TD Bank—goodbye to Fonthill, and maybe customers too

I received a note yesterday from TD Bank indicating that the branch in downtown Fonthill is closing on July 16, 2021, and all accounts will be transferred to the Welland branch, at 845 Niagara Street N. That’s one TD Bank branch for a population of around 70,000. I remember when the Fonthill branch was closed in the summer due to COVID—the lineup at the Niagara Street branch stretched around the building. I’ve already emailed the CEO of the bank—Mr. Bharat Masrani—and received a reply back from Isabelle Hochman (a Manager of Customer Care). Perhaps others would like to share their displeasure with the bank closing by called Isabelle at 1-833-934-0006. I think if a large number of us say that we are going to move our accounts to another bank, we might have an influence. The great thing about a branch in a small town is that we know the employees and they know us. Also several seniors who make up a large portion of Pelham will not want to transfer to the very busy Welland branch where they don’t know anyone.

David Whitehead
Fonthill

Advice to Town Council: Just say no to proxy voting

The subject of voting by proxy is not a complex issue. It is purely and simply anti-democratic if used as an accepted method of municipal governance. The issue has been well covered in the February 10th issue of the Voice on pages 4, 5, and 6, let alone the staff report on the issue tabled at the council meeting of February 1st.

I want all councillors to listen, to consider, to compromise if deemed advisable, and to vote as they see fit in the best interests of the Town of Pelham. And certainly not to act as part of a cabal to serve their own interests or to support “group think.”

My recommendation: ban proxy voting except in truly extenuating circumstances.

John Abbott
Fonthill

 

A pox on proxy

Here we go again! Can our elected councillors please do the job we elected them for—be at the meetings, do their due diligence, and above all, be transparent to the people who elected them.

Mayor Junkin has explained the “quorum” rule and it has worked thus far. It seems unlikely two councilors would be absent at once for any length of time, so four can do the job, as has been done this past year.

It is amusing that Mr. Hildebrandt found it necessary to consult MPP Oosterhoff, when he couldn’t even obey the rules of distancing and wearing a mask during this pandemic. He is part of Doug Ford’s group and as such, supports proxy voting.

Lastly, as a senior living in Pelham, which is part of the Niagara area, why is it so difficult to get information on the status of our area regarding COVID-19 updates. We have watched the news on every channel, including CHCH, and nothing is reported about the lockdown, other than we are now in grey zone…and why are we, because we assumed that our numbers had gone down more so than Toronto and areas. We have been diligent and home waiting since last March to find out about vaccines and when we can at least go out for a lunch or get a hair appointment. I realize we’re all in the same boat, but as seniors our ages are against us as time marches on.

R. Obelnycki
Pelham

 

No need to rush SDU decision

The Town of Pelham’s Planning Department should not move forward on its Second Dwelling Unit proposal until the pandemic is over and we can hold public meetings to allow for a full presentation.

Or is the Planning Department opposed, and does not want to repeat the same situation that was created when a large crowd of objectors came out against a proposed additional house on an existing lot with an existing home? Or the fallout that was created when a homeowner who did not live in the dwelling created a second dwelling without a proper permit, and without a change in the single family zoning?

Whatever the case is, I feel that this bylaw amendment is such a major change in the fabric of our town’s identity and lifestyle that a motion to stay this change is a must. I believe we need a stay on this motion to allow for true democracy. We need this because it affects the whole town’s population, not just one small portion. We need to stay the motion until the pandemic is over so that all who wish to be heard and those wanting to show support can be seen.

We need this because of the vast majority of residents do not even realize what has been put forward due to the lack of transparency. A major amendment like this warrants a letter to all the citizens in the Town of Pelham not just a onetime notice in our local paper, other papers, or a notice on the Town’s website. Too many citizens don’t have the knowledge of how to maneuver the website or have a computer that will be affected by this amendment. I am not saying this because I’m against these notices but I feel that many citizens are not aware of the amendment.

I see the lack of public notice as the same way that the two new proposed developments off Port Robinson and the Steve Bauer Trail proposal changes went. This created a major change in the proposal due to the motion on January 11, and created an unnecessary workload on the Planning Department, just because of the lack of notice to the general public.

In this time of major shutdowns we need governments on all levels to be innovative in ways to connect with their constituents. We need our Town to be able to find ways to listen to the wishes of its citizens. We need to have the voices of the grass roots to be heard not discarded as troublemakers. We need our town administrators to prove to the public that they are listening to the public request to be heard.

