things are anything but normal.

Dean Allison MP and Dean Baldinelli MP

The Shaw must go on

by Kevin Vallier

As far as anyone can remember it’s the first time in the Shaw Festival’s history that the entire slate of season opening performances has been cancelled. To date the Shaw has had to cancel more than 180 shows in total. The first production was set to hit the stage on April 2. “We were days away from Charley’s Aunt being on stage,” said Shaw’s Executive Director Tim Jennings.

Zoom Rehearsal for the cast of Charley's Aunt

Possible pandemic peak in province

by Kevin Vallier

The COVID-19 pandemic may have peaked in Ontario according to the Ontario Government’s health experts.
Yesterday, the Government of Ontario released updated COVID-19 modelling, which shows that the enhanced public health measures, including staying home and physically distancing from each other, are working to contain the spread of the virus and flatten the curve.

covid-19

McMaster team developing home COVID-19 test kit

by Kevin Vallier

A team of scientists just down the QEW at McMaster University in Hamilton have developed a COVID-19 testing kit that is similar to taking a home pregnancy test. A person will be able to swab their mouth, put the swab in a tube and wait no more than 30 minutes for a result. Essentially, if there is one line on the test stick the person is negative. If there is a double line the person is positive for the virus.

Yingfu Li

COVID-19: Outbreak Declared in St. Catharines Inpatient Unit 4A

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara Health declared an outbreak of COVID-19 on inpatient Unit 4A at the St. Catharines Hospital Site on Tuesday after one of their healthcare workers tested positive for the virus.
The outbreak, which is on the unit that is dedicated for caring for COVID-19 patients, was declared after an investigation determined the case was healthcare-associated. The involved staff member is at home and currently self-isolating. Niagara Health along with Niagara Regional Public Health has said they will continue to monitor the situation closely and adjust their measures as required to ensure everyone’s safety.

covid-19

Pelham Councillor Mike Ciolfi dies

by Samuel Piccolo

Pelham Ward One Councillor Mike Ciolfi has died. Ciolfi, who had been feeling ill for weeks, received confirmation early last week that he had the COVID-19 virus, telling the Voice that he was too ill to participate in last Monday’s Pelham Town Council meeting, even by teleconference.

Mike Ciolfi

Easter message from Bishop Bergie

by Most Reverend Gerard Bergie, D.D. Bishop of St. Catharines

Easter is one of the most significant celebrations of the year for Christians as we commemorate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This year will be very different from anything that we have experienced in the past because of Covid-19. We will not be able to gather in our churches to celebrate as a worshiping community. Traditional gatherings with family and friends will not be happening this year. This is extremely unfortunate; however, the sacrifices we make today will benefit many people tomorrow and for weeks to come. We will help to limit the spread of the coronavirus.  

bishop Gerard Bergie

COVID-19 and Niagara

by The Niagara Independent

The Niagara region continues to try and flatten the curve of the rising number of cases of COVID-19. As of last night there were a total of 189 cases in Niagara with 10 new cases reported on Thursday and 18 new cases reported on Wednesday. A total of 66 cases have been resolved and 10 people have died in Niagara as a result of the virus according to Niagara’s Public Health Department. There are more than 5,200 cases across Ontario and 174 deaths.

covid-19

Making masks makes money… for charity

by Kevin Vallier

A few years ago St. Catharines resident Jennifer Armstrong was working for a fashion design company when she was given a choice; move to Montreal with the company or stay and be out of a job. She decided to stay in Niagara to open her own boutique clothing manufacturing company called Ecolove and hasn’t looked back.

While sales climbed over the past few years, Ecolove like so many businesses in Niagara came to an abrupt stop with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like her former employer Calhoun, Jennifer has turned her attention to making masks to help Niagara residents stay safe. She’s also donating proceeds to the Niagara Health Foundation.

Jennifer Armstrong, owner of Ecolove clothing manufacturer

Bit of local history goes viral

by The Niagara Independent

At the end of last month, a Twitter thread about a locally invented snack went viral.

The series of tweets, posted by former Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon staff writer Sage Boggs, revealed the fascinating history of the word “Triscuit”.

Niagara businesses continue to be financially hammered from the COVID-19 pandemic but that doesn’t stop them from continuing to step up to the plate and help their community fight back against the virus.

Frontline healthcare workers are not only putting their lives on the line caring for the sick but in many cases are also forced to be separated from their families to protect their loved ones. When John Petrie, owner of Niagara Trailers, heard about this he knew there was something his company could do; lend out RV’s so that those on the frontlines could come “home” and yet still be isolated.

Niagara RV owner John Petrie and his wife Anna beside one of the trailers

Minister for Small Business holds soft launch of province-wide consultation in Niagara

by The Niagara Independent

In early March, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Prabmeet Sarkaria, formally announced the launch of a province-wide consultation to determine how the government can best help small businesses thrive and compete, both now and into the future.

Minister Prabmeet Sarkaria

Niagara and COVID-19

by The Niagara Independent

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect residents in Hamilton and Niagara, the Niagara Independent is committing to sharing up to date local information.

As of midnight Monday there were a total of 149 confirmed cases in Niagara with 33 of those cases being resolved and six deaths. Niagara Health has tested more than 2,200 people for the COVID-19 virus.  There were 13 new cases on Monday.

covid-19

Local sportswear company shifts to mask making

by Kevin Vallier

Marty Myers started what many know today as Calhoun Sportswear (now called Calhoun) 47 years ago as a young graduate from Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in St. Catharines. His initial business came from printing rock concert t-shirts for bands touring through the Toronto area and hiring his high school buddies as his first employees. The business grew with the help of his wife, Michelle, to a 40,000 square foot factory with sales all over North America. That’s all changed for now.

sewing

Niagara and COVID-19

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara continues to wrestle with escalating cases of COVID-19 including outbreaks being declared at four Niagara long-term care homes. As of midnight yesterday, there were 21 new cases reported bringing the total number of infected Niagara residents to 82 (67 active cases). Four Niagara residents have died as a result of the virus.

covid-19

While the City of St. Catharines tops Niagara’s list of highest paid chief administrative officers, the 2019 Ontario Sunshine List no longer includes its former CAO, Dan Carnegie who had continued to be paid despite his retirement in June of 2017.
The 2017 Ontario Sunshine List shows Carnegie collected $239,388 that year and $214,978 in 2018. Both the 2017 and 2018 records indicate that Carnegie was employed by St. Catharines as its chief administrative officer.

Canadian twenty dollars bills

Brock and Niagara College step up in fight against COVID-19

by The Niagara Independent

As the number of Niagara residents testing positive for COVID-19 continues to rise (as of last night there were 34 cases in Niagara with six resolved) local businesses and organizations have been stepping up to help in the fight of flattening the curve of transmissions. While on-campus classes have shut down at Niagara’s two post-secondary institutions, Brock and Niagara College, have joined others in refocusing their efforts to make critically needed supplies and help in other aspects as well.
Brock has made available supplies of gloves, masks and chemicals to Niagara Public Health, and researchers are also discussing ways to use the University’s Level 3 containment laboratory (CL3).

Brock University Makerspace Co-ordinator Tabitha Lewis

The $100k+ Club: Niagara’s Police, Fire and EMS Services

by The Niagara Independent

Both leaders and front-line workers employed in Niagara’s emergency services sector were well represented on this year’s Ontario Sunshine list.
The Niagara Independent would like to give a heart-felt thank you to all those serving in Niagara’s emergency services. The Independent recognizes your heroic contributions to the Niagara community in keeping our communities safe, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

fire station

Niagara’s $100k+ Club: Education, Health, Parks and Escarpment

by The Niagara Independent

Despite the dark times in Ontario, the province’s Sunshine List was recently released. The annual list of public sector employees making more than $100,000 per year is normally a topic of interest.
The top five earners in Niagara were all from Niagara’s post-secondary institutions and Niagara Health collectively earning $1,748,194.65.

Canadian twenty dollars bills

Further Local Action Taken to Address COVID-19

by The Niagara Independent

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, so does the actions taken by local health agencies and organizations across Niagara and Hamilton.
Niagara Health has indicated they will no longer be accepting patient visitors as part of their ongoing efforts to maintain a safe environment. To assist the public’s ability to keep in contact with loved ones, Niagara Health has provided all patients with free Wi-Fi, telephone and television service. Though case-by-case exceptions may be made, Niagara Health expects these restrictions to be in place for the next several weeks.

covid-19

Changes to services in Niagara Municipalities

by The Niagara Independent

A number of municipalities across Niagara have closed public facilities and/or limiting or stopping services. This information will be updated regularly.
The City of Niagara Falls has made the decision to activate a full closure of all City facilities to the public, including City Hall. Effective at 4:30 pm yesterday, all City buildings are closed and remain closed to the public until further notice. The city said it anticipates the closures to last for at least two weeks.

service disruption

COVID-19 and the impact on Niagara

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara Region Public Health and Emergency Services are investigating a third confirmed case of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the region. A 47-year-old male with a travel history to Europe tested positive yesterday.
According to Niagara’s Public Health Department, the patient is recovering at home in self-isolation and has interacted only with his immediate family during the time he may have been contagious, and has not exposed anyone in the community. Officials said all protocols were followed by health care providers resulting in no exposure of themselves nor other patients.

niagara region

Local Health and Community Agencies Respond to Emerging COVID-19 Situation

by The Niagara Independent

The last several days has seen a flurry of activity with local health and community agencies responding to the developing COVID-19 situation.
Niagara Health announced Monday that they are postponing elective procedures as part of that response. To protect patient safety and to increase capacity for healthcare workers, the Ontario government has requested that all hospitals ramp down elective surgeries and other non-emergent clinical activity.

st catharines hospital

A Worrisome Deadline Looms

by Catherine Swift

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about in these days of uncertainty around the impact of COVID-19 on our lives, the ongoing labour dispute between the City of Toronto and the city’s insider workers, CUPE local 79, is looking more and more ominous. Workers could be off the job as early as this Saturday if no agreement is reached, which would mean the loss of a number of important services. Most concerning is that Toronto Public Health employees are included in the mix, including nurses who are currently involved in testing for COVID-19, staffing call centres fielding questions about the virus and other related services.

toronto public health

UPDATED: Niagara Health prepared for COVID-19

by The Niagara Independent

While there’s no doubt things are changing around the world at a rapid pace as a result of the continuing spread of COVID-19 things remain business as usual at Niagara’s hospitals.
In an interview with The Niagara Independent Dr. Johan Viljoen Niagara Health’s Chief of Staff said they’ve been meeting and planning around the infectious disease since January. “We started in mid-to-late January when it was obvious it was going to be a when and not if situation,” explained Dr. Viljoen.

st catharines hospital

The Region’s public works committee signed off on a proposal put forward by Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati to have the Niagara Region hire consultants to review current garbage collection practices and to determine how the system can be more cost effective to the taxpayer.
The proposal also called for the development of a plan to address the potential illegal dumping and public health problems “that could arise as a result of moving to bi-weekly pickup”. The City of Niagara Falls had previously expressed concern that the Niagara Region “did not adequately address concerns related to garbage and recycling collection methods”.

worker picking up recycling

Open Your Wallets: Niagara’s Large 2020 Tax Grab

by The Niagara Independent

With few exceptions, Niagara homeowners didn’t fare that well in 2020 when it came to property tax increases.
As a benchmark, the rate of inflation over the past year was approximately 2.2%.

tax increase

Province releases plan to combat human trafficking

by Kevin Vallier

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was in St. Catharines Friday along with Solicitor General Sylvia Jones and Jill Dunlop, Associate Minister of Children and Women’s Issues to announce funding and strategy to combat the human trafficking problem Ontario is facing.
According to the province, human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes worldwide. Approximately two-thirds of police-reported human trafficking violations in Canada occur in Ontario with the average age of recruitment into sex trafficking at 13 years old.

