Submitted by Regional Councilor Tom Insinna
Oct 14th, 2021, VOL. 3 ISSUE 4
Last week was an interesting week in the Region. The Niagara Region has established an incentive program that dates back to at least 2012 when it was last revised. There are many different incentives in the program that ultimately try to do one thing, bring developers and businesses to the Region. It should be noted that all levels of government use incentives. Recently the staff at the Region brought forward the results of the consulting firm KPMG. At a cost of $400,000, they looked at ways the Region could save money and be more efficient. One of the ways was to update the Incentives Policy and make it more in line with this Council’s priorities that were established in 2019. The priorities for incentives are affordable housing, brownfield development, the public realm, and employment. Last month staff brought forward a report that would streamline the incentives into the four priorities while abandoning the other incentives that did not. An example of one that did not meet the new priority is a grant for a parking garage. Interestingly enough the streamlining met with a tremendous amount of resistance from some municipalities who wanted to keep the 2012 policies in place, contrary to the study and staff report. In order to keep everything the same, it was going to cost the Region over $17 million of taxpayers dollars in the next 2 years to honour obligations. Last week at a special meeting Council voted to keep the incentive policies from years gone by, much to my disappointment. I am not opposed to using incentives to bring in development and to help businesses but there has to be some tightening of the regulations. One only has to look at the way the Town of Fort Erie has dealt with this matter, in a progressive manner that is good for all. Right now our Region cannot afford to keep paying for incentives that are currently being administered. There was a concerted effort by several of the larger municipalities to keep the status quo claiming the program was beneficial, contrary to what the KPMG study showed. The Incentive Policy comes back to Regional Council next week for final approval and it is here that I will again attempt to influence Councillors to change their minds. Immediately after the special meeting was the Capital Budget meeting. There were several projects in Fort Erie that received funding however the majority of them, some of the most desperately needed, were deferred, put on the back burner. Why you would ask, because the Region and Councillors don’t want to raise taxes to take care of our crumbling infrastructure because Council just approved spending millions of dollars for grants to developers and businesses. I apologize for my bias kicking in here but I only want to do what is right for all. The Region can’t afford to fix a crumbling bridge but will help a business pay to fix up its facade.
On another note, the Fort Erie Rotary Club is holding its “Rotary Polio Zombie Invasion” on October 24, 2021. The 24th was chosen to celebrate and to remember that Polio is being eradicated all over the world. The event will take place at the Fort Erie Race Track at the northeast corner from 2-4 pm. Participants will walk through the course and try to survive the Zombie-infested pathway. All Covid-19 protocols will be adhered to for everyone’s safety.
Please remember to wash your hands frequently, social distance, and wear a mask if at all possible. If you haven’t already, please get vaccinated.