Residents come by with holiday greetings, wish lists of local concerns for Sam Oosterhoff
BY JENNIFER CHORNLEY
Living affordably, the growing concern of cannabis operations in Pelham, and the EarlyON Child and Family Centres merger were concerns Pelham residents wanted to discuss with MPP Sam Oosterhoff at his third annual New Year’s Levee, held last Saturday at the Fonthill Royal Canadian Legion.
Oosterhoff says he was pleased with this year’s turnout as some 70 to 80 people attended.
“Everyone was excited to be here and were talking about what was happening at the Region or locally, along with issues at the provincial and federal levels.”
The top issue on residents’ minds, along with the federal carbon tax, was affordability in all aspects, including lack of housing and the overall rising costs of living.
“People were saying that our government needs to do more. Our government is working on that and working on making life more affordable for Ontarians,” Oosterhoff said.
Oosterhoff said that the Ford government is looking into various aspects, including hydro rates and gas, and the government is “committed to addressing this concern.”
Another issue that was mentioned a “fair bit” was the merging of the EarlyOn Centres, and the legalization of cannabis, not only on the consumption side but also the production aspect, especially with the number of production locations that have been built or proposed in Pelham.
“We also heard from people who want to ensure we were investing in health care and education,” Oosterhoff said. “It was fairly standard mix [of issues] with the EarlyOn [merger concerns] being a new one this year.”
With resident concerns about the merger of the EarlyON Child and Family Centres locations, Oosterhoff said he would be talking with his staff to see what the options are and speaking with Regional Councillor Diana Huson, as it is a regional issue.
“However, since a lot of funding for the EarlyON Centres comes from the provincial government, we do have a role to play. I want to see if there is some advocacy from the minister or minister’s office to help support this program that’s in my local community.”
“I fight for my constituents,” Oosterhoff said. “They brought this issue to my attention, so I will look into options to see how I can assist them.”
On local cannabis concerns, Oosterhoof said engaging with the federal government will be important.
“This is an issue that everybody is confused about,” Oosterhoff said. “What can the local council do? What does the provincial government have to do? What does the federal government have to do? How do these different regulations [set by each level of government] come into effect?”
He added having these conversations will help determine what tools are needed to help at the local level. This is what Oosterhoff is “focused on” and wanted to ensure concerns are being heard. He said he would like to assist in facilitating these discussions with all levels of government.
Going into his third year as Niagara West MPP, Oosterhoff said he is “honoured to represent the area. It’s important to me to have events like this, where anyone can come and speak with me about whatever issue is on their mind.”
Adding no matter what a constituent’s political affiliation is, “I will work for you. So, come out to these events and give me piece of your mind.”
“I don’t mind being yelled at, nor do I mind the compliments either,” he said with a laugh. “Either way, I try to have a listening form of leadership. That’s democracy.”
Penny and Keith Lane said they attended to “encourage him and tell him he is doing a great job as Pelham’s representative at Queen’s Park.”
Penny Lane says they always try to attend Oosterhoff’s events, however, it’s not always the case due to scheduling conflicts, but “today it worked.”
She also thanked Oosterhoff for his advocacy work for all of Niagara, not just his riding.
“I think he’s a great guy and the work he does makes us proud to be members of the West Niagara Provincial Conservative Association.”
Chair of the Pelham Community Preservation Coalition Jim Jeffs attended so he could bring forward concerns regarding Pelham’s current cannabis production facility issue. The concerns included the number of facilities Pelham currently has and why they were allowed to remain being zoned agricultural, while other cities and towns designated them industrial.