By-election to fill Ciolfi’s seat

Pelham Town Council declared late Ward 1 Councillor Mike Ciolfi’s seat vacant at its May 4 meeting, and unanimously voted to direct staff to pursue a by-election to fill it.

Town Clerk Nancy Bozzato had presented Council with two main options— the by-election or an appointment of a replacement. Inside the latter option were three choices: Appointment of the ward’s closest finisher in the 2018 election (Mark Bay), appointment through an application process, or direct appointment by council.

With Ontario still under a state of emergency until at least May 19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision to have constituents go out and vote in the future was made.

“For me,” Mayor Marvin Junkin told the Voice, “it was the fact that there is over two years left in our current mandate. I think with this much time remaining, it warrants an election for the ward, to give those residents their voice. If society continues to open up, then I believe that an election, in that time frame, would be completely doable, keeping in mind whatever restrictions there would be remaining.”

Junkin himself resigned his old Ward 1 Council seat in 2017, and James Lane was appointed to fill out the last year of his term. It was the third time that Lane had filled an unanticipated Ward 1 vacancy.

In normal times, the vote to declare a by-election must be enacted within 60 days of the seat being declared vacant. Nomination day must not be fewer than 30 days after the enactment and no more than 60. Voting shall then be 45 days after nomination day. However, these deadlines are subject to extensions as permitted by provincial orders issued during the current pandemic, and under the Municipal Elections Act in the event of an emergency.

“There is a provision because the timelines are all put on hold,” Bozzato said. “We’ve already starting turning our minds to how we can ensure safety and deliver a by-election at the soonest opportunity.”

We’ve already starting turning our minds to how we can ensure safety and deliver a by-election at the soonest opportunity

Under the current emergency measures, a polling station could not be opened because it would likely require more than five people in it at once.

Assuming the state of emergency ends, Bozzato’s report estimates that with the 60-day period, the by-election could be held in late September.

The report also pours cold water on the idea of voting online or by mail.

“While this option was explored in previous regular elections, it has not been recommended or fully embraced by previous councils due to the inability to ensure an uncompromised internet connection within the rural parts of our community, many located in Ward 1,” the report stated, adding, “[a] vote-by-mail option would require development of all new election procedures which is not practical in the circumstance.”

The cost to the Town of conducting the by-election is estimated at up to $20,000.

Summerfest, Bandshell, Canada Day cancelled

Pelham Town Council effectively cancelled the municipality’s summer of 2020 at their regular meeting on Monday evening, May 4. The Farmers Market was the sole survivor.

Citing continued concerns regarding physical distancing, council elected to make the immediate decision to cancel all municipal events through the season.

Gone are Canada Day (to be celebrated as a “virtual” event instead), July’s Summerfest, the ongoing Supper Market, and the ongoing Bandshell concert series.

Mayor Junkin and Councillor John Wink fought a losing battle to defer cancelling the Bandshell concert series until more information on the fight against COVID-19 was released by provincial and Regional health authorities later in the spring, suggesting that a shorter season that started as late as August might still be feasible.

Councillors Hildebrandt, Haun, and Stewart saw things differently and decided to pull the Bandshell plug immediately.

Three votes carried the day because one Ward 1 seat is vacant with the passing of Councillor Mike Ciolfi, and Councillor Ron Kore did not attend the meeting.

In a statement later emailed to local media by committee member Jim Casson, the Pelham Bandshell Committee said that while they had already cancelled June’s performances, they had hoped to wait for Public Health’s announcement in May on outdoor guidelines before taking further action.

“We completely understand the Pelham Town Council decision to cancel the Fonthill Bandshell Concert series for 2020,” read the statement.

“If Public Health deems it possible to hold a Thursday evening event later this summer season, one where we all feel the safety of our patrons is assured, our group has let Town staff, Mayor Marvin Junkin and councillors know we will work with Public Health to find a way to bring the community together in a safe environment for our volunteers and the public alike.”

The only ongoing event to survive was the weekly Farmers Market at Town Hall, albeit at a reduced number of vendors to help maintain physical distancing. Details are still being worked out, according to Town Communications and Public Relations Specialist Marc MacDonald.

