Paths of mayhem

You are taking your life in your hands when you go for a walk on our walking/bicycle paths. When you are out walking and keeping to the right of the path, and these bikes come racing by you and you do not hear them coming up behind you, you could end up dead.

My husband was walking the dog down at the canal and four young bikers had to be doing 45 miles an hour, biking side-by-side almost knocked him off the path. He didn’t realize they were there until they were right behind him. They didn’t even go into single file to pass him. No respect for the walkers.

We were down there at the beginning of the week and every bike that passed us, not one person had a bell or horn to give you a warning. I think these bikers should be told if they are going to use the bike path then get a bell or horn to warn people you are coming, and also have the courtesy to slow down when passing people, and if you are taking the width of the path to slow down and pass single file.

These four bikers were in their 20s, but we have seen old farts like us riding at a high speed too, and they give you the look of get the hell out of my way. What the hell are they trying to prove? The same treatment from the old boys. They don’t slow down when flying by people.

Young people walking with strollers and toddlers by their sides—if they ever got hit by one of those bikers that would be the end of a child. These trails should be a safe place for everyone. Maybe a few signs saying BIKERS BEWARE OF WALKERS might help. This situation is on every bike/walking path.

We were bikers in Mississauga in our younger days, and it is the law in Toronto and Mississauga to have a bell on your bike. The bike path in Mississauga along Lake Ontario has a line down the middle of the path, one side saying walkers and the other side bikers. That too is a big joke because when we were biking, you would come up to four or five people walking across the whole path. We would ring the bell to warn them but they wouldn’t move over and looked at us like, what the hell are you ringing your bell for. So I guess it is a no -win situation.

D. Haslett
Fonthill

 

Story behind clippings

People are not allowed to send grass clippings in brown waste bags for composting, but how many people know why this is.

Some 20 years ago or so, there was a compost facility connected to the Port Colborne landfill off Elm street. They used to compost all organic waste, including tons of grass clippings. The smell from the facility was strong and wafted into the subdivisions south of it in Port Colborne, and north through areas of Dain City depending on which way the wind blew.

People in the area were constantly complaining about the smell. It is my understanding that as this was going on Walker Brothers decided to enter the composting business with a new system where they would do the composting not in open air, as it was done in Port Colborne. They would build enclosed cells that keep the odors from escaping into the environment.

It is also my understanding that this method does keep the odor from escaping, as long as they don’t compost grass clippings. Because the nitrogen content is so high and the odor was so strong, they couldn’t contain it.

So this is the reason—it’s not that they can’t, it’s because they can’t do it and keep the neighbours happy. It’s because they respect their neighbors.

Wouldn’t be nice if the grass people in Pelham, and Niagara-on-the-Lake and other areas of the country could muster up the same respect.

Richard McCombs
Fenwick

 

Niagara flies under TV radar

I feel like crying—looks like another extension to our lockdown. As a senior and there are many of us, we don’t have the luxury of many years left to enjoy. Most of us have been isolating and doing all the right things, but the selfishness of others and the lack of steady vaccine supply has put our lives on hold again!

But I digress. This is not mind-shattering, but it’s something I have noticed since we have lived here for the past seven years. The Niagara area is not included on any of the big news networks or their weather news. Hello, are we not one of the largest or the largest tourist areas in Canada?

Why then, do none of the bigger news stations even acknowledge our existence. Whenever we are trying to get info on COVID-19 updates or lockdown information, it stops before Niagara can be included. The weather maps for these stations don’t even mention Niagara Falls, Ontario.

People flock to Niagara in all seasons; it would be nice if all stations gave weather reports for tourists so they know when is a good time to drive here, when it is safe again and when places are open and they can enjoy our wine country, our Clifton Hill and especially the world renowned Niagara Falls! My husband and I honeymooned here and came every year to enjoy the beauty of this area.

Don’t get me wrong, I love CHCH news, it’s the only station that includes us and gives updates on everything good or bad that is happening in our area, but we deserve to be included with the big boys, whether they like it or not—after all, they all come here at some point and enjoy our Niagara.

R. Obelnycki
Fonthill

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Peter Baldwin

It’s time to embrace the Vaccine Passport

Vaccine passports, and the questions of whether governments or private businesses can or should require people to show them, have recently inspired controversy, and much misinformation, in many countries.

Some nations, like Israel, have introduced such passports. Other places, like New York State, are planning trials. Still others, including Florida and Texas, are gearing up to forbid them altogether.

It’s long been true that international passengers must prove yellow fever and other vaccinations when traveling abroad, and that children cannot be enrolled in school without having been vaccinated. But requiring proof of vaccination to board a plane, be seated at a restaurant, or attend a show—that would be new. The fur has—predictably—been flying.

Vaccine passports are a screen subject that masks the real issue: How much pressure are we as a society entitled to put on those who refuse to be vaccinated?

