Fertilizer quandary

As I read the interview with Fred Sarvis by John Chick, I was left with a few questions [Sarvis vies for Regional Council, Sept. 21, p.3]. Mr. Sarvis states that he is a “full-blown” environmentalist (I wonder just what this is?). He notes that more manure should be used on agricultural crops rather than all of the chemical fertilizers being used.

As someone that has been involved in agriculture all of my life, as far as I know manure comes from animals, unless of course if one wants to use bio-solids (a byproduct of the sewage treatment plants). The use of more manure would mean more animals—however, on the other hand, other “full-blown” environmentalists are advocating to rid the planet of animals as they are destroying it!

I am wondering, shouldn’t the two groups of “full-blown” environmentalists get together so they can advise us in agriculture which is the best path forward?

Jim Yungblut


Other priorities more important

One can argue the necessity of libraries, especially in the “Age of Enlightenment” we live in today. One can also applaud the generosity of the federal government in awarding the town $5.4 million dollars to replace the existing structure. However, there are so many other services which are more deserving, especially healthcare, which in Niagara is nothing short of appalling. After waiting over three-and-a-half-years, my wife recently had knee replacement surgery, not in Niagara but in Hamilton. If she had waited to have it done locally there would have been an additional wait of 12 months.

In Niagara we are seeing an unprecedented increase in our population, but not a corresponding one in doctors, specialists, and hospitals. Surely $5.4 million would be better spent addressing the issues and services which matter and not what many would consider to be a luxury. It would be interesting to see the percentage of residents who actually use the library and what the justification is for a new facility.

As stated, one can debate the relevance of libraries and specifically what they offer to the population of Fonthill. But surely it is about time our government, including our local one, distributes our tax dollars to those services which are essential and which have a real impact on our well-being.

Len Wright


A bridge too far

It is mind-blowing that the replacement of the Dain City bridge should take six years. Whoever was responsible for the City of Welland to take control of 70-year-old bridges that were past their prime is inconceivable, but that ship has sailed.

The funds for this bridge replacement should only come from the federal government as this bridge was the property of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and our MP Vance Badawey should have fought much harder for federal funds to totally pay for this bridge replacement.

We have in our region quality engineering firms like E.S. Fox, that probably could have put a new bridge in Dain City in six-to-12 months. During the Second World War our Army Engineering Corps put bridges over rivers in a week.

I don’t live in Dain City, but I feel for the residents there and feel sorry that their bridge replacement has taken so long, but even the Ontario government will spend billions on twinning the Garden City Skyway in St. Catharines when most people of Niagara know it’s not needed.

Peter Voss


Picture this: Tree challenge met

It was a proud day for Pelham Advocates for Trees and Habitat (PATH) when the Town of Pelham proclaimed the week of September 18 to 24 as National Forest Week. This official proclamation was declared within the same week that National Tree Day occurred.

Last year, PATH organized a walk from Merritt St. along the Steve Bauer Trail to Peace Park for National Tree Day and presented the Town with an autographed “Friends of the Steve Bauer Trail” T-shirt.

The Board of Directors tossed around ideas to celebrate the week. We knew we had to do something more significant to ensure a big celebration. We agreed on a lofty challenge for our Pelham Path Facebook Group. We challenged the members to post 200 pictures of their favourite trees from the Niagara area.

As the days grew closer to the start of the event, anxiety started to grow amongst the directors. Was this challenge too great to ask? How was this going to be received? I started to have butterflies the day before the event.

On Sunday, the first day of National Forest Week, no more than ten pictures were posted! My hands started to sweat—my thoughts were that we had asked for more than was possible. Monday, a bit more than the before, Tuesday another increase. This led me to believe 100 was going to be achievable. Although not what we had hoped for, it was better than a complete flop.

National Tree Day was on Wednesday, and we received more than 70 pictures! Our spirits were lifted, knowing of the possibility that our goal was within reach, or at least we might not be far off the plan. Celebrations came on Thursday, though we did not reach our goal. We required 30 more.

With our heads held high, we decided to raise our challenge to 300. The membership responded again, proving a significant point that trees do matter. More than that, our membership of 600 and our followers cherish our trees and habitat.

At the end of Friday, we reached 290 posts. We knew that our membership would accomplish our second challenge. Saturday, this morning, we surpassed our second goal by 13 posts. This has brought our total to 313, with 13 hours left to post. We expect a final tally on Sunday, which will come after I send this letter to the Voice.

I want to thank everyone who has posted pictures, commented, and viewed our posts. Our views increased 4400 percent over our previous week, having 2088 views as of September 22. The counts leave out both Friday and Saturday viewings.