General Sylvia Jones and Premier Doug Ford

Hornblower planning for early launch

by Kevin Vallier

What a difference a year can make.
This time last year Mory DiMaurizio and his team at Hornblower Niagara Cruises were wondering if they would ever get their iconic boats launched to take eager tourists on the famous voyage that gets visitors up close and personal with the world famous Niagara Falls. Eventually the boats were launched – 45 days later than scheduled.

hornblower niagara in the river

After Raucous Start, Grimsby Council Approves Double Digit Tax Hike at 13.4%

by The Niagara Independent

Grimsby’s final 2020 budget is set after Town Council approved a 13.4% tax increase for Grimsby homeowners on Monday, after being reduced from a proposed 16.7%.
The increase will result in an additional $137 in local taxes and when combined with the regional and education levies, an average Grimsby home valued at $443,686 will see an increase of $317.

grimsby council

Playing catch-up with Long-Term Care

by Kevin Vallier

The term “hallway medicine” is thrown around a lot these days and while the latest catch phrase to describe backlogs in local acute care hospitals is fairly new the problem is decades old. Despite healthcare spending eating nearly half of the entire provincial budget emergency department backlogs, crowded hallways and long wait times continue to plague the system. Niagara is no different. Despite the best efforts by management and staff and a number of funding announcements by the province, the frustration remains.

Merrilee Fullerton at the podium

Grimsby residents face nearly 17% tax hike

by Kevin Vallier

The Town of Grimsby’s budget committee approved a whopping 16.7% increase for homeowners’ property taxes.

“It’s really been a team effort,” the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer Harry Schlange said of the creation of the proposed budget.  “Everybody has really contributed to this.”

Harry Schlange speaking at council budget meeting

Niagara Falls should go it alone with waste collection says expert

by Kevin Vallier

A local resident with extensive knowledge in waste collection isn’t happy with what he’s been seeing and reading when it comes to the Region’s new plans for garbage and recycling collection – and he fully supports Niagara Falls City Council for wanting to go it alone.

Dean Rosiana has been an accountant for more than 30 years and is the former deputy director of finance with the Town of Fort Erie. He’s also been involved at the senior management level of waste management companies since 1996. “I’m retired and have no skin in the game with this particular contract but I’ve been through this process many times and as a resident and tax payer I have a problem with it.”

worker picking up recycling

McNaughton meets with business leaders while in Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

While much focus was placed on the weekend protests by various unions towards the Ford government, many of the MPPs and in particular cabinet ministers were meeting key stakeholders in Niagara on important issues like health, business, the economy and the skilled trades.
Monte McNaughton, the province’s Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development was one such MPP who took the time to meet with business owners and those working in the construction sector to discuss key issues like the province-wide labour shortage, skilled trades and new government initiatives at a roundtable discussion.

mcnauaghton walking in the labour day parade

After years of consultation, council says more consultation needed for elected chair

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara Regional Council decided last Thursday to look into the formation of a governance committee and to consult Niagara’s 12 chief administrative officers after considering St. Catharines Councillor Laura Ip’s motion for a citizen elected Regional Chair.
“I think it’s long past time to hear directly from the citizens of Niagara as to what they want,” Ip told Council.

niagara region

Welland shows no sign of slowing down

by Kevin Vallier

Contrary to some municipalities in Niagara, Welland’s mayor, council and staff aren’t afraid of the ‘D’-word. Development in the Rose City set records in 2019 and there’s no sign it will slow down in 2020.
Whether it’s new home construction, redeveloping old industrial land or attracting new manufacturing businesses Welland has not shied away from growing it’s one time stagnate, in fact declining, city. Mayor Frank Campion, who recently delivered his annual state of the city address, told The Niagara Independent that job growth and prosperity are keys to growing his community.

frank campion speaking at an event

Harm reduction motion passes in Niagara

by Jenica Hrysko

At their meeting last Tuesday, Feb. 11, the Niagara Falls City Council voted unanimously to make the city “naloxone-ready,” by having naloxone available at city facilities.
Naloxone is a medication used to treat the symptoms of opioid overdose, and is known also by the brand name Narcan.
Take-home kits containing a nasal spray or an injectable version of naloxone have been made freely available throughout Niagara at participating pharmacies, community-based organizations, and shelters, in an effort to allow members of the public, as well as first responders, administer the drug to an overdosed user before paramedics arrive.
Not everyone has been on board with the initiative. The Niagara Falls Fire Department recommended the city not install naloxone kits on fire trucks.

injectable version of naloxone

Ioannoni Wants Apology after Breaking Code of Conduct, Losing Positions and Pay

by The Niagara Independent

It has been a turbulent two weeks or so for Niagara Falls City Councillor Carolynn Ioannoni.

City Council has stripped Ioannoni of 90 days pay and she’s been removed from the boards and committees for the duration of this term after the City’s Integrity Commissioner had found she had broken the confidentiality provisions of the Councillor Code of Conduct.  This is the maximum penalty a Council is permitted to place on a Councillor.

Ioannoni now wants a public apology from City Council and a reversal of punishment. 

carolynn ioanoni

Unknown allegations against CAO leaves Grimsby council divided

by The Niagara Independent

The past week has highlighted a significant divide on Grimsby’s Town Council over their support of their CAO, Harry Schlange. Schlange has been with the Town for just 5 months.
Last week, Mayor Jeff Jordan placed Schlange on administrative leave and scheduled a special council meeting to deal with the matter. A majority of councillors did not attend the meeting despite confirming their availability earlier that day. It is not known what prompted the Mayor to place Schlange on leave.

grimsby council chambers

More Questions, Few Answers around Region’s attempted $14 million Biosolids deal

by Kevin Vallier

Despite Niagara Region’s Public Works Committee requesting specific information from Regional staff concerning past contracts with Thomas Nutrient Solutions (TNS), the Niagara Region’s contractor to manage its biosolids program, the information was not provided.
Last month, committee rejected a staff recommendation to extend – for the second time since 2013 – a $14 million contract to TNS for the management of the Region’s biosolids program and instead opted for a competitive process. The program oversees the management of materials removed during the treatment of drinking water.

peter nicholson in council chambers

Feds & Province Announce $2 million to support Ontario Grape Growers

by The Niagara Independent

On Monday, the provincial and federal governments announced $2.0 million for the new Marketing and Vineyard Improvement Program (MVIP) that will help vineyards across Ontario face new and emerging industry challenges. The announcement was made by Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Sam Oosterhoff, Member of Provincial Parliament for Niagara West and Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines.
The program, which will begin accepting applications on March 5, 2020 and delivered through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, will provide industry support to grape growers by helping vineyards in Ontario adapt to ongoing and emerging growing challenges. Through a cost-sharing funding, the program will assist vineyards in implementing new technologies to supply high-quality grapes to Ontario’s wine producers.

Wine industry leaders and politicians at Pelham Estates Winery

Conservative leadership contender could make history

by Kevin Vallier

While much of the attention in the federal Conservative Party leadership race has been focused on Peter MacKay and Erin O’Toole a third contender is hoping to make history. Leslyn Lewis has entered the race and if she could pull off the upset would become the first black woman to lead a major Canadian political party. The current Conservative health and science critic Marilyn Gladu is also running.
Lewis was in Niagara Falls on the weekend at that riding’s annual general meeting where she had the chance to speak to members. Krystle Caputo who attended the meeting said, “It was awesome to have CPC leadership candidate Ms. Lewis come to Niagara Falls and share her vision for Canada. We’ve also recently hosted Mr. O’Toole in Niagara and I understand Mr. MacKay is coming this way soon as well.” Caputo said there is a strong Conservative base and members are eager to engage with the leadership candidates.

Ms Lewis

Falls wants to throw out garbage contract

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara Falls wants out of the waste management contract it is currently a part of after the Region signed a deal with a new service provider that essentially sees taxpayers paying a lot more for a lot less.

“We’ve put a request into the Region to go it alone,” said Niagara Falls city councillor Victor Pietrangelo, who has been dead-set against the current agreement from the start.

worker picking up recycling

NDP long term care claims don’t add up

by The Niagara Independent

At the end of last month, Niagara’s NDP MPPs held a press conference in Niagara Falls to address the shortage of long-term care beds in the city and region at large.

According to The Standard, “…the Ontario NDP reported no new long-term care beds were created in Niagara Falls from 2014 through 2019.” While accurate, the irony of the statement seemingly escaped the representative from Niagara Falls: Wayne Gates.

a room with a bed and a walker

Exclusive: Niagara’s Jay Triano shares memories of time with Kobe

by Kevin Vallier

It was 2008 when Niagara’s Jay Triano, NBA and Canadian national team coach, was in Las Vegas for the USA men’s Olympic basketball training camp. Even though he is a Canadian, Triano was one of the few NBA coaches with international experience and so American head coach Mike Krzyzewski tapped Triano to be one of his assistants. The “redeem team” was loaded with talent featuring the likes of LeBron James, Jason Kidd, Chris Bosh and Kobe Bryant.

In an exclusive interview from his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Triano now serves as the head assistant coach for that city’s NBA franchise, the Charlotte Hornets, Triano recalls some of the encounters he had with Bryant throughout his many years as an NBA coach.

Jay Triano

St. Catharines residents fed up with GM site

by The Niagara Independent

Bayshore Groups arrived in St. Catharines in 2014 to great fanfare. They purchased the former General Motors plant on Ontario Street for $12.5 million. Residents and local politicians at the time were thrilled thinking the plant would finally be demolished, cleaned up and sold to a developer who would bring the property back to life. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
At this week’s St. Catharines city council meeting, Coun. Karrie Porter brought forward a motion to take action on cleaning up the site after residents told council loud and clear that they’ve had enough of the eyesore and safety hazard.

general motors plant

Prettiest town gets pretty big tax hike

by The Niagara Independent

The Monday, January 20 meeting of Niagara-on-the-Lake Town Council saw an increase in municipal taxes of 8.62% representing $92 more for the average NOTL urban homeowner.
According to the Town, the significant increase was largely due to legal fees, staff salaries, a transfer to the capital reserve and flood mitigation. Council opted to transfer $650,000 from the parking reserve to the operating expenses on a one-time basis to mitigate the increase in taxes. This transfer is not expected to continue in future years and will need to be accommodated for in next year’s budget.

niagara on the lake town hall sign

Nearly 10 million for Niagara communities

by The Niagara Independent

A number of Niagara’s cities and towns recently received a financial shot in the arm from the province. Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff announced nearly $10 million in funding for 11 of the region’s municipalities.
The Ontario government has allocated $200 million through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF) to 424 small, rural and northern communities across the province. The funding is designated for core infrastructure projects, including building and repairing roads, bridges, water and wastewater infrastructure.

bridge

O’Toole ramps up for possible leadership run

by Kevin Vallier

The race for the next leader of the Federal Conservative Party of Canada is on and someone many see as a front-runner for the position made a Niagara stop earlier this week.
Erin O’Toole, the veteran MP arrived at the Grantham House in St. Catharines for a meet and greet with about 60 Niagara conservatives. He wanted to hear their thoughts on the party, the recent federal election and what they are looking for in a leader. O’Toole, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran, took the time to speak with those in attendance individually before addressing the crowed and providing his vision of what the next leader of the Conservative party needs to bring to the table in order to form the next government.

A rich history of supporting military personnel

by Kevin Vallier

The Order of St. George of Canada and the Americas has a rich history dating back nearly 700 years. King Charles I, Duke of Anjou, founded the Order in Hungary in 1326 as the first royal and secular charitable military order of its kind. In Canada, the order was established in Niagara Falls in 2003 at Christ Church, where about 70 members of the Order gathered recently to select a new Grand Master, Colonel Andrew Nellestynin (Retd) of Ottawa.

Colonel Andrew Nellestynin and Paul Cane sitting in pews

Region’s CAO selection process begins soon

by The Niagara Independent

Last night before the Region’s monthly council meeting, a special meeting was held to discuss a few items, one of which was the selection of Niagara’s next Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). While many councillors were eager to get on with the process they also had many questions and suggestions for the CAO recruitment policy that was tabled for their review.
In the end council voted to send it back to staff stalling the search for the Region’s next CAO.

niagara region

Purchasing problems plague Region

by Kevin Vallier

Less than a week after Niagara Region staff recommended a controversial sole sourced multi-million dollar contract, two bombshell audits were delivered to the audit committee outlining significant issues with its purchasing regime and sole sourcing.
When goods and services are required by Niagara Region’s various departments, they must work through a centralized purchasing department, known as procurement, to ensure proper processes are followed and fairness and accountability measures remain intact. For smaller purchases under $25,000, it is not required for Regional departments to engage with procurement staff; however, it is expected of departments to comply with the Regional policies overseeing these purchases.

niagara region

Report left in limbo

by Kevin Vallier

Two audits covering significant issues in the Niagara Region’s purchasing regime, one of which was kept from elected officials for over a year, did not sit well with the Audit Committee or St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik Monday.
Sendzik, who is not a member of Audit Committee but was present to discuss the reports with the committee, left scathing words for Regional staff for their decision to withhold the audits from elected officials.

