Round one goes to a greener, healthier town

With much appreciation to Councillors John Wink, Bob Hildebrandt, Lisa Haun, Marianne Stewart, and Ron Kore, and to all those citizens of Pelham who answered the call to protect and preserve our nature trails in Pelham, and to Steve Bauer, a big thank you!

Council’s Monday night vote was a vote for demanding more responsible urban development—development that first and foremost puts protection of the ecosystem and the needs of people above the wants of developers. While we celebrate this accomplishment, we cannot rest on our laurels.

Round two is likely just around the corner. This is when the developer will be back to council to press their demands and in likelihood attempt to undo what council has done. To this we say to the citizens of Pelham: stay informed, stay vigilant, and stay together. United we can prevail.

Graham and Edie Pett
Fonthill

The “lost culture” of Pelham

After a two-week hiatus I was pleased to be reading The Voice with its informative content regarding Town issues as well as resident concerns. First off, I was encouraged to discover that Town Council heard the voices of their constituents and voted down the construction of roads slated to go across the Steve Bauer Trail. Even though I am encouraged by this, it was the article by Magdalena Woszczyna that made me realize how much work remains to be done if we are to preserve the unique culture of Pelham. Woszczyna’s article painted a very accurate picture of why people come to live in this special area and how it is currently being stripped away.

As I continued to turn through the pages of The Voice I came to a headline that read: Port Robinson development may soar to ten storeys. I guess the people on the tenth storey will be able to see the whole Bauer trail from there. How did this situation get so bad in such a short time? Are we now a part of the GTA?

I can remember going for Sunday drives to my favourite spots in the Niagara Peninsula, which were the towns of Niagara-on-the-Lake and Fonthill. Niagara-on-the-Lake has had a great deal of new development but has managed to maintain their culture and Old World charm. How did they do this? It might be that their planning department has different rules or that the engineers submitting the plans are qualified and experienced urban planners who are not looking to take advantage our Town.

In light of this I ask the good people of Pelham, “What are we going to do about the vast amount land that is slated for current development?”

An interesting thing I’ve heard is that in the United States when developing engineers move into a town and fail to preserve its culture it is not only immoral but is a punishable offense by law. From Port Robinson Rd. to Merritt Rd., including Kunda Park, there are box houses without any taste or style no matter what angle you look at them. This is not how we have historically built in Fonthill—there were always larger setbacks with yards with plenty of room for playing, gardens, tree planting, and parking. Is our culture of Pelham really gone forever? Houses need social distancing too!

It is my hope that we speak to our council, as they have proven that they will listen as our elected representatives. We need to unite in order to save our unique culture and not be the victim of development that is driven by dollars and not by the residents’ quality of life!

Rose Galway
Fonthill

 

Greater focus needed on struggling local businesses

There should be a great sense of urgency around the state of our local small businesses. I am talking about our main street businesses and the small businesses off the main street.

These folks are telling me that they will shortly have to make the decision whether to go on. Some of them are now existing on their personal savings. Some are young entrepreneurs who might never recover the losses due to the pandemic.

As a community, we cannot afford the loss of such a vibrant local source of employment and leadership. I sense in speaking to them that for some our small businesses it is very much a day- to-day proposition. Every dollar that we spend gets them closer to the end of this emergency.

On Friday, the Ontario Government opened the application process for the Ontario Small Business Support Grant. Information about the grant can be found at news.Ontario.ca. I shouldn’t get into the details because you can read them for yourselves. Look for “Applications Now Open for Ontario’s Small Business Support Grant.”

What I can do is strongly commend this program as a next-step program for our small businesses. I would suggest that this is an opportunity that might not pass this way again, so take it. Once you have qualified, your details are on file for future programs.

As with everything these days, small things mean a lot. You will be amazed at the value of a phone call to someone who lives alone.

Councillor Wayne Olson
Pelham, Ward 1

 

Open letter from Niagara Health to Niagara community leaders

We are writing to request your urgent help.

Niagara has received its first shipment of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines. It is a day we have been waiting for since the first vaccines were administered in Ontario on December 14, 2020. Over the past month, COVID spread in Niagara has become increasingly serious and we need your help to advocate for Niagara’s fair share of vaccines.