To see and hear more from PATH, attend our meeting on Monday, October 5. The general public, including municipal election candidates and council members, are welcome to participate in our first in-person meeting, held at the Meridian Community Centre. Our guest speaker, Liz Benneian, from the Biodiversity and Climate Action Group, will give a talk entitled “Greening Niagara,” and will touch on tree bylaws as well ways that government and the public can achieve a healthier, more biodiverse, and greener Niagara. The meeting starts at 7:30 and runs to 9 PM in the Accursi Room.

The Pelham Advocates for Trees and Habitat would like to inform all candidates in this upcoming election that our highly successful challenge to our members and supporters proves without a doubt that trees and our environment matter! Not only to us but to many who are reading this letter. Increasing tree canopy, natural habitat, biodiversity, wetlands and climate action are all on the ballot this year. A well-thought-out development plan that treasures our natural heritage, values farmlands and recognizes the importance of wetlands is required before all of these are destroyed.

Mike Jones
Chair of Pelham Advocates for Trees and Habitat (PATH)


COMMENTARY / OP-ED | Don Rickers

Pushback on move to ban handgun sales

Firearm safety is an issue which is front-and-centre in the news, as the media reports regularly on numerous mass shootings both in Canada and the United States.

All people — including hunters, target shooters, and shooting sports advocates — abhor these violent acts, and support reasonable and effective efforts by elected representatives to stem the tide of gun carnage.

But opinions differ widely, and emotionally, as to policies that will address the root of the problem.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation, a citizens’ advocacy group dedicated to lower taxes, less waste, and accountable government, has gone on record as being opposed to the Trudeau government’s ban on many types of firearms owned by Canadians, as well as the federal government’s plan to direct $200 million of taxpayers’ money to buy back those guns.

“This expensive policy arbitrarily bans and buys guns owned by law-abiding Canadians and will not take away illegal guns from criminals. Further, it’s wrong to impose this policy without a vote in the House of Commons. Spending $200 million to buy legally owned guns will not make Canadians safer,” writes the Federation on its website.

Handguns, which feature in many high-profile crimes both in Canada and the U.S., have been the latest target of the federal Liberal government, which recently implemented a freeze on the legal sale of handguns in Canada. However, evidence continues to emerge indicating that Canadian handgun crimes are committed almost exclusively with weapons smuggled across the border from the U.S.

A recent analysis by National Post journalist Bryan Passifiume found that 72 percent of the crime guns seized by Toronto Police in 2022 had their origins in the United States, arriving in Canada via the black market, stealthily and illegally transported in vehicles by organized criminals and gang members.

Evidence continues to emerge indicating that Canadian handgun crimes are committed almost exclusively with weapons smuggled across the border from the U.S.

In February, Toronto Police Deputy Chief Myron Demkiw testified to a House of Commons committee that the guns on Toronto streets were not “domestically sourced,” and that the freeze would do little to curb the city’s recent spike in gun crime. He opined that the legislation “is certainly not going to deal with the crime problem we’re facing in Toronto as it relates to the use of criminal handguns.”

This is not a situation unique to Toronto. In 2004, Vancouver Police estimated that 94 percent of the guns seized by their officers had origins in Washington State.

“The majority of the firearms we seize are purchased legally in the U.S., then smuggled into Canada and sold to organized crime,” Vancouver Police Insp. Rob Rothwell said at the time.

A 2008 report commissioned by the British Columbia government on the movement of illegal firearms agreed, citing that “the sources of crime guns has remained consistent; a large portion of the crime guns recovered in Canada can be traced to dealers in the U.S.”

Similarly, an April 2022 report on gun crime by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety highlighted the role that cross-border smuggling plays in funnelling firearms to criminal organizations. One of the report’s recommendations was that Ottawa “recognize that serious crimes involving firearms and drug trafficking should bear serious penalties given the threat to public safety.” Another recommendation stated that “smuggling is a significant contributor to gun and gang violence in Canada,” and argued for more resources to combat cross-border arms trafficking.

In July of this year, Reuters cited 2021 data from Ontario’s Firearms Analysis and Tracing Enforcement program to show that 85 per cent of handguns used in crimes in the province had U.S. origins.

“We really think that restricting lawful handgun ownership doesn’t meaningfully address the real issue, which is illegal handguns obtained from the United States,” Evan Bray, chief of the Regina Police, told Reuters.

The April 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia was the catalyst for a sweeping Liberal government firearm ban, despite evidence that the heinous act was committed primarily using illegal guns smuggled across the Canadian border from Maine.

Handguns in Canada are already restricted much more stringently than rifles and shotguns, but commencing in August, the government placed a temporary halt on legal handgun imports into the country. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly sidestepped parliamentary approval to push through the legislation that places a national freeze on the sale, transfer, and ownership of handguns, describing the government’s firearms strategy as a “common-sense” approach to reducing gun crime.

