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Letters & Op-Ed, December 21 2022

The Voice’s first editor remembers the early days When the Voice of Pelham launched in March 1997, I drove a Saturn sedan. My first cellular flip phone was still a few years away, and parenthood was something to consider in the distant future.

The Voice’s first editor remembers the early days

When the Voice of Pelham launched in March 1997, I drove a Saturn sedan. My first cellular flip phone was still a few years away, and parenthood was something to consider in the distant future.

What I did have then, which I still seek now, is an amazing sense of community. To be honest, since I heard about the sale of the Voice, I have been in mourning for the loss of those early years of community. I am deeply sad, in fact. Ask my fellow Rotarians, who found me in tears this week at our regular meeting, trying to articulate my sadness.

Why do I care so much? I left the Voice in 2001, because by then I did then have a young child (not so distant future after all) and I needed more predictable (and fewer) hours of work. I have been thinking about it all week, and it comes down to a community who felt more like family.

When we launched, there were 50 equal shareholders willing to invest in an independent newspaper. But more than that, those shareholders were willing to offer business advice, legal expertise, financial advice, etc., so that a young woman whose wheelhouse was story telling, and developing black and white film, could head up this new venture.

They volunteered to paint and renovate our office space; they baked goodies for our open house; they volunteered for shifts at the Kinsmen Home Show; and, took turns walking in or riding on floats, in Pelham parades in the warmest and coldest of days. We even had a slo-pitch team (and a trophy to prove our skills).

My mom, Jeanette, put her administrative and organizational prowess to work as our first receptionist, and then stayed on as a volunteer proofreader for more than a decade. Not one issue went out the door without her stamp of approval.

My dad, Allan, took on delivering the downtown Fonthill retail route, and he did it for so many years that many of you still know him or recognize him around town today. When he feels up to it, he still makes his way into your stores for a wee visit now and then.

Yes, we were all younger and more energetic then, to be sure. And yes, our town has expanded by leaps and bounds, taking away from the small-town feel. Compounded by the rapid growth, of course, is the pandemic, which did its best to rob us of our sense of community.

Yet at the same time, one need only attend a Thursday night experience in Peace Park in the summer, drop by the arena for the Home Show in the spring, volunteer for the December Pelham Cares food drive, have a chat with the crowd watching a carver working on a tree stump outside the Maple Acre branch of the library, and so on, to see that our sense of community, of supporting each other, is still there. I can’t help but note that with uncertain times, increased expenses, food insecurity issues, we really do need each other now more than ever.

As the Voice undergoes its first major transformation in a quarter century, shifting from print to online, I will continue to reflect on those amazing early days, on my awesome Voice family, and look forward to finding even more ways of celebrating and supporting my community. If you know me at all, you knew I would bring it back around to the positive, to the forward-thinking. I can’t help it. I don’t know any other way of being.

I want to take this opportunity to offer my deepest gratitude to the shareholders who believed, who worked, who volunteered, who sweated it out with us in those early days. I am honoured to consider you as part of my family.

Carolyn Mullin Fonthill


Scripture and Christmas

Every year after Thanksgiving, most people's thoughts turn to Christmas. In the classic festive film Miracle on 34th Street, character Kris Kringle declares that “Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a state of mind.” Most people like the combination of giving and family togetherness and beautiful music mixed with decorations.

Although the Bible is not specific on the exact date of Jesus’ birth, Pope Julius 1 chose December 25 as the official date to celebrate the birth of Jesus because the common belief is he chose that date to help adopt and absorb the pagan festivals that occurred during the same time.

It’s a Wonderful Life is a 1946 film based on the 1843 Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol. An angel is sent from Heaven to help a desperately frustrated businessman by showing him what life would have been like if he had never existed.

“Each man’s life touches so many other lives. Our lives are full of wonder, it seems, by the mere fact of our interconnectedness. We are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is,” wrote Kurt Vonnegut. “Remove one Jenga piece and the tower begins to wobble.” The interesting book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born, by Dr. D. James Kennedy, fleshes out that same theory for our present day lives.

