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New Chair Of Niagara Parks Commission Nominated

faye bookerMcGuinty Government Nominates Expert In Accounting And Governance

Ontario has nominated business consultant and financial professional, Fay Booker, as the new Chair of the Niagara Parks Commission’s Board of Directors. The selection followed the review and interviews of applicants through an open competitive process.

The nomination is subject to review by the Standing Committee on Government Agencies and approval by the Lieutenant Governor in Council.

As the Chair of the Niagara Parks Commission, Booker would lead the overall strategic direction of the government agency responsible for preserving and enhancing the natural beauty of Niagara Falls and the Niagara River corridor for the enjoyment of current and future visitors while maintaining financial independence. Booker would replace Archie Katzman who has served as interim chair since December 10, 2009. more…

A Letter To Dalton McGuinty Premier of Ontario

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Protect our Parks, an activist blog dedicated to protecting the Parks of Southern Ontario, has published this letter to the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty.

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March 2, 2010

The Honourable Dalton McGuinty Premier of Ontario

This letter will be emailed and served by Registered Mail

Re: Reasonable Apprehension of Bias in Maid of Mist Lease Negotiations

Sir.

First, please let me tell you the reason for this whole letter. It is an embarrassment to the people of the Province of Ontario and your Provincial Government to have allowed the present Board of Commissioners and General Manager of the Niagara Parks Commission to still remain in their present positions with what you and the citizens already know.

Second, I fear that if you respond to this letter you will give me a standard explanation that you are forwarding this to Minister Chan, Tourism Minister. To pass the buck again to a new Tourism Minister who has done nothing to improve the credibility of your Government, nor show the people that the process will be fair, is negligence on your behalf. You already know some of the conflicts and dirty inner workings of the Niagara Parks Commission through this ordeal and you choose not to take control and be a leader, but to hope we all go away. That’s not going to happen unless we are assured a fair, unbiased tendering is done that is transparent in its selection.

Here are some of the facts:

1. The Chairman (Jim Williams) and General Manager (John Kernahan) of NPC were involved in a meeting with the CEO of IMAX in fall of 2006 where an option was presented that IMAX will
build a new attraction at Table Rock fully financed by IMAX. This meeting and all information was suppressed from the Niagara Parks Commissioners and never exposed until I was told in May of
2008. In the mean time the NPC borrowed $38 million to renovate Table Rock and build the attraction “Fury” which has been exposed to be a dismal failure.

more…

Memo: Code of Conduct for the Commissioners and Sr Staff

niagara-parks-footer-logoCode of Conduct
Code of Conduct for the Commissioners and Senior Staff
January 20th, 2010
Memo to: Commissioners & Senior Staff
From: Howard Grant, Fairness Commissioner
PPI Consulting Limited
Re: Restrictions on Lobbying Activities related to the Request for Proposals for Tour Boat Services

I have been hired by the Ministry of Tourism to assist the Niagara Parks Commission with the competitive process for tour boat services. In my role as Fairness Commissioner, I will provide oversight and process advice to ensure fairness throughout the competitive process.

The Niagara Parks Commission has established a Project Team comprised of John Kernahan, Nick Murphy and Joel Noden for the planning, design and advancement of this initiative. From time to time, others in the Commission may also be requested to contribute their expertise to the initiative. more…

The UFC coming to Ontario?

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Step right up. Buy your tickets to the Brawls by the Falls. Grown men kicking, scratching and biting each other in a no-holds- barred fight that comes as close to gladiatorial combat as modern society allows.

The Toronto Sun reported this week there’s a battle brewing at Queen’s Park over whether Ontario should legalize mixed martial arts, a move that would clear the way for the Ultimate Fighting Championship league to hold events in this province. If Ontario were to allow UFC matches, Niagara Falls would be a natural host.

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For the uninitiated, mixed martial arts is a type of fighting that pits two men against each other inside a cage in an anything- goes scrap that’s only a tiny step up from a prison yard brawl.

But UFC, which is allowed in Quebec and New York State, is wildly popular.

So popular, on a Saturday night, some Niagara Falls bars turn all their TVs away from Hockey Night in Canada to show pay-per-view UFC fights instead.

