Welcome to the Niagara Community Observatory

The Niagara Community Observatory is a public-policy think-tank working in partnership with the Niagara community to foster, produce and disseminate research on current and emerging issues.

Community Partnerships

Hot off the presses !!!

The NCO is excited to present its latest policy brief #38 Under the Knife & Under the Gun: An Overview of Regional Government in Niagara by esteemed scholar David Siegel, who is trying to provide some factual information for people to make evidence-based decisions on the future of Niagara governance.

Prof. Siegel, who specializes in local government, public policy and administration, presented his research to a crowd of 70 stakeholders in Pond Inlet on April 16, culminating in some great discussion. Special thanks to Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley and former Chair Debbie Zimmerman for some thoughtful opening and closing remarks. The full policy brief can be found on our website (see the above link) and the power-point presentation can be found here.

NCO Policy Brief #37

What a great turnout on February 7 for our latest presentation Ohnia:kara, An Aspiring Global Geopark.

Ohnia:kara (Mohawk for ‘neck between two bodies of water’) is a local grassroots initiative aimed at bringing the UNESCO Global Geopark brand to Niagara. Our policy brief introduces this relatively new concept to Niagara stakeholders and answers the question: ‘What is a geopark, and how might it enhance an already popular tourism destination?’

Cairns 207 was packed with stakeholders from education, conservation, tourism, and local government engaged in a conversation about this project.

Our Latest Research

The Brock Effect – OCT. 10

On behalf of Brock University President Gervan Fearon, we would like to thank all those who attended our presentation of NCO Policy Brief #36, The Brock University Effect: How thousands of students and millions of dollars energize the economy of Niagara communities, a report on the economic impact of Brock University.

President Fearon notes the University’s growing role and how it plays an important part in supporting regional economic and community development. As a result, he requested that Dr. Jeff Boggs, an economic geographer, conduct an analysis on the impact Brock has on its surrounding community. Dr. Boggs and his research assistant, Lauren Peddle, spent the summer reviewing data, not only on matters of employment and spending, but also in terms of research, and the value of Brock’s alumni.

This brief focuses on economic impact and is the first stage of an ongoing analysis as the university is currently putting together a second research team to measure social impact. The full-length analysis will be available online in the coming days.

It was another highly successful presentation to a full Pond Inlet. We would like to thank Mishka Balsom (GNCC), David Oakes (City of St. Catharines), Rino Mostacci (Niagara Region), and Peter Tiidus (Brock University) for participating on our panel.

Shifting Gears – SEPT. 27

What a great turnout to our season-opening event, a full house at Pond Inlet in conjunction with the Political Science Dept.’s Speaker Series! Recent master’s graduate Sean Calcott and Dr. Charles Conteh presented their research on the changing face of Niagara’s manufacturing sector in NCO policy brief #35, Shifting Gears: Examining the recent upswing of Niagara’s manufacturing sector. You can find media coverage of the event in The St. Catharines Standard  and listen to Prof. Conteh discuss the findings on 610 CKTB (below).

Dr. Conteh speaks to Matt Holmes at Newstalk 610 CKTB on manufacturing in Niagara

Many thanks to all who attended, especially our panelists Mishka Balsom (Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce), Dolores Fabiano (South Niagara Chambers of Commerce), and Blake Landry (Niagara Region). Thank you to political science Prof. Nicole Goodman and her Canadian Politics 2F12 class for participating and department chair Prof. Paul Hamilton for helping to make it happen.

From our Director

Dr. Charles Conteh, director of the NCO, is an associate professor in the Dept. of Political Science who specializes in public policy & management, political economy, and governance. His concerns about suggested changes for the administration of social housing in Niagara were covered by The Standard.

Most recently, he was on Newstalk 610 CKTB to talk about Niagara’s manufacturing sector.

He also writes a regular column for the St. Catharines Standard, the latest of which you can find here:
January 25, 2018: A bird’s-eye view of economic life in Niagara
August 18, 2017: How Cities Can Navigate Governance

Recent research

Cannabis and public policy

Goodman School Associate Professor Michael J. Armstrong has written a timely policy brief #33 for the NCO, Cannabis Legalization: Government choices interact with business realities to help or hinder policy goals.

Prof. Armstrong has written many op-ed pieces on the legalization of cannabis for daily newspapers across Canada and recently spoke on the subject at length on 610 CKTB and 900 CHML. He brings his business perspective to the making of policy in this area, highlighting the difficulties that may occur as government tries to squeeze out the black market while balancing consumer demands such as convenience, quality, and price.

How to use a life-course approach to improve well-being

The NCO partnered with Niagara Connects on May 2 to host a very successful webinar presentation.

More than 40 participants registered for the webinar in which Dr. Sinead McElhone and Diane Vanecko, from Niagara Region Public Health, discussed the work they did for policy brief #31, The Future of Niagara’s Health: Using a Life-Course Approach to Improve Well-being.

Dr. McElhone is surveillance and evaluation manager at NRPH, and Brock adjunct faculty. Vanecko is NRPH director of organizational and foundational standards.

The Life-Course Perspective offers a new way of looking at health, not as disconnected stages unrelated to each other, but as an integrated continuum. Presenting data using a life-course approach identifies times at which targeted interventions may be especially effective. Health and social care organizations can then use this information to offer services that provide safety nets and springboards for individuals during key life periods to alter life-course trajectories in a positive way.

YOUTH IN NIAGARA: Highly Skilled, Highly Mobile

What a great turnout for the presentation of policy brief #32 at Pond Inlet on March 20!

Youth In Niagara was researched and written in partnership with the Niagara Workforce Planning Board. Dr. Jeff Boggs, from Brock’s geography department, joined forces with Adam Durrant, the NWPB’s research/project manager, and Thalia Semplonius, a research associate at NWPB but also a PhD candidate in Brock’s psychology department.

With Niagara’s shift toward an aging population, our authors looked to the region’s youth to examine where Niagara’s workforce is headed, highlight potential future opportunities, and understand where Niagara’s youth fit within a broader provincial snapshot. This paper updates policy brief #28 with research into the demographic patterns, educational attainment, and reported occupations of the region’s youth, age 15 to 29, using the latest 2016 Census numbers.

You can find the electronic version here. This the fourth study in the past year investigating Niagara’s demographics and several aspects of its youth challenge. The plan is to now gather what we know, take note of what we don’t know, and move forward on giving the community the information it needs to develop a youth employment strategy within a larger job creation strategy for the region. Stay tuned!