A guy, a bar and a Pretty Young Thing.

(Tribune March 2007)

A guy walks into a bar…

Now, this cannot be a local bar, it has to be far away. Pretend that it is in… Europe, deep in Europe, say… Prague.

O.K. Let’s start over.

A guy walks into a bar in Prague. Guy sits down and orders a beer. Pretty young thing walks in, she looks around, she sits down next to Guy.

Pretty Young Thing: “Hi!”

Guy: “Hi!”

PYT: “Where you from??”

Guy: “Welland!”

PYT: “Welland? Where is that?”

Guy: “Canada, near Niagara Falls.”

PYT: “Hey, my brother went to the Falls once, he loved it! Lets have a beer!”

That is how it works. We have all been involved in a similar exchange, (not necessarily with a PYT) whenever we are abroad. Prague, Tokyo, Johannesburg or Lima.  Everywhere you go, Niagara Falls is a recognized name and serves as the perfect icebreaker in opening a conversation.

Now lets consider a different spin. Some of our politicians and senior municipal officials are continually attempting to reduce the importance of our local municipalities and are pushing for a dominant regional authority. They want us to relate to the Region as our hometown.

Go back to Prague. We will skip the walk in and exchange of greetings.

PYT: “Where you from?”

Guy: (portentous) “I am from The Regional Municipality of Niagara!”

PYT: (puzzled) “Uh! That’s nice. Well, I have to go. Bye!”

See? It will never fly.

As our nation grows, our forms of municipal government will continually evolve to meet the needs of a changing society. Our former county system was based on government principles dating back to 1849. By the early 1960’s it was recognized that it was extremely inefficient to operate two Counties, four Cities, five Towns, three Villages, seven Police Villages and fourteen Townships just to meet the municipal operating needs of the Niagara Peninsula. Change was overdue. The solution, “An Act to establish The Regional Municipality of Niagara”, was passed on June 26th, 1969 and became effective on January 1, 1970. Unfortunately, this solution was designed primarily as an administrative convenience. People need to relate to a community. This solution did not properly address that need.

With the stroke of a pen, the two Counties, the three Villages, thirteen of the Townships, and all seven Police Villages, along with over 100 years of history, disappeared forever.  One new town and one new township were added to the remaining municipalities; the Region replaced the counties.

One of the flaws in the 1969 solution stands out. No one deemed it necessary to attempt to coordinate the boundary changes with Canada Post. For example, it is now thirty-seven years after the change, and there is still no common postal address for the Town of Pelham. In the world of the Post Office, the Town of Pelham simply does not exist.

More change will come and, like it or not, will happen more quickly than it did in 1969. I predict we will end up with one large municipal unit, possibly with sub units identifying the underlying communities. (For example, New York has its Brooklyn and Queens.) It can be done but the challenge is to do the job right. The next step in the evolution must not just result in the formation of a bureaucratic convenience; it must also create a community to which the residents can identify with enthusiasm. This will require creativity and outstanding leadership.

If any sense of community is desired, the post office issue must be given high priority.  This is not an impossible task, it just means that leaders with vision and determination must sit down and work out a solution that recognizes the new entity.

Finally, when the new municipal unit is created, some one has to decide what to call the beast.

There is only one sensible answer. Make it one big city. Call it Niagara Falls.

Do not call it “Greater Niagara”, not “Niagara Area” nor any other combination of words designed to make all special interest groups happy. Be bold. Use the plain and simple name, Niagara Falls.

Fast-forward fifty years and find that bar in Prague...

“Where you from?”

“Niagara Falls!”

“Yeah? What part?”


“No kidding, I have a cousin in Grimsby! Lets have a drink!”

There you are. It can work for real people.

Now lets see if the future politicians and bureaucrats can do the job without screwing up.

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