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Niagara Falls
Monday, March 20, 2023
Election 2022: Development, tourism, agriculture were big issues, voters say
Andrew Dionne, left, and friend Ron Peters both cast their votes for Gary Zalepa. Evan Loree

Niagara-on-the-Lake voters turned out in droves for Monday’s municipal election, as a steady stream of people lined up throughout the day at most polling locations.

Parents were concerned about educational issues, voters in St. Davids were worried about road infrastructure and many were concerned about the town’s tourism headaches.

Most of those interviewed felt strongly about exercising their right to vote.

“Somebody had to fight for it. So obviously, I think it’s important,” said Chris Rogers who arrived at Crossroads Public School to cast his vote shortly after 4 p.m.

His thoughts were shared by Roger Armstrong in St. Davids who “had grandparents that fought in the war.”

Rogers said he feels the town runs fairly well and that there weren’t too many issues that stood out to him as especially troublesome.

Catharine Wickabrod didn’t say much about her politics but argued, “You can’t complain if you don’t go out and vote.”

Krista Kemp was at the Holiday Inn Express in Glendale voting with her 18-year-old son, Evan Kemp. 

Evan said he still isn’t that interested in voting and felt he hadn’t researched the issues enough but expects to be more engaged in the future.

His mom felt it was important that her son come out and vote.

“I thought it was good just to expose him to the process,” she said.

One of her biggest concerns was equal representation for the five villages of NOTL.

Anthony Orsini and Rosalyn Reid were voting at St. Davids Public School.

They shared Wickabrod’s view that you need to vote if you want to complain.

Orsini’s biggest concerns were the town’s development, wasteful spending and tourism plans.

Reid on the other hand was worried about “local economics and what we do when there’s another COVID wave.”

She said the town needs to stay as open as possible because so much of NOTL’s economy is based on tourism, which took a big hit during the first waves of the pandemic.

Reid said she was going to support Vaughn Goettler for lord mayor.

Armstrong was also concerned about NOTL’s economy and the importance of “supporting the local merchants.”

Amy Oppenlaender was at St. Davids with her daughter Eleanor.

Oppenlaender said she’d be voting for Gary Zalepa, adding she and her partner were “looking for a little bit of change.”

“As a teacher, I would focus on anything that had to do with children, especially having a younger child,” she said.

She added she was supporting Kate Baggott for school trustee, as she’s had the opportunity to work with her and appreciates the work she does.

Oppenlaender said she was backing incumbent Erwin Wiens because her partner is a farmer and it is important to her family to have someone on council fighting on behalf of the agricultural community.

Like Orsini, development was an issue top of mind for Zena Samuels .

She wants to see more roads, waterlines and sewers installed to accommodate all the new developments in town.

At the same time, Samuels was worried her home would lose its rural feel if growth escalates quickly.

Andrew Dionne was at St. Davids to cast his vote for Zalepa.

“Betty had her four years. We don’t think she’s performed,” Dionne said.

He wasn’t happy with the town’s spending on legal fees when his friend was still waiting to be connected to a water line.

Tricia Apostolon was there with her family to vote and short-term rentals were an issue for her.

“We are interested in doing (a short-term rental) and there’s a lot of restrictions in the area,” she said.

At the community centre, the after-work crowds was pouring in.

Nellie Keeler hoped the new council will focus more on agriculture.

“It’s always the Old Town or the tourism, nothing about the agriculture,” she said.

She’s worried about development in rural Niagara-on-the-Lake destroying good, fertile soil so nothing will be able to grow on it in the future.

“It’s all been destroyed. And council is not doing a darn thing about it,” she said.

As she made her way to the community centre, Teri Watson said, “Tourism is important to me, that they get it right in this town.”

She also wants the town to stay as it is.

“People that have moved here and are moving here and there and people who visit – it’s because of the charm of the town,” she said.

“There’s not many towns like this.”

In Queenston, most of the voters came early in the day, according to Tiffany Carbone, the tabulator clerk at the polling station in Queenston.

The poll had some technical issues at around 6 p.m., but they were cleared up quickly.

She worked at the advance polls in the community centre and said it was busy.

“From the moment before we opened until about four hours later it was a solid line of people,” she said.

“We did over 1,100 (people),” she added.

According to the Town of NOTL, almost 48 per cent of the town’s 15,996 eligible voters cast ballots in this election.

With files by Somer Slobodian.

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