As physicians and healthcare workers on the front lines of this near year-long battle with the pandemic, we want to recognize all the hard work done by our colleagues to protect the health and safety of our community and the numerous lives they have saved under the most difficult of circumstances. As of Jan. 13, we are caring for 62 COVID-positive patients in hospital, with 12 patients in Intensive Care. During the first week of the New Year, we cared for as many as 93 patients in a single day at the hospital. Sadly, 90 patients being treated for COVID have died, with 50 of those deaths taking place since the onset of the second wave in the fall of 2020.

Additionally, Niagara Health has been called upon to manage and protect the residents of two long term care homes. Our teams risked their own health and wellbeing to enter these homes and provide the life-saving support to residents. In particular, one of the homes we are supporting is experiencing one of the most significant outbreaks anywhere in Ontario, with 96 percent of the home’s 122 residents testing positive for the virus. Thirty residents have died and 121 staff were infected.

In short, the virus is heavily impacting our region. Our teams are burned out; people are worried for their loved ones and they need hope. Hope that the vaccine offers. While we are pleased to receive the initial shipments of the Pfizer vaccine, the reality is that it’s not enough. It’s not enough to vaccinate our vulnerable population and not enough to guarantee continuous operation of your hospital system. This is compounded by the inexplicable diversion of the Moderna vaccine, which would have gone to the most vulnerable population that we care for in Niagara.

It has been particularly disheartening for us in Niagara to see that we are not being treated equitably with other areas in the province. There are 32 long term care homes in Niagara and not one healthcare worker, not one resident, received the vaccine prior to today. In contrast, Windsor has 19 long term care homes and has already vaccinated all of them. The same is true for York Region’s 28 homes. This frustration is multiplied by regular reports of individuals, who are not eligible under the government’s own criteria, being vaccinated against COVID prior to those who desperately need it in Niagara. Shockingly, some people in other jurisdictions have received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine before a single dose made its way into our community. Our older adults and healthcare workers deserve better.

The virus is taking its toll on staff and physicians at the hospital. More than 220 of our teammates have tested positive for COVID and nearly 200 others are having to isolate for potential exposure. While we appreciate that the public sometimes refers to healthcare workers as heroes, we are not superhuman. With the spread of infection, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain services in the hospital and continue to save lives. We are not far from our system being overwhelmed. The hospital system is currently dealing with eight units on outbreak, including one of our COVID units, one of our ICUs and two of our emergency departments.

Along with our colleagues, we have provided care for patients at their worst moments of suffering and vulnerability. We are committed and dedicated to doing everything we can to care for our community. The government can help us by directing additional vaccines to Niagara. By vaccinating healthcare workers, you are protecting services in the hospital and ensuring that we are able to continue providing care to those who most need it.

In closing, we ask our community and leaders to support this urgent call for action. Join us in requiring the Ontario Government allocate more Pfizer vaccines to Niagara and restore the allocation of the Moderna vaccine that was unfairly taken away. We can administer vaccines as quickly as they are provided. Volunteers are lining up to support this initiative. All we need are vaccines.

We ask that you share our message on social media, encourage your friends to write to our Members of Provincial Parliament and request that they take our message to the highest levels of government.

Niagara deserves to be treated equitably and we need additional vaccines as soon as possible.

Dr. Johan Viljoen, Chief of Staff and EVP Medical, Dr. Don DuVall, Chief of Anesthesia, Dr. Julian Dobranowski, Chief of Diagnostic Imaging, Dr. Rafi Setrak, Chief of Emergency Medicine, Dr. Lorraine Jensen, Chief of Medicine, Dr. Maxine Lewis, Chief of Mental Health and Addictions, Dr. Karen MacMillan, Interim Head of Service, Obstetrics, Dr. Olufemi Olufowobi, Interim Head of Service, Gynaecology, Dr. Michael Levesque, Chief of Oncology, Dr. Madan Roy, Chief of Paediatrics, Dr. Satish Chawla, Chief of Laboratory Medicine, Dr. Ian Brown, Chief of Surgery, Dr. Maynard Luterman, President, Medical Staff Association, Dr. Alison MacTavish, Vice President, Medical Staff Association, Dr. Adnan Hameed, Treasurer, Medical Staff Association

Asked by The Voice for comment, MPP Sam Oosterhoff responds:

First off, I want to thank the hard working men and women of Niagara Health and so many secondary healthcare organizations that support their important work. They are truly heroes, and deserve all the respect and support in the world.