Letters sent out to the all residents when major changes are being sought must be just one tool. Weekly notifications in our local papers of major changes are another tool; making an open chat line on their website can create more people to bring forward ideas. By having more public meetings on topics, not just one meeting, would allow and encourage more to participate.

It has been clearly demonstrated that following the protocols and procedures that have been put in place during normal times is not enough to inform or to allow for proper debate during this pandemic.

Mike Jones
Fonthill

 

Looking for Haist update

As the Haist arena and quonset hut have been removed, the public eagerly await designs from Lally Homes. The taxpayers were told they would be informed as to an inclusive public meeting (Zoom), and variances for homes fronting Haist were requested. Pelham Town staff indicated the land itself has to be cleaned due to toxic leftovers from years of usage as hockey arena. An update regarding these matters would be appreciated.

L. Morgan
Fonthill

 

Treaties overtaken by modernity

In his remarks [“Deer hunt is treaty right,” Letters, Feb. 10, p.14], Mr. Scapillati shows that he is not cognizant of the varied concerns of the demonstrators at Short Hills Park during the deer hunt.

We have always expressed concerns about public safety, the damage to the environment and the suffering and mutilation of the deer during these treaty hunts.

Mr. Scapillati feels that, “…the deer are harvested, many celebrations are enjoyed over a good meal and the bonding and tradition of hunting by bow is enjoyed…It doesn’t get any better than that.”

He’s right. It doesn’t “get any better.” It gets worse—way worse. Per Six Nations website today there has been an explosion of COVID cases “due to midwinter ceremonies Jan 15-Jan 26.”

Per their website today, Six Nations have 348 cases per 100,000, while surrounding areas have a tenth or less of that: Brantford has 22 per 100,000 and Haldimand-Norfolk has 30 per 100,000.

The authors of treaties written many, many years ago did not consider they would be over-hunting in Six Nations such that they would have to travel over an hour to hunt basically tame deer in a public park, didn’t consider urban sprawl and didn’t consider a deadly pandemic.

They probably couldn’t have imagined or approved of the sadism of involved hunters leaving their calling-cards displayed: deer fetuses cut out of a doe and her once lactating nipples strung in a tree above; a deer heart left on an SHP sign; buck penis shafts on display on trails; forgotten (deadly) cross bows left in the park; numerous wounded deer left to die agonizing deaths; killing 69 lb fawns.

So, yes, Mr. Scapillati, it CAN get better than that. It MUST get better than that.

Sheila Krekorian and Joe Skura
St Catharines

 

Election on the horizon

So the people of Canada are probably going to face an election whether they want it or not. When it will happen will depend on who takes the blame for calling it. The Liberals keep threatening to call one if certain motions are passed or not and the Conservatives do not want to take the blame unless it is a critical point. The NDP will just sit back and wait to put their thumb on the scale when the time is right. How long can some of us go on with all the present government’s fiascos before we have had enough? Some have already had enough but a great many are sitting back in our COVID seclusion waiting for the next handout from the Liberals. The way they just cancelled money owing from personal businesses is just a hint of what funds owing they may cancel as part of an election campaign. Sure, they made an ambiguous policy, but some people could see the intent and did not take advantage of it. Those who did not apply lost financially but hopefully morally they feel good. In the past if Canada Revenue made a mistake and adjusted your income tax return and gave you back extra money and then did a reassessment later and wanted it back with interest then that was your responsibility.

Television is airing anti-O’Toole ads promoted by a private group over which there are very few controls. These are not Liberal ads, although the group leaders may have Liberal leanings. These ads I suspect are aimed at taking the focus off the COVID vaccine shortages that have developed as a result of the Liberal procurement program. It is sad that less than one-half of one percent of Canadians are fully protected with the vaccine. Agreed if you don’t have it you can’t administer it but that is the problem.

Our economy is going to be a real challenge to show recovery. We cannot do that by carrying on with more social handouts. For sure, children and seniors need extra attention but there are a lot of people who will fail financially and some will never make it back. The federal government has left the dirty work up to the provincial governments to handle quarantines, lockdown, and closures because I guess that is their job. The provinces/territories should be better at it as they are closer to the job.

