The Labour Council asked me to fill out this survey and based on it they endorsed candidates for Regional Council. Based on my answers they decided not to endorse me. Not sure what their reasons were but I suspect that my unwillingness to make broad commitments to hire only from unions and consider to bring all services back in house to the region were leading reasons. In general I am a supporter of unions and want to ensure that workers receive a fair share but when it comes to my duties as a Regional Councillor my first duty is to the residents of Niagara and I cannot make broad assertions and promises without knowing the impact on the budget and on our residents. I look forward to working with the Labour Council to make Niagara a better place.
Niagara Regional Labour Council Survey
The labour movement is proud to be an active participant in the upcoming 2018 municipal and regional elections. Union members and their families live work and play in Niagara’s communities. Therefore, municipal issues concern us all and we share a desire to elect good people who will work to build vibrant and sustainable communities.
Candidate Profile for Mayor or Municipal/Regional Councillor or Regional Chair
Application for endorsement Date: August 12, 2018
Name: Rob DePetris
Political Office for which you are running: Regional Councillor
Please complete the following questionnaire, using a separate sheet if necessary. Please include a brief bio with your response.
1. Have you been a candidate in a previous municipal, regional, provincial or federal election? N
If so, please give details:
2. Have you volunteered in an election campaign? Y If so, in what capacity?
I helped Walter Sendzik in his mayoral race in 2014 and am helping him in the current one.
3. Describe your volunteer work and/or positions you have held in any community organizations.
I would invite you to see my website www.voterobdepetris.ca
a) BRING HONESTY, INTEGRITY AND COMMON SENSE BACK
I promise that if elected, every action I make will be done for the benefit of those who I serve and not myself. Every decision I make will be well thought out, supported by reason and facts which I will convey in a transparent way to all my constituents. I will use my accounting, legal and analytical skills to try to make the best decision for Niagara.
b) FOCUS ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
We need more jobs and economic prosperity in Niagara for everyone. I want a place where our kids have an opportunity to stay in Niagara. I believe the way to do this is to concentrate on ways to help those of us who are entrepreneurs and the 10,000+ businesses in Niagara.
c) increase affordable housing / reduce poverty
We have far too many people living in inadequate housing and often this is tied to poverty as well. In the long run if we can increase our prosperity, poverty and housing issues will be alleviated. But we cannot wait for the long run. We need to find new ways to encourage the building of more affordable housing.
d) lower property taxes
We need common sense to develop ideas to spur economic development and find solutions to alleviate housing and poverty concerns. And we need to be able to do this within an affordable budget so that we do not over burden our residents and businesses with high property taxes and other fees.
e) bring back professionalism / bring in term limits / remove party politics
Councillors have sat on council for years and let the Region become mediocre. If you cannot institute your ideas over 12 years, I think it is time to let someone else try. As well, it is time to elect independent councillors who have no hidden agenda. It is time to let the employees of the Region provide the advice and professionalism they are being paid for.
5. Would you favor your municipality and the Niagara region buying local, Canadian and union-made products and services? Y N
My answer on this is it depends. I believe that if all things are equal that we should endeavour to buy locally. And we should only buy from employers who treat their employees fairly, that does not necessarily mean that the employees need to be members of a union.
I note that we need to do right by the employees and organizations we buy from but we also need to be cognizant of the costs to the residents of Niagara. All factors need to be considered for all decisions. And facts and evidence for each decision need to be considered.
The questions below will help us get a clearer picture of where you stand on certain issues.
6. Contracting out of public services: Do you support contracting out public services? Y N
Support your answer.
Again this is not a yes or no answer. In general I believe we need the Region providing services that bring the highest quality and efficiency to our residents. That said I am not sure what one defines as “public services”. I will consider whatever is best for the residents of Niagara. Each service that is provided we need to review and analyze who is best to deliver the service and how do we ensure that the people providing the services are treated fairly but also the residents are considered in the equation as well.
7. Economic Development: What role do you see for the city/region around economic development, protecting and/or creating good jobs?
I think this is one of our most important jobs and the key to ensuring prosperity for all residents of Niagara. I believe in helping the businesses that are in Niagara making the next steps and adding quality jobs for residents. I am not looking to help employers make profits on the backs of employees but to provide support for businesses that provide quality jobs to our residents. I think this is done by supporting organizations such as Innovate Niagara, our educational institutions and employers who have stepped up and invested in good employment opportunities in Niagara. Only if we can add businesses to our property tax base can we find new revenue to fight poverty and provide better care for those in need in Niagara.
