It’s been a busy six weeks on the campaign trail connecting with voters, whether it’s at the door, via emails or through social media. So far I’ve knocked on about 1000 doors with a team and distributed over 2000 flyers. Here are a few of Regional issues that I’ve discussed with residents and my position on how these should be addressed in the next term.
Development, Housing & Natural Heritage – With a growth allocation assigned by the Province of over 690,000 people by 2051, it was essential to complete a new official plan to target growth into specific areas, but it was also a Provincial requirement due last August. For Pelham, the growth allocation for 2051 is just under 29,000 people. These numbers were calculated based on a methodology provided by the Province, in consultation with the Town and reflecting growth trends, meaning it was a data-driven and informed process. We should see most growth in Pelham occurring in the Rice Road corridor.
Adopting a new official plan was essential not only to plan for growth, but also to update our natural heritage policy and plan for climate change, mitigation and adaptation. The natural heritage section of the document was updated to reflect a systems based approach to protecting our natural assets, recognizing that environmental features do not stop at municipal borders! It’s also the first time we’ve incorporated climate change into our official plan and there will be a lot of important work building that out and incorporating into municipal matters. The official plan is a living document, so naturally as we encounter room for improvement we can adapt and tweak this document as required.
Next term the Region will continue to focus on affordable housing, where possible through planning policies, but more importantly through Niagara Regional Housing (NRH). NRH builds and maintains housing that supports low income people in our communities with a variety of support options including public housing, rent-geared to income units, subsidized housing and also works with non-profit and cooperative housing. Moving forward, there is great potential for partnering with non-profits to expand housing options because they are focused on attaining a social good rather than maximizing profits.
Public Safety, Speeding & Roads – If there’s one issue that has come up every time I’ve been out knocking on doors, its speeding. Increased housing has brought with it an increase in traffic flow. This has highlighted the need for traffic calming, the addition of traffic lights and speed enforcement to ensure pedestrian safety and speed compliance. Next term, discussions with public works on the proper support for traffic flow, as well as following up with the Niagara Regional Police on enforcement strategies, should be a priority.
Investment in infrastructure is also needed in the next term. Most of our infrastructure was constructed in the 70’s or beforehand and requires updating or replacement (a phenomenon common across most municipalities). This term the Region invested more than $260 million to update some of our 770 kms of roads and bridges, while making strategic investments in transit and GO expansion, as well as some much needed upgrades to wastewater treatment sites. We now have an asset management plan for our capital infrastructure needs, due to Provincial requirements and smart management practices, which will guide further investments into the future. We can’t just arbitrarily pick and choose which projects to kick down the road and like everything in life, it’s just more expensive to fix it later or when it breaks down. Ultimately these assets belong to our taxpayers and Council is responsible for ensuring they are adequately taken care of.
Economy & Jobs – Another important development over this term was the completion of our 10-year economic development strategic plan. This plan contained Statistics Canada data that spoke to Niagara’s labour force between 2016 and 2019 and highlighted an interesting phenomenon. While men’s participation in the labour force, overall employment and both full and part-time employment rose during this period, women’s participation declined across all categories. It’s been well documented that women’s labour force participation was impacted more significantly over the pandemic. This highlights the need for mitigation strategies that includes an emphasis on accessible and affordable childcare, flexible working options and enhanced transportation options. Advocacy with upper levels of government will be required to ensure we receive adequate funding to provide these services.
I’ve also heard consistent messaging from businesses in that they’re having difficulty attracting the essential labour needed to operate their businesses. I’ve also done a lot of outreach with our agriculture sector over the last few weeks to better understand their needs and concerns. What I’ve learned is that our horticulture sector (think nurseries, greenhouses and cash crop fields) are an even larger business in Niagara than our wine sector! They contribute significantly to local food and food security, but also contribute to Canada’s exports as valuable inputs into other products. I’d like to see Niagara focus on a labour strategy with a variety of partners to ensure we can strategically position and plan our workforce to fill labour gaps and immediate needs.
Clearing up misinformation – Recently a competitor stated that all campaigns are funded by developers. I have not solicited, nor received, a single dollar from a developer for my campaign. A reference was also made about me being enthusiastic about high growth numbers in Pelham. This is also not true. I, like many of you, have concerns about growth pressures and how they can impact the small town feel of our communities. Rather than pretending that growth is something we can ignore, I think it’s important to identify where that growth occurs so we can take a balanced approach in addressing our much needed housing supply while protecting green spaces and preserving Pelham’s uniqueness.
If there’s an issue that’s important to you, please reach out any time. I also encourage you to visit my website at huson4pelham.ca for more information on me or my campaign.