Tuesday, February 12, 2019

What’s the Problem, Regions?

In most regions across Ontario, the issue of governance reform and better service delivery has been discussed extensively over the last 50 years. Since the Province imposed Regional Governments in the late-1960s, various local Councils have debated numerous reports on governance and reform and various Provincial Governments have studied “who does what.”

The Harris Government imposed significant changes in the late 1990s as they forced several amalgamations and “downloaded” billions of dollars worth of Provincially mandated responsibility onto Cities and Towns. While the McGuinty / Wynne Governments “uploaded” many services back to the Province’s responsibility and coffers, they largely stayed away from other reforms.

More recently, however, the Ford Government reminded us all that “municipalities are creatures of the Province” when they cut the size of Toronto City Council from 47 to 25 and cancelled four Regional Chair elections last July.

And, as promised last August, Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Clark announced a review of regional governments in January and appointed Michael Fenn (former Municipal Affairs deputy minister) and Ken Seiling (long-serving Waterloo Regional Chair) as Special Advisors.

Home-Grown Solutions?
Niagara’s 12 Mayors released a statement last week stating their “united support for improving governance, transparency and accountability in local government.” They asked for an “…opportunity to present made-in-Niagara solutions through this regional governance review.” Four local Mayors cited opportunities and challenges for reform in the local newspaper: reducing the number of Mayors / Councillors (currently at 126 in 13 municipalities); the need for shared services; communities potentially losing their uniqueness; making local governments more responsive and transparent; affordability; increasing efficiencies and effectiveness; and removing duplication of services.

At the same time the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce launched an online survey to measure the pulse of the business community. They ask participants to “prioritize these goals in reforming government in Niagara: single Niagara brand and image; lower municipal taxes; reduced red tape; speed of decision-making by government; more and/or better municipal services (e.g. snow removal, economic development, waste management); increased access to elected representatives; and increased government transparency.”

Other Ontario regional and local government and business leaders are also talking about amalgamation, de-regionalization, going it alone (like Brampton and Mississauga), and a myriad of possible solutions.

Unfortunately, getting into this well-worn quagmire of regional governance debate reminds me of a familiar Yogi Beri quote: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

So, What’s the Problem?
Yet, it also reminds me of what Dr. David Seigel, Brock University Political Science professor, said in February 2012 during a special Niagara Regional meeting about governance. Dr. Seigel cautioned that before debating the merits of various solutions – like dual-duty Councillors, an appointed vs. elected chair, or amalgamation – Council had best determine the “problem that you are trying to solve.”

Too often people rush to solutions, only to find that either their fast action has unintended consequences or it that didn’t actually help solve their overall challenge. Additionally, groups often get stuck in circular discussions – going around and around and around  – because participants cannot easily identify and map out why they might want to do something or what’s stopping them from taking a specific course of action.

Importance of Problem Definition:
These situations require leadership. Not the “my way or the highway” leader, however. This leader needs to guide people through a process or method of finding and defining problems, solving them, and implementing the new solutions.

And, problem definition remains one of the most important keys to understanding and solving community and business challenges.

A popular statement about this insight has often been attributed to Albert Einstein: “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”

Let’s hope the Province’s Special Advisors will work with business and community leaders to invest significant effort in problem definition and use a problem-solving process so that they can develop innovative solutions for local government.

If not, they risk fulfilling another quote oft-attributed to Einstein: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Dave Augustyn holds a Professional Innovation Advisor designation with Basadur Applied Creativity (www.basadur.com) and served as the Mayor of the Town of Pelham and a Niagara Regional Councillor from 2006 to 2018. You may provide your ideas and feedback to Dave at daugustyn@cogeco.ca or check out his Dave Augustyn NOW columns at www.daveaugustynnow.blogspot.com.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Adaptability in Canada’s Oil Patch

Like many last month, I was intrigued with the media coverage of CN Rail’s CanaPux. “Amid an oil glut and pipeline shortage to U.S. refiners, Canadian National Railway Co. hopes to be sending pellets of solidified oil sands bitumen to overseas markets within three years.” (“Plan for oil pellets moves ahead with eye to easing bottlenecks, tapping new markets,” Globe & Mail, 27 Dec. 2018, B1,B8.)

CanaPux are a “…CN innovation under development for an environmentally secure and protected way of transporting bitumen or heavy crude.” Looking about twice the size of a single-serving yogurt container, the blackish “puck” floats in water, is not combustible or explosive, and is “environmentally inert” according to company website www.cninnovation.ca.

