How would you summarize your political platform for the upcoming election?
This next phase of council for me will be about following through on strategic priorities of council. Some of the big lofty goals take time, effort and persistence. Things like the new South Niagara Hospital will be the largest investment by the Province of Ontario in the Niagara Region—ever. It is slated to be an investment of 1-2 billion dollars by the time it is complete. A project of this magnitude takes years of planning, lobbying and focused effort to keep it moving forward. Projects like these can easily stall out, and they often do, with changes in government like we just had at the province. What people may not realize, is that keeping this on the priority list for the government of the day, and coordinating with the many organizations involved is still a main priority and focus and needs to continue to be for the council ahead in order to see this to fruition.
Residents have told me time and time again that fixing our roads, and upgrading sewer and drainage throughout the City is important to them. I intend to continue with these and other major projects, like keeping the GO train on track for daily service to our City by 2023, working with Ryerson University on an innovative partnership to bring jobs and students to our downtown, and working with CN on re-routing trains outside of our City, as we look ahead to the next 4 years.
What is your long term plan and/or goal for Niagara Falls?
My long term plan or goal for Niagara Falls is to leave it in a better place than I found it. Many years ago when, as a student, I left Niagara Falls to go to university, I remember feeling like students were supposed to go away and learn and then find work and job opportunities elsewhere, in some other city or province. That was then. This is now. The tide is changing. It is my goal that our young people might go, get their education and come back to Niagara Falls with excitement to be able to participate in the opportunities that are here now and growing. We want people to be able to stay close to their families and friends and participate in new, exciting opportunities for unique jobs, business and growth right here.
Do you believe your time battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has better equipped you to understand the health care system in Niagara? What have your learned?
Yes, since being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma it has better equipped me to understand the health care system in Niagara, 100%. I have been a customer and I know first-hand that we have exceptional care at Niagara Health. Under the leadership of Dr. Kevin Smith, health care in Niagara has grown leaps and bounds which I feel is directly related to the affiliation with the Hamilton Health Sciences network.
You have been working through social media campaigns to entice Ellen DeGeneres to come to Niagara. How do you believe this kind of media/celebrity attention can affect the city?
Yes I do feel that this type of positive attention can affect Niagara Falls in exciting ways. In the past when there has been international attention on Niagara Falls it has only positively affected our city. Big shows like LIVE with Kelly and Ryan, New Years Eve broadcasts with big name performers like Keith Urban and when Nik Wallenda famously walked a wire over the falls have brought more attention to our city than millions of dollars worth of marketing might have. Things like this keep us on people’s radars around the world. We are one of the most well-known cities in the world! Niagara Falls is achieving good things when it comes to tourism for this reason; but there is potential to be great! I feel that we still have a long way to go. For example, Orlando, (a city built on a swamp, no less) sees 60 million visitors per year, and Las Vegas, in the middle of the desert, welcomes 40 million people per year, compared to our 14 million visitors. We have the falls! With the natural wonder as our backdrop and with our operators continually elevating the quality of offerings in Niagara Falls, the buffet of fun and entertainment that we offer here is only expanding! I am committed to keeping that the focus of attention.
You recently tweeted about the city’s new designation as a Bee City in Canada; with another term as mayor, how will you ensure the city continues to improve environmentally?
Improving environmentally is an ongoing process and can be illustrated in hundreds of ways, from planning our City, to the environmentally conscious products we use in works projects and more. It is hard to just choose a few, but I will talk about a couple of the initiatives that we are leading the way with when it comes to environmental advancement in our City. I was passionate about bringing forward an idea that Council passed a motion on, which was “remove a tree, replace it with 2 or 3.” Though the motion was passed, we still don’t have an offcial policy. That needs to be next. I am committed to seeing that through in the next term of Council and diligently ensuring our tree canopy expands throughout Niagara Falls. Along with our Bee City designation has come the establishment of pollinator gardens.
Another way we are achieving great things is with the quality of our water. We have some of the most highly regulated water anywhere that consistently is a top performer in rigorous annual testing by the Ministry of the Environment Conservation and Parks, as well as by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) often exceeding the Ontario Drinking Water Quality Management Standards. In other words, I am proud to say Niagara Falls has some of the cleanest, most drinkable and best tasting fresh water, anywhere.