Conservative MP Tony Baldinelli was glad to see federal tax dollars directed toward helping tourism-related businesses in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and the Shaw Festival, but annoyed he wasn’t included in the announcement.
As the elected representative for the Niagara Falls riding, Baldinelli said he would have liked to take part in the discussion of $900,000 worth of grants coming this way, and to be invited to participate in the announcement.
“I would have expected to be invited to take part in something like that in my riding,” he said.
He’s been advocating for assistance for the tourism industry, for the agricultural industry, for offshore farm workers and seasonal workers in the tourism industry, and in the early days of the pandemic, worked to help local citizens, stranded overseas, get home, he says.
He would like to have had the opportunity to ask about the details of the grant for NOTL businesses, and to be part of the recovery plan, he says.
Instead, he learned about the grants for NOTL businesses when constituents emailed or called him to ask why Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey and St. Catharines Chris Bittle, both Liberals, were invited to speak about the importance of tourism in NOTL and the grant to help support its recovery.
“I’ve had lots of constituents asking me, ‘why weren’t you there.’ I could have been there. I would have loved to be there.”
He’s been working out of his Niagara Falls office daily since March 13, and been to Ottawa only briefly — there is no reason for him to be there with Parliament shut down from mid-August to Sept. 23. But he has continued to work daily on behalf of his riding remotely, he says.
It’s not the first time he’s been excluded. When MP Mary Ng, minister of small business, was in NOTL in July 2020 to meet with local stakeholders, Baldinelli contacted her office to see if he could welcome her.
“I was told I wasn’t needed,” he says.
The recent announcement in NOTL was made by Melanie Joly, minister of economic development. The grant came from the FedDev Ontario program, for which Joly is responsible.
There has been lots of talk about non-partisanship during the pandemic and recovery period, about ‘Team Canada,’ and everybody working together, Baldinelli adds.
“This isn’t team work,” he says.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero says all invitations were sent out by FedDev Ontario. She was asked about including council members and town staff, but that was all.
She says she had no idea Baldinelli wasn’t invited, and when she spoke to him after the announcement, she thanked him for his ongoing support. “We invited no one, it wasn’t our round table. I was given a number to call in on and that was it,” says Disero.
Going forward, she says, when her office is asked, she will tell whomever is issuing invitations to such events not to forget the regional chair, regional councillor, MPP and MP, “no matter who is putting it on.”
NOTE: A correction has been made to this story. The article published in The Local said Mr. Baldinelli was told he was not needed at a July meeting in NOTL with MP Melanie Joly. It was MP Mary Ng, minister of small business, who was in NOTL in July to meet with local stakeholders. The Local apologizes for the error and any inconvenience it may have caused.