What the election platforms will be is wide open. The Conservatives will want to look at the COVID issue as well as the economy and the Liberals will continue giveaways to cover their tracks. The NDP will do the best they can to get things that Canadians would like but can’t really afford. But who cares about borrowing?

One issue that I am sure will come up though is more firearm control. There has been no letup in violence in the big cities and I suspect not one firearm banned last May from being owned by law -abiding, RCMP-licensed Canadians was used in any of these gang, drug or mental health-related crimes. The solution will be to ban more firearms. Not admit they had it wrong. The Liberals are just too weak to get tough of crime, as it might hurt someone’s feelings.

Who knows— we could end up with another minority with the same or a different leader. As I see it.

Bill McLeod
Welland

 

Animal losses more moving than human?

Differing ideologies and worldviews will always put people at odds. Against it or for it, hunting divides. But what is perhaps telling in this letter opposing an Indigenous hunt [“Hunting is not ‘harvesting,’” Letters, Feb. 10, p.8] are the references to “a once – pregnant doe” and the fact that matters were considered worse when “twins” could be identified in the gutted remains. It reminds me of a similar point offered by horse rescuers who say two lives are lost when a pregnant mare is not saved and dies. Animal pro-life?

The question posed in the letter’s closing argument gauges the public is more apt to sympathize if the “pregnant deer” had been a dog. Perhaps.

The question one should ask is, what angle does this argument validate if pregnant people paying others to make them not pregnant is an ideology many are only too willing to stomach.

Janet Gritter
Wellandport

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Councillor Wayne Olson

In watershed moment, leadership is action

Along with Mayor Junkin, and Pelham Manager of Engineering Mr Derek Young, I was privileged to attend a recent Trout Unlimited Canada presentation on the topics of Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development for Watershed Management. A special thank you to Dennis Edell of the Niagara Chapter of Trout Unlimited Canada, and to his team of volunteers, the skilled and knowledgeable presenters, and my fellow participants, who had so many useful questions. I commend the Trout Unlimited Canada website as a source of information.

I have come to expect a great presentation from the people at Trout Unlimited, with a sensible balancing of the science and the practical. This particular presentation was a useful reminder of the circular nature of our world and the powerful laws that govern the planet. It was a recognition and appreciation that we might not always be aware of the ways in which the integral parts of the immense environmental system work together. We cannot afford to be oblivious to the consequences of not acting to preserve the environment.

We all need to remember that we are all interrelated, and there are often many solutions to a problem. We also need to be aware that there are no perfect solutions. Personally, I prefer to have many choices, because it broadens one’s thinking, identifies the critical antecedent actions, and serves my basic curiosity and informs my choices.

I had an interest in learning how other governmental organizations translated environmental need into focused corrective action. One of the highlighted Municipal Governance Lessons offered was Philadelphia’s experience with their Green Infrastructure Program. Those vital governance lessons included “prioritizing learning” throughout the organization, the need to bring all departments into the process, prioritization of “cross departmental integration,” and incorporating mutual goals into the resulting design.

Perhaps the biggest lesson was to dare to be innovative and embrace the possibility of failure. If one makes a mistake, and one will, by better understanding and anticipating problems one can contain the severity of the mistake and perhaps turn the mistake to one’s own advantage.

I was curious about Pelham’s stormwater management plans as they pertained to our new developments, in particular to our dozen or so Storm Water Management Ponds (SWMP’s), repetitive serious flooding, threats our urban forests and wetlands and changes to our drainage systems that residents tell me about so frequently. Being a former fly fisherman, I also have an interest in the future of the Twelve Mile Creek watershed and the resident brook trout population.

Believing and knowing that planned work is a lot cheaper than unplanned work, I am always on the lookout for strategic plans, master plans, strategies and the like. In my world, everything starts with a plan. Every planning cycle deepens one’s body of knowledge. That way one can start to understand the underlying structures driving events and better anticipate opportunities and new directions and new required capabilities.

This summer, the Town will complete its important Asset Management Plan for municipal infrastructure. It will include lifecycle activities, including fully costed protocols for inspection, testing and maintenance, leading to a set of standard operating procedures for our ponds and all other assets. I am looking forward to this plan because it will be a structure that will help to broaden our thinking and present problems in a more focused, articulate and fact-based manner.

