It has been a while since I have done one of my Regional Councillor Reports.

It has been quite the whirlwind we have been living — A lot of things have  been going on both in the world and of course here in Niagara that have kept all of us occupied, so I will try to bring you up to date from a Region of Niagara perspective.

Let’s start with the obvious — COVID-19.  The effects on our society and economy have been (to say the least) dramatic.  We all have had to give up a lot, in particular so many of the things we have taken for granted for so long.  Life’s simple pleasures have become complex.

Take meetings for instance.  While I was in the business world, we had incorporated the use of online (mostly conference calls) into much of what we were doing.  Politically, we now have become best friends with Zoom and other online video conferencing capabilities.

As Chair of Corporate Services at the Region, I must be in person (based on our rules) at Regional Headquarters when my committee is in progress — it is important as I then have access to our clerk, technical staff, commissioners and any others that may be required to run a successful meeting.

But it is bizarre not having others there and available in the live setting — even though I don’t always agree with other Councillors on motions or notions they may have, I genuinely like and respect the people who represent their areas at the Region — it is a fascinating cast of characters 🙂  And I miss that social interaction.

Anyway, we have a number of issues on the go and I wanted to briefly provide my view on things.

MANDATORY MASK BYLAW

Both the City of St. Catharines and the Town of Niagara on the Lake have instituted mandatory mask bylaws.

St. Catharines:
https://www.stcatharines.ca/en/governin/covid-19-mandatory-masks-by-law.asp

NOTL:
https://notl.civicweb.net/document/17848  (pdf)

The Region of Niagara will be discussing a bylaw this upcoming Thursday, July 23, as part of the Regional Council meeting.  The original meeting/discussion was July 8 but the final vote on a bylaw was deferred to this meeting.  I expect there will be a final vote on the 23rd.

I have received more input from citizens on this topic than any other I’ve dealt with in my political career.  To say that there are a lot of passionate people on this issue would be an understatement.

I had an opportunity to talk about the issue with Tom McConnell about this topic:
Tom McConnell interview / 610 CKTB / Thursday July 9 2020

As I noted in the interview, I am leaning to voting in favour of some sort of a mandatory masking policy for indoor public places.  What I am looking for is the following:

  • tools for business owners — provide policy backed tools for their use when having masking rules
  • ensure we have done everything we can to help mitigate any flareups

I am not a doctor, nor do I profess to be a medical expert.  In my own research, most of the readings show the efficacy of using masks — this includes using them correctly and in the right circumstances.

Niagara Region, in our July 8 meeting, passed a motion to provide the community with appropriate education on masks, their use, etc.

And as a final thought on this topic, I found this NY Times article July 5 interesting:
239 Experts With One Big Claim: The Coronavirus Is Airborne

We shall see where the will of Council is this upcoming Thursday.

And speaking of announcements coming soon, we hope to soon see our move to phase III of opening.  For information about the Province of Ontario and their reopening processes, check the following web page:
https://www.ontario.ca/page/reopening-ontario?_ga=2.127837389.1908845186.1595251891-1517612747.1594404840

FINANCIAL EFFECT OF COVID-19

I have been reading various reports and commentary from across Niagara on the financial effects of COVID-19.  I recently read one article that suggested this disease has cost businesses over $7 billion — and when you think about it, it makes sense.  Niagara Falls for instance thrives almost exclusively on tourism.  Restaurants have generally been hard hit.  Many other businesses are having issues.

But it is not all doom and gloom.  Many businesses are adapting to the new reality and creating new business models they are following.  Other businesses are working on new products.

And there is also the odd success — including Clean Works in Beamsville and their N95 mask sanitizing device — as outlined in the following article:
https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/clean-works-approved-by-health-canada-to-sanitize-n95-masks-877792607.html?fbclid=IwAR3IuQQ3PoxS1nbwTge7KB3_JL3vzUrdTh–qtH2MwsoIZOsd4s-DYu_lCQ

The Region and lower tier municipalities are carefully monitoring where finances are at.  In the case of the Region, there are a lot of lines of business that there is very little leeway to “cut back” — the Region is responsible for water treatment, waste water, EMS services, Ambulance, Police, Public Health (a big one these days), Long Term Care (equally big) and several others.

A recent study we received outlined that 81% of our services (which encompasses 90% of the staff) — these ones we have no choice, they are either mandated, necessary or required by our communities.

It is going to make for an interesting budget cycle for 2021.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

In Lincoln, we have been having some issues with Waste Management.  The combination of COVID, resourcing, mechanical issues and weather have created a somewhat perfect storm in this area.  While the west end of Town has generally been good, the east end has had the lion’s share of delays.  Most are resolved with one day late pickup, but it is annoying to many.

Staff are working with the contractor and some changes came into effect recently.  I personally ensure any complaints go to the appropriate staff for review as I receive them.

As of October 19, we will have a new contractor in place.  I suspect we will have some teething problems as the new service starts up, but the expectation is a smoother system in place for the next number of years.

For more information, please check out the following:
https://niagararegion.ca/waste/collection/services.aspx

And finally …

I don’t have an official budget for things like promotion — however, I have created the following to help get messaging out:

https://politicsniagara.ca
https://facebook.com/robertfosterniagara
https://twitter.com/rjfoster7777

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.

Thank you.