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Niagara Falls
Monday, February 26, 2024
Amalgamate? Council weighs in ahead of provincial hearing
Coun. Erwin Wiens says amalgamation has never saved money. EVAN LOREE

The town’s elected officials are entering the holidays with worries about big-city Niagara-on-the-Lake top of mind.

News of a provincial committee coming to St. Catharines to collect feedback on amalgamation triggered talks at a meeting on Tuesday afternoon on what it could mean for NOTL.

The committee’s public hearing was announced in November.

Chief administrator Marnie Cluckie told council it was “not uncommon” for the province to assign tasks with quick turnarounds so close to the holidays.

Council decided to send Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa to the provincial committee’s public hearing on Jan. 10 to present council’s concerns about being absorbed into a larger city.

“I want the province to hear us loud and clear,” Coun. Erwin Wiens added. “We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to do.”

“For them to disband us is not fair,” he added.

Zalepa said people seem to misunderstand municipal politics when they’ve never been a part of it.

He said the locally elected system “functions very well here, in a manner that is very respectful of the local resident.”

If cost savings were an issue, Wiens said the town could reduce its councillors.

However, Wiens said he “never bought the argument” that one paid councillor would better represent a town than a council of eight.

“Amalgamation has never, in any form, ever found cost savings,” he added.

Coun. Sandra O’Connor said much the same, recalling that she was in Ottawa when it was amalgamated into the Ottawa-Carleton region — costs went up.

She and Coun. Wendy Cheropita both raised concerns about how amalgamation would impact the town’s ability to preserve it’s heritage.

“I would really like for Niagara-on-the-Lake to stay independent,” Cheropita said. 

Coun. Gary Burroughs and Wiens both worried the town’s volunteer fire department would disappear if the town amalgamated.

 “There are so many questions and it appears we have no time to respond,” Burroughs said.

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