No doubt Canada’s oil patch is full of innovation. But, for a long time, it has appeared that the best options for transport of bitumen from Alberta related to “flexibility” or “efficiency” and not “adaptability.”

When a business or organization copes well with an unexpected event – an emergency or a sudden crisis – it can be categorized as “flexibility.” A flexible organization shows a quick response to sudden overloads or unusual demands. A well-publicized example of this reactive business acumen – Maple Leaf Food’s response to tainted meat – form part of MBA case studies. (See Western’s Ivey School of Business “Urgency. Accountability. Transparency. Lessons from Maple Leaf Foods Senior VP Randy Huffman.” (2014))

In the case of the oil patch, a company shows flexibility by how well it deals with freakish weather or a mechanical breakdown. Similarly, the Alberta Government tried to use this flexibility approach when it ordered a scaling-back of oil production in early-December 2018. “The government says that this action will help to reduce volatility and narrow the differential by at least $4 per barrel and add an estimated $1.1B to the economy,” reported CTV Calgary at the time.

But flexibility is just the first step for an effective organization, business, or industry.

Over recent decades, businesses and organizations did well to “find efficiencies” to achieve successes. A business could satisfy its owners or shareholders by continuously improving their current routines or methods. Goals to make more widgets or make better widgets for the same or lower price can be considered seeking efficiencies. In the auto sector, Honda and Toyota were seen as efficiency experts by North American car companies for many years.

The goal of efficiency even crept into the approach by governments and legislators. How might we provide that public service at a cheaper cost? How might we cut the red tape and remove the regulatory burden so that we can get those plans approved more quickly?

This efficiency approach came forward in Albert and BC in a few ways as governments answered the challenge “How might we transport more bitumen?” The Federal Government took steps a few years ago to add more pipelines or twin existing pipelines. And when the private sector found it too risky to continue with the pipeline addition, the Government announced they would purchase the pipeline so that it would be built.

Then, after the Federal Government’s plan hit a few timing snags, the Alberta Government announced they would purchase 7,000 new rail tankers so that an additional 120,000 barrels of oil a day could be shipped.

These are efficiency solutions to the challenge of transporting more bitumen.

The CanaPux approach of CN Rail is a little different – by offering an “adaptable” solution. Having worked on the challenge a bit longer, they proactively anticipated the problem ahead of time. The CN team took the time to turn that problem into a solution.

CN developed not only a more efficient method of transport, they changed the product altogether so it could be moved more safely and easily.

First, one open-top rail car can carry 615 barrels worth of heavy crude pellets versus 390 barrels by a tank car (not including dilutive chemicals); that’s 57% more!

But, more importantly, CN’s pellets overcome many environmental worries – because the pellets are “inert”– and can be moved by existing conveyors into and from railcars and ocean freighters.

CN still has a few hurdles to overcome before the broader market uses their system. In fact, they only recently signed a “memorandum of understanding with an Asian partner to build a full-scale production facility converting 50,000 barrels a day into pellets.” (G&M B1).

Yet, if action can occur quickly, the CanaPux technology has the potential to disrupt the ways in which we currently move oil and bitumen. Can you also imagine, for instance, an environmentally-minded regulator insisting on the transport of “inert oil” only? It could also open new markets of other products might be converted to pellets and easily transported.

As Basadur Applied Creativity puts it, “Adaptability is a process of continuous deliberate change-making, beginning with the generation of new problems that ultimately may morph into new opportunities.”

In the end, however, Canada’s oil patch needs to hurry with their adaptations and innovations. Why? Because many other innovators are working on a post-oil economy that will discontinue and disrupt most oil-dependent industries.

Dave Augustyn holds a Professional Innovation Advisor designation with Basadur Applied Creativity (www.basadur.com) and served as the Mayor of the Town of Pelham and a Niagara Regional Councillor from 2006 to 2018. You may provide your ideas and feedback to Dave at daugustyn@cogeco.ca or check out his Dave Augustyn NOW columns at www.daveaugustynnow.blogspot.com

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Plan the Work, then Work the Plan

Following municipal elections last Fall, new City and Town Councils across Ontario started their 2018-2022 term of office on December 1, 2018.

In addition to their formal inaugurations in early-December, municipal Staff helped orient old and new Councillors alike and the work of municipal governance began.