Bob Gale

“Not interested in the past” says new NPCA Chair

by Kevin Vallier

“I’m not interested in the past folks.” And with that blunt statement Hamilton representative Brenda Johnson began her term Wednesday as the newly elected Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority Board Chair. Johnson went on to say, “We’ve dealt with the past. I’m more focused on today and what we’re going to do tomorrow. Let’s get to work.”
Johnson, who has served as a Hamilton city councillor since 2010, was elected Chair at the NPCA’s recent Annual General Meeting. Four individuals ran for the Chair’s seat; Rick Brady, David Bylsma, Ken Kawall and Johnson. Bylsma was seeking a second term but came under fire just days before the election for his views on climate change. He did not make it past the first ballot. There was a tie between Brady and Kawall. Eventually the vote came down to Johnson and Brady.

Chandra Sharma and Brenda Johnson

“Faulty and Unfair Process”: Vendor Slams Niagara Region Sole Sourcing

by Kevin Vallier

Fireworks were set off at Niagara Region’s public works committee meeting earlier this week over a staff recommendation to effectively sole source a multi-million dollar contract for liquid biosolids for a period of three years.
The contract, valued at $4.5 million in 2020 alone, was recommended by Niagara Region staff to be awarded to Thomas Nutrient Solutions of Hamilton for its Liquid Biosolids and Residuals Management Program. This program oversees the management of materials removed during the treatment of drinking water. Thomas Nutrient Solutions has held the contract since 2013 and has already received a three year renewal in 2017.

Representatives from TerraPure Environmental Solutions in council chambers

Kennedy is College’s new President

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara College has tapped one of its own to become just the sixth President since post secondary institution was founded in Welland more than half a century ago.
The College’s Board of Governors announced late last week the selection of Sean Kennedy as Niagara College’s new president after beginning its search back in July 2019.

sean kennedy

Local music legend passes away at 67

by The Niagara Independent

When word got out last week that drumming legend Neil Peart passed away at age 67, fans across Canada — and indeed the world — were equally surprised and saddened.

Peart kept news of his terminal brain cancer under wraps for the better part of three and a half years. Most people had no idea he was even ill.

neil peart

SNIP almost snipped from Region’s budget

by The Niagara Independent

Despite almost being snipped from the budget by Niagara Regional Council, the Niagara Region’s Smarter Niagara Investment Program (SNIP) was maintained thanks to passionate please from regional councillors whose communities have benefited greatly from the incentive.
The Smarter Niagara Investment Program at its core supports local municipalities in offering incentives to local businesses in order to attract new development or significant improvements to existing buildings. Investments made into façade improvements in downtown communities for example have brought public benefit via improved streetscaping and rising property values. The program also helps entice new developments that in the long run increase tax revenues.

frank campion

Niagara Health appoints new President

by The Niagara Independent

Tuesday, February 18 will be the first day on the job for Niagara Health’s new president Lynn Guerriero. Following a national search, Guerriero’s appointment was unanimous by the board that in a media release citied her, “unique set of skills, passion and vision for high-quality healthcare in Niagara” as making her the right choice.
Guerriero has more than three decades of leadership, management and clinical experience within a variety of healthcare settings, including multi-site acute care, rehabilitation and community care. She also has extensive senior leadership experience providing hands-on implementation and oversight of provincial programs, agencies and sectors of the health system.

Lynn Guerriero headshot

Trekking through the Sahara for a cause

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara resident Michael Sommer says he’s never done what was expected of him. He took that motto a step further, several steps actually, as he trekked across the Sahara Dessert recently to raise money for Gillian’s Place a shelter for abused women and children.

The idea for the adventure of a lifetime started in 2018 when the local real estate agent was at a Royal LePage conference in Halifax. “Two years ago the trek was in Iceland and in 2018 they announced the 2019 trek would be through the Sahara Desert,” explained Sommer. He said as a corporation Royal LePage established its own foundation called the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation and it would have a bi-annual adventure to raise money.

Michael Sommer walking in the desert

Niagara Falls rings in New Year’s in style

by Kevin Vallier

An estimated 60,000 people jammed Queen Victoria Park and surrounding areas in Niagara Falls on New Year’s Eve to ring in 2020 with Canadian rock icon Bryan Adams. Billed as one of the best New Year’s Eve concerts the city has hosted the large crowed danced, clapped, smiled and sang the lyrics to iconic Adams’ hits right up until midnight. City and Parks Commission leaders couldn’t have been happier.

Bryan Adams on stage

Niagara West MP looks back and forward

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara West Member of Federal Parliament Dean Allison is looking forward to a busy and productive 2020 with lots on the go both in his riding and the nation’s capital.

When looking back on 2019, not surprisingly, the first thing that the veteran MP mentions is the recent federal election campaign. “I’m grateful we did better in this last campaign but disappointed we didn’t win,” said Allison. One of the areas he feels the Conservatives could have made a better argument was climate change. “We didn’t do a good enough job talking about our environmental plan. The carbon tax is extremely punitive and hurts people on a fixed income.” Allison said a carbon tax is also out of touch with people in rural areas who have to drive to grocery stores and hockey arenas for example because they don’t have public transportation. He said the Liberals have no choice but to increase their carbon tax in a significant way if they want any hope of hitting the Parris Accord targets.

Dean Allison

West Lincoln hospital moves to next step in new build

by The Niagara Independent

Good news over the holidays for the residents of west Niagara as the province has approved stage two functional program funding for the redevelopment of West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH) in Grimsby.
Local MPP Sam Oosterhoff announced the Ford government has issued approval for Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) to proceed to stage two of the Functional Program for the local West Niagara hospital.

west Lincoln memorial hospital

Falls ready to rock New Years

by The Niagara Independent

With the hustle and bustle of Christmas Eve and Christmas day now in the rear view mirror, the world’s most famous address gears up for its annual New Year ’s Eve bash.
Niagara Falls will once again countdown to the New Year at Queen Victoria Park in style as thousands are expected to fill the grounds in front of the large stage that will see Canadian rocker Bryan Adams headline with opening acts Juno Award winning, multi-platinum musical phenomenon Walk Off the Earth and rising pop-star, Niagara Falls’ own Valerie .

fireworks over the falls

Unsung heroes receive Christmas cheer

by Kevin Vallier

A few years ago local business owner Wolfgang Guembel started to realize that there were a lot of people in Niagara that go above and beyond every day helping others in the community and receive little to no recognition. He wanted to change that.
After some discussions and initial planning with business associates and friends, a Christmas Wish was born. This was the third year for the event. People in Niagara can nominate someone that has made a significant positive impact to their community. Once the organizers read through the applications a handful are selected to be recognized in a day of first class treatment.

Christmas Wish gather

Niagara hospitals get cash injection

by Kevin Vallier

Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott was in Niagara earlier this week to announce a substantial funding boost to help local hospitals address infrastructure needs. Minister Elliott was joined by her colleague Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff and NDP MPP Jenny Stevens at Niagara Health’s St. Catharines site along with hospital executives, staff and board members who were all pleased to hear the minister say they would be receiving a little over $1.6 million for facility upgrades.

Sam Oosterhoff and Christine Elliott

Niagara’s biggest tax hike in a decade

by The Niagara Independent

Residents in Niagara will see a sharp increase in the amount of taxes they will be paying next year as the Regional government passed its 2020 budget last Thursday night. The increases include a 5.92 per cent overall property tax increase, a 5.15 per cent hike on the water and waste water tax bill as well as a 9.9 per cent increase for waste management services despite a reduction in waste management services. It’s the largest tax increase in at least a decade.
For the average property assessed at $277,044, the Regional portion of the tax bill will increase by $86, totalling $1,602 in 2020 according to staff. This does not include local municipal taxes which will increase as well with the exception of Welland which is looking at a tax decrease for 2020.

Wayne Redekop

Welland residents to enjoy lower city taxes next year

by The Niagara Independent

After learning they’ll soon be hit with the highest tax increase in a decade from the Region, residents of the Rose City got welcome financial relief from their own municipality recently as Welland City Council has approved a tax rate decrease.
In fact, Welland council lead by Mayor Frank Campion has managed a decrease in city taxes while at the same time budgeting for a record $62 million in capital spending for 2020. Welland City Council approved the municipal 2020 tax-supported Capital and Operating Budgets on Dec. 10, 2019. The budget process took two-months and included budget deliberations and a public engagement campaign.

Welland City Hall

Region and municipal tax increases could impact renters

by The Niagara Independent

Those renting their apartments, condos or homes in Niagara could be in for a rude awakening given the sharp tax increase by the Region coupled with their local municipal tax increase (with the exception of Welland whose council passed a tax decrease this week). Region and municipal property tax increases should be a concern for renters because any tax increase more than 3.3 % allows the landlord to appeal for a rent increase above and beyond the 2.2% provincial guideline.
The Region has raised property taxes 5.85% on 44% of the tax bill, St. Catharines for example looks like its taxes will increase 3.65% on 44% of your tax bill (St. Catharines is set to vote on its budget Monday Dec. 16). The school boards make up the remaining 12%.

rent sign on a lawn

Waste Collection Woes

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara Region’s waste collection woes just keep getting worse.
Earlier this fall, the Region decided to reduce services to the public by moving to every other week garbage pickup, reducing some bag limits and discontinuing some services. Despite a reduction in service – under the guise of ‘cost-saving’ efforts – waste management costs are actually set to increase by 10% each year for the next three years.

garbage truck and worker

Athletic drive leads to business success

by Kevin Vallier

It was recently announced that a local athletic apparel company was selected as the official merchandiser for the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games. It’s a big job, big responsibility and huge opportunity; Nothing new to RegattaSport.

The company’s founders and current owners Joe Camillo and Chris Cookson first thought of the idea of starting a company that sold rowing specific clothing more than three decades ago. The story dates back to 1987 when both Joe and Chris were rowing at the St. Catharines Rowing Club. That same year the pair tried out for Canada’s national rowing team and made it. They were actually in the same boat. It was at the world championships in Denmark where Joe first had the idea to start a company that would eventually turn into ReggaSport.

Joe Camillo and Chris Cookson

The human trafficking nightmare

by Kevin Vallier

It’s sickening. It’s real. It’s happening in our own backyard.

Human trafficking is a huge problem in Canada, Ontario and right here in Niagara. In fact, Niagara Regional Police Chief MacCulloch has created a special task force to deal with the problem. “While this issue is not singular to Niagara, we recognize that being a border community, human trafficking is a concern that has a direct and unique impact in our Region.” The Chief went on to say, “As part of the 2019 operating budget, we created a Human Trafficking Unit to further strengthen the assistance and support our investigators are able to give to victims and survivors of human trafficking.”

child with hand over their mouth

Construction contractor for Summer Games announced

by The Niagara Independent

The Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games announced yesterday that Ontario-based Aquicon Construction has been awarded the contract to build two of the key legacy projects for the Games – Canada Games Park and the Henley Rowing Centre. Construction will begin immediately for the Canada Games Park project that will host a number of different athletic events for the Games in 2021.
“This is yet another significant milestone in our preparation for the Games,” explained Doug Hamilton, Chair of the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games Host Society. “We look forward to working with Aquicon to develop facilities that will not only greatly enhance the 2021 Canada Games, but will also leave a critical legacy for many years after the Games.”

summer games park

Updated: Ombudsman Report on region hiring released

by The Niagara Independent

The long awaited report into the hiring of former Niagara Region CAO Carmen D’Angelo was released late last week by the Ontario Ombudsman, Paul Dube. The 74-page report provides detailed information on the Ombudsman’s investigative process, background information and 16 recommendations to council moving forward.
“The Regional Municipality of Niagara’s 2016 CAO hiring process was an inside job, tainted by the improper disclosure of confidential information to a candidate – a candidate who was ultimately successful and became the region’s most senior administrator,” said Mr. Dubé in his report.