To end the pandemic, and to return to normal life, we need to know whether people are infected with COVID-19. That’s because people who are infected, whether they have symptoms or not, pose a danger to others. Vaccine passports help make this information more accessible. We should think about vaccination credentials in terms of the information that they provide us—and it’s looking increasingly likely that demonstrating that you have been vaccinated conveys the same information as a negative COVID test. It tells you and others that you pose no threat, allowing society to open up without worrying about fanning pandemic flames.

This is the case whether the COVID vaccines provide sterilizing immunity—preventing transmission of the virus—or not. Not all vaccines are sterilizing. Rotavirus, inactivated polio, hepatitis B, and flu vaccines are not sterilizing. HPV, smallpox, measles, and oral polio vaccines are.

Vaccine passports are a screen subject that masks the real issue: How much pressure are we as a society entitled to put on those who refuse to be vaccinated?

We do not yet know for certain where COVID vaccines stand, though, so far, the emerging evidence suggests that they do prevent transmission, not just symptoms. Not until we have quite a few more months of experience with the vaccinated will we know for sure.

If we assume, for the moment, that COVID vaccines do produce sterilizing immunity, people who have been vaccinated clearly no longer threaten others. They contribute to herd immunity, slowing disease transmission to protect the medically compromised people who cannot be vaccinated, and ultimately, to bring the pandemic to an end.

Herd immunity through vaccination is a public good that we should encourage, and possibly even mandate. It was obviously unfair to require immunization or passports when not everyone had access to vaccines. But soon all adults can be freely vaccinated, and it will become a matter of choice. Failure to get a jab has consequences for others.

If we agree that infected people should not endanger others by frequenting public venues where they can transmit disease, then it follows that we should be allowed to determine who is infected in the first place. We can do that either by asking for vaccine status or by testing (a cumbersome undertaking, when you have to screen every person, entering every venue, every single day). Vaccine passports will be far more convenient.

Passports are a mild form of encouragement that give the vaccinated certain benefits—and that spare individuals, and society, the burden of constant testing. Some view forbidding unvaccinated and unpassported people to fly, dine, attend events, and the like as unfair, an infringement of personal rights. But many others recognize such restrictions as an acceptable way of pressuring the unvaccinated to become vaccinated, for the benefit of the common good.

The requirements associated with vaccine passports are not novel. Many regulations and laws forbid citizens from posing threats to others, directly or indirectly, actively or passively. Zoning rules ban flammable materials in cellars, attics, or garages; require houses to be maintained and gardens tended; and make owners control pests and rodents, keep dogs leashed, and so forth.

Other regulations impinge on our bodies to improve our health: requiring the addition of fluoride in water, vitamins in milk, iodine in salt. Still other rules require certain behaviors to keep us safe: putting on seatbelts, wearing motorcycle helmets, using condoms during sex if we know we have a sexually transmitted disease.

Vaccine requirements abound, as well. We require vaccines for children enrolling in schools, for players of certain sports, and for entry into some nations. It’s hard to see why mandating COVID vaccinations to end the most devastating disaster since the Second World War is not taken equally seriously, and by more people. It seems reasonable that citizens be asked to participate in creating herd immunity as in other unpleasant but necessary tasks—defending the nation, or paying taxes. Not to mention that getting vaccinated and avoiding illness reduces the overall consumption of medical resources, benefitting everyone yet again.

Passport resisters might have a slightly stronger case for allowing people to keep their vaccination status private if science ultimately demonstrates that COVID vaccines are not sterilizing, protect only the vaccinated individual from becoming seriously ill, and do not block infection. This would recast vaccination as an individual, but not a public, good.

But even if it turns out that the vaccines merely deal with symptoms, infected vaccinated people still have lower viral loads than unvaccinated people and therefore should be less infectious and less dangerous to others. Knowing who had received their shot still will make a difference.

Passports, simply, should not be an issue. Yes, unvaccinated people without passports would have to endure the lines and possibly the cost of being frequently tested, while the vaccinated and passported would not. But that would be a choice they make to avoid vaccination. If people who refuse to be vaccinated can gain admission to events and venues by testing instead, the unfairness dissipates. Since they are not excluded, only inconvenienced, there is no inequity.

And the larger, crucial social good is achieved: We will know, either through testing or through proof of vaccination, whether someone has COVID-19.

Peter Baldwin is the author of Fighting the First Wave: Why the Coronavirus Was Tackled So Differently across the Globe, Cambridge University Press.

 

COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Councillor Wayne Olson

Beware premature declarations of financial victory

There is no doubt that Pelham is in a better financial place. Credit for that goes to Mayor Junkin and my colleagues on Town Council who put the necessary steps in place to get were we are today. I also want to recognize and appreciate the excellent work of the Finance and Audit Committee under the skilled leadership of Councillor Wink.