Many Starting Budget Discussions
Many Councils immediately began their 2019 budget deliberations in December and extended them into January. After Staff explained the financial position and needs of the City, Town or Region, some Councils sought or are seeking public input.

Councils with a majority of veteran members may have carried on with their past direction – discussing whether the 2019 increase needed to be 2%, 3% or 4%. Alternatively, Councils with a majority of new members began discussions on how they can get each member’s “pet project” into (or out of) the new year’s spending. And a few Councils (like the City of St. Catharines on December 18 or the Town of Erin on December 19) have already approved their 2019 capital and operating budgets.

Common Strategy, Common Goals
While fiscally prudent – an early budget can mean early tendering and reduced costs for major projects – jumping right into budget debates for a new Council can have significant drawbacks.

First, a new Council needs time to gel as a team. How well do the new Councillors know their colleagues “around the horseshoe”? Has there been time for each Councillor to understand each other and therefore respect their positions and ideas? In what direction is Council headed? How well do the new Councillors know the senior Staff? Have they been able to build a rapport with the public servants who work to offer their best, professional advice?

Where the danger lay is best described in a Tanzanian proverb: “A boat cannot go forward if each rows his own way.”

Second, each budget should advance the goals of Council and help address the needs, dreams, and aspirations of local residents and businesses. Did the Council simply add or remove a few favored projects, add an inflationary factor, and keep the rest of the operations intact? How does the new budget fit within the overall strategy or strategic direction for the Town? What are the innovations in the new budget? Or, did Council abdicate the role of strategy to senior Staff and/or the Mayor? Will Councillors find out about the City’s strategic focus at the Mayor’s upcoming “State of the City” address?

Will the City’s 2019 budget drive the municipality’s strategy? Or, will the Council’s and the community’s strategy drive the budget?

James W. Frick, former VP of Notre Dame University, said it well: “Don’t tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I’ll tell you what they are.”

And, Joe Biden, US Vice-President, said something similar in September 2008: “My dad used to have an expression: ‘Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.’”

So, what is a new Council to do?

Plan the Work and Work the Plan
The first priority for new Councils should be developing a Strategic Plan.

After listening to the public during the recent election, bring those the ideas, hopes and dreams to the Council table. Use the information from the professional staff as a foundation and get the senior staff involved as resources in the strategy work.

While one must recognize that every participant will approach this work from a different perspective, it will be important for new Councils to meet for a suitable period of time – a half-day or a full-day – to develop a draft Strategic Plan, including vision, mission, values and goals. The best version I’ve used is in the form of a “Challenge Map.” Then, turn it over to Staff to develop operational plans based on the overall strategies and goals. Once Council reviews and approves this direction, the budget work follows logically.

This approach might be more difficult for a Council’s first year – because budgets should get approved at least by late spring. Yet, strategic planning now will help set the course for the municipality and provide a foundation for this Council’s three other budgets. Those future budget discussions should absolutely start with strategic planning updates or revamps.

Still not convinced? Who can dispute the wisdom of Yogi Berra from 2001? “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”


Dave Augustyn served as the Mayor of the Town of Pelham and a Niagara Regional Councillor from 2006 to 2018. You may provide your ideas and feedback to Dave at daugustyn@cogeco.ca or check out his Dave Augustyn NOW columns at www.daveaugustynnow.blogspot.com.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Rededicating Ourselves to Peace

Hundreds of Pelham residents took time to gather with local Veterans, members of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary, the 613 Army Cadets, the Pelham Fire Service, and others at the Veteran’s Park at the Fonthill Legion to commemorate and remember the sacrifices of Pelham’s Veterans.

Others also joined a nation-wide initiative called the “Bells of Peace” as they gathered at five Pelham churches – Holy Trinity, Fonthill United, Fenwick United, St. Ann Roman Catholic, and First Presbyterian. Each of these churches rang their bells 100 times at dusk to mark the 100th Anniversary of the end of the First World War.

This special year and each Remembrance Day it is right to remember those brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict, and peace.

We honour them for their courage, their commitment, and their devotion to standing “on guard” for Canada.

Engraved on the cenotaphs throughout our Town and on the bricks at Veterans Park upon which we have stood for 10 years are the names of those from Pelham and area that were killed in service. May their memories also be engraved on our hearts.

The democratic freedoms that so many of us might take for granted – the freedom to express ourselves, to participate in cultural, religious, and political activities, to come and go as we please, to associate with whom we please, and to pursue a safe and happy life – are all due to the sacrifices of Veterans and those who serve today. They sacrificed their futures so that our future might be one of peace and happiness.

