BREAKING NEWS – Motion Calling For Cost Disclosure of NPCA Staff Buyouts Passes Regional Council

If the public has the right to know when public employees make over 100K, we have the right to know how much was spent buying out long term employees who didn’t want to play the boards game.

#Niagara #NiagaraRegion #ONpoli #ONelection #Election2018 #ABetterNiagara

Niagara At Large

A Brief News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted March 1st, 2018 on Niagara At Large

St. Catharines regional councillor Brian Heit tabled the NPCA motion.

A motion, tabled by St. Catharines regional councillor Brian Heit and backed by fellow St. Catharines regional councillor Kelly Edgars, to get to the bottom of how much more than two dozen staff buyouts over the past four years at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has cost municipal taxpayers passed a the Region’s council this March 1st.

A few regional councillors, including Grimsby representative Tony Quirk, who also sit on the board of the NPCA, questioned some of the wording in the motion and attempted to pass it off as “a political cheap shot,” aimed at Conservation Authority they claim has become a convenient straw dog for some.

Another St. Catharines regional councillor, Kelly Edgar, seconded the motion and joined Heit…

View original post 474 more words


Dozens Dead, Numbers Expected to Rise

I have recently completed the first in a series on opioids for The Sound @TheSoundSTC,
Niagara Region’s largest independent paper, and will be releasing it in the weeks to come.

As an addictions counsellor, I am not only qualified to speak on this issue but have experience working with street-involved youth and adults struggling with addiction and active mental health crisis.

As first printed in The Sound, March 2018:

Dozen’s Dead, Numbers Expected to Rise

I could write an opus on drugs; explain how our brains are wired with neurotransmitters or discuss how different chemicals have different rates of bioavailability, half-life, and pharmacokinetics. I could explain how the therapeutic index (TI) of a drug – the prescribed dosage – is the ratio between the effective dose (ED) and the lethal dose (LD) in 50% of the population; but, it’s time, Niagara.

We need to talk some real shit.

At least three people have died following suspected opioid overdoses in the Niagara Region between Valentine’s Day and February 20th, 2018; at least one opioid death in February could have been avoided if St Catharines had a safe injection site.

According to Niagara EMS, they responded to 155 suspected drug overdoses in 2016 and 520 in 2017. Preliminary death data, released by the province, shows 40 people died from opioid overdoses in Niagara in 2016 while numbers for 2017 are expected to at least double.


For the three months available (May-July 2017), there were 7 suspected opioid deaths in each month – 16 confirmed and 5 probable opioid overdoses – for a total of 21 deaths. In 3 months. Compare that to 40 the entire year before.

If we look further, we discover Niagara emergency departments treated 43 overdoses in July 2017, 7 of whom died (6 confirmed opioid, 1 probable). While the death data is not yet available, if the death to ER visit ratio was 7:43 (1/6) in July, and data shows 62 people were treated for opioid overdoses in both August and September, statistically speaking, 10 people probably died in each month.

NRPH_ERThat would mean we surpassed the total opioid deaths in 2016 in just 5 months of 2017 (May through September); the total lives lost to opioids in 2017 is probably around 87… if not higher.

People are dying; this is no longer a problem to be swept into the darker corners of the region. Niagara needs wider-sweeping harm reduction initiatives including a supervised injection site. Mayor Sendzik, of St Catharines, has been vocal in his support, stating he’d like to see a site open in his city as quickly as possible.

“Everyone knows someone who has struggled with addiction.

Just like lifting the stigma of mental health, we have to lift the stigma around addictions to tackle the opioid crisis.”

–  Mayor Walter Sendzik, St Catharines

The City of St Catharines, which has one of the highest overdose rates in Ontario, is currently working with the Region of Niagara Public Health and a coalition of local organizations – known as the Overdose Prevention & Education Network Niagara or OPENN – to open a temporary safe injection site in St Catharines.

Public health officials anticipated the ‘nearly complete’ application for a temporary supervised injection site, once submitted, will take approximately 10-12 weeks (although I was unable to ascertain when, exactly, submission was anticipated to occur).

What Is A Supervised (or Safe) Injection Site?

Supervised injection (SI) sites are a safe place for someone to use their IV drugs; when someone uses their pre-purchased drug in a controlled environment, it allows for the immediate detection and treatment at the onset of overdose symptoms.

Administering Naloxone (formerly Narcan®), a compound which binds at the opioid receptor sites in the brain displacing the drug molecules from those receptors, in combination with respiratory and cardiac support, at the onset of overdose symptoms, saves lives.

In fact, the data shows in 86% of opioid overdoses, Naloxone is effective, and, within 10 minutes the person is conscious.

Here’s where the supervision comes in: how do you self-administer Naloxone if you have lost consciousness? How do you self-administer chest compressions? or call for EMS?

