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 !!!


Looking for Prof. David Siegel’s latest discussion of regional amalgamation since the provincial government’s decision to not forge ahead with restructuring? Look no further! You can find it right here, Reflections on Amalgamation: Where do we go from here? 

An excerpt from this brief appeared in The St. Catharines Standard on November 15 and Prof Siegel has also spoken with Matt Holmes on 610 CKTB on municipal amalgamation, democracy, and (the myth of) efficiencies.


It was great to see such high-powered attendees at our latest presentation Elusive Quest or Emerging Reality: Niagara’s ICT Innovation ClusterNCO’s policy brief #43, discussing the emerging state of Niagara’s ICT sector. It’s just the latest research by Dr. Charles Conteh taking a deeper dive into the pivotal sectors of the Niagara economy. The data, which was collected in partnership with Niagara Region Economic Development, includes the number of jobs by industry, median wages, business counts, and how the St. Catharines-Niagara CMA compares to other Ontario CMAs. A special thank-you goes to our panelists: Mishka Balsom, president and CEO of the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce; Jeff Chesebrough, CEO of Innovate Niagara; and Bob Lytle, president and founder of rel8ed.to


We’ve had a busy summer! Here are our most recent policy briefs, including our latest Cross-Border Innovation Corridors: How to support, strengthen and sustain cross-border innovation ecosystems. This is a continuation of our Binational Prosperity Initiative research being conducted in partnership with University at Buffalo. Also, we’ve undergone a re-design for the new school year!

And over the summer we published Measuring Culture in Niagara: A case for its role in the economy and community. The culture sector is an important contributor to the Niagara economy, especially due to the central role of tourism. Our brief provides stats on jobs, wages and business size so that stakeholders, including local governments, can track its growth.

PROF. SIEGEL on Regional Restructuring

Last April, the NCO presented policy brief #38 Under the Knife & Under the Gun: An Overview of Regional Government in Niagara by esteemed scholar David Siegel, who tries to provide 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

Agribusiness and Innovation – June 18

We had a great discussion on June 18 with industry and government stakeholders as NCO director Charles Conteh presented policy brief #40 Niagara’s Agribusiness Sector: Towards a more resilient innovation cluster at the Meridian Community Centre in Pelham. The brief was done in collaboration with the Niagara Region Economic Development Division, which provided industry data and peer review support. Special thanks to the Town of Pelham for hosting the event.

Promoting Pollinators – May 7

What an engaged audience on May 7 in Cairns 207 to listen to Brock bee expert Dr. Miriam Richards present NCO policy brief #39 Promoting Pollinators: Niagara bees and how to help them. It was a packed house with citizens ready to do something about restoring wild bee habitat in Niagara and intent on making their municipalities more bee-friendly. Remember: an untidy garden is a bee-friendly garden.

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.

You can find his most recent column for The St. Catharines Standard here:
Engaging the next frontier of manufacturing in Niagara – May 31, 2019