The issue has entered the political arena, pitting Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty against Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who hails from Niagara region. more…

Maid of the Mist legal claim denied

niagara-city-maid-of-mistAn Atlanta businessman with eyes on tour boat operations at the base of Niagara Falls has lost a legal battle in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

In a decision rendered earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon denied motions filed by businessman William Windsor in a case involving the owners of the Maid of the Mist Corp. more…

Should Marineland’s Killer Whale show continue?

The Killer whale shows at SeaWorld Orlando has resumed just a day after, Tillikum,  killed a trainer.  It’s the third time the 30-year-old whale, who was captured in Iceland when he was two years old, has been involved in a death. In 1991, when Tillikum was at Oak Bay’s Sealand of the Pacific, he was among three whales who killed 20-year-old trainer and marine biology student Keltie Byrne after she slipped into the pool. The whales, Tillikum and females Nootka and Haida, would not allow her out of the pool and she drowned. All three whales were sold to SeaWorld in 1992, the same year Sealand closed its doors. In 1999, a 27-year-old man apparently jumped into Tillikum’s pool. He died of drowning and hypothermia, but his body was also found to have bite marks.

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Should Marineland continue the Killer Whale show?

One of their main attractions at Marineland Niagara Falls are the Killer Whales.  The Marineland website describes the Killer Whales as affectionate and gentle: more…

Kim Craitor stresses the importance of Defibrillators

Niagara Falls MPP, Kim Craitor speaks to students about the danger of heart disease and cause of heart attacks. He stresses students not to smoke and keep active daily. Very few get another chance at life after experiencing a heart attack, that can be varied between a healthy lifestyle.

Those lives that could have been saved if there were a defibrillator and a professional nearby. But now thanks to technology, the tool has been automated and as easy as jump starting your car. Craitor supports the idea of having AED’s supplied in community centers, or ice rinks. The Good Samaritan Law passed last year in parliament protects those who use AED’s in good faith to save a life.

Want to bid on Operating the Maid of the Mist?

motmThe Niagara Parks Commission has released details of how they intend to proceed with opening up the Maid of the Mist (Niagara Falls Boat Tour) operations bid process.  Bidders will be able to submit their proposals this spring on merx.com.  If you are interested in bidding you should preregister for a information session here.

A copy of the official Niagara Parks Commission press release is available following this jump.

more…

Special Falls Illumination for Winter Olympics

As the 2010 Winter Olympics kick off in Vancouver, Niagara Falls will be showcasing the start of a brand new type of special illumination.

During the 17 days of the Winter Olympic Games, visitors to the Ontario Pavilion in Vancouver, over 3,000 kilometres away, will have the unique opportunity to change the colour of the lights on Niagara Falls using the power of their minds!

The Illumination of Niagara FallsThe Illumination of Niagara Falls more…
Bug-a-licious Insect Food Festival on Family Day Weekend

Tempt your taste buds with a variety of insects, including crickets, scorpions, grasshoppers, ants and stinkbugs prepared right before your eyes! Visit the Butterfly Conservatory over Ontario’s Family Day (or U.S., President’s Day) long weekend, February 13 – 15, 2010 for the 5th annual International ‘Bug-a-licious’ Insect Food Festival.

Linda Keeping Enjoys a Scorpion

Visitors will be able to sample delectable insect recipes created by Chef Jeff Stewart and guest chefs daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Chef Stewart and his colleagues will be conducting cooking demonstrations with insects, and a new addition this year will be a friendly cooking competition – the Insect Battle Show Down – where visitors can cast their votes for the most delicious insect dish!

The event will feature two cooking battles each day at 12:30 p.m & 3 p.m. This annual event challenges us to consider insects as a beneficial nutrition source, a practice common to cultures from around the world for thousands of years. more…

Celebrating Black History Month

Niagara and the Underground Railroad

Many do not realize that Niagara was the major terminus of the Underground Railroad. The Anti-slavery Act of 1793’s ban on slave imports made American blacks free as soon as they crossed Niagara River. A woman named Chloe Cooley’s brave actions inspired change that would ultimately lead to the end of slavery in this country.

Plaque Honouring Chloe CooleyPlaque Honouring Chloe Cooley

In 2007, The Niagara Parks Commission and the Ontario Heritage Trust unveiled a provincial plaque in Niagara-on-the-Lake to commemorate Chloe Cooley and the 1793 Act to Limit Slavery in Upper Canada. more…

New York Wineries Upset with Canada

wineIf a customer with a Canadian accent comes to Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars in Hammondsport, Fred Frank knows they’re there to taste, not to buy.