I expect that there is some degree of urgency to the need for stormwater pond maintenance planning. The presenters cited the fact that there are over 1000 ponds in the GTA alone. According to a 2010 survey of 98 ponds within the Lake Simcoe and Region Conservation Authourity, 55 percent were in need of maintenance and “12 were so full they could no longer be classified as ponds.” I don’t believe that our ponds are in this condition because they are generally at an earlier stage of their lifecycle, but some do need attention.

According to a very current KPMG study, Pelham will be adding six more ponds within the next five years. The current learning arising from the study of our present maintenance ponds will produce strong protocols and strong standard operating procedures. I have confidence that our staff will take full advantage of these opportunities to construct truly robust plans.

When it comes to Low Impact Development, we learned it is important to develop concepts and designs that “meet the existing maintenance regime” in terms of equipment, staff, and expertise. I would add cost to that, as well. With new stormwater ponds in our future, it is prime time to design our ponds with ease of inspection and maintenance in mind. Of course, natural systems are cheaper than engineered systems.

There are several Low Impact and Green Infrastructure models in our community and some of them are reaching a mature lifecycle age. For all of our legitimate questions and concerns about the stormwater ponds, they are an important and integral part of Low Impact Design. With the degree of uncertainty about the lifecycle costs, we probably need to be building a financial maintenance reserve.

The overall objective of LID practices is to change our urbanized water cycle into a more natural water cycle. The objective needs to be to control the volume of the runoff so that water can evaporate or be absorbed into the soil and not go into a pipe. That means reducing and delaying the peak runoff. Our soils are exceptionally good at absorption—unfortunately, the loose characteristics of our soils make them more susceptible to erosion.

There are several LID features in the Town already given that Public Works and Utilities has been taking opportunities to build LID features as money and time becomes available. There are good examples in some of our parks and flowerbeds. A very good example is the parking lot at Marlene Stewart Streit Park, which has the curbs removed to allow the water to recharge the groundwater rather than go through a grating and into a pipe. These features can be used to build staff and resident comfort and acceptance, showcase the technology, and provide proof of concept according to the presentation.

It might come as a surprise to many but every—that’s right, every—single lot in the Lookout subdivision has an LID feature called a soak-away pit, which recharges the ground water without collecting in a pipe and going into a Storm Water Management Pond. As well, the Storm Water Management Pond at Brewerton and Haist is built to an Enhanced Level One, designed to control the quality and quantity and reduce the temperature of the water at the outlet.

In the meantime, council is expecting to receive a valuable report about our SWMPs this spring, which should add another important layer to our learning and body of knowledge.

It might be interesting if every resident had a look around their properties to identify the LID features and practices. Or better still, while contemplating the coming season, when we are reading the seed catalog. There always seems to be another thing that can be done to support nature. One should be looking for things like soak-away pits, infiltration trenches, swales, and trees. One will be impressed how much an individual can influence our environmental outcomes and perhaps realize that more can always be done.

As noted above, natural systems are preferred over engineered systems. The planned and existing wetlands in East Fonthill and East Fenwick represent a considerable area and opportunity. As I have said many times, the work of our Town committees is very impressive and they do us all proud. I am proposing what some have called a citizens’ “science project” to recommend the care and maintenance of our current and future green spaces.

I believe that our Town has the attributes for successful accomplishment in just about anything we choose to tackle. In the final analysis, leadership is more about action than anything else. There are many compelling reasons us to act together. And here are the ancillary benefits, according to the presenters: Increased green space, improved and new wildlife habitats, reduced urban heat, creation of green jobs, and improved aesthetics.

Surely these benefits are worth working towards.

 

COTE’S COMMENTS | Larry Coté

Mr. Trudeau, please accept my humble application

Now that Julia Payette has left the Governor’s mansion, I have been toying with the idea of applying for her former job as Governor General. She was given the choice by the Prime Minister of resigning tout de suite or being fired straightaway from the job, after a little longer than three years in that position.

It would seem that qualifications do not matter much and so I entirely fit the bill. Also, the job suggests the incumbent be non partisan, and so I promise not to pay dues to any political party that comes knocking nor will I contribute to the coffers of any candidate for elected office in my riding. Oh, and another thing. I promise not to disrespect any of the GG’s staff by yelling at them or even looking at them with any sort of disdain. Nor will I hire my best friend as an office assistant.

