Niagara priorities on the ‘radar’ of provincial government: Bradley

Niagara priorities on the ‘radar’ of provincial government: Bradley

Source: The Standard

Niagara Region officials didn’t leave Queen’s Park with any firm commitments, but a sense the provincial government fully understands the peninsula’s needs — and how Ontario can help fulfil them, says Chair Jim Bradley.

“We weren’t going there expecting that they’re going to be signing agreements or flat out coming out publicly in favour of anything we’re asking for,” he said in an interview, recapping a week’s worth of meetings with key provincial officials.

“But we wanted to put it on their radar, and I think that was very successful.”

Starting last Monday, the Region took part in Niagara Week hosted at Queen’s Park, which allowed councillors and senior staff to meet one-on-one with provincial leaders.

Participants showcased core regional priorities and identified specific projects ready for provincial partnerships and co-investment.

Among the priorities regional officials focused on were the need for provincial funding to support the $400-million south Niagara wastewater treatment plant, advocating for increased GO train service, additional assistance to build more housing and the Region’s ongoing efforts to integrate more services and reduce duplication.

Bradley said Premier Doug Ford has “certainly been aware” of the wastewater treatment plant to be built in Niagara Falls, and that provincial officials are “very interested in having a three-way conversation on this.”

“What we’re looking for is the federal government, the provincial government and the local government, that being the Region, being involved in the financing of this project,” said Bradley.

He said the Ministry of Environment was “very supportive” and will send a letter on its behalf to the federal government.

“We’re certainly willing to lobby the feds on getting involved in it as well.”

Bradley said other ministries, including those dealing with housing, infrastructure and economic development, also understand the importance of the plant.

“We look at it from a number of angles — first of all, housing is a high priority for the government and we indicated to get to the number of housing units we’d like to get built in that portion of Niagara Falls, that it would be essential to have this wastewater treatment plant in progress and in operation.”

He said regional officials met with Vic Fedeli, minister of economic development, job creation and trade, to talk about the plant’s potential in supporting businesses and industries in the future growth area.

“Of course, the hospital is another entity that could be using the wastewater treatment plant,” said Bradley.

“Ministry of Environment understood that it’s very positive for the environment because it reduces the number of bypasses of existing water treatment plants because this impacts not only Niagara Falls, but also Thorold, Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines because it alleviates some of the loads on those particular plants.”

Bradley said there are “logistical challenges” when it comes to significantly expanding GO train service in Niagara, but he believes all sides will eventually “overcome” them.

“We have to deal with CN owning the tracks and certain works have to be done, but we indicated where we were in establishing a regionwide transit system which will be a feeder for the GO trains and also investments we’ve made in the train stations,” he said.

“We indicated our willingness to continue funding that aspect of it and showing that we’ve got a stake in the game — a financial stake and I think that boded well in terms of their reception. Like everybody else within 100 miles of Toronto, we would all like to have all-day commuter service.”

Bradley said regional officials also expressed how “we’re true partners” in providing more housing in Niagara.

“We indicated we are moving quickly to ensure that approvals are given in a timely fashion and that we already have a lot of approvals that have been granted already and that everything we could do to assist in that regard we would be doing,” he said.

“We shared with them some of the potential projects we have here and the funding that would be very helpful in terms of affordable housing for people. But there’s all kinds of housing that’s required and we’re prepared to be part of that.”

Bradley said the idea of amalgamating Niagara municipalities “did not come up” during meetings.

“No one raised that issue at all, but we did talk about the fact that we are involved in several shared services initiatives here in Niagara,” he said.

“They were very interested in what we’re doing down here and the progress we’ve made, and I indicated we’re continuing to make that kind of progress. The (chief administrative officers) are meeting frequently to look at any area where adjacent municipalities or local municipalities can share services with the Region. I think they were very happy to hear that we were doing that.”

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