Some scholars believe there are more than 300 prophecies about Jesus in the Old Testament. These prophecies are specific enough that the mathematical probability of Jesus fulfilling even a handful of them, let alone all of them, is staggeringly improbable — if not impossible. Peter Stoner, Chairman of the Departments of Mathematics and Astronomy at Pasadena College, was passionate about biblical prophecies. With 600 students from the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, Stoner looked at eight specific prophecies about Jesus. They came up with extremely conservative probabilities for each one being fulfilled, and then considered the likelihood of Jesus fulfilling all eight of those prophecies. The conclusion to his research was staggering. The prospect that anyone would satisfy those eight prophecies was just 1 in 1017.

One of the great realities of Scripture is the prophetic nature of the Bible. Isaiah prophesied for a period of about 40 years, around 700 years before the birth of Jesus. J. Barton Payne's Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy lists 1,239 prophecies in the Old Testament and 578 prophecies in the New Testament, for a total of 1,817. These encompass 8,352 verses. There are predictions made in Scripture that have already come true and there are many that we are waiting to come true—for example, the second coming of Jesus Christ. Yet, before he comes the second time he had to have come the first time. You can test the prophetic accuracy of Scripture by asking this one question: Did it come to pass? This is really the only way to know if something that is prophesied is true or not.

Merry Christmas and the best for the New Year to you and the ones you love.

P. Bryant Pelham


SHAKE IT UP | Rob Shook

Five decades later, a new passion emerges

I confess that soccer has held little appeal for me over the years. Sure, I attended league games of family members’ children and spent more time socializing than actually appreciating the game. The fanatical support demonstrated by loyal international football fans across the globe was something that seemed foreign to me.

As a kid growing up in the late ‘60s, summers were spent playing Little League baseball, while winters were consumed by endless hours playing hockey. Soccer, if it occurred at all, consisted of a few school kids at recess hoofing a ball at each other without any sense of form or discipline. The game seemed boring by comparison to the sports of my youth.

Fast forward some 50 years and thankfully, like most things in life, attitudes evolve over time. Provided one keeps an open mind of course.

As this year’s FIFA World Cup Tournament rolled around, I made the decision to watch a few games from start to finish and give the sport a fair shot. I cannot tell you how grateful I am that I did. After the Canada vs. Croatia game, I was hooked. I have not missed watching a single game since. The finesse, the fitness, the strategy, as well as the backstories of some of the players captivated my attention from the get-go.

I found myself harbouring a keen desire to become more educated regarding the nuances of the game by watching former elite players explain what was taking place on the pitch. A little insight goes a long way indeed.

Not to mention the fans and their unbridled passion. Seriously, this excitement is overtly contagious and it draws one in. NFL or NHL notwithstanding, World Cup football fans exhibit a devotion to their teams that’s hard to match. The costumes, the noise, all part of the theatre of this spectacular event.

Next, the footballers themselves. Legendary athletes such as Messi, Ronaldo, and Modric—all as worthy of respect for their skill level, and equally impressive sportsmen as the likes of North American stars such as Gretzky and Lemieux. Messi, the 35-year-old phenom from Argentina, and Luka Modric the 37-year-old who is arguably the best midfielder of all time. What an appreciation level I’ve developed for the way these men play their game.

The matches themselves have also held as much drama and nail biting excitement as one could imagine, particularly the games requiring penalty kicks. Croatia stunning Brazil, and Argentina narrowly edging out the Netherlands. Talk about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!

Indeed, football has it all. I am a new fan, and I’d be willing to wager that I’m not alone. Regardless of who won the World Cup the past Sunday, the sport continues to captivate and inspire folks across the world. The unifying power of “the world’s game” is magnetic and hard to ignore. It transcends culture and geography.

Next time I find myself at a soccer match, regardless of who is on the pitch, I will most assuredly be watching with a fresh set of eyes.

In my humble opinion, every player at this year’s World Cup is a champion.


