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Saturday, August 13, 2022
St. Marks forum lets councillors meet with parishioners

After three members of the St. Mark’s Anglican Church congregation won seats in the last municipal election, holding a special forum to let parishioners ask questions of the councillors seemed like a good idea to Rev. William Roberts.

So, on Saturday, town councillors Gary Burroughs and Clare Cameron, and regional councillor Gary Zalepa were invited to meet with church-goers for an informal question-and-answer session at Addison Hall.

“I thought it was a very good meeting and I believe people thought the same thing,” Burroughs said after the forum.

 “It’s very useful for residents to understand what the town is doing and to learn what they’re thinking and what things we can fix.”

Cameron said when all three of them got elected last year, Roberts was “excited and overwhelmed” that three elected officials also attend his church.

“He got us together because we’re members of the church community so he wanted to have an opportunity for the other members of the parish to get together,” Cameron told The Lake Report.

Cameron expressed hope there will be more such meetings across the community, which would allow all councillors to see residents “face-to-face.”

The meeting, hosted by Roberts, kicked off with some questions from the minister, followed by questions from the audience.

Zalepa said one of the biggest issues in town is housing availability and affordability.

“In Niagara-on-the-Lake, there’s a chronic need for housing that’s market affordable,” he told the small crowd gathered at the church. “What that means is smaller units or apartment-style, townhouse or small homes where people can actually afford to pay the caring costs.”

At the meeting, Burroughs also said communication was the first thing that needs to be worked on so that the town can learn about residents’ issues and residents can be assured something is being done to resolve their problems.

Burroughs said he was at first nervous about attending the meeting but it went well and he’s looking forward to attending forums with all councillors.

“It’s a good way of not just going to meetings where residents are told things, (but) where they can simply ask questions and have an open discussion. I think that’s very useful,” he said.

One of the meeting attendees, Lloyd Maclam, said he learned about the forum in The Lake Report and, as a retired local resident, decided to come out to learn about current and future issues as the news isn’t always able to provide full details on issues.

“I like to keep up with what’s happening in town and come out to events like these,” he told The Lake Report.