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube

Niagara tourism heats up in winter months

by Kevin Vallier

Long gone are the days when Niagara tourist operators would roll up the carpets, turn the store signs to close, switch off the lights and come back in April to get ready for the next wave of summertime tourists. Today, and over the past number of years, tourists flock to Niagara by the millions even in the cold and snowy months. It’s something that local politicians and tourism sector leaders have been chipping away at for years.

festival of lights

College president’s career celebrated

by Kevin Vallier

You know you’ve left a positive impression well beyond the walls of your workplace when staff, students, alumni, family, friends and community leaders fill a performing arts centre to say thank you.
Hundreds of well-wishers gathered inside Partridge Hall at the St. Catharines’ FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre Friday night to wish soon-to-be-retired Niagara College president Dr. Dan Patterson a fond farewell and to thank him for his quarter century of service to not only the post-secondary institution he lead but also for his massive impact on the Niagara community in general.

Dan Patterson and the Niagara College Board of Governors

“Iconic” hotel to be added to Falls skyline

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara Falls residents and city councillors got a detailed look at what is being called an “iconic and architecturally significant” hotel being proposed for the tourist city. The massive 72-storey building, which will also be home to residential units and commercial space, is slated to stand at 6609 Stanley Avenue near the Fallsview Casino area. The site is currently surrounded by other hotels, restaurants and shops.

niagara falls hotel rendering

Niagara manufacturer going global

by Kevin Vallier

About a year and a half ago Bob Benner, CEO of Niagara manufacturing company Hamill Machine Company Inc. was faced with a challenge. Business was going well but certainly could’ve been better. Benner’s company was always looking at ways to diversify and change with the times to stay relevant. A grocer had asked Benner if he had a machine that could cut the tops off of leafy greens and micro greens. No such product existed so Benner and his team invented one. It was a risky but wise move.

leafy greens and micro greens

Local company gets merchandise contract for Summer Games

by The Niagara Independent

The Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games has announced that local athletic wear company RegattaSport, will be the official licensed merchandising partner. Founded in 1988 and located in St. Catharines, RegattaSport is well known to the local rowing community for providing athletic wear and regatta merchandise.

In a statement, Games’ Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer Steve Katzman said, “The RFP process canvassed previous Games’ suppliers, in addition to suppliers from across Canada and Niagara. In the end, the proposal from RegattaSport embodied the logistics as well as the spirit we were looking for; they checked all the boxes. RegattaSport has an outstanding reputation for providing quality athletic merchandise, as evidenced by the fact that their founders are former world class rowers; and so they have a clear understanding of the importance of athletics and what these Games will mean to Niagara.”

RegattaSport announcement

Niagara Falls development still moving forward

by The Niagara Independent

The billion dollar development project planned for south Niagara Falls that has faced tiresome opposition from a loud handful of environmentalists, is still moving forward said that city’s mayor Jim Diodati.

thundering waters

Niagara College tops list in research report

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara College (NC) is celebrating two decades of applied research activity this year. To add to the milestone celebrations a recent report put the college atop a list of 50 other colleges across Canada when it comes to research.
In its annual report “Top 50 Research Colleges,” Research Infosource Inc. announced that Niagara College has secured the number one ranking in the country, based on total research funding numbers for 2018. In fact, this represents the fifth year in a row the College has made the Top 10.

niagara college research

Summer Games mascot unveiled on national stage

by The Niagara Independent

With any national or international sporting event one of the highlights leading up to the opening ceremonies and competition is the unveiling of the event’s mascot. This past Sunday the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games had a national stage to show the country who will be the fun face of the Games. Meet Shelly.

Shelly took the stage of Rogers Hometown Hockey with boundless energy and was greeted by smiles and thunderous applause. The giant green turtle decked out in white Games athletic wear immediately began to energize the crowd.

Shelly

A life of service: Dinner honours Rob Nicholson

by The Niagara Independent

Rob Nicholson has served as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Niagara Falls for nearly a quarter of a century. Nicholson decided to retire this year and did not seek re-election paving the way for his former aide Tony Baldnelli to run in the riding which now encompasses Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie. Baldinelli held onto the seat for the Conservatives and was one of many speakers at a retirement dinner held last Saturday to honour Nicholson’s long and distinguished career in federal politics.

Rob Nicholson joins his kids Rob Jr., Christine and Peter

Niagara veteran urges residents to say “thank you”

by Kevin Vallier

Michael Blais would like to see Canadian military veterans thanked for their service more than one day a year. Blais is a veteran himself and the Niagara Falls resident says it’s important for veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD, or other mental illnesses as a result of their combat service, to receive a smile and a thank you from their fellow Canadians. “I always tell people to say thank you on more than one day a year. It takes two seconds to shake that man or woman’s hand and say thank you because it really does a make a difference,” he said.

Michael Blais

St. Catharines council slams door on business

by Kevin Vallier

After a passionate debate at St. Catharines city council earlier this week on whether or not to pass a reconsideration motion moved by councillor Karrie Porter that simply asked to reopen discussion on the subject of Community Improvement Plan incentives, particularly as it applied to the Harbour Club, a Port Dalhousie condo development, council ended up very divided on the issue.

In the end, council voted 8-5 in favour of Porter’s motion. However, the motion needed two-thirds majority, or 9 votes, in order to pass. Thus it was defeated.

st catharines council

Rogers Hometown Hockey skates into Welland

by Kevin Vallier

The Niagara region is becoming a regular stop on Rogers Hometown Hockey as hosts Ron MacLean and Tara Slone arrive this weekend in Welland to share the Rose City’s numerous hockey stories with hockey fans from across the country. Hometown Hockey has made previous stops in St. Catharines and Niagara Falls.

Welland is one of 25 selected communities across the nation to host the Rogers Hometown Hockey Tour and is the sixth stop on the tour, which began Oct. 5, 2019, in Halton Hills and will wrap up in March in Edmonton.

Slone and Maclean

Pratt to be recognized with Lifetime Achievement Award

by The Niagara Independent

Debi Pratt started keeping a scrapbook during her first days with Inniskillin Wines, then Vincor and Constellation Brands. It will come in handy as reference material for when Pratt writes her acceptance speech, one she will deliver this Friday night when she is presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for her four decades of leading public relations and marketing not only for the winery that employed her but Niagara’s wine industry as a whole.

Debbie Pratt at her 2014 retirement party

Severe weather wrecks havoc on south Niagara

by The Niagara Independent

The high winds that battered Niagara communities did some significant damage over the weekend. In fact, at time of publication there were still about 30 homes without power in south Niagara. Port Colborne and Fort Erie were hardest hit by the storm and many properties suffered significant damage.
Larry Vaughan, president of Ground Aerial Maintenance Services Ltd. said his crews have been working around the clock with other utility companies to restore power as fast as possible. Vaughan’s team were first called out around 10 p.m. Thursday night. He said there were a large number of uprooted trees, broken hydro lines and hydro poles snapped in half. Between the various crews there have been about 80 workers running around the clock. By law, in an emergency situation crews can only work a maximum of 16 hours in a row before having to take eight hours off.

uprooted tree on house

Mr. D gets honorary diploma

by Kevin Vallier

Vince DiCosimo receives his honorary diploma from Niagara College president Dan Patterson at last week’s convocation. Supplied photo. Vince DiCosimo, or “Mr. D” as he’s known to many, has spent the vast majority of his career helping build Niagara’s tourism sector. His most iconic achievement, the Hilton Fallsview, stands tall and proud overlooking Niagara Falls. […]

Vince DiCosimo

Is St. Catharines council biting the hand that feeds them?

by Kevin Vallier

In an attempt to clarify a mountain of misinformation and misunderstanding with regard to how a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) grant actually works, St. Catharines city councillor Karrie Porter will be bringing a motion forward to Monday night’s council meeting that would ask her colleagues to have further discussion on the Harbour Club development condo project taking place in Port Dalhousie where the former Lincoln Fabrics building exists.

harbour club

It’s status quo for Niagara governance… again

by Kevin Vallier

After months of repeating his frustration with the number of municipal politicians in Niagara premier Doug Ford has decided to change nothing when it comes to how the region of Niagara and the way its individual municipalities are governed.
During the summer months there were essentially two camps that surfaced when it came to a favoured new governance structure: a one-city model and a four-city model. Turns out neither group will get their way.

region map

Concern mounts over distracted drivers passing stopped school buses

by The Niagara Independent

Distracted drivers speeding past stopped school buses is becoming an increasing concern for parents of school-aged children across Niagara and cameras attached to the stop sign arm on the bus is what they recommend.

The Ontario School Bus Association estimates approximately 18,000 school buses travel two million kilometers in Ontario every school day.

school bus stop sign

The more things change…

by The Niagara Independent

There were some shocking upsets of long-time MPs in last night’s federal election, like Conservative Lisa Raitt and Liberal Ralph Goodale but here in Niagara nothing changed.

While there is a new face in the riding of Niagara Falls (includes Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fort Erie) in Conservative Tony Baldinelli who ran and won in place of retired MP Rob Nicholson, the rest of the federal faces stayed the same. Liberals Chris Bittle and Vance Badawey will return to Ottawa along with Conservative Dean Allison. For those keeping score Niagara is split with two Liberals and two Conservatives representing the region on parliament hill.

baldinelli nicholson

Role reversal – Volunteer to candidate and candidate to volunteer

by Kevin Vallier

It’s the start of another busy day of campaigning and the Honorable Rob Nicholson, the Member of Parliament who has served the Niagara Falls riding for over 24 years is having coffee and reminiscing with Tony Baldinelli, the Conservative candidate who is hoping to succeed his former boss to become the riding’s next MP.

“It’s really a full circle story,” said Nicholson. “When I was first elected in 1984, over 30 years ago, Tony supported me and volunteered on my campaigns, and even worked for me in Ottawa beginning in 1988; now here I am volunteering on his campaign all these years later.”

nicholson and baldinelli

Developer blind-sided by council decision

by Kevin Vallier

To say the recent decision by St. Catharines City Council to not approve a Community Improvement Plan (CIP) grant to the development company breathing new life into the old Lincoln Fabrics building in Port Dalhousie was a surprise, is an understatement. “We were completely blindsided,” said Sheldon Rosen, President of Port Dalhousie Harbour Club.

Rosen said since day one the team behind the project has worked well with city staff and have “checked all the boxes” when it comes to what was asked of them by the city. “We’ve spent a great deal of time and funds working with the city,” explained Rosen. He acknowledged that city staff has been great to work with but the recent council vote to not approve the CIP funds, despite a staff recommendation to allow it, has him and the team very frustrated. Last Monday council voted 7-5 against providing the funding, which would amount to about $3 million, despite the fact that the project met all of the criteria to receive the grant.

harbour club

West Lincoln hospital getting upgrades

by The Niagara Independent

Earlier this week the province announced an additional investment of up to $2 million to support Hamilton Health Sciences with upgrades and renovations at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby so that all services can return to full capacity as quickly as possible. This investment is in addition to the $8.5 million in provincial funding provided to the hospital in November of last year. The government says it is committed to the redevelopment of the west Niagara hospital.
“This is a very important day for patients and families in the West Niagara region,” said Sam Oosterhoff, MPP for Niagara West. “Once renovations are completed, West Lincoln Memorial Hospital will have greater capacity to provide patients and families with access to care in a space that can better meet the needs of a growing community, until the new hospital is built.”

West Lincoln Memorial Hospital

Will St. Catharines elect first female MP?

by Kevin Vallier

She’s knocked on more than 40,000 doors trying to convince the residents of St. Catharines riding that she should be their next federal member of parliament. If that happens, Conservative candidate Krystina Waler would become the riding’s first federally elected female since the riding was formed in 1966.
“It’s something I don’t take for granted,” said Waler when asked about the potential of a groundbreaking victory on election night. She’s in a tight race with Liberal incumbent Chris Bittle.

Krystina Waler and Team

Thanksgiving tradition continues at Ball’s Falls

by The Niagara Independent

More than 170 unique artisans, crafters, local farmers, and talented musicians from across the country will once again descend upon Ball’s Falls Conservation Area this long weekend, for the 45th Annual Ball’s Falls Thanksgiving Festival.
“We are thrilled to offer this family tradition for the 45th year in a row, where guests can experience culture, history, and fall harvest fun all in one unique place,” says Alicia Powell, Acting Manager of Strategic Initiatives at Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. “The Festival has something for everyone; from live entertainment and local craft beer and wine, to family-friendly activities, historical tours, a farmers market, and unique craft vendors with one-of-a-kind products.”