Niagara has been receiving thousands of vaccines this week, which are being distributed to long term care residents and medical staff across the region every day. This while many areas in the province still have not received any vaccines at all, including areas with higher per capita caseloads than Niagara, such as Lambton-Sarnia.

The long term care residents and healthcare workers in provincial hot spots of Peel, Toronto, Windsor-Essex and York were prioritized in the ethical framework for the vaccine distribution due to vulnerable populations and higher case counts in those areas.

Although there have been challenges in ensuring a steady supply (Ontario has capacity to distribute 40,000 doses a day, but we have not received enough from the federal government, both of Moderna and Pfizer), I am pleased to say that all long term care residents and healthcare workers in the Province, including Niagara, will be vaccinated prior to February 15. Indeed, much of that work is already underway.

I have spoken with the Ministry of Health, the Solicitor General, and the Premier about the importance of ensuring Niagarans are being vaccinated in an equitable and timely fashion, and I am confident that Niagara’s voice is being heard. That said, I will continue to advocate for our community and ensure Niagara’s needs are being recognized and met.

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Gary Accursi

Steve Bauer Trail motion was premature

I recently watched the Pelham Town Council meeting of Jan. 11, during which a motion was brought forward by Councillors Wink and Hildebrandt concerning the roadways proposed for the new subdivisions Kunda Park 4 and Forest Park. The motion essentially stated that the Town would not allow any roads to cross the Steve Bauer Trail or the Gerry Berkhout Trail. I found this motion somewhat troubling with its timing and wide-ranging implications. The discussion surrounding it proved quite interesting.

Most municipalities have a process established which a new subdivision proposal must go through in order to receive both draft plan and final plan approval. The first public part of the process is to hold a Public Meeting under the Planning Act. During this meeting the public is informed about the proposal, and how it fits with current planning documents at the Provincial, Regional and local municipal level. Feedback from the public, various stakeholders, commenting agencies and council is collected with respect to the plan. The developer and staff are available to answer questions which arise and to record the feedback. The information collected is then analyzed, meetings with the developer are held, and often modifications are undertaken to address legitimate concerns if possible. Following this public process, Town staff will write a Recommendation Report in which they review all legislation, public and council input, and outline the draft plan design and conditions attached to it. Council then votes to accept or reject the plan or to return the plan to staff for further discussion with the developer for modifications. Once the draft plan is approved, the developer has a timeline in which to satisfy all conditions and to put forward a final plan of subdivision. This is then presented to council for final approval. This process has been well established and is fair and equitable to the public, the Town, and the developer.

In my opinion, the motion put forward last week ignored this process and prematurely rejected the crossing of these trails without being adequately informed regarding the implications of such a move.

Did the fact that council broke from normal accepted practices in the planning sphere create grounds for the developer to appeal the entire process to the LPAT? Was this a reasonable approach to the concerns expressed by some members of the public? I would argue that it was not. Let’s review a few facts.

Councillor Stewart stated in the discussion that all development is controlled by the developers and that it was time for the Town to take back control. These sentiments were echoed by Councillor Kore as well. This is simply not factual and is misleading. Provincial, Regional and municipal legislation controls and manages development. Developers must comply with all these levels of legislation and control. Numerous commenting agencies have input on the development based on their area of governance. Where this idea comes from is simply beyond me! Such a statement made by councillors is misleading and uniformed.

At least one crossing of the Steve Bauer trail was already planned for in the East Fonthill Master Plan and Demonstration Plan. It was designed to facilitate traffic moving in an east-west direction, and to reduce traffic movement through Stella and John Streets and ultimately onto Pelham Street. The road was planned to have a dedicated bike lane and a walking path to enhance the connectivity across Fonthill and to encourage active transportation. No objection to this proposal was raised during the Master Plan planning process and adoption. Does the new motion mean that an Official Plan amendment is necessary, and does it open grounds for an appeal by the developer, as he could easily argue that he was trying to comply with the Master and Demonstrations plans, only to be frustrated by this motion? Is there even a risk that he could sue for recovery of design costs which he has expended trying to comply with the existing planning documents?