Yet, we must also recognize that war and conflict are man-made. They develop from traits inside each us and from our actions and inactions. War and conflict arise from those times when we have not sought justice, from those selfish moments when we have deadened our spirit to the needs and to the sufferings of others.

Instead of allowing those negative qualities to grow, let us strive to listen to each other with an open mind. Let us reopen our hearts to the needs of others.

Therefore, at this time, the 100th Anniversary of the end of World War One, let us be thankful. Let us never forget. Let us reopen our hearts to the needs and the sufferings of others. And, as we reflect on the “Bells of Peace”, let us rededicate ourselves to justice and to peace in our community.

Dave Augustyn served as the Mayor of the Town of Pelham and a Niagara Regional Councillor from 2006 to 2018. You may provide your ideas and feedback to Dave at daugustyn@cogeco.ca or check out his Dave Augustyn NOW columns at www.daveaugustynnow.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Introducing Dave Augustyn Now

It has been my honour to serve as Mayor of the Town of Pelham and a Niagara Regional Councillor for the past twelve years. I launched my Online Journal in 2008 and since that time I’ve authored nearly 400 columns about community issues and the business of local government.

 As I transition by career from that of a political representative I look forward to continuing to share my observations about local politics and community matters via my newly renamed Online Journal ‘Dave Augustyn Now.’

Please note that the name of this Facebook Page will soon be changed to reflect my new URL: www.daveaugustynnow.blogspot.com. As always, I welcome your ideas and feedback. I can be reached via email atdaugustyn@cogeco.ca ~Dave

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Premier Ford and Appointing Niagara's Regional Chair

And, so it begins…. We are hearing rumblings of at least one – Niagara Falls Councillor Bob Gale – testing the waters in an attempt to become the 2018-22 Regional Chair.

While the new term of Council officially begins until December 1, Regional Council cannot convene until the indirectly-elected Councillors – the 12 Mayors – are officially sworn in at the local Councils.

So, on Thursday, December 6 at 10:00 AM, the Regional Clerk will officially convene the inaugural meeting. She will first administer the “Declaration of Office” for the 19 directly and 12 indirectly elected members.

Then, the first and only order of business is the election of the Regional Chair.

Candidates from Council Only:
In the first phase of the election, the Regional Clerk will ask for nominations for candidates. Only newly-minted Regional Councillors can run as a candidate to become Chair. Following nominations, each candidate will have a chance to speak for five minutes.

While the Municipal Act does allow the election of any qualified elector from Niagara to be nominated and elected Chair, historic precedent, two Council resolutions (in 1991 and again in 2013), and confirmation from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, means that Council elects a Chair from the recently elected members of Council.

Run-Off Election and Secret Ballot:
If two or more candidates run for Chair, the Clerk will oversee the “run-off” election (like used in some political leadership contests). For example, if after the first ballot, no candidate receives a majority of the votes – 17 – then the candidate with the fewest votes “drops-off” the ballot, and Councillors will vote on the remaining candidates on another ballot. The voting continues until one candidate receives a majority.

Interestingly, while the Municipal Act allows for the option of secret or open ballots, Niagara Regional Council’s procedural bylaw stipulates that the vote for Regional Chair “shall” be a secret vote.

Believe it or not, the new Council actually considers a motion to destroy the ballots… I voted against this last time; I hope this new Council will do the right thing and release the ballots publicly.

Filling the Vacancy:
Following their election as Chair, the Councillor must “give up” his or her seat – creating a vacancy on Council. How is that seat filled? Regional Council follows the advice of the local City or Town Council. The options include a by-election, appointing the next candidate in the last general election, appointing another qualified elector. In the case of filling the Chair’s seat, precedent has been to appoint the next candidate in the most recent election – Tim Rigby after Peter Partington was acclaimed Chair in 2006; David Lepp after Gary Burroughs became Chair on a fourth-ballot victory in 2010, and Kelly Edgar after 18 voted to appoint Alan Caslin as Chair on the first ballot in 2014.

Horse Trading:
Sadly, this appointment system has significant drawbacks. First, it’s anti-democratic. We should be able to elect the Regional Chair – who is like the Mayor for Niagara – from across the entire Peninsula. Other Regions – like Waterloo – have been doing this for more than 25 years… You and I were to have elected the Chair “at-large” across Niagara this time, but Premier Ford and the PC Majority at Queen’s Park negated that election on Friday, 27 July 2018.

