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 !!!

Join us October 30 when the NCO and the Women in Leadership series partner for a virtual presentation and panel discussion on our latest brief. Click here for details.


Dr. Joanne Heritz, assistant professor in the Dept. of Political Science, provides our latest policy brief, Looking Ahead and Looking Up: Affordable Housing in Niagara. “The housing crisis affects everyone in Niagara but hits some harder than others,” she writes in NCO Policy Brief #48. “The most vulnerable bear the brunt of the shortage of affordable housing, including Indigenous Peoples, women and children, older adults, newcomers, veterans, at-risk youth, the LGBTQ2S community and people facing mental health or addiction issues.” The brief aims to answer questions such as what issues contribute to the crisis, what is being done to increase affordable housing stock and will there be enough to meet future need.

Read about it in The Brock News and join us for a discussion on Friday, Oct. 30 in partnership with the Women in Leadership series. Dr. Heritz presents followed by a panel discussion with Lori Beech (executive director, Bethlehem Housing) and Elisabeth Zimmermann (executive director, YWCA Niagara Region). Click here for details.


As the economic shutdown continued during the COVID-19 pandemic, it became apparent to economists in Canada that the impacts of COVID-19 on employment
were not equal between men and women. Women were bearing the brunt of employment losses and there would be no true recovery unless they were able to get back to work.

In this special report, the Niagara Community Observatory has once again partnered with the Niagara Workforce Planning Board to look specifically into the employment numbers for women and men over the course of the pandemic in an attempt to examine the local impact from a gendered perspective.


Here is our latest brief that’s been getting a lot of attention in the media! Gender Representation and Governance in Niagara, written by Dr. Carol Phillips and Dr. Sarah Pennisi, documents the gender composition of local councils and advisory committees across Niagara. Only 27 per cent of council seats are held by women. But that number improves to 45 per cent of appointed seats on local advisory committees and boards. Read NCO Policy Brief #47 for a discussion of the barriers women face when participating in politics, why it’s important to have a diversity of voices at the decision-making table, and what steps can be taken to improve the numbers.

Our Latest Research

Brock NCO presentation of Policy Brief #46: Transportation and Logistics in Niagara

A presentation by Brock University’s NCO Director, Dr. Charles Conteh, on trends, challenges and opportunities in Niagara’s Transportation and Logistics sector.


The NCO is excited to release Policy Brief #45 Mood Walks: The role of parks and recreation in mental health promotion This is our first publication in the COVID-19 era and comes at the perfect time. Mood Walks, written by Dr. Kyle Rich and Dr. Martha Barnes from Brock’s Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, explores the networks that were established in the implementation of this program and encourages our municipal parks and recreation departments to embrace their important role in the promotion of mental health.


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


Cross-Border Innovation Corridors: How to support, strengthen and sustain cross-border innovation ecosystems. NCO Policy Brief #42 is a continuation of our Binational Prosperity Initiative research being conducted in partnership with University at Buffalo.


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.

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