The Active Transportation Committee— which concerns itself with transportation safety, walkability and bike ability— apparently has examined the proposal and found it to be reasonable, and apparently liked the connectivity, enhanced bike routes, and walkability. In fact, one of the proposed new roads leads directly to a public park.

A group of vocal objectors to the roads and any modification to the trail want to preserve the tree cover and natural forest surrounding the trail. Examination of the plan shows that less than five percent of the trees are to be removed when building these crossings. In addition, it is my understanding that the developer has agreed to enhance the vegetation along the trail.

Limiting the plan to one means of entry and exit will drive traffic from the subdivision thru John and Stella Streets to Pelham Street. This is unsafe from a volume standpoint but also from an accessibility standpoint for emergency vehicles. During construction of Kunda Park, all construction traffic will have to use Stella and John Streets as well as Pelham Street. This would be dangerous, disruptive and not an ideal situation.

To put a road across the wetlands as an alternative would damage the wetlands. Certainly the proposed design would be less disruptive to the natural environment than to cross a wetland.

Both existing trails have numerous crossings already, and to my knowledge nothing untoward has occurred to walkers or bikers as a result. In fact, if you drive parallel to the Bauer Trail from beginning to end the majority of it is quite urbanized with homes almost right up to it, and large sections with few or no trees. The section from Merritt Road to Port Robinson Road is forested on both sides and this will be preserved and enhanced as a buffer to the trail and homes. I am sure the developer sees access to and enhancement of the trail as an amenity to his plan. The Gerry Berkhout Trail is bordered by farmers’ fields in many areas and as such is not forested—in fact several farmers have crossing over the trail to access their farms. Does this motion put an end to this as well?

Councillor Wink alluded to the fact that the densities will likely have to be increased in the Kunda Park development. This is most likely as a result of not being able to consider Forest Park and Kunda Park together to meet the Provincial density targets. Note that I said Provincial density targets—not the Town of Pelham’s. These targets are established by the Province from time to time as they look for ways to stop urban sprawl and to optimize tax revenues for the municipalities to support infrastructure maintenance and replacement. I am sure that the current residents of Kunda Park will not be pleased to see a greater density with its inherent increase in traffic.

It appears that this motion was the result of political pressure brought to bear on council by interest groups who appear well organized and very opinionated, but not necessarily well informed. If you examine the developer’s proposal, it appears that the crossings will be beneficial with respect to traffic flow and accessibility for all forms of movement —vehicular, bike, and walking. In addition, it appears that the impact on the trail will be minimal, and that there will be an improvement to the forestation surrounding the trail. Safety for both the exiting Kunda Park residents and for the new residents of the Kunda Park extension and Forest Park subdivision will be enhanced with better traffic movement and easier and assured access for emergency vehicles.

In conclusion, I am again disappointed that council has responded to public concerns with a knee jerk reaction without fully understanding the long- and short-term implications of their action. They have not weighed the pros and cons of the proposals, have ignored and disrespected their professional staffs’ recommendations, and have merely reacted to political pressure.

Whatever happened to good old negotiation and coming to a compromise. Would one crossing have been sufficient? Councillor Wink referred to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states that every action results in an opposite and equal reaction. He is very right about that, as you can see by the discussion here. I reiterate what I have said before and what Mayor Junkin wisely stated in his written statement—council must rise above political posturing, inform themselves about process and the legislation, respect their staff, and must make informed decisions for the betterment of the entire community. I believe this did not happen in this matter. Maybe it’s time for a reconsideration.

Gary Accursi is a former Pelham Town Councillor, and was a candidate for mayor in 2018.

 

REGIONAL COUNCIL UPDATE | Diana Huson, Regional Councillor for Pelham

Partisan politics drove recent hospital decision

Last Thursday, January 13, Niagara Regional council considered a number of important policies impacting the levy budget, which we expect to finalize this week. The levy budget consists of all of the Regional programs and services, Regional operations, as well as the agencies and boards that are funded through the Regional tax levy, otherwise known as the Regional portion of your property tax bill.

