The Garden City Refugee

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Crisis in the Core

May 16, 2023

How a good premier should respond to the letter below:

Dear Ms. Stevens, et al.,

Thank you for your letter.

Having toured the downtown core of St. Catharines myself many times, I share your concerns. The once spirited hub of your community is in shambles. There is graffiti everywhere. Garbage, including needles and condoms, is strewn all over the place. The only evidence of the vibrant tapestry of culture you noted is from the bums and homeless people staggering around the streets and sidewalks. James Street is hardly bustling and St. Paul Street sports only a wealth of plywood boarding up once thriving storefronts which have long since gone under. Aside from going to a concert or an IceDogs game, I can’t see why anyone would want to visit the downtown core. It is truly a pathetic state of affairs.

Whereas you see the problem as a lack of funding for housing and mental health programs, in reality, this is the result of decades of socialist, anti-business, high-tax policies at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. More taxes and more government will only exacerbate the problem. It is a fairy tale to suggest that any nation, region or city can tax itself into a utopian model society where everyone lives in a big, fancy house, drives a luxury car and has a well-paying, cushy job. I know you will vehemently disagree, but there are people you just can’t help, no matter how much money you throw at them.

This said, I understand the fiscal pressures many municipal governments are under. It is a common problem I hear every day from mayors across Ontario. There are no simple answers sometimes. I don’t envy the challenges you face. But rather than look to the province for more, the solution might be right under your nose.

For starters, I can’t help but bring up the $4 million regional council spent on those silly suicide-prevention barriers on the Burgoyne Bridge. Not only do they look hideous, but they don’t do a thing to prevent suicides, as proponents claimed. So many socialists like yourselves decry minimum sentencing laws because they don’t address the root cause of crime, yet those like you openly pushed for those barriers that did nothing to address the root cause of what brought those facing mental health issues to the bridge in the first place. In the end, it was nothing more than an expensive photo-op for local politicians like yourselves, all at the expense of those you to claim to want to help.

At the city level, there’s a property on Geneva Street that could fetch a pretty penny if only your thick-headed councilors could pull their heads out of their collective asses and drop the social-engineering clause that’s been preventing any potential sale for more than three years now. There’s also the half a million dollars council allocated for that toilet across from the fire hall downtown. A toilet that despite opening only recently has already been the target of graffiti and is being used as a brothel and a haven for druggies. And don’t get me started with all the other frivolous things you folks spend money on. Rainbow crosswalks. Pollinator gardens. I swear your councilors must lay awake at night dreaming of ways to flush money down the toilet.

Despite the sorry state of your downtown, I was pleased to see that there were a handful of boutiques, businesses and restaurants that have somehow managed to keep their heads above water. Yet rather than encourage them, you ramp up the socialist, anti-business policies that have laid waste to your city’s downtown core by punishing them with an additional tax to fund a downtown business association that is genuinely more concerned about self-preservation than in promoting the interests of the business owners they’re being paid to serve. It is truly a wonder why anyone would want to locate a business in their catchment area.

Instead of further appeals for increased funding, I would respectfully suggest that a holistic approach to better fiscal management at the regional and city levels might be in order. That along with more of a hands-off approach. It would seem that the underserved members of your community have had quite enough of your “help.”

Clean up your own back yard instead of asking me to do it for you.

Best regards,

The Premier

--- Original message ---

Dear Premier,

We are writing today to address an urgent concern – the pressing need for affordable, supportive housing support and increased mental health resources for those in need in the Niagara Region. We are elected representatives with ridings that include the downtown core of St. Catharines – a vibrant community hub that we want to ensure is a supportive, safe place for everyone who visits, lives, or works.

The Mayor of St. Catharines has been advocating for an emergency increase in funding and support for affordable housing to ensure this vibrant community feels supported and cared for. We wholeheartedly echo this call to action and support the call for support from all levels of government.

It is important to emphasize that the support we need is for holistic support that emphasizes affordable housing, not just for addictions and mental health support. The homelessness crisis is complex and can only be addressed through a holistic and comprehensive plan that will not leave anyone behind. Right now, with costs of living out of control, too many people are falling behind.

Labeling the problem as solely a rehabilitation and addiction issue can potentially stigmatize those who are struggling and oversimplifying the complex realities they face. We feel strongly that the people who have fallen on hard times in our community need support, not judgement. Individuals can not receive rehabilitation services, unless they are housed first. To that end, we firmly echo the calls from the Mayor for emergency funding.

We invite you to tour the St. Catharines’ downtown core with us.

St. Catharines downtown is a vibrant tapestry of culture, history, and community spirit that reflects the heart and soul of our city. The bustling James Street, with its unique boutiques and locally-owned businesses, provides a shopping experience that perfectly encapsulates our city’s charm and vibrancy. Stroll down St. Paul Street, and you’ll find a wealth of culinary treasures, from cozy cafes offering the perfect cup of coffee to restaurants that serve a mosaic of cuisines, representing the city’s diverse heritage.

Downtown St. Catharines is a central hub of our city, where we come together to cheer on sporting events, immense ourselves in concerts and theatre, and attract tourists to our city through an array of festivals that include the Niagara Icewine Festival, the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival, and the Niagara Jazz Festival, which host a wide range of local talent and bring nationally and internationally acclaimed artists and vendors at our doorstep.

We are writing this letter as a show of support across multiple levels of government.

We know that our constituents are best served when we all work together, and we hope you will join us in that effort, with an immediate pledge for increased funding.

Thank you, and we look forward to your response.


Jennie Stevens
MPP for St. Catharines

Rev. Karen Orlandi
Silver Spire United Church

Rachel Braithwaite
St. Catharines Downtown Association

Robin McPherson
St. Catharines, Ward 4 Councillor

Caleb Ratzlaff
St. Catharines, Ward 4 Councillor

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