Second, the appointment system lends itself to “horse-trading.” We saw this in spades in 2014 when some Councillors traded their vote for Chair for something else. “If you vote for me, I will ensure that you get on the Police Board.” “I’ll support you if I can be chair of the Public Works committee.” Or, “I want to get on the Niagara Parks Commission. Can you guarantee that?” And, sadly, there was some bullyingly too: “We already have 22 votes for him. If you don’t support him as Chair, we will make sure your community doesn’t get any Regional investments.”

As you can see from the votes in 2014 – it was easy to figure out the single-ballot – this is where the so-called Cabal got their foundation. As nauseating as it is, some Councillors were actually given “who to vote for” cards so the Cabal could live-up to their Board appointment assurances. 

Again, an election at large would help sanitize appointments and help to stop this kind of Cabal formulation.

Ford’s Wildcards:
Not many agree, but I think the Ford Government can still impact the Niagara’s Chair election. Here’s how.

First, they could insist that nominations for the Regional Chair must be open to any Niagara elector (and not just from Council). Why would they do this? If they don’t like the option(s) for Chair from Council – like odds-on favorite Jim Bradley, for instance – they could open it up for someone else to run. It would mean that someone on the sidelines could throw their hat into the ring. Ford would take this option if there is an element of success for a preferred “outside” candidate.

Second, the Ford Government could go one step further and actually appoint the next Regional Chair. Yes, it is possible. It falls under the “Municipalities are the children of the Province mantra” that we heard during the 47-seats to 25-seats chaos with the City of Toronto election. And, as most people forget, the Provincial Government appointed Niagara’s Regional Chair from 1970 to 1985 – namely the beloved John Campbell.

But, why would the Premier even entertain these options? It would allow the Province to dictate and oversee a governance review in Niagara. At the recent AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) conference, Municipal Affairs Minister Clark promised a “review” of Regional governments following this Fall’s elections. Appointing a Chair would ensure governance is dealt with this term. And, as a side benefit for the ruling Conservatives, it would stop Jim Bradley, life-long Liberal, from becoming the Chair. (The Tories could also use this step in Peel – where Brampton recently elected Patrick Brown as Mayor.)

Regardless of what happens in December, expect City / Town / Regional governance reform to be a top-priority for this 2018-22 term of Council. And, please call for a release of the ballots when the new Council appoints its Chair.

6 November 2018:
For more information about the Chair's election, please see the Welland Tribune:

Also, I was on 610 AM CKTB this morning about this issue. To listen, please click here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018


Thanks so much to all who voted for me and supported my campaign for a better Region!

I appreciate you standing up for Pelham and for wanting to improve Niagara together.
Congratulations and best wishes to the new Regional Councillor-elect. Congratulations, as well, to the new Mayor-elect and Town-Councillors-elect.

When my family and I decided this summer that I would not run again as Mayor, we knew that the time would come for me to pass the gavel to a new Mayor. I am happy to offer any assistance I can provide between now and the start of the new term (on December 1) to help with a smooth transition to the new Town Council term and the new Regional Council term.

It has been my honour and pleasure to work together with the Councillors, Town staff, and the community and to serve as your Mayor over the last 12 years. Together we have achieved great things and helped our community grow and become stronger.

Working together we revitalized our Downtowns, rebuilt our playgrounds, expanded our library, rebuilt our pool, built two new Fire Halls, fixed up our roads, added +20 kms sidewalks and trails, and invested in infrastructure that helps residents and businesses prosper. This Fall officially opened Pelham’s new Community Centre – on time and under budget. The Centre is the place for people of all ages to gather, celebrate, and make “memories that matter.”

I’ve also served on Regional Council – standing up for Pelham to renew Regional roads and bridges, fix our long term care home, construct a new dog park, and to keep taxes low by chairing the Region’s $1 billion budget, and to promote incentives for industrial and business growth.
I stood up at the Region against the wasting of tax dollars with cost overruns and Councillor expenses, against the rigged hiring of the CAO, and I’ve worked for reform of the NPCA.

I ran to bring back integrity to the Region and the NPCA, to move Niagara’s economy forward, and to create a more compassionate society. I continue to believe in the promise of Niagara and I hope to continue to play a role in achieving this future together.

Thanks, again, for your support and encouragement!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Proven Leadership & Experience for A Better Region

Now more than ever, our Region needs proven leaders.

