Monday, September 28, 2015

WW1 Trench Mortar & Creative Solution Process

(Credit: G.Furminger/Welland Tribune/Postmedia Network)
Back in the spring, I wrote briefly in my capital budget update about efforts to restore the World War One cenotaph and German mortar at Old Pelham Town Hall.

Since that time, thanks to the direction of a committed group of residents and funding support from Veteran’s Affairs, the Town beautifully restored the lead lettering on the historic cenotaph. (If you have not seen the work yet, I would encourage you to stop by Old Pelham Town Hall sometime!)

But, that left the future of the trench mortar uncertain. The Town received a pricey estimate to restore the mortar – more than $30,000 plus the costs for a new base. Another option? The Niagara Military Museum generously offered to remove the mortar from the site and painstakingly restore it at their location – so that they might display it there.

When the issue came to Council in late-August, many other suggestions arose: removal because it’s not a Canadian weapon; full restoration on site; partial restoration and protection; transformation into a serenity or “contemplation” garden. Some felt strongly one way, others as strongly the other way.

The solution? Council directed staff to host a creative problem session with as many of the key stakeholders as possible to discuss and make recommendations to Council. The thinking? Let’s get all the pertinent players in one room and discuss the emotionally-charged matter and, most importantly, try to understand each other.

The well attended session included: Jake Dilts, Jim Summersides, Bernie Law from the Royal Canadian Legion; Dell Clark, Carolyn Botari, Gary Chambers, interested Residents; Mary Lamb, from the Pelham Historical Society; seven members of the Niagara Military Museum; and Councillors Junkin and Rybiak.

The meeting was very positive and the group was able to work through the process respectfully and came to the conclusion of “How might we help Council make a decision to preserve the mortar at its current site?”

I understand that the session included some key “eureka” thoughts / challenges:

Since not many know the history of this German Trench Mortar, “how might we identify and interpret” the mortar’s history?

And, while some initially disliked displaying a “trophy of war,” others pointed out it was given to the Town in 1921 for a specific goal: How might we “never forget the sacrifice Pelham residents paid in WWI.”

The result? Last week, Council agreed to leave the WWI Trench Mortar at the Old Pelham Town Hall site and directed staff to work with the group again to recommend the extent of the restoration and identification and possible funding sources. (Please click here to review a copy of the Staff report of the creative problem solving session.)

Thanks, again, for the dedication of all involved!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Electing the Chair to Become Accountable, Open, and Democratic

Ken Seiling was re-elected in Waterloo Region, 2014.
Waterloo Region 
has elected the Regional Chair-at-large since 1997.
You may recall that in January, I wrote here about the effort to help make Niagara Regional government more accountable, open, and democratic, by electing the Regional Chair at large. What happened?

Well, Regional Council voted to defer the debate and get more historic information. That motion comes up for consideration at our Corporate Services committee on Wednesday, September 23.

Role of the Chair:
The full-time Regional Chair sets the legislative and economic agendas for the Region, presides over Council meetings, votes on every committee, and is the “face” of Niagara with Provincial, National, and other governments.

So, while serving as the face of the entire Niagara Region, ironically, the Regional Chair is only accountable to the majority of Regional Councillors.

Antiquated Process:
Our current process of appointing a sitting member of Council as chair comes from the Baldwin Act of 1849, which established local County Councils. The names of the annually appointed, former Wardens of Welland County and Lincoln County are etched on plaques at the Regional HQ (across from Brock University).

When they first created Regional Governments in the 1970s, the Province also appointed the first Regional Chairs. After our first Chair (John Campbell) retired in 1985, Council appointed one of its own as Chair (Wilber Dick).

But, this appointment differs significantly from County Councils days – the new Chair give up his or her seat and is appointed for the entire four-year term of Council.

Lagging Behind Other Regions:
All other Ontario Regional governments have already either adopted a more accountable and democratic process to directly elect their Regional Chair at large or are in the process of doing so.

Waterloo Region (Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Wilmot, Wel
lesley, Woolwich, and North Dumfries) began electing their Chair 17 years ago.