8. a) Do you think that it is appropriate, if elected to liaise with the Niagara Regional Labour Council on important community/regional matters? Y
I think the Niagara Regional Labour Council and other labour organizations are key members of what makes our community work well. I would always want to understand the Council’s position on issues to help inform me of the issues and provide me with guidance. That said, I believe in listening but I also believe in making rational decisions based on the evidence in front of me. In all decisions, I will take the evidence in front of me and make rational decisions. My decisions will be backed by this evidence and will be transparent. It will never place an ideology or a political party ahead of what is best for the residents in which I serve. It will be what I think is in the best interest of the residents of St. Catharines and of the Niagara Region.
b) If offered, would you accept an endorsement of the Niagara Regional Labour Council? Y N
I am not sure what that entails. I would be honoured if organizations support my belief in being transparent, removing political parties from the local decision, getting rid of corrupt politicians and bureaucrats and always making sure that decisions are based on fact and with the understanding of what is best for the residents on St. Catharines and Niagara. That said, I will not be subservient to any organization that requires me to sway from my commitment to do what I think is best for our residents. So if the Labour Council thinks this view is worry of endorsement then I welcome it.
Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey. It was most appreciated.
Completed surveys must be received by August 13, 2018
Over the campaign I get asked to fill out surveys by various groups. In the spirit of transparency and also so people know where I stand I am posting the surveys. The first one is from the Niagara Association of Realtors (which only 8 out of the 23 candidates filled out) . Please take a read and let me know what you think or if you have any questions.
2018 Ontario Municipal Election St. Catharines Candidates Survey
Provided to you by the Niagara Association of REALTORS® with the support of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce
The Niagara Association of REALTORS®, with the support of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, is
conducting a survey of all candidates running for office in the Monday, October 22, 2018 election. As a candidate
we are providing the opportunity to complete this survey and ask that you return to us no later than Wednesday,
October 10, 2018 at noon to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your response will be included in a
summary of responses which will be emailed to all our 1,200 members and the 2,500 members of the Greater
Niagara Chamber of Commerce.
The survey is a PDF fillable document which should take no more than fifteen (15) minutes to complete. Please
take the time to be a part of this important survey. We thank you for your participation and look forward to your
Candidate’s Name: Rob DePetris
Municipality: St. Catharines
Ward (if applicable):
Position Running For: Regional Councillor
1. Affordability of housing for first time buyers and availability of housing alternatives for seniors is a problem
throughout Niagara Region; What specific initiatives or incentives would you endorse to address this
In the longterm we need to look at the income levels of renters (it is not increasing yet cost of
housing is). We need to lobby and pressure provincial and federal governments to raise
supports and consider basic income funding for lower income earners to be able to afford rents.
That however is not going to change overnight. I would propose that the region take its housing
action plan and actually budget specific dollars to it and put timelines to the actions promised. I
think we need to have inclusionary zoning policies to encourage developers to include a
percentage of affordable housing in all projects. As well, we need to work as a region to
incentivize (ie. meaning property tax credits, lower development fees and dollars) the private
sector to build affordable housing and to repair the housing we have now. We as a region do
not have the adequate resources to build enough affordable housing nor is this conducive to
building neighbourhoods. We must partner with the private sector and we need to ensure that
we can provide enough incentives to make it worth the private sector investing in affordable
housing. In addition, I think we need to continue to look at other root issues around
homelessness (mental health, poverty etc.). In reviewing the Niagara Regions policies to date,
we have a lot of plans and good intentions but there are not hard deadlines or reviews of how
the plans are doing. This needs to change now.
2. On behalf of commuters who use public transit, there is a need to link all of the communities of Niagara;
The creation of Transit Hubs so that municipal services can interact with each other would be an option.
What process would you support to forward this initiative?
I am supportive of the plans and actions of the current regional council to date. However, I
would think that the creation of transit hubs has to carry some financial viability test with it. By
this I mean, there must be enough demand to create the hubs. In the end, government loses
money on transit as a stand alone, so we need to budget what amount is acceptable. I note in
your first line you say that "there is a need to link all of the communities of Niagara". I agree with
this but would add within a certain budget. This could include private partnerships.