The Thursday Supper Market might yet rise again, depending on whether health authorities revise their distancing guidelines in the coming weeks. MacDonald said that a new staff report would then come back to council for consideration on whether to stay the course or open it up.

“For the safety of our citizens and everyone who comes from out of Town for Summerfest, this was an easy decision,” said Junkin in a Town statement, “but it doesn’t make it any less painful to have to cancel one of the Region’s best summer events. We’re proud of Summerfest and the event it has turned into, but there is no conceivable way that this year’s festival would resemble the Summerfest we know and love.”

This year’s event would have seen the four-day street festival’s tenth anniversary. Decisions about Summerfest in 2021 have not been made.

“I would like to thank all of the committee members for volunteering to sit on the committee and for the hours they have put in to date,” said Summerfest Chair Bill Gibson in the statement.

“For the health of everyone, the committee unanimously supports cancelling this year’s event. Thank you to everyone for their patronage over the last ten years, and we look forward to seeing you next Summerfest.”

2020 Town or Town-involved events cancelled due to COVID-19

• April 2-4 – Kinsmen Home and Garden Show

• April 11 – Annual Easter Egg Hunt

• May 7-10 – Pelham Art Festival

• May 22-24 – Fenwick Lions Carnival and Parade

• Mid-June to September – Pelham Supper Market

• Mid-June to September – Bandshell concerts

• June 14 – Shorthills Strawberry Festival

• July 1 – Canada Celebration – (Virtual celebration to commence)

• July 16-19 – Pelham Summerfest

June 1 targeted for legal review of cannabis regulations

Council also received another update from the Cannabis Control Committee (CCC).

Chair Tim Nohara said that the group is tentatively targeting June 1 for their final draft of new regulations to be submitted for legal review.

While no recent public meetings have been possible due to the pandemic, Nohara said that all stakeholders, from residents to cannabis producers, had 20 days to submit questions and concerns, ending May 5.

“I would call this synthesis between the work of staff, the work of the committee, and planning approaches that have been developed by Meridian [Planning Consultants],” Nohara said.

Meridian’s Nick McDonald highlighted to council a key element of the regulations he has helped author— the Official Plan Amendment (OPA) for any future cannabis operations.

“Essentially what we’re doing is requiring a Planning Act process to determine the appropriateness of any future operations,” he said. “Some may think that what we’re suggesting is a prohibition, and in my opinion it is not. If we developed an OPA that simply prohibited these used, and made it extremely onerous for these uses to be established, I think someone could take a [legal] run at the Town and indicate that it is a prohibition. My approach has been to recognize the adverse effects that exist, and establish a path forward for folks to follow if they wish to make an application in the future.”

Junkin asked McDonald if the final product would be able to stand up in court if challenged by a producer.

“Standing up in a court of law is question best asked of a lawyer,” McDonald said. “I can tell you based on discussions with [Toronto law firm] Aird & Berlis, that as long as the Town establishes a path forward under which a producer can come in and make an application, then that’s a defensible approach.”

COVID-19 update

Fire Chief Bob Lymburner gave his regular COVID-19 update to council.

While the overall tone of the pandemic seemed to be trending in a positive direction last week, some concerning signs linger. Lymburner reported that one of Niagara’s largest infected populations remains those aged 80-plus in care facilities or retirement homes. On May 6, an advocacy group called the International Long-term Care Policy Network reported that Canada had the worst mortality rates in such facilities among 14 different countries.

Still, things are beginning to move elsewhere. Lymburner told Junkin that Town landscapers have been cleared to go back to work with strict physical distance and hand-washing guidelines. A staff meeting was set to be held last week in which recovery plans were discussed— including the reopening of Town buildings — with an emphasis on reducing “touchpoints” and adhering to strict cleaning schedules. Lymburner added that Town employees who wish to wear masks will be provided them, with proper training for use.

“If we stick to [the guidelines], I think we’re very close to getting back to business in the Town of Pelham,” he said.