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Niagara Falls
Monday, March 20, 2023
Editorial: New council needs to listen and act
The Lake Report's weekly editorial. File

It was one heck of an election.

Politics is always a battle, whether it’s loud and public, or just a quiet debate behind the scenes or out in the community.

This municipal election was no exception — and there were plenty of issues and viewpoints to be debated.

And, as evident by Niagara-on-the-Lake’s strong voter turnout (again, the highest in the region), people have issues that matter to them. A lot.

The fact people are paying attention and engaged is good news. Democracy wins.

Now, it’s up to our new council to listen to those engaged residents — and then act on their behalf and in their interests. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

We sincerely hope our politicians are willing to challenge the status quo, charge at windmills occasionally, and make sure NOTL puts up a fight to protect its past and guide its future to success.

For example, politicians can’t just blithely accept the advice of every staff or region expert on every issue.

Some issues, like the St. Davids roundabout, may seem good on paper or in theory.

The proposed roundabout and might well eliminate some traffic congestion, but when people in the neighbourhood are screaming “No!” then perhaps those experts haven’t given consideration to factors that are beyond their purview.

Dear councillors and new lord mayor: Please, never forget that the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake are the ones who elected you. It’s your job to represent their concerns.

And let’s not get along too well. Consensus is great, but council need not be a campfire singalong. There’s a need for respectful, reasoned debate.

With regard to the looming threat of municipalities losing the power to control increased density targets set by the developer-friendly Doug Ford regime, NOTL needs to stand strong and tell Ford we as a town will not bend.

This legislation was only announced Tuesday, so it has not yet been implemented.

In NOTL, it’s time for smart management of growth and pushing dense developments away from historical enclaves.

And when it comes to secondary dwellings, there is no room for special treatment of some stakeholder groups. Just because secondary dwellings could provide profit to greedy, absent rental operators doesn’t mean they should be allowed to be operated as rentals.

We must fight to keep our homes as homes.

That may mean finding solutions and working with developers to put in more legitimate hotel accommodations in the remaining spaces we have, finding creative ways to earn money for the town with its unused properties (think parking at the old hospital).

Those are some of the issues threatening Niagara-on-the-Lake. And we cannot bow to profit-driven ideologies when it comes to our residential homes.

On a side note, as the next lord mayor, Gary Zalepa, who is a realtor, might find himself having to declare a conflict of interest on decisions regarding the legality of operating short-term rentals.

It is true that people buying homes to operate as for-profit businesses artificially drive up home prices and therefore those policies could create a conflict for him.

But looking ahead, we wish the new mayor and councillors all the best in what is often a thankless endeavour.

And to outgoing Lord Mayor Betty Disero and Coun. Allan Bisback, we offer thanks for your hard work and the many, many hours you spent on behalf of the people of NOTL.


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