To move the initiative along, I would put hard dates to the plan with a completely costed budget
attached. I would also want to make sure that the residents of St. Catharines and other
municipalities are treated fairly based on services received and the infrastructure and funds they
have already invested.
3. The Provincial Government has discussed enabling regions to implement Regional Taxation – effectively
creating another tax burden on home buyers, such as the second land Transfer Tax in place in the GTA; if
introduced in Niagara Region what position would you take?
I would need to understand more before making a final decision. However, I think that the
residents of Niagara currently face high property taxes and adding additional burdens to these
would not make a great deal of sense. We do need to figure out ways to raise additional
revenues but perhaps it could be in other means such as a tax on tourism spending.
4. Every community in the Niagara Region is experiencing incremental growth which can result in conflict
between Progressive and Established philosophies; how would you reconcile the two polar-opposite
positions for the benefit of all?
I believe in growth that fits within communities and strengthens them. To that end there is a
balance between progressive and established philosophies. I would reconcile the approaches
by examining projects on their own merits and determining for each whether they would
enhance or be detrimental to a neighbourhood.
That said we need to have an overarching plan for the region as to where growth and
densification make sense. We need to get public input and ensure we live within the plans that
we communicate to the public.
In the end, both growth and protecting what makes Niagara the best place to live are critical
and no one philosophy will get us there. We need to compromise and work together to figure
5. Most candidates talk about working together, about replacing conflict with unity, and about making
governance more transparent and effective, to foster an environment where things get done for the
benefit of the constituents they serve; what role would you play in ensuring this happens?
I would do the following:
1. Commit to documenting and setting out my positions on each decision I make to the public
2. Not being party to any backroom deals but encourage my fellow councillors to vote based on
facts and reason.
3. I do not think we need unity but we need honesty, transparency and common sense. We will
not always agree but we need to understand each others' positions and try to work towards
compromise that produces win-win situations. This will not always be possible but will be my
goal and I hope my fellow councillors' goals.
4. I believe we need to leave party politics at the door. We need independent councillors who
make decisions based on their own review and analysis for the best of their constituents. This
does not get done by voting blocks, receiving orders from party bosses as to what is better for
the party. The only factor a regional councillor should be asking is what is best for the people I
5. I believe Councillors should stick to the Rotary motto Service above Self. Council should be
about getting things done and not about promoting individuals. To that end I support term limits
for regional councillors (either 2 or 3 terms - I leave that open to debate).
6. The legalization of Cannabis has created legislative challenges at all levels of government; does current
smoking by-law legislation suffice or do other initiatives need to be introduced and if so what do you
I would think that this is going to be an evolving process and that the current smoking by-laws
may not cover all the needs that will result with the legalization of Cannabis. For one thing
Cannabis is not ingested through smoking but their are edibles etc.
We need to consider land use regulations with respect to the cultivation, processing and sale of
Cannabis. Where should we allow or restrict commercial growth? What about the impact on the
demand for water and electricity for such crops? Need to consider odour emissions. Need to
restrict where retail outlets are. Consider such things as proximity to children, clustering of
cannabis businesses, retail signage when granting business permits.
For personal cultivation, need to consider odour issues, landlord tenant issues, condominium
rules, and other factors. We will need to regulate much of these issues with bylaws.
Also need to consider rules regarding public consumption. We will need to review where people
can partake in cannabis outside of their own homes.
We will have a lot of work to do to consult with the public and come up with common sense rules that promote people's right to use cannabis without infringing on the rights of others. In addition, we will have to figure out a way to enforce all of this and a way to pay for this additional burden of enforcement.
7. How do we handle the challenge of low income housing and homelessness in the city?
Much of my comments to the first question would apply to this question as well. That said we
need to lobby for adequate funding to provide assistance to all in Niagara and we need to
prioritize funding for poverty and mental health.
As mentioned above, we need to put timelines and specific resources (ie. money) to the
affordable action plan developed by the Niagara Region. We need to make this a priority.
As for homelessness, much of this has to do with poverty, mental illness and drug abuse. Each
of these are issues that intertwine with the other. So we need a coordinated approach with the
front line groups (Start me up Niagara, Community Care, RAFT, CAMH, Positive Living Niagara)
and come up with comprehensive plans. I note we have a lot of plans but unfortunately it is easy
to plan, but they need the funds and efforts behind them to become reality.
