First off, Season’s Greetings. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
A lot has happened over the last month as we move to year end that is worth discussing, including:
- the Ombudsman’s Report
- Budget 2020
- Waste Management
- Homelessness issues in Niagara
The Ombudsman’s Report — “Inside Job”
We received the report and had a special Council meeting December 5th to discuss and make recommendations.
Council’s motions directed staff to implement all 16 of the Ombudsman’s recommendations and with intention to have many of them completed in the first quarter of 2020. As per the Ombudsman’s recommendations, the Niagara Region will also provide his office with updates every six months.
As well, the following motion was passed:
It should be noted that, after referring this to Niagara Regional Police, they have subsequently passed this request on to the OPP. (See St. Catharines Standard article, https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9770372-region-cao-scandal-report-headed-to-opp/)
Because this is an active police investigation, I won’t be commenting further until we get information back that we can publicly release.
Budget 2020 approved
Niagara Regional Council has approved a budget for 2020 that balances the need to maintain core services, deliver critical infrastructure and protect the community.
For detailed information, please click here to go to the Niagara Region’s Budget page.
Three components make up Niagara Region’s budget: the levy operating budget, the rate operating budgets and the capital budget.
The 2020 Niagara Region levy operating budget contains an overall property tax increase of 5.92 per cent to the taxpayer. For the average property assessed at $277,044, the Regional portion of the tax bill will increase by $86 in 2020.
(For information on the Town of Lincoln budget, which came in at 5.99% and was approved December 16, click on the following link — https://lincoln.ca/news/2019/12/media-release-2020-budget-approved)
The operating budget for 2020 has been approved with a tax levy of $392.6 million and will provide funding for the daily business of Niagara Region, its boards and agencies. This budget increase allows the regional municipality to make strategic investments that support economic and residential growth and ensures Niagara’s most vulnerable citizens are cared for.
Building on recent investments aimed at supporting the community, Niagara Region will continue to enhance transit services, invest more funding in homelessness and improve public safety.
The 2020 budget includes a separate 1.54 per cent levy for the redevelopment of two long-term care facilities.
Capital commitment is $375 million, $100 million higher than this past year, and a significant portion of this infrastructure spending will be taken on as debt. This makes sense as these are big ticket items that are long term in nature.
Waste Management has been a major topic of discussion in Niagara Region this term of Council.
Niagara Region’s new collection contract starts in October 2020. Emterra’s original contract was set to expire in 2018, but Regional Council extended the contract in 2017 due to effects of the Province’s new Waste Diversion Act. I think it is fair to say that this has not worked out quite as expected by both Emterra and the Region.
For more detailed information, click here to go to Niagara Region’s Waste Management page.
Through the competitive RFP process, we have two firms that have been contracted to move waste management forward in Niagara. We also agreed that recycling should be done every week (green bin, blue box, gray box) and garbage pickup will be done bi-weekly. Note, there will be a 2 bag limit every two weeks.
Why the changes?
Waste management is a surprisingly complex issue. Niagara has done a good job of reducing landfill, but to provide us all the best opportunity to extend the life of our infrastructure, encouraging even higher rates of recycling is required. The changes being implemented have been implemented in Regions across Ontario and, from information provided, are doing the job.
Homelessness issues in Niagara
One of the agreed upon areas of focus, as outlined in our strategic plan (pdf), is in the area of homelessness.
This past Thursday, I attended a session put on by the Region and the City of Niagara Falls, lead by Iain De Jong.
Melinda Cheevers, for Niagara This Week, wrote a good article outlining De Jong’s comments on the issues surrounding homelessness, challenging us all to start thinking of the issue in differing terms.
Click the following link to see Melinda’s article (https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9783480–think-of-it-as-a-mass-catastrophe-working-to-end-homelessness-in-niagara/)
A lot of positive things have happened over the past year at the NPCA. In my view, the Board and staff have both stabilized, allowing us to move forward with the work required to make a Conservation Authority do what it is supposed to do.
I want to thank Gayle Wood who has been our CAO over the past 10 months or so. She has lead us through a bit of a turbulent time (understatement?), but she has been a consummate professional in her role. And she isn’t going away 🙂 — she has agreed to join the Board of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Foundation, a role that I also have taken on.
Here is an article on Gayle’s leaving, as printed in the Standard (https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9786282-npca-in-a-better-place-says-outgoing-chief/).
And as of January 1, we will have a new CAO in place at the NPCA, Chandra Sharma.
From her Linked In Profile:
“Former member of Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) Executive Team with an impressive leadership portfolio of developing successful programs and teams across a range of subjects such as climate change, watershed management, government and community engagement. Solid track record of stakeholder and government relations, non-profit /public sector governance Over 20 years of experience as a professional planner. Recipient of Canadian Institute of Planners Planning Excellence Award. Served on several expert committees, Boards and presented at various national and local conferences.”
I am looking forward to working with Ms. Sharma.
And finally, the NPCA has passed a Whistleblower Policy that is now in effect. Click the following link to hear my interview on CKTB after our Board meeting. (https://www.iheartradio.ca/610cktb/audio/4pm-1.10357207?mode=Article)
And finally …
I don’t have an official budget for things like promotion — however, I have created the following to help get messaging out:
Please visit these and like or follow.
You can also click here for my Niagara Region website page.
I look forward to continuing with you on this journey.