One policy on the table was a hospital funding formula, which was proposed in response to a funding request for the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital. The funding request was also considered at this time.

For context, Regional council had known for months, if not years, that a funding request would come forward. The municipal councils of Grimsby, West Lincoln and Lincoln had all committed local tax dollars in the amount of $26 million to the hospital build. The West Lincoln Memorial Hospital Foundation Board (WLMHF) had requested a $14 million dollar Regional contribution.

Also, of important note is that Regional council had committed funds to the St. Catharines hospital build years ago at a rate of 18 percent of the local contribution. The WLMHF asserted that this amount was actually 21 percent, and therefore argued they were entitled to a minimum of $12.6 million dollars.

With this in mind, and recognizing that these funds are public tax dollars that need to be allocated in a responsible and fair manner, council committed to developing a funding formula to address the request and also prepare the organization for future hospital funding requests expected to come in the near future. A consultant was hired to do research and recommend options for consideration. A preliminary funding model was approved by council back in November. Senior management staff had worked tirelessly since that time, and in collaboration with the consultant to develop a scoring matrix that took into account many factors to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of public tax dollars and evaluate the WLMHF funding request through the lens of the funding matrix. The matrix identified an upper limit of 18 percent contribution and identified a proposed contribution of $9.072 million towards the project.

With this information in mind, Mayor Jordan of Grimsby and Mayor Junkin of Pelham, put forward a motion arguing in favour of dismissing the work of the consultant, the work of Regional staff, the direction of council, and instead arbitrarily award $12.6 million dollars to the WLMHF. After debate, this motion was approved.

In recognition of the importance of being accountable and transparent for how we spend public tax dollars, I tried to salvage the work done developing a policy for future hospital funding, which failed. Had the funding policy been approved, the Region would have had the most comprehensive and robust hospital funding policy across Ontario. Instead, council opted to arbitrarily set a funding policy at a maximum of 21 percent.

This was probably the most disappointing council meeting I have ever attended. As Pelham’s Regional representative, I take my position very seriously. I am charged with the public’s trust. I have a responsibility to ensure your tax dollars are spent responsibly and efficiently, not just for Pelham but for the entire Region. I am also responsible to act in the best interests of the corporation, to ensure that at this table I wear a “Regional hat” and hopefully leave the organization in a better place (financially, operationally, culturally, et al.) than when I first took my seat. That is my duty as a public official and that is the duty of all of Regional council members.

There were very few Regional hats voting on that day. There could have been some councillors who felt in principle that 21 percent was a valid number. However, I would argue that most acted in the interest of their respective municipality knowing that it would set a precedent to access future Regional dollars. Not surprisingly, most of West Niagara voted in favour, of despite championing the need for a funding policy early on. Niagara Falls will bring a hospital funding request in the near future so more money for this hospital means even more money for that project (which means a Regional contribution could be in excess of $54 million dollars). Similarly, Welland could be asking for funding as well, which may also involve a financial ask for the Town of Pelham.

In reflection, I can live with the decision to award WLMHF $12.6 million dollars. I am one vote. Council is a collective. If $12.6 million is the will of council than I accept that. However, I take issue with two very important points here.

One, local municipalities shouldn’t be required to fund hospitals in the first place. Hospital funding is a provincial responsibility and yet the Province requires local funding of 10 percent of the construction costs in addition to covering the cost of equipment. The Province has broad taxation power such as sales tax, income tax, etc. The cost of a hospital spread across a population of 14.57 million people is minimal, potentially a few dollars or cents here and there. Municipalities have one revenue source— i.e. your property tax bill. To fund a hospital through property taxes is expensive and costly to a much smaller tax base. For those of us in Pelham, the hospital funding will be part of your Regional share of the property tax bill. For those in Lincoln, West Lincoln or Grimsby, it will form part of both your local and Regional property tax contribution. At best this is Provincial downloading. You could also argue this is a form of pay-for-access healthcare. If a local municipality can’t come up with 10 percent construction costs or funding for hospital equipment, does that mean they can’t have access to a local hospital or an X-ray machine? It’s ridiculous. The Province should pay for that which it is responsible for.