These funds will need to come from other areas. This is one of my top concerns and we need to
prioritize our resources to solve this problem.
$1,120,817,697 - That is the total estimated spending by the Niagara Region in 2018.
That number is made up of an operating budget of $934,235,000 and a capital budget of $186,582,000. So I could tell you that I am treasurer of St. Catharines Minor Baseball or some other local organization and that qualifies me to help managed these budgets. But I doubt many would think that managing budgets of these organizations compares in any way to managing and controlling a budget of over $1 billion dollars.
What qualifies me is that I have a degree in accounting from Brock University, I have a law degree from the University of Toronto and I have spent more than 25 years in the accounting and tax profession dealing with small and large corporations. In the companies I deal with every day, they do not have the solution of just increasing prices whenever they have a shortfall, they have to live within their means.
As a community, hard choices and unique solutions have to be implemented to get St. Catharines and Niagara on track. If elected I will review to fine efficiencies so that we can free up funds to pay for things our community needs.
But even if we find additional savings by doing line by line budgeting that will not solve our financial problems. These savings will only be a portion of the funds we need to ensure Niagara thrives.
We need to be innovative. One idea may be to partner with private housing companies to create affordable housing. We simply do not have enough internal resources to deal with this problem. So perhaps we need to leverage our limited funds with the private sector to develop housing projects. If elected this will be an idea I will stress we explore.
On the revenue generation side, perhaps we need to look at a Region wide tourist destination fee that does not just create funds to market the region but a small percentage to alleviate homelessness and drug abuse or other social problems.
Also we need to emphasize economic development of our businesses, if they succeed that will result in more tax revenues and wealth for our residents. One of the main reasons taxes are so high in Niagara is that we do not have enough successful businesses paying taxes to reduce the burden on the residents’ property taxes. Most of the burden of running our municipalities and the region is placed on the shoulders of the residents.
In the end, hard choices will need to be made. Including a ranking of what is important to us and what we will need to cut. In the end, my first job as regional councilor will be to listen to you the residents of St. Catharines and Niagara as to what is important to you. I feel I am one of the most qualified candidates to do this role with my strong business, accounting and law background. As well, my ability to listen to the residents about their needs and be willing to make hard choices.
The current regional council has depleted reserves, increased taxes and not made the hard choices in order to create a vibrant Niagara. Economic Development has not brought enough tax revenues in. We don’t have adequate services (see my last post on garbage collection, or consider homelessness and lack of affordable housing). We are paying more in taxes each year but we don’t seem to be getting ahead. Currently, there is no cohesive plan developed by our current regional council to move Niagara ahead while keeping it affordable for those living in it.
If elected I commit to spearheading a thorough review of the budget process and finding efficiencies. I commit to working to produce a cohesive plan that will move Niagara forward while keeping property taxes affordable. I commit to making hard choices and being upfront with our residents as to what the trade offs are and getting their input as to what is most important to them.
There is no simple solution to our high taxes, need for more economic development and lack of proper services but the starting point is by putting in honest, knowledgable regional councilors who will challenge the status quo, listen to the residents and make changes.
It is time to clean house at the region! Please help me make that change by voting for me.
Picking up your garbage is one of Regional Council’s responsibilities. My garbage pick up day is Thursday. As I write this on Saturday, my garbage is still sitting out on the curb uncollected.
While our council has special meetings to discuss the hiring practices of the chief administrative officer, Mr. D’Angelo and talk about all the other internal fighting amongst the councilors, our garbage is sitting on the street.
Regional Council had extended the contract to the waste collector, Emterra, to 2021 in 2016. So we are stuck with these contractors for 3 more years.
Garbage collection is a basic function and our garbage is not being picked up on time. And still we have no resolution.
I watched a public works committee meeting on youtube and councilors spent more time on justifying why they gave an extension to Emterra then fixing the problem. They argued that they made the right decision to extend. Stop covering your asses and do your job!
Why did they not put in mechanisms in the extension to be able to get out of the contract or have a back up when targets are not met?
This is crazy. I ask you – if the current regional councilors can’t get our garbage picked up what can they do?
Seems to me regional council are only good at making more garbage.
Time to clean house at Regional Council. These councilors are not doing the most basic functions.
Vote for me!
Anyone with common sense already knows everything I am about to write in this blog. However, I want to make it clear to many of our current Regional Councillors who have somehow forgotten: they serve the residents of Niagara and not themselves.