Efforts to train and pass out Naloxone kits are having a positive impact within the community but that doesn’t save the life of the man who uses, alone, in a Tim Horton’s bathroom, does it?

Benefits to the Community At Large

Don’t supervised injection sites encourage drug use? Studies show this to be false, nobody starts shooting heroin because they can do so while supervised; to say otherwise is ridiculous and contrary to the data.

A recent study in Toronto found that 36% of people who use drugs reported injecting in public places such as washrooms and alleyways. In St Catharines, we could replace alleyways with parks.

Supervised injection sites promote safety and hygiene while discouraging inappropriate disposal of used needles. Proper disposal of paraphernalia, such as needles, reduces the risk of accidental needle sticks for first responders, and in our public spaces including parks.

With some simple changes to the way we treat addiction and narcotic abuse, we can reduce the overall costs to our healthcare system – including emergency rooms and EMS resources. We end up with a net positive for the entire community.

We are not going to solve age-old issues of narcotics use, and abuse, by providing harm reduction programs and safe environments to addicts, but we may regain some of our humanity.

Every interaction a worker has with an addict or at-risk client is another opportunity for non-judgmental conversation and education; every interaction is another chance to build trust and, when the person is ready, change.

We created the stigma, the hair shirt, addicts wear; it’s time we share the burden.

This is the first in a series on opioids; check out The Sound (@TheSoundStC) for more. Up next, Social Indicators: Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Poverty.

Emily Spanton, @FEW_Niagara

UPDATE: On February 26th, St Catharines City Council unanimously voted to support an application by Niagara Region Public Health and a collective of harm reduction and social service agencies to the Province for a temporary supervised consumption site.

Opioid Crisis and Overdose Prevention Site

At the meeting of February 12, 2018, Mayor Sendzik provided notice that he would present the following motion:

WHEREAS the use of dangerous opioids is contributing to an epidemic of drug overdoses across the country, including 520 suspected opioid overdoses attended by Niagara EMS in 2017; and

WHEREAS the federal government has responded with temporary exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act for overdose prevention sites; to permit temporary overdose prevention sites to respond to the opioid crisis; and

WHEREAS the Province of Ontario has created a program to establish overdose prevention sites on a time-limited basis as a low barrier, life-saving service providing supervised injection, naloxone, and the provision of harm reduction supplies, to be funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care; and

WHEREAS first responders, including St. Catharines Fire and Emergency Services, are being equipped with naloxone kits and trained to respond in the event of an overdose medical emergency call;

WHEREAS the Overdose Prevention and Education Network of Niagara (OPENN) is a network of local agencies coordinating the response to this crisis, including St. Catharines Fire and Emergency Services, Niagara Region Public Health and Positive Living Niagara;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that St. Catharines City Council supports the Opioid Prevention and Education Network of Niagara / Positive Living Niagara application to the province for a temporary overdose prevention site and requests that the City be consulted in the location of a temporary site and any future considerations for a permanent site in St. Catharines.



“Fuck you, I like guns.”

While living in Ohio, my partner kept guns in the home – a Heckler & Koch P30 and an AR-15. As a pacifist and urban Canadian, guns were not a part of daily life and moving into a home where guns were openly kept was a shock – both cultural and moral.

In the end, I decided I needed to learn how to safely handle a firearm; I took lessons, went regularly to the range, and even became fairly proficient in cleaning the 9mm (though I always made someone check I had properly reassembled it before attempting to fire it!).

I never touched the AR-15; my ex never touched it out of it’s case, outside of a range, unless cleaning it after having fired it. The AR-15 literally has no uses beyond extreme human carnage and yet, as a long rifle, it is easily purchased. It is also easily modified to be fully automatic.

While I learned to accept the 9mm as a necessary evil to living south of the border, I never learned to accept the AR-15 – not in my home, not in the community at large, and certainly not in the hands of moody teenagers.

The P30 is compact and accurate; it is the 9mm of choice for several European police services. It will stop an intruder, dead, and it is all you need for home security.

Unless you are hunting, no one needs more firepower than a handgun.

Unless you are hunting humans, no one needs more firepower than a traditional long range riffle.

Continue reading ““Fuck you, I like guns.””