We are at a critical turning point in Niagara. We have the opportunity to reset our Regional Council and restore the reputation of the Niagara Peninsula that has been tarnished by scandals and controversies at the Region and NPCA. In order to do this, we require proven leaders, with a plan and clear vision for bringing about positive change.

As both Mayor and Regional Councillor for the last 12 years, I have demonstrated how I have stood up for Pelham and helped lead positive change in our community and across the Region. I chaired the Region’s $1 billion budget for four years (2011-2014) – approving increases 20% less than inflation and 4% lower than this current term of Council. I worked to improve Regional infrastructure and parks in Pelham – including servicing and reconstruction of Rice Road, the Regional Road 20 expansion, the replacement of O’Reilly’s Bridge, and the construction of the Centre Street Dog Park. I championed protection of the Fonthill Kame and led the Town's and Region's efforts for the removal of the contaminated “Fenwick Berm.” I also worked against the efforts by the NPCA to destroy age-old wetlands and I voted against all urban boundary expansion proposals.

Serving on all four “standing committees” and many other subcommittees, I also developed a complete understanding of our Regional government system and structure – knowledge and experience that will be crucial, particularly with a new Mayor and new Regional Councillors.
To lay the foundation for an effective and stable regional government moving forward, representatives with demonstrated leadership and Council experience will be a huge asset. I will help provide guidance, share knowledge and ultimately, allow our Regional Government to help make Niagara as successful as possible.

Pelham is positioned to lead by example at the Region. We are a growing community that has succeeded in attracting investment, developing plans for smart growth within our urban boundaries, protecting our environmental features, supporting our senior populations and investing in quality-of-life benefits in a sustainable way.

Working together, we have brought about positive change that is responsible, sustainable and reflective of our population.

If elected to serve Pelham as Regional Councillor, I will bring my proven experience leading positive change in Pelham to the Region. I would be honoured to offer leadership and knowledge to a new Regional Council so that we may truly bring integrity back to the Region and build a more prosperous and compassionate Niagara.

I see an exciting future for Pelham and I believe in the promise of Niagara! With your support today, we can continue to build that exciting future and fulfill that promise for the entire Niagara Peninsula.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Fonthill Kame, Cannabis, and Senior Campuses at AMO Conference

Last week, Councillor Accursi, Councillor Papp, Town CAO Ottaway, and I attended the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) Conference in Ottawa. The annual three-day conference offered a range of learning sessions and networking opportunities for the more than 1,500 delegates.

While at AMO, your Pelham representatives also met with various Ministries to directly advanced your interests with the Provincial Government.

We met with Hon. Jeff Yurek, MPP, Minister of Natural Resources & Forestry (MNRF), and Toby Barrett, MPP, Parliamentary Assistant, about maintaining and increasing the protection of the Fonthill Kame. Over the last 10 years, we effectively used AMO and “Niagara Week” meetings to urge the Province to enhance the Area of Natural & Scientific Interest (ANSI) protections of the Kame. For the last few years we thanked the Provincial Government for finalizing those protections in late-2013. Now, we asked to work together with MRN Staff to add more of the Fonthill Kame to the protections offered by the Niagara Escarpment Plan.

We are delighted that Minister Yurek indicated that the Government would not be changing the ANSI protections! We look forward to working together on further safeguards.

We also met with Hon. Steve Clark, MPP, Minister of Municipal Affairs & Housing, about Provincial funding. We encouraged the government to fund municipal projects that help create wealth and prosperity for a community; we spoke not only about projects like downtown revitalizations but also community and cultural facilities like community centres and libraries. We also discouraged the government from investing in projects that create more sprawl – like urban boundary expansions or “smart centers” disconnected from community. Ministry Staff indicated that they could work with the Town on these issues.

The Minister also informed us about his planned review of Regional governments following this Fall’s municipal elections; we indicated that Niagara would definitely want to participate. This was consistent with his message earlier in the conference when he shared his focus in working with local governments: cut red tape, increase the housing supply, reduce unnecessary reporting, strengthen regional governments, and find efficiencies.

We also listened to the three party leaders. Premier Ford acknowledged that Cities and Towns are “closest to the people” and stated that the Government had no plans for Toronto-type election reform on other cities “in the near future.” The Premier ended his speech talking about his Government by stating: “A new day has dawned in Ontario.”

Obviously AMO also many includes educational sessions and panel discussions.