Halton Region (Burlington, Oakville, Milton, and Halton Hills) has elected a Regional Chair since 2000.

Durham Region (Pickering, Ajax, Uxbridge, Oshawa, Whitby, and Clarington) first elected their Regional Chair last Fall.

A bill to elect the York Region (Aurora, East Gwillimbury, Georgina, King, Markham, Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Vaughan, Whitchurch–Stouffville) Chair “at large” is currently before the Ontario Legislature.

Finally, in 2013, Peel Regional Council (Brampton, Mississauga, and Caledon) directed staff to report in 2015 on options to directly elect their Chair for the 2018 municipal election.

It’s Time for Niagara:
It’s clear that the way in which Niagara Region currently appoints our Regional Chair is antiquated, undemocratic, and out-of-synch with all other Regions in Ontario.

That’s why I am supporting the effort to change toward a directly elected Chair. If you agree, please contact your Mayor and Regional Councillor and / or send me an email directly at

Let's work together now to become more open, transparent, accountable, and democratic in Niagara!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Help Increase Protection of the Kame

As I wrote about in the spring, the Ontario Government is reviewing the Greenbelt Plan, Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, Oak Ridges Moraine Plan, and Niagara Escarpment Plan.

In April, I wrote to the Expert Advisory Panel overseeing this Review and implored them to increase the protection of the Fonthill Kame. I recently sent another letter to the Panel, and I am hoping that you will too! (Please click here for a copy of my letter.)

The “Fonthill Kame-Delta” is Niagara’s rare, 75-metre-tall, 1,000 hectare landmark that was formed by retreating glaciers 13,000 years ago. As the “hill” in Fonthill and Shorthills and the “ridge” in Ridgeville, the Kame boasts the highest point in the Niagara Region and serves as a significant water recharge area and forms the headwaters of the Twelve Mile Creek. Further, the Kame’s microclimatic and soil conditions create an ideal environment for tender fruit including peaches, sweet and sour cherries, and plums.

The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) identified the Fonthill Kame as provincially significant in 1976 and as a Provincial “Area of Natural and Scientific Interest” (ANSI) in 1988 as a way to help restrict development. The Province also protected parts of the Kame with general provisions in either the Niagara Escarpment Plan or specific provisions in the 2005 Greenbelt Plan.

And, after considerable public feedback, research and scientific evaluation, MNR confirmed a new ANSI boundary for the Kame in October 2013.

As the Province reviews the Greenbelt Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan, they could inadvertently lessen these protections.

That’s why I wrote the Expert Panel in April and urged them to reinforce the ANSI re-designation by increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame in their land use Plans.

During the summer, Niagara Region approved maps and commentary as part of their submission to the Expert Panel. In that submission, Regional Council reiterated its request that the lands forming part of the “total morphology” of the Fonthill Kame be recognized and protected. (Please click here and see page 3 and 4 and appendix of Regional report. [Large 11.3MB.])

In fact, the Region suggested that lands as identified through scientific study by expert Dr. Menzies be added to the Niagara Escarpment Plan for increased protection. (For a map of those lands, please click here. [Please note, it would exclude lands in the Fonthill Urban Area and in the Ridgeville Hamlet.])

And, at the recent Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conferences, Town Councillors and I asked the Ministry of Natural Resources representatives to add Fonthill Kame lands to the Niagara Escarpment Plan area. (For more about this and a copy of our presentation, please see my recent column.)

Now, I am asking you to provide similar feedback to the Panel this month; please let them know that you are interested in protecting the Kame via the Niagara Escarpment plan to help curtail further aggregate extraction or development.

Please email your comments to or send mail to:
David Crombie, Chair
Land Use Planning Review, 
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, 
Ontario Growth Secretariat, 
777 Bay Street, Suite 425 (4th floor)
Toronto ON M5G 2E5.

Thank you, again, for helping to further protect the Fonthill-Kame so that its distinctive features, microclimatic and water recharge functions might be better safeguarded for future generations!