That’s because it wouldn’t make financial sense.

Canadians who visit any of New York’s 255 wineries are allowed to bring home two bottles per person duty-free. But the price of wine bought in the U.S. almost doubles with duties and excise taxes imposed by the Ontario government if a Canadian returns home with more than two bottles.

Meanwhile, New Yorkers can fill the trunk of their car with bottles from the wineries that dot the northern side of Lake Ontario and pay insignificant taxes when they cross the border on their return home. The first two bottles also are duty-free.

“It’s bothersome because it’s unfair and it’s the antithesis of free trade,” said Frank, part owner of the winery. “For us, even though we are not close to the border, Toronto is closer than New York City.”

more…

Tenders on Maid of the Mist

Niagra_Maid_Of_The_Mist_1NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. — Getting competitive bids for one of the world’s oldest and most famous tourist attractions – the Maid of the Mist boats in Niagara Falls – may not be as straight forward a proposal as the Ontario government hopes.

The Niagara Parks Commission came under fire last year for giving the Maid of the Mist Steamboat Company an untendered, 25-year renewal on the contract to operate the boats that ferry tourists from both sides of the international border up to the thundering waterfalls. more…

Mike Weir Winery Plans Delayed

mike weir wineIt’s been nearly five years since Canadian pro golfer Mike Weir launched his line of Niagara wines, and still he has no place to call home.

No official Weir winery for the PGA player’s fans to make a pilgrimage.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

When Weir first launched his brand with then-partners Peter Jensen and his wife Laura McCain-Jensen in spring 2005, there was talk of building a retail store in St. Davids.

But Weir and the Jensens broke up in 2008, and the golfer partnered instead with Chateau des Charmes Winery in St. Davids to make his Chardonnay, Cabernet Merlot and other wines.

Still, no winery of his own.

But in November 2008, Weir and his winery president, Barry Katzman, unveiled plans to build a winery mecca on a 15-acre parcel of land next to the Whirlpool Golf Course in Niagara Falls. The shovels were expected to be in the ground last summer. No dirt has moved yet.

Trouble is this public course is operated by the embattled Niagara Parks Commission.

The self-financing provincial tourism agency has come under fire for months for giving Maid of the Mist tour boat operators a 25-year contract extension without taking competitive bids.

more…

NDP Wants Niagara Parks Commission shutdown

Tories say body has become ‘a loser financially’

Ontario’s opposition parties want to know why the Niagara Parks Commission has turned into a money loser, with the NDP saying it should be shut down completely.

The commission came under fire last year for giving the operators of the Maid of the Mist tour boats a 25-year contract extension without seeking competitive bids, which prompted the province to step in, cancel the contract and order a new tendering process.

New Democrat Peter Kormos, who represents the Niagara-area riding of Welland, said the boat lease was typical of what he called “a century-plus of closed-door, back-room-boyism, political patronage and nepotism” at the commission. more…

Union calls for 2010 strike vote
by Bill Robinson

Contract talks between the Niagara Parks Commission and the union representing its employees have broken down, with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union Local 217 calling for a strike vote early in the new year. OPSEU Local 217, which represents roughly 600 full-time and seasonal NPC employees, has been without a contract since Oct. 31, 2009.

A statement issued by staff representative and OPSEU negotiator Pati Habermann last Friday said the Parks Commission had tabled concession demands and filed for conciliation. The union announced it would hold a strike vote in early January. “Despite the best attempts of the bargaining team, the employer has refused to entertain any substantial union proposals. Citing ‘philosophical differences,’ the employer will not respond to issues such as job security, scheduling, seniority and hours of work, issues identified as being top priorities for employees,” Habermann said. “The employer’s position so far is to table concessions in layoff language, benefits scheduling, leaves and an attempt to introduce a two-tier wage system for seasonal members.” more…

Curtain of secrecy lifting to reveal secrets inside Niagara Parks Commission

First of all, congratulations to Niagara Parks Commissioners for voting in favour of opening their meetings to the public and the media. Quite a novel idea for public lands, we guess.

Vince Kerrio made the motion that was supported by his colleagues. This was the right thing to do and should have been done a long time ago. This newspaper has been calling for this type of openness and transparency for years.

But Kerrio’s rationale for calling the vote – because he felt he (and fellow commissioners) have been unjustly criticized lately -is curious, to say the least.

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