REGIONAL COUNCIL UPDATE | Diana Huson, Niagara Regional Councillor

A look back at the year that was

What a year! It’s hard to believe at this time last year we were still dealing with various Provincial lockdown stages, people were struggling to book vaccine appointments, and a Section 22 order impacted local restaurants. Last January Niagara reached a grim milestone of 500 pandemic deaths, now just over 600 as of August, but we seemed to have turned a corner and obtained some sense of normalcy. How far we’ve come! How far we still need to go.

While we seem to largely have a grip on Covid, it still has a major impact on our daily lives. The virus is still circulating and very threatening to our vulnerable community members. It’s had a strong presence in schools, affecting children, teachers and learning. It’s also led to the closure of many businesses, including some right here in Pelham.

As a society, we’ve seen a “rush to retirement,” or people opting out of the care sector, that has significantly impacted the Region’s ability to supply child care and staff our long-term care homes. There continues to be supply issues, inflation is affecting the cost of everything and there’s now talk of a recession early in 2023.

However, it’s not all doom and gloom!

This year Pelham saw a happy return of many of our beloved events, including the Pelham Art Festival, the Pelham Fire Strawberry Festival, the Rotary FunFest, the Fenwick Market (new!) and the many, many other initiatives that contribute to life in Pelham. The Canada Games were able to finally able to run their course, albeit a year late, with the cycling event held here in town, and one of the best-attended festival events across the Region saw Pelham hosting Alberta at one of our Bandshell concerts.

There was significant progress in the last year of Regional Council’s term with the Region completing a ten-year Economic Development Strategy. We also passed a new comprehensive Official Plan and held our first Climate Summit. There will be considerable work, both by the Region and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, in developing climate plans that will internally affect the organizations and their carbon footprints. Initiatives will also be developed that outwardly impact the community/environment and I anticipate seeing more green infrastructure projects, urban tree planting initiatives, and policies that embrace green energy and transportation uses.

Looking forward, the Region will be dealing with the impact of Bill 23 on our budget and planning services. Provincial policy changes have significantly scaled back environmental protections which will impact our ability to preserve and protect essential natural heritage, such as wetlands. And we continue to see growth pressures that will require essential funding for new infrastructure. Of equal, if not greater importance is the backlog of existing infrastructure that requires maintenance and upgrading.

Thank you again for re-electing me as your Regional Councillor this past October. I look forward to serving another term. Please reach out any time to discuss issues that are most important to you. Happy holidays everyone!


MUNICIPAL MATTERS | Pelham Town Hall, David Cribbs, Pelham CAO

Up for 2023: Budgets, strategy, Snowy McSnowPlow

These are fascinating times at Pelham Town Hall. With the 2022 election wrapped up, Town administration moved into orientation and training mode. The Town recently hosted four meetings during which all aspects of municipal governance and operations were discussed and reviewed with the new council. It’s a nice opportunity for the new team to learn from each other, meet the staff and get acquainted with all the various rules, regulatory regimes and policies with which the Town must comply as it tries to provide services to the community. The highlight of the training session was likely the bus ride around Town, with the chance to see where major upcoming infrastructure projects are anticipated, where future housing growth is likely to occur, and to get a chance to literally kick the tires of the fire trucks and snow plows.

With training and orientation complete, a new term of council typically involves two other critical items before attention can be turned to business of a more routine nature. Depending on the municipality in question, the order of these items can change, but in any event it is necessary to both pass a budget for the upcoming year and to establish a strategic plan, so that we have some community goals and objectives.

The draft budget has been printed and distributed. This document takes months of work by many people in Town Hall, although obviously the Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer deserve the most credit. Bringing a comprehensive document (which is really three separate documents: a capital budget, an operating budget, and a water and wastewater budget) that covers everything that Pelham wants and needs to get done, and covers all the costs incurred by hundreds of people (more than 100 staff, almost 100 volunteer fire fighters, summer students, seasonal workers and volunteers) is no easy task.

Harder still are the decisions that the new council must face as it decides what projects to green light, how much inflation will interfere with the best laid plans and what the community can realistically afford given the current state of the economy.