Balls Falls Thanksgiving festival

Locals sleep cheap and charities reap

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara’s hoteliers and tourism operators are once again giving back to the community as reservations for the always hotly anticipated annual Sleep Cheap Charities Reap event can be made starting tomorrow, Oct. 9 beginning at 8:00 a.m.
Sleep Cheap will once again run for five nights this year beginning Sunday Nov. 10 running up to and including Thursday Nov. 14, 2019. Many of Niagara’s finest hotels will offer rooms only to Niagara residents during the event. Minimum donations for rooms remain the same as last year: $35 per night for a standard room, $45 for a Fallsview room, $65 for a whirlpool room, and $85 for a room with access to a waterpark. The new Municipal Accommodation Tax of $2 per night will apply. 2019 Sleep Cheap hotels are listed online at sleepcheapcharitiesreap.com.

hotel room

Hockey Canada heading to Niagara

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara Falls will host the nation’s hockey leaders next summer.
The Hockey Canada Foundation Gala & Golf is heading to the most famous address in the world to host the 17th edition of the annual event, June 15-16, 2020 at the Scotiabank Convention Centre and Legends on the Niagara golf course. Doug Goss, chair of the Hockey Canada Foundation, announced the organization’s single largest annual fundraiser was returning to Ontario at a news conference Tuesday at Fallsview Casino Resort.

The Hockey Canada Foundation Gala

Funding for festival of lights

by The Niagara Independent

It’s a sure sign that the holiday season is fast approaching. During a visit to Niagara Parks yesterday, the Honourable Lisa MacLeod, the province’s Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport announced $250,000 in funding for the OPG Winter Festival of Lights through the Celebrate Ontario program administered by the Government of Ontario.
The announcement was made overlooking the Canadian Horseshoe Falls at Niagara Parks’ Table Rock Centre and featured remarks by Niagara Parks Chair Sandie Bellows, Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff and Minister MacLeod.

celebration of lights annoucement

Wine festival weekend turns tragic in St. Catharines

by The Niagara Independent

What was supposed to be the wrap up to another festival celebrating Niagara’s grape growing and wine making industry turned tragic as six people, four males and two females were shot in downtown St. Catharines early Sunday morning. All six were transported to a local hospital. Two of the victims sustained more serious injuries and were later transported to an out of town trauma centre.
The incident has rocked the downtown core as police try and get answers to numerous questions. Niagara Regional Police (NRP) believe that the violence occurred following an argument between the two suspects outside of Karma Lounge located at 55 St. Paul Street at William Street.

suspects in St Catharines shooting

Craft beverage industry gets provincial support

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara’s craft wineries received some good news recently that will help stabilize the industry and allow wineries to plan for the upcoming year. Last week, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs Ernie Hardeman, was joined by MPP for Niagara West, Sam Oosterhoff to announce a one-year transition funding of over $15 million dollars. This investment will help small wineries, cideries and distilleries with key business decisions and planning while the government continues to conduct its review of the beverage alcohol sector.
While Ontario’s craft wineries, the vast majority of which are located throughout the Niagara region, continue to work with the government to try and eliminate what is essentially an import tax that is currently placed on wines produced in Ontario, this interim solution will help bridge the gap. The announcement gives the craft wine industry time and stability over the next year.

bottles of wine

Ludzik Gala: Time to roast the host

by Kevin Vallier

For the past seven years former NHL player and coach Steve Ludzik has put coaches and teammates in the line of fire at his annual celebrity roast. It seems this year his hockey pals have decided it’s time for Ludzik to get a taste of his own medicine.
“I guess they want to see if I can take it,” said Ludzik who will be the centre of attention as NHL players, coaches and other celebs line up to take their best shots at the man they call Ludzy. “They just need to figure out what stories they want to tell or can tell,” he said with a laugh.

steve ludzik

Party leaders visit Niagara

by The Niagara Independent

Clearly both Liberal and Conservative party strategists think Niagara’s seats are in play at least at this point of the 2019 federal election campaign. Both parties sent their respective Leaders Justin Trudeau for the Liberals and Andrew Scheer for the Conservatives to Niagara ridings yesterday. The response from supporters however was drastically different.

In St. Catharines, Scheer visited supporters at the Cat’s Caboose restaurant at the bottom of Glendridge Avenue.  It’s the second time that the party leader has been in St. Catharines to support local candidate Krystina Waler, a clear sign that the Conservatives have marked the St. Catharines riding as winnable. The riding is currently held by Liberal MP Chris Bittle. While many Liberal candidates have tried to distance themselves from Trudeau, Bittle has been a staunch supporter of his Leader.

NPCA board says no to fishing expedition

by Dave Burket - Niagara Independent News Association

Board member Ed Smith’s attempt to access any and all legal and corporate documents ran into a brick wall at this month’s Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board meeting, held Wednesday, September 18, at Balls Falls Conservation Area, in Lincoln.
A number of Smith’s board colleagues found the request inappropriate, and concurred with staff’s report that board members need to abide by and respect privacy laws.

ed smith

High five – Welland opens fifth industrial park

by The Niagara Independent

The City of Welland, population 52,000, recently opened its fifth Industrial Park.  It is located in the north end of the city on River Road and Downs Drive and has quick and easy access to Highways 406 and 140.  In 2018, Welland City Council declared the 38 acres of property as surplus land, had it rezoned to fall under the Gateway Economic Zone and Centre Community Improvement Plan, and began servicing the land to make it shovel-ready for investors.

In order to attract more development and help boost the local economy, Welland staff have created a more efficient development process by streamlining and expediting planning approvals. The city claims that this more efficient process is building successful relationships between the city’s Economic Development team and current investors and developers.

mayor campion and Dan Degazio, Director of Economic Development

New Niagara Falls hospital makes the list

by Kevin Vallier

While there have been doubts as to whether or not there will ever be a new south Niagara hospital built, a recent Infrastructure Ontario document titled P3 Market Update – Fall 2019 puts those doubts to rest.
The document lists a number of projects in the pre-procurement stage. Not surprisingly under the section titled “Hospitals and Other Social Facilities” the new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital is listed. What came as a welcomed surprise to many was “Niagara Falls Hospital” also being listed in the document.

niagara falls hospital sign

Police to get new command post

by Kevin Vallier

For the second year in a row Niagara Regional Police has received board approval to purchase a new vehicle that will assist in different emergency response situations. Last year the board approved the purchase of an armoured response vehicle. At last week’s Police Service’s board meeting, members approved the $4.15 million 2020 capital police budget that included $450,000 for a new mobile command centre.
Niagara Falls regional councillor Bob Gale and Wainfleet Mayor Kevin Gibson who sit on the police board voted against the purchase of the mobile command centre. That vote and the vote for the balance of the budget passed.

mobile command unit

Leviathan Cannabis sues Town of Pelham

by Niagara Independent News Association

In a statement released Monday, Sept. 9, Leviathan Cannabis Group announced that through a subsidiary, Woodstock Biomed Inc., it has initiated legal proceedings against the Town of Pelham.
The move appears to be timed to influence Town Council’s decision, scheduled for late September, over whether to extend an Interim Control Bylaw that has delayed Leviathan’s construction of cannabis production facilities in Fenwick. The initial one-year bylaw period is set to expire on October 15. Members of Pelham’s Cannabis Control Committee have lobbied council for a one-year extension to the bylaw. The Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake recently passed a similar extension.

leviathan at pelham council

What it takes to be a Snowbird

by Kevin Vallier

As a young boy growing up in St. Catharines Blake McNaughton says he was fortunate to know exactly what he wanted to do as an adult. “I was very lucky in that at a very early age I knew I wanted to be a military pilot,” said Captain McNaughton.
He not only met that goal but flew right past it on his way to piloting Snowbird number 10 for one of the most famous military air demonstration teams in the world. After flying for the team for the past three years, McNaughton is now an instructor and while his colleagues were dazzling on-lookers over the Niagara District Airport in Niagara-on-the-Lake earlier this week, Captain McNaughton was back in Saskatchewan helping train the next crop of potential Snowbirds as the Flight Safety Officer.

mcnuaghton-snowbirds

Development charges: friend or foe

by Kevin Vallier

Depending on who you talk to it’s either a necessary charge applied fairly to cover growth related infrastructure costs or a form of tax on home buyers that has over time become completely out of whack with other economic indicators. Regardless, development charges are a hot topic.

There has always been misunderstanding, confusion and discussion about development charges (DCs) since they were enacted in the Development Charges Act of 1997.  Conversation has ramped up again with the province passing Bill 108 – More Homes, More Choice Act which addresses some of the issues with what some call the “housing tax”.

home building

Feds pull through with summer games funds

by Kevin Vallier

The final piece of the funding puzzle has been put in place for the 2021 Canada Summer Games.
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; along with feral colleagues Vance Badawey, Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre and Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines; Doug Hamilton, Chairman of the 2021 Canada Games and a host of other politicians and dignitaries were at the Welland Flatwater Centre yesterday to announce funding for the construction of two new sports facilities, the rehabilitation of seven other sporting venues, and the purchase of new specialized sports equipment for two events, all of which will be used for the 2021 Canada Games.

summer games funding announcement

Marotta Family Innovation Complex opens at Niagara College

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara College is calling it a beginning of a new era for research and innovation in region’s agri-food industry, with the opening of their latest addition to its Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus.
Earlier this week, federal, provincial and regional representatives, community donors and industry partners joined staff and students to mark the official grand opening of the new Marotta Family Innovation Complex, which will not only enhance student learning opportunities, but will support the region’s agri-food and agri-business sector.

marotta family innovation complex

Niagara shipyard looking for fair shake

by Kevin Vallier

The deadline for submission on a massive shipbuilding project – several new icebreakers for the Canadian Coast Guard – was Friday, Aug. 30 and while Shaun Padulo, president of Heddle Marine Services – which took over the Port Weller Dry Docks in Niagara in 2017 – was happy his company got his submission in, he’s still frustrated over the federal government’s procurement process.
Padulo, who became Heddle’s president last year, feels there are signs the process favours a Quebec shipyard over all others. He said he’s been watching the federal government’s procurement processes closely for a couple of years and there have been a few red flags that it may not be a fair process. One such red flag occurred when the industry was asked to bid on the construction of two new ferries. One of the ferries being replaced was originally built at Port Weller. The contract went to Davie shipyard in Quebec after the sizing of the vessel was changed at the last minute. The only shipyard that qualified after the size change was Davie.

heddle shipyard

St. Catharines awarded 2024 world rowing championships

by The Niagara Independent

Niagara is on a roll when it comes to securing high-end sport competition. On the heels of hosting the Women’s U18 World Hockey Championships, the Scotties national women’s curling championships, Pan Am Games events, the U18 Americas Basketball Championships and of course the upcoming 2021 Canada Summer Games, St. Catharines can also add the World Rowing Championships to the impressive list.
The FISA Congress, held annually after the World Rowing Championships, voted yesterday to decide what cities will host upcoming World Rowing Championships. Delegates at the FISA Congress voted overwhelmingly in support of the St. Catharines bid which was competing with Linz, Austria – which just completed hosting the 2019 World Rowing Championships this past week.

2024 world rowing championships announcement

Quirk cleared of any wrongdoing

by Kevin Vallier

Former regional councillor Tony Quirk has been completely cleared by auditors MNP of any wrongdoing when it comes to his campaign financial statements from the last municipal election. The exercise cost Niagara taxpayers about $11,000 according to sources.

Quirk’s finances were forced under the microscope when St. Catharines resident and executive director of A Better Niagara Ed Smith, filed a complaint to the Niagara compliance audit committee back in May. Smith alleged that Quirk’s auditor contributed more than is allowed by one individual to Quirk’s campaign. “Based on the analysis MNP concludes that the Candidate’s filing was appropriate and when specifically reviewing the issue related to the valuation of audit services, the value assumed by the Candidate was within a plausible range for the service,” reads MNP’s conclusion.

tony quirk

Five things to do in Niagara this Labour Day Weekend

by The Niagara Independent

There are plenty of things to see and do this long weekend in Niagara. While the Labour Day weekend use to signal the end of tourist season, the so-called “shoulder seasons” have become a thing of the past as tourist visit Niagara year-round. While those visiting Niagara from elsewhere will no doubt be taking in the sights and sounds of the more heavily marketed tourist attractions here are some unique events being held across the region that locals can enjoy.

pumphouse school

St. Catharines—Niagara one of Canada’s safest metropolitan areas

by The Niagara Independent

Despite recent revelations of deep ties to biker gangs and a rare case of torture and abuse last year, St. Catharines—Niagara remains one of the safest urban areas to live in Canada, according to the latest data.