Secondly, there was a real opportunity here to leave the organization with clear direction on a funding formula, to leave the organization better off than when we got here, and to ensure the funds were spent responsibly. The consultant we hired cost public money. The time staff put in to work with the consultant also cost public money. With the action taken by council at this budget meeting, that money was figuratively flushed down the toilet. I find this completely reprehensible and insulting. I know how hard the people of Pelham work to earn a living. If we’re asking for tax dollars it should be because every dollar is needed. This was a waste of everyone’s time and money to land on an outcome that appears to have been predetermined.

It’s not often that I am critical of a council decision, but when something like this occurs, I feel it needs to be brought to the attention of the public. I hope this council takes much greater responsibility over their use of public funds in the future and will continue to fight on behalf of responsible spending for our residents. And I urge the Province to reconsider downloading the cost of hospitals onto municipalities when it falls entirely within their mandate.

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Larry Coté

Grandkids to the rescue

If you don’t have a grandchild or two then you would do well to adopt, rent or borrow one from a neighbour. These progeny are there for a good reason and are essential to your technological survival in today’s world.

As each new technology comes about, many of us seniors can be challenged by a newfangled whatchamacallit. If so, call the grandkids. You will be up and running in no time. Forget the frustration of trying to set up the remote for the new TV or trying to make a call on your new cellphone. The grandkids will sit you down and walk you through learning about these gadgets. While doing that, of course, they will be wondering how you made it through life without seriously harming yourself along the way.

When I offer to pick up the kids to bring them over to our place they politely, but adamantly, decline. They say they will just catch an Uber ride and save me the trouble. I have since learned that the last time they rode with this grandpa, it took them two days of intensive counselling to overcome the trauma of that experience.

Our daughter, forgetting that I grew up in the World War II era, gave me Alexa as a gift. Now, I need to quickly point out to that this is not a paramour but rather a modern day “personal assistant.” For the uninitiated, an Amazon Echo Dot is a small device, about the size of a hockey puck, that sits on my desk and dutifully responds to my questions and commands through the guise of an artificially intelligent voice summoned by saying, “Alexa.” I can ask her what time it is or what is the weather forecast, not only outside my window but any place in the world. If I want to turn on or turn off the lights, or any other household device, I just speak to her and she responds accordingly—although this depends on said devices having their own little whatchamacallits too. If asked, she will sing me a song or tell me a joke. Every morning our daughter sends me a voice message that Alexa promptly delivers and I give Alexa a message to my daughter in return. Great stuff for this old dad who grew up with windup contraptions and never even dreamed of solar-powered contrivances, let alone talking hockey pucks.

I can proclaim with pride that my cellphone has a hundred-plus applications. It can guide me to far off destinations or record the length of my neighbourhood walks, all the while recording my heart rate and advising me that I have not yet been exposed to a virus. Remarkably, our son uses his to call us from the crest of one of the Rocky Mountains without having to find a phone booth.

Meanwhile, I have so far mastered two of the hundred-plus applications on my phone. I can 1) make, and 2) answer a telephone call—not yet certified as a competent user but hoping to get further along before my flip phone becomes obsolete.

In addition to our landline telephone, our side table is littered with more remote control devices than NASA launch control. If we want to watch a movie, our grandkids have directed us on how to get to Netflix by using only three of these remote controls. Next, I have to learn how to start the movie before the device times out. While watching a movie, lord forbid if we get a call on our cellphone as we have to go through the process of answering the confounded phone and trying to pause the movie by choosing the right remote from the myriad of these look-alikes lined up on the coffee table. We recently ordered a tabletop caddy on my iPad (yup, another hi-tech device at my finger tips!) to organize this plethora of devices. I won’t be as surprised as the guy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who receives this caddy at his doorstep because I inadvertently hit the wrong keystroke on my iPad to confirm the purchaser’s delivery address. However, if by chance it makes it to our door, I expect visitors might be intimidated by the presence of this caddy-full display of weaponry that looks like it might belong in the bunker of the head of national security.

