More than 10,000 people gathered at a Grimsby high school in early May for a rally protesting a government decision to cancel the planned rebuild of the West Lincoln Memorial Hospital.
The enormous crowd plugged the downtown streets as people were bussed in from satellite parking locations, and gathered on the football field behind the the school. Many arrived carrying banners and posters and wearing pink ‘Make a Difference’ T-shirts.
The rally served as the launch to the official petition to get the rebuilding project back on track. For Lincoln Mayor Bill Hodgson, it served as an important statement.
“We have tremendous spirit,” said Hodgson. “This is part of our reaction, of our response. Life goes on and the spirit goes on and we just have to hope for the best outcome.”
As part of its provincial budget, the Liberal government in March announced the cancellation of the long-anticipated construction of a replacement facility for the aging West Lincoln Memorial.
That triggered a wave of anger in the community, which had already raised its share of the $136.8-million rebuild.
The opposition parties have accused the government of playing politics, since the hospital is located in the riding of Ontario Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, MPP for Niagara West-Glanbrook.
Both the Conservatives and the NDP have spoken out in favour of proceeding with the hospital rebuild.
“It’s absolutely outrageous the Liberals pulled the plug on this project,” Paul Miller, NDP MPP for Hamilton East–Stoney Creek, told Bullet News.
“It’s an absolute slap in the face to the people of (this community).”
Miller said he believes the cancellation is nothing more than the Liberal government’s way of “sending a message to Tim Hudak.”
Niagara Health System supervisor Kevin Smith says a new hospital in the south end of the region should be built to replace the current Niagara Falls, Fort Erie, Welland and Port Colborne sites. These buildings would be shut down and the properties sold.
The recommendation was one of many contained in Smith’s interim report, unveiled during a press conference in Welland, Thursday afternoon.
Smith was assigned by provincial Health Minister Deb Matthews in late August 2011 to remake the troubled NHS.
The appointment of a hospital supervisor – a move that effectively dissolved the NHS board of trustees and placed the provincial government in the driver’s seat – was necessary to restore public confidence in the much maligned NHS, Matthews said at the time. His report comes after months of consultation with local health stakeholders, politicians and residents.
Smith’s initial report did not say where the new hospital would be built. He later incorporated a recommendation to build the new hospital in south-west Niagara Falls into his final report. He said that it will require consensus among community leaders for it to go forward. He believes it will take six-seven years for approval of the project, construction and completion.
Smith also recommended that all maternity care in Niagara be moved to the new St. Catharines site, but that it then move again to the new south Niagara hospital when completed. He believes cancer, cardiac and mental-health care will grow to the point where they require more space at the St. Catharines location.
Niagara Falls firefighters were faced with a choice when it came to rescuing a man who had gone over the Horseshoe Falls.
“We had to decide whether to take the elevator down and navigate across the rocks, which can be very slippery or rappel down,” Fire Chief Lee Smith said after the rescue. “We made the decision to rappel.”
The man, who is currently listed in good condition at Hamilton General Hospital, was spotted by witnesses among the Victoria Day holiday crowd as he climbed a retaining wall near Table Rock House and jumped into the Niagara River some six to 10 metres above the Horseshoe Falls.
Witnesses said it appeared to be deliberate, according to Niagara Parks Police. The man was also spotted as he went over the cataract, falling some 51 metres into the rapids below.
The man sustained life-threatening injuries in the fall.
The man was located waist-deep in water by a parks police officer searching from the shoreline. Besides the fire department, Niagara Regional Police and Niagara EMS were called to the scene. The man was pulled from the water by firefighters at about 12:16 p.m. and transported to a waiting air ambulance.
The man had suffered head, neck and chest injuries and was subsequently airlifted to Hamilton. A spokesperson for Hamilton Health Sciences said the man’s condition has been upgraded to good from critical. He is being treated for his injuries at Hamilton General Hospital.
The man is the fourth person to survive a trip over the falls with no protective device. On July 9, 1960, seven-year-old Roger Woodward was swept over the falls while on Oct. 22, 2003, Kirk Jones became the first person to survive the drop without any aid in the fall, having swum from approximately 91 metres to the brink of the falls before going over.
- from Niagara This Week
Fort Erie’s oldest living former mayor, Louis Ziff, died in early May.
Ziff, a lawyer and Second World War veteran who served as head of council in 1948-49, passed away Sunday at Baycrest hospital in Toronto.