Last month, Statistics Canada released the results of its annual Uniform Crime Reporting Survey.

police cruiser

Regional Chair’s golf tournament another success

by Kevin Vallier

While Canada’s Brooke Henderson, one of the top female golfers in the world attempted to defend her Canadian Open title in Aurora, Ontario, weekend warriors were hoping to hit the odd fairway at the 22nd annual Niagara Regional Chair’s Charity Golf Tournament this past Friday at Niagara Parks’ Legends on the Niagara Golf Course in Niagara Falls. The tournament was another sellout and another huge success.
The tournament is an annual end of summer tradition on the charity golf circuit and over the two decades, it has raised about $2 million for a variety of local charities. This year proceeds from the tournament were principally directed to the Education Foundation and Hotel Dieu Shaver.

legends clubhouse

American visitors highest in over a decade

by Kevin Vallier

The number of American tourists coming to Canada is at the highest point in a little over a decade according to recent figures.

In a new study, Statistics Canada revealed that nearly 12.3 million trips were taken to Canada by Americans in the first six months of 2019. It’s the highest number of American trips that Canada has seen in the first half of a year since 2007. The study also found that two-thirds of the American travellers spent at least one night in Canada which is good news for everyone but particularly restaurants and hotels.

niagara falls bridge

Municipal politicians hope they made impact with provincial leaders

by Kevin Vallier

Dozens of Niagara’s municipal and regional politicians descended upon the nation’s capital earlier this week attending the annual Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) conference. It’s an opportunity for local political leaders and senior staff to shake hands and bend the ears of provincial and federal ministers, network with municipal colleagues and attend educational sessions on various topics from economics to policy development.

Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati said that while the sessions are important and informative he finds the networking aspect a key to a productive conference. “The importance of networking and the exchanging of ideas is so important,” said Diodati. “You can roll up your sleeves, talk about important issues with no filters and have a very productive and useful conversation.”

mulroney and welland councillors

Niagara’s housing market continues to heat up

by Kevin Vallier

Contrary to pundits recent talk of a Canadian housing bubble about to burst or at least a coming large correction in the Canadian housing market, July home sales across Canada showed a substantial uptick. And according to the Niagara Association of Realtors, Niagara was a leader of this trend. Between July 2018 and July 2019 residential home sales across the peninsula jumped from 588 units to 715, an increase of 21.6 per cent.

giving keys

Funding means go time for games

by Kevin Vallier

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport Lisa MacLeod announces the province’s intent to fund the Canada Summer Games while board chair Doug Hamilton, board member Sandie Bellows and MPP Sam Oosterhoff look on. Let’s get started! That was the consistent message heard around Henley Island earlier today when Lisa MacLeod, the province’s Minister of Tourism, […]

games 2021

Niagara GO service expands to year-round

by Kevin Vallier

Metrolinx announced yesterday that they will be expanding weekend GO train service in Niagara year-round. “Weekend Niagara GO train service is becoming a year-round thing, so people in Niagara Falls and St. Catharines have options 365 days a year. The schedules will be the same as they are today,” read the statement.
“More service options for commuters in Niagara will make taking the GO more reliable and give customers more choice when they plan their trips,” said Niagara’s only conservative MPP Sam Oosterhoff.

go train

Province to announce Summer Games funding tomorrow

by Kevin Vallier

Canada Summer games funding announcement expected tomorrow. It’s looking like it will be a happy Friday for those individuals leading the organizing of the 2021 Canada Summer Games to be held in Niagara. At 1:30 p.m. tomorrow Lisa MacLeod, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport is scheduled to make an announcement at the St. Catharines […]

summer games torch

Niagara Detention Centre to get specialized security team

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara MPP Sam Oosterhoff was joined by Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in Throold this morning at the Niagara Detention Centre as they announced new Institutional Security Teams (ISTs). The specialized teams will be added at the Niagara Detention Centre and Toronto East Detention Centre.
“These new teams will keep our institutions and our frontline staff safe by gathering intelligence about criminal activity inside and outside our facilities,” said Solicitor General Sylvia Jones. “Keeping gang activity, drugs and weapons out of our jails is critical to ensuring a safe work environment for the men and women who work on the front lines every day.”

minister jones at the ndc

Grimsby second best community in Canada

by Kevin Vallier

Maclean’s magazine recently released their inaugural Canada’s Best Communities rankings and Grimsby finished second behind only Burlington. Niagara-on-the-Lake also made the top ten coming in at number eight.

First place finisher, Burlington, ranked in the top 25 per cent in six out of 10 categories Maclean’s measured. It was also selected as this year’s best place to raise a family.

downtown grimsby

UPDATED: “Exciting news” expected for Summer Games

by The Niagara Independent

Premier Doug Ford was in Niagara this afternoon making an announcement at a Home Hardware store in Pelham. While the announcement, a road improvement project, is no doubt important to local residents, it was Ford’s comments in response to a question by The Niagara Independent regarding Canada Summer Games funding that perked up many ears.

premier doug ford and sam oosterhoff mpp

Henley opens as two-year countdown to summer games begins

by Kevin Vallier

It was a perfect night to kick-off one of the biggest and most renowned regattas in North America and celebrate the two year-out anniversary until the launch of the 2021 Canada Summer Games.

A who’s who of Niagara politicians, athletes and business professionals gathered under the grandstand in Port Dalhousie for the dual celebration. After 11 year-old Ella Lambert sang a beautiful rendition of Oh Canada, emcee Rod Mawhood kept things moving as dignitaries and local politicians brought greetings and congratulations to the athletes in attendance.

A special addition to the evening’s agenda was the induction of the late Neil Campbell to the Rowing Canada Hall of Fame. Campbell, who coached numerous high school, club and Olympic crews was fondly remembered by two former members of the 1984 Olympic Games crew that won gold for Canada. 

henley opening

Gold to be hidden in Hamilton

by Kevin Vallier

A real life treasure hunt is coming to Hamilton and Niagara adventure seekers are welcomed to participate.
GoldHunt, has already captivated residents of Edmonton, Vancouver and Calgary, the popular challenge has become so successful that organizers have expanded east and Hamilton will be one of the stops.
It’s a unique type of lottery where people purchase a map and begin their hunt for the $100,000 of real treasure, consisting of gold and silver coins hidden in the city.

chest of gold

So many students, so little housing

by Kevin Vallier

In some ways, it’s a good problem to have. Enrollment keeps climbing but all those students need a place to live. While Brad Clarke, Brock University’s Director of Student Life and Community Experience, is quick to point out the school is not in a “housing crunch” they are definitely looking to those in the community to open their doors to students.
Brock is even asking empty-nesters — or anyone with a surplus room or two — to consider renting it out to students.

quarry view residence at Brock

Prudhomme’s Landing development achieves another important milestone

by Kevin Vallier

It’s a game changer. That’s how the proposed massive development at Prudhomme’s Landing on the north side of the QEW in Vineland is being described as the project continues to move forward achieving another milestone last week. Town of Lincoln Council approved a zoning amendment and draft plan of subdivision agreement.
The purpose of a draft plan of subdivision is to develop land in an orderly manner by making sure that the proper infrastructure and municipal services will be in place. The lots may be developed individually, or as a group, and for a range of uses.

prudhommes landing

Niagara Parks ready for busiest weekend of the year

by Kevin Vallier

There’s a little something for everyone.
That’s the message Niagara Parks’ Chief Executive Officer David Adames would like tourists and locals to know about the numerous activities and attractions being offered this August long weekend by the Parks. “It’s very important for us to offer a variety of activities,” said Adames. He noted that there are different types of activities from passive trail walks, to arts and culture to more adventurous outings.

fort erie seige

Gales joins list of Niagara companies providing a living wage

by Kevin Vallier

Gales Gas Bars is the latest Niagara business to become a certified living wage employer. More than 20 companies throughout the region are now certified and the list will no doubt continue to grow. The living wage for Niagara comes in at $17.99 per hour which is slightly below the average for Ontario according to Anne Coleman, campaign manager for the Ontario Living Wage Network. Windsor has the lowest calculated living wage at $15.15 and not surprisingly Toronto comes in at the highest point with a $21.75 per hour living wage. All wages are for a family of four.
There are three categories of a certified living wage company; Supporter, Leader and Champion. Gales is considered a Supporter which means they will be paying their full time employees a living wage with a commitment to pay their part time employees that same wage in the future.

gales gas bar

Tourism businesses step up for soup kitchen

by Kevin Vallier

It’s a simple message printed in white on a bright red t-shirt: Be Nice. But it’s resonated with tourists in Niagara Falls and now across Canada.
Hugh Hockton, owner of the Niagara River Trading Company came up with the idea of putting the two words on a t-shirt while south of the border. “I was down in Florida and I saw something with ‘Be Nice” and I thought what a great simple message. It’s Just a nice thing to say and do.”

soup kitchen

Two models rise to top for governance change

by Kevin Vallier

As the provincial government awaits the highly anticipated report from its advisors, Ken Seiling and Michael Fenn, on how best to move forward with governance change in a number of regions across Ontario, including Niagara, it appears that two locally developed models of governance are getting most of the attention. The One Niagara NOW model, primarily supported by a St. Catharines group, has published a document and hired a lobbyist to state their case locally and at Queen’s Park. A similar effort is being made by a group that is championing a four city model. They too have published a document and have submitted their case to the advisors.
The four cities model calls for the elimination of the region leaving behind four merged cities: 1) Niagara Falls (Niagara Falls, Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake), 2) Welland (Welland, Port Colborne, Thorold), 3) St. Catharines and 4) West Niagara (Wainfleet, Pelham Lincoln, West Lincoln and Grimsby).

region map

Clearing the air on conservation authorities

by Kevin Vallier

Gale Wood has seen it all before. The CAO/Secretary Treasurer (the “acting” has been removed from her title) is no stranger to the politics and constant push and pull from special interest groups trying to influence their local conservation authority. The biggest challenge she said is getting the public to understand what exactly a conservation authority does and doesn’t do.
“Most of the confusion relates to our role with flood plain hazards and natural heritage and what we can comment on in terms of development,” said the seasoned conservation authority leader. “People believe we have a greater ability to protect natural heritage.” Wood said people in the public think the NPCA should be providing comment on everything when in fact there are really just three specific areas of responsibility for a conservation authority.

binbrook

Niagara game studio’s new release is out of this world

by Catherine Rice

Niagara-based game development studio, PixelNauts Games, recently released its new game Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4 and Steam.

The game offers an exciting new take on the original game released in 2015.

“We had an enormous reaction from fans of the tale of Harrison and his robot sidekick, so when we decided to create the definitive edition of the game, we wanted to add new levels and enhance the original game,” says Alex Golebiowski, co-founder of PixelNauts.

PixelNAUTS

Brock prof to enhance online learning with 3D classroom

by The Niagara Independent

Martin Danahay has led many classroom discussions in his career, but nothing quite like this.
The Brock University English professor will soon take his Life Writing course into a recently-completed online 3D space at the start of the winter term.
Students wearing virtual reality gear will gather in an experimental 3D classroom to discuss memoires, diaries and biographies, and interact with one another as their custom avatars.

Professor Martin Danahay through the controls used to navigate a new 3D classroom

Major manufacturing investment for Niagara College

by Kevin Vallier

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, federal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, along with Vance Badawey, Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre, announced a FedDev Ontario contribution of $14 million to Niagara College to expand the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI). Badawey made the announcement on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario.
The $14-million investment will allow the network to grow to 10 partners, enhance its reach into the manufacturing community and support over 550 jobs.