We have also taken to teleconferencing via Zoom, Skype, Team, and Facetime. (Please take note of how fluent this senior has become with these technologies, courtesy of our young ones of course!) We meet with our trans-Canadian family members on Sunday afternoons and watch with glee the antics of our great- grandchildren in northern Ontario and out east in Nova Scotia. Just the other day we met with some long lost friends in California. Recently, we were reacquainted with some good folks in London, England. These live hookups are somewhat therapeutic and relieve some of the stress of being locked down due to this terrible virus.

The newest device to add to our labyrinth of technologies is called a Fire TV Stick. Now before you call the fire department and accuse me of being a closet arsonist, allow me to try and explain. A Google search will tell you this device is a dongle that allows you to stream an endless and ageless array of movies and TV shows. Now the downside of adopting this newest thing means you have another remote control to add to your growing arsenal of little black boxes. However, if you are going to be technologically up to snuff you have to go with the flow and accept such cluttering of your living space.

It has sometimes been a challenging experience to get on board with some of these technologies. Most of them have made life more entertainingly delightful. Nonetheless, I look forward to adopting the next innovation. It’s easy, just call the grandkids. For a soda and a taco they will show you everything you need to know.

Well, I must go now to see if I can figure out the settings on this new microwave oven without triggering the fire alarm and greeting the firemen at the door like the last time I tried. On second thought, I ought to text one of the grandkids. Aha, another of my newfound practices— texting. Now, which of these devices is the cellphone again?

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Vaccine delay is temporary; hospital vote right way to go

Well, well, the stars and the planets must have been in perfect alignment this past week, because Marv the politician had a great week. Before I get into the details, let’s discuss our world of COVID-19.

New Niagara cases on Friday, Jan. 15, totalled 152. This number was down considerably from the high of 467 from Monday, the 11th, but is distressingly higher than the generally under-30 new daily cases that we were getting in November, and early December. (This 467 number also included a backlog of cases not previously reported.) As of Sunday, the weekly average was 128 infections per day.

While Regional hospital admissions have certainly increased during the last three weeks, our hospitals, thankfully, are not being pushed to their limits, as is the case in the “hotspots” of the Province.

While our positivity percentage has climbed to 6.3 percent, that same number in Brampton is over 17%.

The news on the vaccination front is somewhat disheartening, but hopefully will get better. As of last Wednesday, the total number of doses administered within the Region was 142. By Friday, that number had climbed to 608. With 460,000 residents in the Region, this could take awhile! I have a lot of faith in our Public Health workers, so I am sure they will iron out the kinks and we will see a great improvement in the rollout.

On a side note, Florida has made it a policy, at least according to its governor, that anyone over 65 will be given the vaccine, whether they be resident or non-resident. Many Canadian snowbirds have received the vaccine, a fact that isn’t setting well with some elderly full-time Floridians. I can see their point, but even more disturbing is the number of people flying into Florida for a day, getting the vaccine, then leaving right after getting poked. A jet service out of Toronto is reportedly offering a service similar to this for between $25,000 and $80,000. Thanks, but no thanks. I will somewhat patiently wait my turn.

Okay, now the good news!

Back last May, during a council meeting, I stated, somewhat optimistically, and some would say definitely pre-maturely, that I would not be happy with any property tax increase over two percent. I still remember the startled look on Town staff faces. Well, folks, with the help of upper government and their COVID-19 support payments, council last week passed both our capital and operating budgets, which will be serviced with a 1.98% property tax increase, coming as it does following increases of over 13% the last two years combined, which saw unavoidable expenditures.

The other good news came at the Region. The Mayor of Grimsby phoned last Thursday morning, asking if I would second a motion, asking the Regional government to supply funding for the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital, to the tune of 21 percent of the publicly sourced funds. This project has been kicked around, and debated, for over 20 years. Unless I am reading public sentiment incorrectly, I believe that any money spent on healthcare, especially when that project is a regional hospital, is fully supported by our residents. Long story short, I did indeed second the motion, spoke to its worth, and it passed. The Region will now kick in $12.7 million dollars to this project. Surely, after 20 years of talking, it is time for action. I say, “Get er done.”

Until next time…