Now, you might ask, why I am considering putting my application in for this job. I hesitate to give away too many of the reasons here, for fear that many of you readers might also be inclined to apply and ruin my odds of winning the post.

My first reason is the wage packet that goes with the job. It is a reasonable amount given that the duties are not very onerous. Ms. Payette’s annual salary was $288,900 and, so the rumor goes, she did less work than the gatekeeper at the mansion. It is said she openly disliked attending government ceremonies even though most of the GG’s duties are ceremonial in nature. During her three years on the job, she was paid $938,925. If I were to be considered for the job, I would ask somewhat less than half of her salary and promise to attend twice the number of ceremonies. Think about it. That would have saved you taxpayers almost half a million dollars if I were in that job during that same period.

In addition to the taxpayer savings due to a reduced salary, I also promise to cut back the annual expense account of $200,000 to again by half. So that would save the taxpayers another $100,000 annually.

With me on the job, the Canadian taxpayers would be saving almost a quarter of a million dollars per year and get more than twice the number of appearances at government and military ceremonies.

Now there is a third and perhaps even more enticing reason for my application to be the next Governor General. Should my lack of qualifications and poor work ethic catch up to me while living in that lap of luxury and I get canned, like my predecessor, there is a golden parachute that is a fringe benefit that goes with the job.

Like Ms. Payette, and all the living former Governors General, I would be eligible for a lifetime annual pension of just short of $150,000 and a yearly expense allowance on the order of $200,000. I would really enjoy those perks, especially after being removed from office for not being up to snuff enough.

I will keep you posted on the status of my application.

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Frustration over continued lockdown, and a departure

As of last Friday, 1,221,539 doses of vaccines had been administered across Canada, with 35,000 shots given on Friday itself. Using these numbers this means 2.5% of the total population has received one dose. As I convey to you these numbers I am not exactly bursting with pride. However, with vaccine delivery supposedly starting to ramp up after a pitifully slow start, we can only hope that in the coming weeks these numbers will skyrocket.

Along with many other politicians in Niagara, I was disappointed that the provincial health officials kept Niagara Region in grey lockdown, when many of our health indicators suggested that we should have moved into the red control zone, and almost into orange. It has been suggested that if we advance to a less restrictive zone that residents will flood into the Region from other nearby areas. This argument loses its edge when it is noticed that practically all areas west of and including Hamilton moved to the red- control zone and many areas, including the not-too-distant region of Haldiman-Norfolk, moved into the orange zone. I certainly hope that the powers that be will rectify this obvious mistake in the coming week.

In Niagara, 123—yes, that number is correct—only 123 doses were administered on Friday, bringing the total number in the Region to 7677. The good news is 100 percent of long-term care home residents have been given both doses, and 7.1 percent of high-risk retirement home residents have been given both doses. Unfortunately, seniors living in their own homes are in for another week or two of waiting. In the meantime it remains imperative that we all continue to wear masks when out in public, and sanitize your hands at every opportunity.

At Pelham Town Hall the blockbuster news this past week was Town Clerk Nancy Bozzato announcing her retirement, after a total of 40 years in municipal government, with over half of these spent in Pelham. From the first day that I became involved in politics in Pelham, I was amazed at the amount of knowledge Nancy possessed about everything alluding to municipal governance and protocol. It will be a sad day when Nancy walks out of Town Hall for the last time as Clerk, but the Town’s loss will be her grandkids’ gain. On behalf of Town Council and all Pelham residents, Nancy, we wish you a long and happy retirement.

At the other end of the employment spectrum our new Town solicitor has just finished her first month of employment in Pelham and when asked for comment these were her reflections: “My first month as Town Solicitor has gone quickly! Time flies when you are having fun…and when you are working hard! Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege of meeting Mayor Junkin [Mayor’s note: A nice guy] and of connecting with many Town staff, both virtually and in person. I expect to meet other members of council shortly and I am looking forward to that. I have received a warm welcome from everyone here and have already seen how dedicated council and staff are to serving the Pelham community. I am excited to be part of this team! In addition, having recently relocated to the area, I am looking forward to exploring the Niagara region with my family!”

Welcome to our town Jennifer! From our short time conversing with each other I am confident that you will have no problem fitting in with our team.

Now for all of you that have just finished reading this column, grab a coat and a hat and go get some exercise! [Editor’s note: Not before reading the rest of the paper.] And when you return home, phone a friend.

Until next time…