Thursday, March 12, 2009

Keeping An Open Mind

Perhaps you heard that the Honourable Gilbert Parent, Member of Parliament for 22 years and former Speaker of the House, passed away last week. You may recall that he represented Pelham in the “Niagara Centre” Riding from 1997 to 2000.

Mr. Parent began his career in education and when defeated in 1984 by the Mulroney sweep, he returned to teaching. In 1986 he taught me religion at Notre Dame, and I fondly remember many of his lessons.

One of his lessons stood out for me this week. I recall Mr. Parent analyzing the quote “The problem with an open mind is it lets in too much garbage.” He explored the quote by asking “If you truly have an open mind, how do you know an idea or concept is garbage before you scrutinize it?” Instead, he taught about the virtues of keeping an open mind. Only then should one weigh all the options.

And, so I try to keep an open mind on all matters – including recreational facilities.

That’s why I reported to Council last week about a recent meeting between representatives of Welland, Niagara College, and Pelham.

You see, Welland’s studies indicate that they need either a three-pad arena or a four-pad if they stop using the Welland Arena. While they preferred to locate it on property they own at Woodlawn and River Road, their second preference was Niagara College.

Why potentially the Niagara College Campus? Since the College already hosts several community facilities— Niagara Centre YMCA, Children’s Safety Village, NRP Training Facility, Ball Hockey International – there is a potential for a similar free-property arrangement.

So, if Welland needs three-plus ice surfaces and if Pelham needs more ice, a Niagara College location could have other potential advantages: usage by students during off-peak hours, sharing of existing parking, appeal for fundraising and funding from other levels of government, and efficient use of public resources and funds.

It also would have potential challenges: complex negotiations and agreements, the potential “loss of identity”, and a potential resident backlash.

While such a potential partnership is clearly not the only option, I wanted to ensure that our minds were still open to the concept. And, while Welland is moving quickly, Pelham’s own Recreational Facilities Committee still has to formally analyze this and other options.

Rest assured that I will continue to keep my mind open and analyze all options for your benefit and that of your Pelham neighbours and friends.