#Niagara Theatre of the Absurd: The Pelham Witchhunt

Tit for TatTonight, Niagara Regional Councillors Tony Quirk and David Barrick will continue their attack on the Town of Pelham and lower-tier autonomy. That’s right people, this is an attack on our local political structure and can not be allowed to pass.
While Councillors Quirk and Barrick try to distract council, and the public, with skullduggery, we have a Niagara Regional Police Service board, on which Niagara Regional Chair Alan Caslin, and Councillors Barrick and Bob Gale sit, is running $7.2 million dollar deficit and just paid nearly $1 million to well-respected former Police Chief McGuire to force him to retire.
The board of NRPS is asking the Niagara Region to cover at least $2 million of the police services boards deficit in addition to the previously approved 2018 budget.
 Councillor Quirk sits on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority board, where Councillor Barrick is Director, and who spent over a quarter of a million to sue Ed Smith and untold millions on other legal fees and severance packages (claiming poverty as the need to let longterm employees go), has a newly created Board Lounge at HQ, where they never go. This new NPCA board *lounge* includes new leather furniture and decorations.
Niagara Region – leave #Pelham alone and clean up your own boards finances.

Politics and Zipper Demons: Why Women Are Reluctant to Speak Out

The #OntarioPCParty is currently grappling with the very real issue of sexual misconduct in the workplace, particularly in the public sector. As outsiders try to catch up, insiders are wondering why it’s taken so long for sexual misconduct allegations to catch up with both Patrick Brown and Rick Dykstra. Honestly, the first thought I had when Patrick Brown announced his resignation was how long will it take Dykstra to follow suit; the rumours around these two men were not whispers, their alleged behaviours were well known, and ignored.

Why did no one speak out sooner?

With the #MeToo and #WomensMarch movements, women’s empowerment is at a public level unseen since the bra burnings of the 1960’s. Women are speaking out about sexism, sexual harassment, and gender based violence, as institutionalized attitudes; we are taking our seat at the table and tackling the culture that continues to persevere around gender in politics and industry.

Social media has enabled women to see how truly ubiquitous unwanted sexual attention is, and how normalized the behaviour is, while at the same time gaining strength from the stories we share; we have found our voice and we are breaking our silence.

Finding your voice as part of a movement is very different from making the decision to come forward with your sexual assault. Calling it sexual misconduct if the offender is a public servant, elected official, or other such authority figure, is facetious at best.

Any time a person is subjected to a depravation of their life, liberty, or security of person, by an authority figure it is an abuse of power.

That’s correct:
unwanted sexual attention
is a form of assault,
when it involves
someone of influence,
it is an abuse of power.

Women, who have worked hard for equality, particularly in the workplace, are reluctant to be seen as weak, damaged, disadvantaged, because of their sex. Rape is about power, not sex; many women see public knowledge as a further theft of their dignity; many women find disclosure and the trial empowering.The usual narrative of entitlement and privilege goes beyond the abusers, it applies equally to those who model antiquated practices and enable the wanton disrespect. The sexualization of women continues to be commonplace in public service, which many forget is a workplace, and comes in many forms – verbal, emotional, and physical harassment. Women who speak out are at risk of being passed over for promotion, losing their job, and face being blacklisted in their industry – just for speaking up about harassment.

Knowing the potential harm, women are reluctant to come forward particularly when a public figure, or one of authority, faces allegations of abuse of power or misconduct. The story will become fodder for the media; it is in the public interest to know. Women are forced to deal with a trauma that is being played out in the press; life decisions like whether to file charges, and who you feel comfortable sharing your experience with, should always be a private and personal decision.

A woman’s name may not be published
but she will be dissected,
motives questioned,
while the accused is
innocent until proven guilty.

I can tell you from personal experience no woman goes public with her rape, sexual assault, or harassment, for attention. The police and medical investigations are extensive, invasive, and traumatic; it is akin to being re-assaulted. Anyone who has undergone this daunting process understands why some would choose to end the investigation, try to pick up the pieces, attempt to move on; not wanting to testify doesn’t negate anyone’s experience.

Even with shield laws, criminal proceedings are Kafkaesque. No matter what we say, as a society is acceptable, the victim is always the one on trial. We live in a society so cynical, the survivor is the one who must defend themselves. We must, at minimum, afford accusers the same rights as defendants and treat victims as truthful; we are all innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

While the judiciary must always proceed independently, politics is, by definition, the court of public opinion. It is in the public interest to know about potential political misconduct, whether in a sexual nature or not.

There is an engrained fascination with the lives of those who we have trusted with our vote to be our voice, as it should; those who choose to put themselves forward for public service do so knowing there is an expectation that they be irreproachable. There is a belief that elected leaders should be role models; forgetting public servants are human and fallible, we are shocked when this illusion of perfection (folie-en-masse?) is shattered.

People can’t wrap their heads around it; the person who won our confidence has broken that trust. We desire all the salacious details in cases of misconduct by public officials, regardless of the cost to the victim, adding a further dimension of harassment, and in some cases assault, towards the victim. The confronter can be accused of hidden agenda’s and political motivations on top of the usual fallacies victims face, creating a climate wherein victims are forced to justify themselves to satisfy the public.