Many view the freeze as merely political optics, and an easy reach for the “low hanging fruit,” that being law-abiding handgun owners.

The cruel irony is that while at the same time it is moving to freeze handgun sales in Canada, Ottawa is pushing for legislation that would actually reduce punishments for gun criminals.

Bill C-5, which passed the House of Commons in June and is currently before the Senate, would eliminate mandatory minimum sentences for a series of violent gun crimes including “discharging a firearm with intent,” and “robbery with a firearm.”

The bill’s intention is to address “systemic racism,” since Canadians convicted of gun crimes are disproportionately Black and Indigenous.

Richard Dykstra, owner of Creekside Gunshop in Wainfleet, told the Voice that a ban on the importation of restricted firearms (handguns, specifically) into Canada is not going to put a dent in the flow of illegal guns.

“It will only hurt people that have jobs, that have bills to pay, that pay taxes, and contribute to the economy,” he said. “Criminals don’t contribute to the economy, they’re a drain on society. This legislation simply penalizes legal gun owners — again — because we’re the easy target. It’s rarely a legally obtained firearm that’s used in a crime. All this does is create a bigger black market, because now there are greater profit incentives to smuggle guns.”

Dykstra said that about 40 percent of his business involves handgun sales.

“Some gun shops will close because of this legislation, and when those guys — all taxpayers — go out of business, it will place a bigger burden on the rest of us. Whether you’re a shooter or not, you’re going pay more taxes to fuel our economy,” he said.

“You can’t suck and blow at the same time,” said Dykstra, referring to the government plan to reduce some gun-crime sentences. “I believe in an eye for an eye. If you commit a serious gun crime, and are proven guilty, you should go to jail and never be allowed to own firearms again. Most legal gun owners will advocate for that. But the government wants to give criminals more rights. I thought you gave up your rights when you decided to become a criminal. It’s so frustrating. The average blue-collar, working-class person understands this. Why can’t our elected officials get it?”

Dykstra stressed that firearm organizations across Canada offered to work with the government on gun control measures that would be effective, but were rebuffed.

“We said, ‘Let’s work together to come up with a better solution.’ But they don’t want to listen to us. We’re the bad guys. Why is my business any less important than the guy that’s selling computers or houses?”

Contributing Editor Don Rickers is a shooting sports enthusiast, and this commentary reflects his personal opinion.



A shout-out to Niagara Health

Could it be that Niagara Health (NH) is getting a bum rap in the publicity it receives? While it is true that no system is perfect, usually those managing these systems do not countenance imperfect practices nor do they intend to do less than their level best.

It is likely an unfair time to be evaluating NH due to the irregularities caused by the Covid pandemic. This virus and its variants have literally and near totally overwhelmed what was reported prior to the pandemic as an over-burdened and under-funded system. If that be near true, then it will understandably be sometimes less than impeccable in some of its performance levels.

Thousands of people are making continual use of NH and have been treated satisfactorily and often in lifesaving circumstances

I have heard from a number of people who unexpectedly needed to use the services of NH and were impressed by the level of high quality care they received. These reports come from people who made visits to the facilities in Welland, St. Catharines, and Niagara Falls, and while they noted how busy these sites appeared to be, they were nonetheless treated with courteous professionalism. They were grateful that their healthcare needs were attended to and within the parameters of a system that is working overtime and in high gear. While wait times are often critiqued it may be unfair to blame the local administrators as the causes of that issue which is above their pay-scale and ability to resolve.

Such circumstances bring to the forefront the point of this essay. After receiving acceptable levels of service, most recipients normally do not shout their gratefulness from the mountain tops. They do not publicly commend NH services for being there when they needed them. However, those who believe they received less than satisfactory service sometimes loudly proclaim that perception from the rooftops. For example, some will write letters to the editor and criticize what they perceive to be poor service. They are motivated by that belief to do so. Many others of us as patients do not publicly proclaim the satisfactory service received and so there is a numerical imbalance of reports that tend to suggest the local system is deficient and a poor healthcare provider.

Thousands of people are making continual use of NH and have been treated satisfactorily and often in lifesaving circumstances. Perhaps if only a few were to more publicly proclaim the good service they received then a more balanced picture might emerge.

Perhaps NH might follow Damon Runyon’s advice when he said “He who tooteth not his own horn, the same shall not be tooted.” How many thousands of Niagara residents received healing and sometimes life-saving treatment from Niagara Health throughout the period of this devastating pandemic? Maybe the administration should take a deserved bow and humbly tooteth their own horn.