Pop-up beer garden becomes permanent

by Kevin Vallier

Shoppers at the Pen Centre in St. Catharines can now grab a cold craft brew or glass of local wine while perusing the stores.
What began as a temporary pop-up kiosk has turned into a permanent beer garden located between the Ricki’s and Aldo stores. Back in October, Lock Street Brewery founder Wolfgang Guembel had the idea to try and bring his brews to the shoppers at the Pen Centre during Oktoberfest. The Lock Street Beer Garden was born and it was a success. It returned for the Black Friday weekend and then again for another 10 days over Christmas. “December was slamming every day from 10 a.m. to closing,” said Guembel.

wolfgang

Chatham-Kent solicitor named new Pelham CAO

by John Chick

The Town of Pelham has a new Chief Administrative Officer. David Cribbs started in the position this past Monday.
Originally from South Porcupine, northeastern Ontario, Cribbs served as CAO of Norfolk County, west of Cayuga on Lake Erie, from April 2017 until this past January, when his tenure came to an abrupt end. He has since worked on temporary contract as a solicitor for the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, in southwestern Ontario.

david cribbs

The rise of schoolyard hoops

by Kevin Vallier

Ever since the Toronto Raptors captivated Canadians with the country’s first ever NBA championship reports of kids flocking to community and schoolyard basketball courts have surfaced from city to city. A prime example is right here in Niagara where on any given summer night there can be up to 50 kids shooting hoops at the outdoor courts located at A.N. Myer high school. Both boys and girls of all ages are reenacting Kawhi Leonard’s now famous buzzer beater against the 76ers in the playoffs or driving to the hoop like Kyle Lowery.
Opened on Oct. 27 in 2016, the Phil Mazzone Sports Complex is home to four beautiful outdoor courts that were already used on a regular basis by local kids since they opened. It was the first public school in Niagara to have such a facility. However, since the Raptors playoff run the number of young NBA hopefuls has increased dramatically and that’s a good thing according to Vito DiMartino who at the time the idea of the complex was being discussed headed up the high schools physical education department. He was one of the driving forces behind the planning and building of the courts.

an myer courts

Niagara Falls selects conservative candidate

by Kevin Vallier

One of the biggest surprises leading up to this October’s federal election was the news that long-time and highly respected MP Rob Nicholson was not going to seek re-election. The 67 year old Nicholson has represented the Niagara Falls riding for 25 years in a federal capacity as well as serving his local constituents as a municipal politician in between his two stints in federal office.
Not surprisingly a number of people stepped forward to throw their hat in the ring and seek the nomination. In the end members of the Niagara Falls Conservative riding association selected Tony Baldinelli to represent them during the fall election.

tony baldinelli

Young fiddle player returns to roots

by Kevin Vallier

Alexander George is quickly becoming one of the best fiddle players in the country and this summer he has been given a chance to return home to Niagara where he will play in the musical comedy Oh Canada Eh in Niagara Falls.

The 18 year-old Humber College music student grew up in St. Catharines before moving to Ottawa to attend Cantebury high school which is home to a specialized arts program. He’s thrilled to be back in Niagara for the summer doing something he loves; and getting paid to do it. “My first fiddle teacher called me out of the blue in February or March and told me there was an opportunity with Oh Canada Eh,” said George. He auditioned and got the gig. “I got lucky because these gigs don’t come around often.”

alex george playing the fiddle

Niagara and the political legacy of the Rt. Hon. John N. Turner

by Marc Kealey

Niagara is a big part of the legacy of former Prime Minister John Napier Turner – he has helped grow her fortunes by attracting major international business while in private practice as a lawyer and in his public role as MP; he’s been a prominent voice for her cultural and agricultural attractions like the Shaw Festival and many, many wineries. More importantly John Turner has many friends and associates from Niagara. Most especially he is a stalwart champion for water – the most famous attraction in Canada being Niagara.

john turner

Niagara doctor has the heart for healing

by Kevin Vallier

It doesn’t take long to understand that Dr. Melanie Senechal was born to care for people.

The New Brunswick native arrived in Niagara in 2012 to become an emergency department physician with Niagara Health. She primarily works out of the St. Catharines site but also spends time caring for patients in Fort Erie once a week and since 2016 she’s been the medical director for the sexual assault and domestic violence care team.

Dr. Melanie Senechal

Canada Day at the country’s most famous address

by Kevin Vallier

Even during her time as Chair of the Niagara Parks Commission, Janice Thomson didn’t believe in a “tourism season”. She still holds that belief in her new role as President and CEO of Niagara Falls Tourism. “We have four seasons of tourism and summer is the busiest of the four but Niagara Falls has plenty to offer tourists all year around,” she said.

Niagara Falls and its tourism operators are ready and willing to entertain the hundreds of thousands of tourists that will descend on Canada’s most famous address during this country’s birthday weekend. “There’s always a great mood on Canada Day weekend,” said Thomson who will attend Artistry by the Lake this weekend in Niagara-on-the-Lake before heading down to the Falls and Clifton Hill to interact with tourists. “I love watching the kids’ expressions as they see the Falls for the first time or when they arrive on Clifton Hill and see all the great attractions.”

canadian flag

What will guide Niagara’s budget process?

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara regional government’s budget meeting of June 20 signaled a significant change in regional financial policy.
While politicians and the public were preoccupied with the compensation and benefits of Niagara’s 31 regional councillors, there was very little attention given to the potential 3.3 per cent pay increase for 3,600 regional employees as a result of a staff recommendation to switch from using the Core Consumer Price Index (CPIX) to what is known as a Municipal Price Index (MPI) for guidance when preparing the Region’s 2020 budget.

redekop

An open process for publicly funded projects in Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

Niagara residents can rest assured that bidding on tax-payer funded capital projects being constructed by the Region, local municipalities, school boards, hospitals and post-secondary institutions are open to all qualified bidders both union and non-union. Not so in many other regions around the province until recently and still not the case in Toronto.
In a move that has enraged non-union smaller and medium sized contractors, Toronto City Council voted 20-4 yesterday to opt-out of legislation that would allow the city to accept bids for construction projects from non-union companies. Canada’s largest city is now poised to be the only municipality in Ontario to have publicly funded projects built exclusively by a select group of labour unions.

cabinet shuffle

Niagara business leaders to be honoured

by Kevin Vallier

Mishka Balsom, President & CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce at the 2018 Niagara Business Achievement Awards. Some very familiar names will be honoured at this year’s edition of the 16th Annual Niagara Business Achievement Awards put on by the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce. There are a number of successful small and […]

Mishka Balsom, President & CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce

Day of a thousand musicians returns to Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

Paul Lemire and John Fillion aren’t going to give up on gathering 1,000 musicians together in one place to crank out some classic tunes.
Day of 1,000 Musicians returns to Niagara Falls for the second year on July 20, this time at the Gale Community Centre. Doors will open at 12 noon for the public and the concert is expected to wrap up around 7:30 p.m.

1000 musicians

Niagara federal show down

by Kevin Vallier

Who will Niagara residents send to Ottawa in October? The four races are shaping up to be very interesting. The Liberal red wave of four years ago under Justin Trudeau that sent Chris Bittle and Vance Badawey to the nation’s capital has taken a significant hit while the Andrew Scheer led conservatives have surged in the polls, but Canadians have seen that gap close before as momentum swings are a weekly occurrence leading up to election day. The NDP continue to be a distant third but with Niagara going mostly orange in the provincial election; will that translate over federally?
The Niagara Independent takes a look at the four Niagara ridings and provides a preview of the candidates from the three main parties running in each.

ballot box

Hutchings reflects on Niagara career and community

by Kevin Vallier

Walking through the halls with outgoing Brock University vice president of administration Brian Hutchings two things quickly become clear. One is that people are shocked he’s leaving. The second is he will be missed.
From the cashier at the Tim Horton’s kiosk, to faculty and staff passing by in the halls, everyone commented on Brock’s recent announcement that Hutchings will be leaving the academic world and heading back to the sector from whence he came; the municipal world.

brock turf

Oosterhoff reflects on one year in government

by Kevin Vallier

There’s no question west Niagara MPP Sam Oosterhoff has had an interesting first year as a member of the governing party. There have been some highlights and some controversial moments but overall he continues to have the same enthusiasm and passion for the job.
Oosterhoff pointed to seeing many of his local priorities moving forward as some of the accomplishments he’s most proud of. Number one is the announcement to build a new hospital in West Lincoln, something that was promised and cancelled a number of times by the previous Liberal government. “I was born at that hospital, so to stand next to the premier and make the announcement at West Lincoln was very meaningful to me personally,” said Oosterhoff. “The government has made this project a priority.”

sam oosterhoff

Progress for Port Dalhousie development

by Kevin Vallier

It’s been a long time coming.
There were many people in St. Catharines who thought they’d never see the day when a condo sales office in Port Dalhousie would actually open for business, welcome potential customers and sell units. But this past weekend the development known as Harbour Club launched its sales centre, known as the “Sails Pavilion” with a frenzy of interest.
By all accounts it was a successful opening with 40 units sold (out of 120) at an average price of $827,000. According to spokesperson Kate Carnegie, the majority of people are buying the two bedroom plus den units that are between 900 and 1,150 square feet.

Sheldon D. Rosen and Walter Sendzik

Welland waterway in ‘revitalization’ mode

by Elena De Luigi

A revitalized waterway in the City of Welland is in the works. Home to the Welland International Flatwater Centre (WIFC), the Rose city’s canal runs through the heart of its downtown core.

According to the City of Welland, the multi-phased redevelopment blueprint is to enhance the waterfront experience for tourists and locals, equipping it with swimming docks, a kayak facility, some residential properties, and more.

welland waterway

Brock enrolment numbers up nearly 15 per cent

by Elena De Luigi

Record enrolment numbers are being met at Brock University. The St. Catharines based post-secondary school said it received applications from over 19,000 full- and part-time students across its seven faculties last fall, reaching the highest number of applications to its first-year programs it has ever seen.

This year, the numbers are in, and indicators suggest that even more Ontario high school students are choosing to continue their studies at Brock. In fact, the increase in applicants to the university exceeds the average growth rate for Ontario universities.

brock university

He was a man on a mission. Five years ago Steve Ludzik started what has become a trio of fundraisers to help those in Niagara who suffer from Parkinson’s disease. His celebrity roast is one of the must attend annual fundraisers in the region, a golf ball drop at Eagle Valley Golf Course was added to the mix and of course there is the annual Steve Ludzik Golf Tournament.
The tournament itself has raised more than $140,000 in just five years. Proceeds support the Steve Ludzik Centre for Parkinson’s Rehab.

ludzik

Facility upgrades underway at West Lincoln hospital

by Elena De Luigi

The Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) Board of Directors has given the go-ahead on a plan that would address safety concerns and maintain limited surgical and obstetrical services at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital (WLMH).

The plan is to ensure that the hospital is meeting the appropriate standards of care for their patients.

Dr. Michael Stacey, Executive Vice President Academic and Chief Medical Executive for HHS, said that his main concern about the renovation plan is the safety surrounding cesarean sections.

West Lincoln Memorial Hospital

Curtains up at The Shaw

by Elena De Luigi

Dress rehearsals, cues and curtain calls are in full swing at the Shaw Festival Theatre in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Productions such as C.S. Lewis’ classic The Horse and His Boy, Brigadoon, Getting Married, Rope and Victory have made it to the stage this season.

The non-profit theatre has just begun its 57 season, with 13 productions being performed in rotational repertory. That means that all of the plays are available every week, and they are staged daily in every theatre at the Shaw.

shaw festival

Ball’s Falls is the ‘New Eden’

by Elena De Luigi

New worlds, lifeforms and all things alien made the long trip from space to Niagara. Ball’s Falls Conservation Area, known as the perfect storybook setting, hosted Star Trek: Discovery while they filmed parts of season two of the show.

The CBS television series chose the conservation area as their setting for a distant planet called ‘New Eden,’ which is a place inhabited by a colony of pre-warp humans peacefully living together.

star trek

Fort Erie live racing begins today

by Kevin Vallier

Flashy Margaritta with jockey Kirk Johnson won the first race of the 2018 season. Supplied photo/Michael Burns It’s just a matter of hours until the thunder of thoroughbred hoofs power through the dirt oval as Fort Erie Race Track kicks off its live racing season today with the first post time at 4:20 p.m. In […]

fort erie racetrack

Niagara’s Forty under 40 receive business award

by Elena De Luigi

The annual 40 Under Forty Business Achievement Awards were presented to the winners in St. Catharines on Thursday.

According to Business Link Media Group, there were 119 nominees for the 2019 awards.