While there perseveres an idea
that boys will be boys
so too does the slut shaming
and victim blaming.

And as long as those in power model disrespect, and a laissez-faire attitude towards institutionalized inequalities, there will continue to exist a climate of discrimination.

Women, who have worked hard for equality, particularly in the workplace, are reluctant to be seen as weak, damaged, disadvantaged, because of their sex. Rape is about power, not sex; many women see public knowledge as a further theft of their dignity; many women find disclosure and the trial empowering.

The decision about how a woman survives sexual assault is her own and the first step to her recovery.

Why is the onus for change on victims
and not those who can’t wrestle their inner zipper demons?

Taking A Seat At The Table

As featured in the February edition of The Sound STC: @TheSoundSTC or Facebook

“Remember who put you in office:
it wasn’t you, it was the people.”
– Debbie Zimmerman,
Niagara Regional Chair (1997-2003)

We live in a time and place where racism and misogyny are rampant and unchecked. Just ask Mohamad AlJumaily, who was accosted by another resident at Regional Council in December and accused of being a terrorist – simply for being a man of colour. What kind of values do we project to the rest of Canada, and the world, when we have a regional council who stands by while our Charter Rights are trampled on? From Andy Petrowski’s antics to the Press Freedom Fiasco, Niagara politics have become a national joke.

I recently attended a workshop at the St Catharines library entitled How You Can Build A Better Niagara: Running for Municipal Office. The event was put on by A Better Niagara, a local non-partisan grassroots organization dedicated to bringing Accountability, Integrity, and Transparency, to politics throughout Niagara. I was tasked with reporting on this event for you, the good readers of the Sound, but as I wrote I realized I took more away from this workshop than political campaign knowhow: I left excited and truly believing we may be at the cusp of a great change in Niagara.


When asked what advice she’d have for candidates, former Niagara Regional Councillor Eleanor Lancaster was quick to state,

“If you are not at the table,
you are probably on the menu.”

That idea has stuck in my head; for far too long Niagara politics have not adequately reflected the community which it serves. Current Niagara Regional council features four women (one in eight councillors); of the six regional councillors who represent St Catharines, Debbie MacGregor is the only woman. At city council, St Catharines is represented by twelve councillors, two of who are women. Meanwhile, not a single person of colour represents the people. Not one. Anywhere.

How do we propose to attract, and retain, businesses and workers if they do not see themselves represented at the table?

There is hope; two thirds of the Running for Municipal Office event attendees were women and one out of every five attendees were people of colour. Local activist, and workshop attendee, Haley Bateman had this to say: The number of people ranging in ages and stages of their career was remarkable. It is inspiring to see so many people invested in making a better Niagara.

It is heartening to stand in solidarity with so many varied and diverse people as we try to shine a light on the darkness within our community. To witness the past, present, and the hopeful future, of Niagara politics working together regardless of sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, socioeconomic background, or even party politics, left me in awe. I awoke optimistic that a better Niagara is not only possible, it is feasible. Women and people of colour are no longer the minority; we are empowering ourselves, and each other, to get off the menu and take our seats at the table.

The Running For Municipal Office series will continue in the months ahead- if you would like more information please reach out to A Better Niagara on your favourite social media platform or While I am a member of A Better Niagara’s Communications Committee, the opinions featured herein are my own.

The Regional Chair, The NPCA, and the Lobbyist

What was the deal with the Integrity Commissioner’s Report, at Thursday’s Niagara Region Council meeting, that had Chair Alan Caslin recuse himself?

Why did NPCA Chair Sandy Annunziata and NPCA Director David Barrick also recuse themselves?

Why did the Niagara Regional Chair and the Director of the NPCA drive to Toronto to meet with a lobbyist?

Questions about the dismissal of the complaint by the Integrity Commissioner, and how quickly and quietly it was swept away, only add to the confusion of citizens.

When asked why he and NPCA Director David Barrick drove to Toronto a few months ago to meet with former NPCA lobbyist Mark Kealey, of Kealey & Associates, Chair Caslin stated he doesn’t remember the purpose of the meeting nor the conversation but believes it may have had something to do with Kealey seeking employment opportunities with the Region.

If I want work somewhere, the CAO of the Corporation does not drive an hour and a half, each way, to wine and dine me… at Corporate expense (ie taxpayers).

Three hours roundtrip, on a good day, plus the time to “lunch”? At minimum half your day, if not your whole day, shot. Then again, I would remember why I wasted an entire workday on the QEW to get to – wouldn’t you?

STAY TUNED – MORE AS THIS STORY CONTINUES TO DEVELOP… and ask yourself how much this mystery meeting cost taxpayers.


#OnlyInNiagara #Niagara #ABetterNiagara #ONelection2018