Employees of the Niagara Region are individuals who have been hired to perform services for the residents. They work for the taxpayers. In so doing, the Regional Council of Niagara (who are also being paid to work for the residents) should hire the brightest and the best individuals to do the jobs required. The Region should hire employees based on their merit. The employees should be non-partisan and professional. They should not be hired based on their friendship or connections to regional councilors or being members of the right political party. To get the best for Niagara we need to hire the best.
I write this at a time when our current regional council has spent several meetings talking about whether it was fair and honest how they went about hiring the individual who is the top civil servant in the entire region and who is responsible for all the thousands of employees beneath him. Let’s take a step back and ask is he qualified? Did he deserve this job on merit? Should he be managing an organization with a billion dollar budget?
I am of the opinion that he is not qualified for the job he holds. I leave it to the evidence in front of everyone to decide whether the process in hiring him was fair and honest.
Many of our current Regional Councillors have done little to ensure that merit, non-partisanship and professionalism are the key criteria used in hiring the top employee and all employees at the Niagara Region. This duty to hire the best for our residents has not been fulfilled by the current Regional Council.
When an organization does not hire the most capable people for their jobs and hires without a fair and honest process, the good candidates stop applying for jobs at the organization. A vicious circle is created and mediocre becomes the standard at the organization.
If I am elected as a Regional Councillor I will ensure that the mandate is and will always be that all employees are hired based on non-partisanship, merit and professionalism. We want the best people for the job so that our residents get the best services for their tax dollars. People will want to apply for jobs at the Niagara Region, as they know Niagara is the best place to live and the Region is a great and fair place to work.
This seems obvious but over the last number of years it has not been to the current Regional Council.
Niagara deserves better!
Vote for me. Let’s bring positive change to the Region. Let’s put the Niagara residents first!
As a refresher, here is a link to the latest article by the St. Catharines Standard which outlines the alleged tainted hiring practices at the Niagara Region.
Over the next two months, I thought it would be good to let people know what I think are some of the key issues facing Regional Council.
I find that often people wonder what sorts of things are being done at Regional Council and how they actually impact our lives in Niagara.
One of the things the Regional government manages is Niagara Public Health. The Public Health group of professionals look after beach water testing, food inspections, and finding solutions to make each resident more physically fit and healthy. This includes the fight against drug addiction.
I would like to begin my thoughts on the issue of Opioid addiction in Niagara. This has been in the news lately, as the new Ontario government has put on hold the introduction of harm reduction (supervised drug-use) centres including one planned for St. Catharines.
If elected I will make the fight against opioid abuse in Niagara front and centre. In 2017, there were 521 opioid-related emergency room visits, 123 hospitalizations and 76 deaths, just in Niagara. This was a 65% increase over 2016 stats.
Regional and municipal governments in Niagara have been combating opioid addiction for a number of years and I applaud them for their efforts. But we need to do more. Niagara, especially Niagara Falls and St. Catharines, are well above the provincial average in the opioid epidemic. As a community, we need to put more emphasis, more time and more money toward fighting this. We need to give our professional staff in public health more resources to educate the public on the harm of over using prescription drugs and to help those already facing addiction. We need to assist them in building an ecosystem (a team) that will consist of the police, fire fighters, doctors, hospitals, our education system, the province, the municipalities, paramedics, social workers and more to fight this problem.
We need to do this not only to help save the lives of these addicted individuals but to help our community prosper.
In a recent article, my friends at Deloitte looked at strategies for stemming the opioid epidemic in the US. They mentioned many staggering facts such as:
What I would do?
I wish I had a simple solution to all of this.
I would continue to encourage all of our various lines of services to work in tandem to create an ecosystem strategy and give it a high priority and the funding that is needed. I would lobby the provincial government to allow us to open the harm reduction centre. I would ask the province to consider the creation of a prescription database of known abusers and have doctors check it. On the local front I would encourage the unwanted prescription medication drop-off kiosks that have been created. I would encourage the distribution of Naloxone kits to our front line staff to help fight overdoses. I would make public education and awareness of opioid abuse a centre of our public health system.
In the end my biggest commitment would be to make our approach to this epidemic a key strategy of Niagara Regional Council.
Using a team of professional staff, community volunteers and the council itself we can change the course of so many residents’ lives and help Niagara prosper.