Because of Pelham Council’s ongoing work, I especially appreciated the panel about “campus-style” approaches for Long-Term Care and retirement homes. We can use some of these suggestions to further enhance Pelham’s plans for a new medical centre, new seniors affordable housing, new senior’s apartments, a retirement residence, and a long-term care facility in Fonthill. Scheduled to start over the next year, these new housing and service developments are planned around the new Community Centre, Wellspring Niagara’s new Regional Cancer Support Centre, and the new stores and restaurants.

I also attended an information session about “Cannabis and Communities” – where the Provincial representatives shared that one of the “first orders of business” for a Council will be to decide whether to “opt-out” of allowing recreational cannabis retail outlets in their City or Town.

Finally, I was pleased to attend a session by representatives of Petrolia, Sioux Lookout, and East Gwillimbury about ways in which they worked with neighbouring communities to combine services to residents and businesses or find efficiencies in those services. I am committed to helping these types of discussions among the cities and towns across the Niagara Peninsula.

Not only did the AMO Conference encourage your Pelham delegates to use “best practices” and reach higher goals, we also used it as a tremendous opportunity to advance your interests with Provincial Ministries and build relationships with other municipal leaders.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca and find documents and past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Broad-Based Consultation for B&Bs and Vacation Properties

An overflow crowd assembled at last week’s Town Council meeting, because of concern raised in the community over “short-term rental properties.”

You see, some home-owners in the Lookout Point neighbourhood – between Haist and Lookout Streets and north of Regional Road 20 – have complained to their Ward Councillors and Town Staff about a couple of other property owners who rent-out their homes or rooms via AirBnB. These residents are concerned with increased traffic, more street parking, their own property values, noise, and of not knowing who might be renting their neighbour’s home. These residents feel like their enjoyment of their homes and properties have been impacted by the decisions of others. And, while these issues are being felt in communities across the country and around the world, these residents turned to the Town for help.

The Ward Councillors raised the matter at a June Committee meeting and Council directed Staff to work with residents to find out more and to propose a possible course of action. Staff held four meetings with residents to find out more about their concerns and to consider possible solutions.

While the Town’s Official Plan allows Bed & Breakfast facilities, the Zoning Bylaw makes no reference to B&Bs or vacation properties. Since this type of designation does not currently exist under zoning, the group suggested that the Town work toward defining these type of short-term rentals.

The key is that once the Town defines the type of use, it can regulate the use – for location, parking requirements, safety, noise, and other elements. The group also suggested that the Town learn from other communities facing these same issues.

Town Staff informed the resident group that Staff would present a report recommending a community consultation toward this approach to Council at our August 13 meeting.

A week before that report become public, a resident in that neighbourhood started an on-line petition. Someone also wrote an anonymous opinion piece that threatened that Council “intends to permit this use in every home within the town—every home, on every street, in every neighbourhood” and that Council saw this as a “new revenue stream.” These inaccurate missives suggested that people flood the Council Chamber and demand a total ban of short-term vacations rentals across the Town (which would not be legal) and also that the matter be deferred until after the election this Fall.

This anonymous “call to arms” caused panic across the Town and helped fill the Council Chamber last Monday.

Obviously, nothing could be further from the truth on what the Town had planned. In fact, Staff recommended a more broad-based community consultation begin so that the use might be defined to match the desires of our community.

During the meeting, the Town’s director of planning corrected the record and addressed the many inaccuracies and false statements that were published in an August 8, 2018, opinion column in a local newspaper and on the Change.org website. This correct information helped quell the panic of residents.

Councillors discussed the Staff report and the statement and directed that the Town undertake fulsome, broad based discussions with the community regarding this issue. Please look forward to these discussions this Fall. We will want to know where bed and breakfast establishments and vacation rentals should or should not be permitted; and if they are to be permitted, what should be the conditions? Only following that community discussion will there be a further report to Council with options on whether or not to amend the zoning bylaw and/or to introduce licensing of these uses; that will take a few months to do, depending on the feedback.

Council and I look forward to rational and constructive discussions of this issue and to a community-based solution. We also recognize the importance of the issue, since it is currently affecting folks across the Town.

Please check out the planning director’s statement, the Staff report, other documents and a video of our Council meeting at the Town’s website: www.pelham.ca.

We look forward to working together with you and your neighbours to address short-term rental properties.

You may contact Mayor Dave at mayordave@pelham.ca or read past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.