When the budget is complete (currently anticipated to be finished in early February), it will be time to turn our minds to the future. A strategic plan is a document that sets out what matters to the community —its values, what it wants to focus upon, and what it will do to make those values become tangible reality. This process is likely to take a few days, and ultimately create a framework that will underpin most major decisions for the coming four years. It is an important, arduous and engaging process which really makes clear to all staff what they ought to be doing, and how they ought to be doing it. For policy nerds like this author, strategic planning sessions are almost like holidays—full of fun and surprises.

Given that Pelham is a community full of clever and talented people, staff thought it would make sense to hold a competition to name the Town’s snowplows. The entire community will be relying on the plows in the months to come, and at least on occasion they are going to fill our driveways after we have just shoveled them, so it might brighten things a little if you can recognize your own handiwork on the side of a plow. This writer loves the names Betty Whiteout and Blizzard of Oz (not my original ideas). Contest details will be found elsewhere in the paper—please enjoy and give us the best you have!


FROM THE MAYOR'S DESK | Mayor Marvin Junkin

Plenty of challenges ahead for new Town Council

This is the time of year that seems to encourage one to look at the accomplishments of the past year, and gaze into the coming year trying to set hopefully attainable goals from a Mayor’s perspective, to continue to make Pelham a fine place to live.

This past year saw many great additions to the Town’s outdoor recreation facilities, starting in Centennial Park, in Fenwick. The nine new pickle ball courts and the completely refurbished tennis courts have really increased the numbers at the park. The new splashpad opened in the first week of July and mothers found themselves being pulled to the park by their impatient youngsters for the 8 AM opening. Unfortunately due to construction hold-ups the splashpad at Marlene Stewart Streit Park was not completed until the end of the summer. Everyone will be looking forward to an early opening next summer.

The urbanization of Pelham Street Phase 2 was completed on time, but alas, came in over-budget due to huge increases in prices for infrastructure materials, i.e, storm water and sewer piping.

The next phase for this project is the upgrading of Quaker Road from Pelham Street to Rice Road. The Town will be splitting the cost with Niagara Region.

The last big project of the year currently taking place is the $13 million dollar addition to Pelham Town Hall. This addition will provide meeting rooms and more importantly modern public washroom facilities for everyone. Finally all who attend Town events occurring in Peace Park can say goodbye to our long-serving port-a-potties. This work will force council out of Council Chambers and into the recently rewired-for-live- streaming Accursi Room at the MCC. The public will be welcomed back to the meetings. These meetings have traditionally been held on Monday evenings, but they will be moved to Wednesday mornings at 9 AM as per the new Council vote. This step was taken due to all of Town Council members being retired or semi-retired from the workforce. Anyone wishing to make a presentation to council can choose to appear before council in person or can use Zoom technology from their home or place of work.

In the New Year the 2023 Town budget— which consists of both capital expenditures and operation expenses—will be front and centre for the month of January. With inflation hovering around 10 percent and supply chain issues pushing up the cost of most materials, council will have hard decisions to make on all fronts.

After the Town budget is finalized, staff and council will meet to perfect our strategic plan, which includes goals up to 2030 and will steer both council and staff for council’s four-year term.

Of course the biggest problem we face, not only in the Region but all over our country, is the lack of affordable housing for our ever-growing number of homeless. Whether you call it attainable housing or affordable housing, very little progress has been made on these two fronts and success will only be had when the federal and Provincial governments find the political will and the money to subsidize low-cost housing projects. Developers have in the past and will in future build for the market.

In California, voters agreed in 2017 to a quarter-cent sales tax which went strictly to building low-cost housing. That quarter-cent tax raised $425 million a year since the measure passed. Some 78,000 Californians have been permanently housed and a further 105,000 have been placed in interim housing. I know no one likes to pay taxes, but how big can we let this problem get?

I have been asked by residents what our Town can do, the answer is nothing: We have no land and no buildings that can be converted into housing. The Region and the bigger cities of the Region have completed small projects. Hopefully over the next four years will see some meaningful headway made by upper levels of government.

Finally, best wishes to you and yours for the holidays and the New Year.