By Mike Williscraft
After a COVID-induced hiatus, the popular Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Politicians’ Breakfast returned last week to a full house.
About 100 attendees turned out at the Ramada Beacon Harbourside to hear updates from MPP Sam Oosterhoff, MP Dean Allison, Mayor Sandra Easton and Reg. Coun. Rob Foster.
Allison noted that while the last two years has been difficult for many, it won’t get easier in the near future.
“We can expect higher prices for energy, and food and inflation is going to continue to rise,” said Allison.
Overcoming those obstacles won’t be easy, he noted.
” The last two years has been very difficult on many people. We have a prime minister that has been the most divisive in our history.
We are in unprecedented times, and the next few years are liking to be very challenging,” claimed Allison.
“Expect food shortages and costs to rise as farmers struggle to get labour to help plant and harvest as well as the current challenges to buy fertilizer which is going to cause a drop in yields and, as a result, less food will be grown. Expect supply chain issues to continue and grow for sometime before they get better. Costs of transportation have risen dramatically because of supply chain issues, cost of goods and shortage of labour.”
For Oosterhoff, he said there are some positives coming from the Province.
“The last two years have been difficult, but there is also much good underway,” said Oosterhoff.
Among the initiatives he cited were:
- 4,000 new and redeveloped LTC beds for Niagara Region
- Three new hospitals, WLMH, Niagara South, Hotel Dieu Rehab
- Expanded rural mental health clinics
- Reduced WSIB Premiums by 50% on average
- Cutting the Small Business Tax Rate by 8.7%
- Increasing the Employer Health Tax exemption limit to $1000,000, ensuring 90% of businesses won’t have to pay this tax
- Reducing the Business Education Tax rates for 200,000 businesses, to a rate of 0.88 per cent, creating $450 million in immediate annual savings
- Cutting hydro rates by 14% for 50,000 commercial and industrial customers through the Comprehensive Electricity Plan
Oosterhoff also noted that the provincial government’s plan is to put more dollars back in the pockets of taxpayers through several key actions, namely:
• Up to $1,000 per child through the Home Safety Tax Credit;
• Up to 75% back on childcare expenses through the CARE Tax Credit;
• A staycation tax credit providing up to 20% back for families travelling in Ontario;
• Helping workers change careers with the new Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit.
Easton noted many of the municipality’s initiatives in a variety of areas from administrative to recreation services and public works.
“We also hope that our citizens see the value of a steady hand, one that values their input through the wide variety of means available both electronically as well as phone calls and now more face-to-face meetings,” said Easton.
“I have heard from a number of attendees how beneficial it is to hear local, regional, provincial, federal messages in the same time frame and how pleased they are with the general understanding and mutual co-operation by all elected representatives which result in direct benefits to Lincoln.”
New and expanded businesses also attended the Chamber breakfast and were highlighted, something Easton appreciated.
“I believe this is important and demonstrates Lincoln’s focus on creating a diverse local economy. One thing I heard loud and clear and left me concerned is an overall demand for skilled labour that in many cases is just not available. We need to work on this together and find solutions,” she said.
At Town Hall, Easton believes council and staff are taking care of business.
“We are very proud of our current financial position and what it means from a prosperity generating position as well as the continued strong investment in both social and hard infrastructure like roads, water quality and sewers, bridges and culverts, parks and park amenities,” Easton noted.
In terms of specific projects, Easton said the Niagara Escarpment crossing is a key one.
“Even with all of our government delegations this will take 10-20 years to complete. In the meantime, with stronger enforcement related to the compliance by commercial vehicles to the local bylaws on soil movement as well as the MTO monitoring of weigh scale bypass into the central business districts of Lincoln, we have already seen a substantial decrease in violations which have also been supported with legal actions as necessary,” said Easton.
REG. COUN. FOSTER
Foster said managing the $400 million wastewater treatment plant was a major regional success, he pointed out Region has taken care of Lincoln and Niagara West interests very well in the last year.
“While a wastewater treatment plant (in Niagara Falls) might not sound sexy, a state of the art facility will be built at a price tag of over $400 million dollars, by far the largest capital expenditure in the history of the Region,” said Foster.
“It is this type of development, these big ticket items, that the two-tier regional government model was designed to support.”
As well as that major undertaking, Niagara Region has also touched on several other bases, from healthcare to infrastructure.
“The Region has supported our new West Lincoln Memorial Hospital to the final tune of $10.5 million. West Lincoln Regional Councillor Albert Witteveen, Grimsby Regional Councillor Wayne Fertich and I, along with the west end Mayors, worked with our counterparts across the Region to make the case and successfully got the funding delivered,” said Foster.
“Niagara Region has also made investments in hospice care with a grant being made to McNally House.”
On the public works end, Foster noted major road construction projects are slated for Beamsville, Vineland and Jordan over the next two years.