Friday, March 30, 2007

Laurier Liberal Ladies Learn About Niagara Escarpment

Today Don Alexander spoke to the St. Catharines Laurier Liberal Ladies about the Niagara Escarpment. In the 1970s Don was a member of the Niagara Region planning and development committee at a time when the Niagara Escarpment Commission was formed and when urban boundaries were established. Don delivered a very informative talk about the escarpment and has a special feel for the escarpment having lived in both the Bruce and Niagara Peninsulas. Don referred to the escarpment as being a "sacred space" and explained that the word sacred does not necessarily mean religious, but means outside of the ordinary.

The escarpment is 725 kilometres long, extends from here to Tobermoray and includes 120 parks. The Niagara Escarpment Plan was completed in 1973 and was developed through a public consultation process. There are 3 areas outlined in the plan: the natural area or the scarp itself which is protected from being built on, a protection area which is a buffer zone, and a rural area which recognizes that agriculture has a real role and is not just a holding area for development. In addition, it is recognized that the escarpment includes mineral resource areas and has a recreation designation.

The Niagara Escarpment is part of a world biosphere, a world wide network of important areas. Brock University has the unique reputation of having its totality of lands in a world's biosphere.

Don gave all of us a better understanding of the treasure we have in the Niagara escarpment.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Niagara College's Foundation Board Expanding

Our Foundation Board welcomed four new members today. For a change, we met at the Welland Campus at the SAC building. We went on a tour of two of the oldest buildings on campus, the Black Walnut and Mackenzie buildings. Both were built as temporary structures 40 years ago and it was clear, after seeing the buildings and hearing about the cost of upgrading and maintaining them, that it is time for some new structures. Just what the new structures will look like is still being decided. But the Foundation Board will be ready to raise money for this next phase of Niagara College's expansion. I am so proud to be part of this dynamic group and educational institution in Niagara.

Social Justice in Welland

Over the last couple of months, our Business Advisory Committee at the Hope Centre has morphed into the Social Justice Committee and some great events are planned to move the community to action. I met three young students from Notre Dame today who, along with their teacher, Paul Turner, are serious about ending poverty in the Welland community. Alyson Coons, Colton Hrcak and Angela Tilk are planning a Homelessness Awareness Night in April that will have them sleep outside in boxes and go hungry for a night. Alyson, Colton and Angela have been talking to the other schools in the area, in the hopes that more will join in their efforts on April 20th to raise awareness of the needs of our most vulnerable in the Welland/Pelham area.

Under the awesome leadership of the Executive Director, Sylvia Berkhout, there are exciting things happening at the Centre. Some badly needed renovations to the building are well underway and the Hope Centre continues to provide food, shelter and hope to those in our community that need it the most.

Impressed with West Niagara Partners

Once every quarter, Cheryl Scott at West Niagara Community Care hosts a luncheon networking meeting for community partners to come together to share information. The food is always interesting, usually made by one of the volunteers. And the information sharing and networking is always valuable.

There were about a dozen of us at the meeting today and we went around the table, announcing our affiliation and special events, news and needs of our organizations. I was so impressed with the women there. All were so passionate about their work, whether it be with young offenders, abused women, or seniors needing palliative care.

I was there as the Chair of the West Niagara WrapAround Initiative and I talked about the progress we have made so far. We have had a fundraiser and so we have some startup money in the bank. We have a dedicated committee and two partnering organizations that meet regularly (except in the last month.) And we have started to work with a family in the community.

Many of the women spoke about the growth in services over the last several years but also the challenges and continuing need in the growing communities in West Niagara.

At Home with Entrepreneurs

This morning I spoke to about 60 inspiring women entrepreneurs, all members of the Niagara Area Women's Network (NABWN). It felt like going home being surrounded by all of that enterprising, positive, creative, (and female) energy. The event started off with breakfast at the St. Catharines Golf and Country Club and I sat with a group of eight vibrant women who were eager to network with each other and tell me about their businesses. I recognized many of the women from my work at Niagara College's Business Development Centre. It felt so good to see them there thriving in their business success.

When I was introduced and took the podium, I spoke about taking networking one step beyond and encouraged them to establish personal advisory groups. I told them about my success in business that I attribute to the "consultants" who were part of my Small Business Resource Group in Toronto, and the model of the Personal Advisory Group employed by the Canadian Association of Family Enterprise (CAFE). There were lots of good questions and comments.

At the end of the meeting, each woman stood up and introduced themselves and their businesses. Some of them delivered "raves," testimonials about fellow NABWN friends. After the meeting, the room got very busy with women chatting it up and handing out their business cards. The networking really seems to work at NABWN.

It was a wonderful way to start the day and I hope they invite me back. I love that entrepreneurial energy and it fed my soul.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Acts of Kindness Create Community

Tonight I visited a member of the Liberal Party, to renew her membership. I have only met this woman a handful of times but we always hit it off. She has a dog of a breed (Shih Tzu) similar to mine (Lhasa Apso) and we chat about our dogs, our families, and of course, politics. It doesn't take long to figure out that this woman has a heart of gold and she talks about the friends she visits that are dying and how she focusses on all the positive things when she visits them, to cheer them. She has several grandchildren and she has embroidered them tablecloths, made them quilts and knitted them sweaters, socks, scarves and mitts.

Everytime I have visited her, she is knitting. I asked her tonight if she ever got tired of it and she said "Never." I asked her about the sweater she was knitting and I learned that indeed, she has a heart of gold. The sweater, she explained, was being made for next Christmas. For years, this woman has been knitting clothing for "the less fortunate" and every year, just before Christmas, her son puts all of her knitting in boxes and delivers them anonymously to a local charity.

Her friends find her the wool for her craft and she took great delight in telling me how one of her friends came over with her small car filled to the brim with all kinds of lovely brand new wool. Apparently, her friend was at a flea market, and when she told the seller about this woman's generosity and apparent mission in life to give anonymously, the seller gave her the wool.

Isn't is amazing how acts of kindness are contagious? Through this one woman's selfless giving, she has inspired others to do the same - her friend to look for wool, and the seller of the wool to donate it, and me to write about it. I left her home thinking about the many countless act of kindness that go on in our world that make it a better place.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Nomination Meeting Today

Today at 9 am in Grimsby, the Nomination Meeting took place for the riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook. This was the first Liberal Party Nomination Meeting to be held in Ontario! Despite the snow and treacherous roads, a surprising number of supporters came out to the meeting. I was acclaimed as the candidate and I am so proud to be the Liberal representative for NWG in this next election.

Our leader, Stephane Dion, dropped by to congratulate me and address our members and guests. It was such an honour to have him there and I was once again inspired by his vision and sincerity. I will never forget this day.

Thank you to all volunteers, members and guests who came out this morning, some from the far corners of the riding (and other ridings.) I really appreciated the effort you made to show your support for the riding, the democratic process, the Liberal Party and for me!

It is my great honour to be your Candidate.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Martha Hall Findlay Listening to Canadians

The four ridings in Niagara held a Policy Summit today in Welland. Martha Hall Findlay and John Maloney, MP for Welland, joined us for a good part of the day. Martha has been travelling across the country, listening to Canadians and learning about what is important to them. It is great to know that the party is building from the grassroots up. It was a really good day with lots of fabulous ideas and the participants excited and engaged.....what democracy should be.