He was just a few weeks shy of his 99th birthday.
“He was a great ambassador for the Town of Fort Erie,” Mayor Doug Martin said Tuesday. “It’s really sad to learn of his passing.”
Ziff was born in 1913 and in later years was fond of recalling stories about he witnessed the construction of the Peace Bridge from 1923-1927.
He left Fort Erie to attend the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall Law School, where he graduated in 1941.
With Canada at war, volunteered for service in the air force and served overseas as a radar mechanic at a time when radar included some of the most advanced and classified technology in the wrld.
He retuned to Fort Erie in 1945 to begin his law career and a life of public service.
Among Ziff’s many accomplishments he helped found the Chamber of Commerce in 1947, was one of the founder’s of the Fort Erie Friendship Festival and was a longtime public school board trustee.
Ziff’s wife, Stella Ziff, was also a mayor of Fort Erie, having served 1978-80.
“Everyone in Fort Erie has a Louis story and everyone has a Stella story,” said Martin, adding the well-known and much admired couple was “inseperable” in life and public service.
“Louis and Stella both dedicated their lives to the betterment of the Town of Fort Erie and to seeing the town progress,” Martin added.
In late retirement, the couple moved to Toronto in 2006 where they took up residence at the Hazelton Place Retirement Home.
Stella died in 2009. Louis then moved into the Baycrest Geriatric Centre, where he spent his last years.
St. Catharines Liberal MPP Jim Bradley received a standing ovation from his Queen’s Park colleagues in early June in recognition of 35 years continuous service in the Legislature.
“It was one of those rare occasions when everyone from from both sides stands up and not only claps, but cheers,” said Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor, who considers Bradley both a friend and mentor.
“Jim, in my opinion, is the epitome of someone who truly cares about the people of his riding and Ontario.
“We often joke about it up here that if they held Parliament on Christmas, Jim would be there. That’s how dedicated he is,” Craitor added.
Bradley was first elected in 1977, when the Liberals were in opposition during the days of former Progressive Conservative premier Bill Davis.
In 1985, when the Liberals came to power in a minority government headed by former Premier David Peterson, Bradley was named Environment Minister – the same post he currently holds in the government of Premier Dalton McGuinty.
Since 2003, Bradley has held a number of other potfolios in cabinet, including minister of tourism, minister responsible for seniors, minister of transportation, minister of municipal affairs and housing and minister of community safety and correctional services.
In addition to being the current minister of environment, Bradley is also deputy government house leader.
With 35 years, Bradley is the longest-serving, sitting member of the Ontario Legislature.
A little before 10 p.m. on Friday, June 15, Nik Wallenda slipped into his red jacket and black track pants, pulled on the special elk-skin boots made by his mother that grip the wire when wet, and joined his family and some close friends in a nearby field. They held hands and prayed.
Then the 33-year-old daredevil climbed up on a platform near a corner of the mighty Horseshoe Falls and waited. And waited. And waited and waited and waited some more.
“That’s the thing about live television,” he said. “It’s all about hurry up and wait.”
He waited so long, in fact, that his legs began to cramp up – clearly not a good thing for a guy who was about to go for a planned 40-minute stroll (it actually took only 26) on a two-inch steel cable across the wind-swept Niagara Gorge. In the end, however, Wallenda stepped into history, becoming the first person in more than 100 years to cross the gorge on a tightrope and the first to go over any portion of the falls.
Ever the showman, Wallenda bent to one knee as he approached the end of his journey, pumped his fist in the air and actually sprinted the last few steps off the wire and into the arms of his parents, his wife and children, who had come back across the border into Canada before the walk began. More than 100,000 fans erupted in cheers as Wallenda virtually dashed to safety.
“I was excited,” he said moments afterward. “That’s why I did that.”
Wallenda is the first person to cross the gorge since James Hardy performed the stunt in 1896.
As Wallenda left the start point in Niagara Falls, N.Y., yells and the flashes of cameras could be heard and seen across the river. He disappeared into the night, only to emerge some 15 minutes later like a ghostly apparition stepping from the swirling, changing, twisting mist, which proved to be a problem for the Floridian.
“The mist was so thick, so challenging, those winds hit me from every which direction, was definitely more than I expected for sure,” he said. ”I was very focused, the wind was definitely something you could not train for. The mist was powerful, the mist was in my eyes.”