Established in Niagara in 2003, the recipients of the Achievement Award are 40 business people who are under the age of 40 that have excelled in the business industry, contributed to their community, and participated in charity work.

forty under 40

Niagara youth to design Summer Games mascot

by Kevin Vallier

They were loud, enthusiastic and united.
About 200 kids from five different Niagara elementary schools filled a conference room at White Oakes Resort and Spa yesterday morning to learn how they can potentially be the one who names and/or designs the mascot for the upcoming Canada Summer Games 2021 to be held in Niagara.
The information session quickly turned into a Summer Games pep rally with emcee Bawe Nsame whipping the crowed into a frenzy. Students and teachers alike chanted, clapped and cheered their way through the session.

summer games mascot

Feds announce tourism strategy

by Elena De Luigi

MPs Vance Badawey and Chris Bittle visited Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery in St. Davids on Wednesday to announce a $58.5 million investment strategy to help grow Canada’s tourism industry.

Badawey and Bittle were at the winery on behalf of the Honourable Mélanie Joly, Canada’s minister of tourism.

The federal government said that the two-year plan would create 54,000 new jobs and increase the tourism sector revenue by 25 per cent to $128 billion by 2025, bolstering growth and diversifying the already booming sector.

badeway and bittle

Pay it forward with BarterPay

by Elena De Luigi

BarterPay Inc. has helped Canadian business owners, entrepreneurs and professionals get what they need without using money for the last 22 years.

Headquartered in Stoney Creek, BarterPay exists to help business owners across Canada grow their business using barter. The company has a presence in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

barterpay

Physicians flock to Niagara

by Elena De Luigi

Physician recruitment in Niagara has come a long way. It wasn’t that long ago when Niagara residents read headline after headline about physician shortages throughout the region. Today however, those problems seem like a distant memory.

According to Niagara Health, there are over 500 doctors in Niagara, 34 of whom were recruited in the last year. In the last six years, Niagara Health said they recruited 150 physicians, resulting in more care that is closer to home for Niagara’s residents. However, like most communities across Ontario there is still a shortage of family physicians.

Nephrologist Dr. Kathleen Quinn with dialysis Charge Nurse Arden Gibson

Once, and for all – Canada Summer Games prep begins

by Kevin Vallier

Regional Chair Jim Bradley along with 2021 Canada Summer Games Host Society Chair Doug Hamilton provided an update to about 100 people including elected officials and key stakeholders on the status of the Games Niagara will host in two years.
The message was clear – work is well underway and there’s a lot to be done but everyone must work together.
While the Host Society anxiously awaits funding announcements from provincial and federal governments, Games’ organizers continue to make headway on a number of fronts including infrastructure opportunities, legacy venues, the massive volunteer program, the brand, advocacy, cultural events and opening and closing ceremonies.

artist’s rendering of Canada Games Park

Scheer says “cost-of-living crunch” happening in Canada

by Elena De Luigi

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) hosted Progressive Conservative leader Andrew Scheer at the Scotiabank Convention Centre in Niagara Falls on Friday.

Scheer gave a speech and participated in a Q&A session with CHBA chief executive officer Kevin Lee and Stefanie Coleman, the organization’s president; much like Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did the previous day.

“There is no national Canadian housing market. We have many different markets in this country. And government policies need to be flexible and recognize that. Not only do we need a better plan, we need one that recognizes diversity in the Canadian housing market,” Scheer said in his speech addressing the crowd.

Andrew Scheer at the Homer Builders' Association convention

Niagara’s Mayors weigh in on governance options for Niagara

by Kevin Vallier

There are two prevailing theories on which way the Ontario government is going to go with governance restructuring in Niagara – four cities or one mega city.
The one city option has been discussed on and off for decades and is once again being trumpeted by a primarily St. Catharines based business group called One Niagara Now.
The Niagara Independent reached out to all of Niagara’s mayors for comment on which, if any, of the two popular governance models they prefer. Opinions varied with the common theme of wanting to maintain their individual communities and identities. The vast majority of Niagara’s mayors said they are against a one city model.

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Trudeau addresses home builders in Niagara

by Elena De Luigi

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) convention was held in Niagara Falls this week at the Scotiabank Convention Centre. The week-long event hosted many guest speakers, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The prime minister did not take formal questions from the media, but he did participate in a Q&A session with CHBA CEO Kevin Lee and Stefanie Coleman, CHBA’s president.

Trudeau was asked about affordable housing, supply infrastructure and skilled trade.

trudeau

Niagara Parks invests millions in Table Rock redevelopment

by Elena De Luigi

The first of three phases to redevelop Table Rock Centre in Niagara Falls has been completed. The well-known tourist site reopened its doors to the public on May 1, welcoming guests to the newly renovated Table Rock restaurant and gift shop.

On Tuesday, the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) hosted an official preview event to showcase the renovations to the public. NPC Chair, Sandie Bellows, said she is proud of how the first phase of the redevelopment project has come together.

Niagara Park’s Chair Sandie Bellows

Dogs for sale?

by Kevin Vallier

It’s been a tough 24 hours for the Niagara’s Ontario Hockey League franchise the Niagara IceDogs.

First, a Superior Court judge ordered a lawsuit unsealed that revealed a not-so-pretty picture of player recruitment and infighting amongst current ownership, former players and head coach. The lawsuit filed by former IceDogs player and Chicago native Zach Wilkie dealt with a secret side deal that Wilkie says was made prior to his agreeing to sign with the IceDogs. The deal would have provided money to cover his full university costs. The Icedogs ended up balking at the deal at the end of Wilkie’s OHL career telling him he had to take it up with the Sudbury Wolves, the team Wilkie was traded to from Niagara.

In addition to the legal mess and public embarrassment, word broke last night that a local group is making a pitch to buy Niagara’s OHL team from the current owners, Bill and Denise Burke.

meridian centre

Sticks to bricks

by Kevin Vallier

Signing a professional contract to play hockey in North America doesn’t necessarily mean huge pay cheques, fancy cars and massive mansions. In fact, for the majority of professional hockey players their entire careers are short lived and spent mostly in the minor leagues like the American Hockey League (AHL) or East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).

As a player’s time in professional hockey reaches the end of the line they are usually still young, somewhere in their late twenties or earl thirties. They need to think about transitioning into their next career and that can be stressful. After being a star on the team for many years and feeling very comfortable doing what they’ve always done, it can be humbling searching for a new job.

stick to bricks

Funny business

by Elena De Luigi

Oh Canada Eh? is celebrating 25 years in Niagara. Their 26th season is now underway at the Log Cabin Theatre in Niagara Falls.

What is Oh Canada Eh? do you ask? It is a two-hour production filled with Canadian music by a singing Mountie, a hockey player, and of course, Anne of Green Gables. Also, as you are enjoying the music, the same singing Mountie and Anne are serving you a five-course meal.

Lee Siegel, the production’s Artistic Director said it is all about honouring Canada every time they get on stage.

oh canada eh

Two decades of providing power

by Kevin Vallier

They produce half of all the energy generated in Ontario. They have a significant footprint in Niagara and Ontario Power Generation (OPG), under the leadership of its new President and Chief Executive Officer, Ken Hartwick, now sets its sites on their next 20 years.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of OPG. The energy producer was established in April, 1999 under the Progressive Conservative government of Mike Harris as a precursor to deregulation of the province’s electricity market. While the production, distribution and cost of energy in Ontario has consistently generated attention, particularly around election time, OPG has quietly gone about its business expanding an innovating to provide the lowest cost energy in Ontario.

“We want to be seen as a valuable company in Ontario and we take a lot of pride in not only providing low cost energy but being good partners in the communities we operate in,” said Jessica Polak, OPG’s Vice-President of Operations for Niagara.

Sir Adam Beck Hydroelectric Generating station in Niagara Falls.

Governance Review – Contrasting positions

by Bruce Timms

A hearing was held on May 1 in Niagara’s Council Chambers to hear 13 registered presenters on the issue of Regional Government Review. Eleven of the 13 attended the presentations.

The City of St. Catharines had their public meeting the day before to hear from residents and Council. Committee Chair Joe Kushner used the opportunity to comment on a draft recommendation for city council, “We don’t think bigger is better, we think the present system works quite well,” Kushner said.

The draft recommendation suggests a regional service provider for social services, policing and social housing to take advantage of economies of scale, and single tier cities within Niagara.

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New shelter diversion program opens in Niagara

by Elena De Luigi

A new program for Niagara’s youth has recently opened up at the RAFT to help prevent people aged 16 to 24 from getting into the shelter system.

Executive Director of the RAFT, Michael Lethby, said the new program is called the ‘Shelter Diversion’ program, and it is the program model that was determined to be the most effective in helping young people find other options before they experience homelessness.

“Shelter Diversion isn’t about saying no, it’s about saying what else,” Lethby said. He also said that shelters are never their first solution for children. Their biggest priority is the safety of the person asking for help.

A Niagara youth speaks with a RAFT employee at the St. Catharines facility.

NPCA ‘headed in right direction’

by Elena De Luigi

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) received a Supplementary Application notice on Apr. 11 from A Better Niagara (ABN), a local advocacy group who sought a decision for the number of Board Members Niagara is allowed to have.

In a press release, NPCA Board Chair Dave Bylsma stated that the Board had made progress on addressing the appointment issues.

“While we realize the NPCA board makeup is a top priority to ABN, the governance issue is only one of the many important tasks that the Board and the CAO have been working on to put this important organization back on track.”

NPCA Interim CAO Gayle Wood.

The world’s most famous boat ride

by Kevin Vallier

“We’re like the race horse chomping at the bit ready to get out of the gate.”
That’s how Hornblower Niagara Cruises vice president and general manager, Mory DiMaurizio describes how he and his team feel at this time of year. Eager to launch their world famous vessels and anxiously awaiting the ice to melt or move down river, Hornblower Niagara is excited about the upcoming tourism season. “Everyone just wants to get going,” said DiMaurizio.
Hornblower arrived in Niagara in 2014 and officially launched on May 15 following a change in operators after the Maid of the Mist boats cruised up and down the Niagara River for decades. Current regional councillor Bob Gale was on the Niagara Parks Commission Board at the time and questioned why the Maid of the Mist operation seemed to be automatically renewed as the service provider every year. Gale pushed for an open bidding process which Hornblower won. The transition ended up being very favourable to the Parks Commission saving them at least $300 million.

hornblower

Governance Review – what Niagara is saying

by Bruce Timms

Two consultations and a telephone town hall hosted by MPP Sam Oosterhoff as well as a Brock University session on the subject, offered some ideas on governance options, some old, some new and one wild card; add Dunnville and Lowbanks to the Niagara Region. This was a suggestion made at the Beamsville consultation session by some Haldimand county residents.

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The economic transformation of Welland

by Kevin Vallier

They changed their approach and the results are impressive.
The City of Welland has undergone an economic transformation in the past few years. Once seen as an economically depressed and struggling community, the Rose City has pulled up its boot straps, changed its approach to business and is now a leader in economic activity.
“We’ve been fortunate to attract a lot of private sector investment,” said Welland’s Chief Administrative Officer Gary Long. The city had $9.2 million in land sales in 2018 for both industrial and residential development and Long says the demand is still high.

welland

Women candidates weigh in on SNC scandal

by Kevin Vallier

Krystina Waler and April Jeffs have been paying close attention to the SNC-Lavallin scandal that has consumed much of the Canadian media’s and public’s attention over the past few months. Both women are running for the Conservative Party of Canada in the upcoming federal election, Waler in St. Catharines and Jeffs in Niagara Centre. Both women don’t like what they’ve seen from the Prime Minister and are sympathetic to their female colleagues even though they carry the flag of a different political party.
Scandals, of varying degrees, in Ottawa certainly aren’t new and have involved every political party at one time or another. They also tend to fade fairly quickly like a cheap pair of blue jeans put through the wash machine one too many times. SNC-Lavallin however has the real potential of not going anywhere fast.

jeffs, mulroney and waler

A balanced restructuring of Niagara

by Bruce Timms

One model of a restructured Niagara governance system that has been discussed for years goes something like this; two- tiers, five cities and double duty city councillors with a publicly elected Regional Chair.
The five cities would be divided up based on urban clusters. Each would manage their own water and waste water infrastructure.
There would be a total of 65 elected representatives (down from the current 126) and no Region-only councillors.

under review

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