The Town has functioned very well during a time of considerable challenge for everybody. Public safety has been preserved. High quality services to our residents have continued to be delivered. Our public works have not been interrupted in any meaningful way. Our succession plan has worked to a remarkable degree. Of course, the credit for that goes to the personal leadership of each and every one of our Town employees. They come through day after day for us.

One project comes immediately to mind and that is the new Asset Management Plan. I think this project has the potential to help us become much more precise in our investment and maintenance strategies. I also like that fact that we can add our natural assets to the project. That will help us to become better stewards of our environment. Expect a report this summer.

In a financial sense, our financial position has improved to a moderate degree. There is a long way to go but we do have a pathway to follow. That pathway is made a little more uncertain by the circumstances of COVID-19. You might describe our pathway forward as entrepreneurial, because we will need to be innovative and opportunistic while we are being fiscally conservative in approach.

Along with that positive narrative, we need to consider a cautionary narrative. According to published standards, too much of our taxes and user fees are being used to service our considerable debt. According to published standards, our cash position needs to be stronger. There are no more old arena lands left to sell. Fixed asset renewal is distorted by the extreme amount spent on the MCC. We cannot postpone capital projects forever. One cannot expect that the grants from senior levels of government can be sustained.

In addition, we need to help create the conditions for business success in our town and we need to see at least some of our taxes going toward investments in our people. This can take the form of new lights for our ball diamonds and splash pads for our youngsters. We can do these things in practical and small increments. We really should become a better community every single day. We need to continue to stand up for people.

On top of everything, we are likely to see a burst of inflation that will effect everybody. There are very few fiscal and monetary levers left to pull. Unfortunately, these economic extremes impact our young people just when they are starting out. The pandemic will set them back for several years. As a Town, we can help by moderating our taxes and as citizens we can volunteer our services and buy local.

As residents, we need to make sure that we are informed of the issues and we need to hold our elected officials accountable. In times of shortage and rationing, choices must be made. “No” is just a word. No doesn’t mean that one’s opinions or judgments are not respected. We might have to pass on otherwise valuable opportunities and projects but please speak your ideas and concerns into existence.

Wayne Olson represents Pelham’s Ward 1.

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Both COVID and Town financial numbers trending well

Slowly but surely, national, provincial and regional numbers continue to fall. With the provincial lockdown extended to June 2, it is hoped by then that all numbers in all categories will be sufficiently low enough that a true reopening of not only the economy but also our social lives will be possible.

Of course, it could be argued that if our federal leaders had done their jobs and had secured sufficient volume of vaccines way back in January, we would have had a much larger percentage of the population vaccinated before this third wave even got started. As it stands, Canada has only four percent of its population fully immunized, which does not get us even into the top 60 countries with the most vaccinated people. Most US states have 30-35 percent of their total populations fully vaccinated, and are at the stage where they are actually offering incentives for the remaining citizens to get the poke. Depending on where you live the offerings have been beer, tickets to a baseball game, a million dollar prize, or a lap around a Formula One racetrack, with the reluctant holdout doing the driving.

The 12 mayors of the Niagara Region were somewhat disappointed with the Premier’s speech last Thursday, and so collectively wrote a response, touching on two main points. First, the mayors asked the Premier to come up with a concrete reopening plan using real dates and real numbers. Second, we asked him to please follow the advice of the majority of the medical establishment, and reopen outside recreational facilities, such as tennis courts, skate parks, and golf courses, as these are considered by medical personnel to be low-risk activities. Really, what is more desirable—kids playing video games in a crowded basement or skating at a park?

With the large influx of vaccines this week, and with seven straight days of the community centre being put to use as a vaccination clinic, with 20 stations, the coming weeks will see a surge in total numbers of people vaccinated in Niagara.

As I stated in last week’s column, the Town’s finances are definitely headed in the right direction. When asked for a quote for this column, the Town Treasurer was forthcoming: “I am very happy with the Town’s financial results for 2020, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Teresa Quinlin. “In 2020 the Town disposed of land in East Fonthill and used the proceeds to repay most of the construction bridge loan for the MCC, with a $3.4 million debenture issued for the remaining balance. Three subdivisions were assumed by the Town resulting in $4.1 million in contributed taxable capital asset revenues. The Town received $2.4 million in proceeds from the sale of the old arena site. The impact of COVID-19 to the Town was offset by receiving $1.6 million Safe Restart grant funding, and there was also capital grant revenue of $2.4 million that exceeded budget due to projects being completed from prior years. Some capital projects were delayed in 2020, which resulted in an increase in cash and reserve balances at year end.”

So, the bottom line is this. A surplus of $16.2 million, the debt decreased by $7.6 million, cash increased by $8 million, and net debt decreased from $33.3 million to $18.5 million, with reserve balances heading upward.

Now if we could just get these patios opened!