A Place Where Anything is Possible

City of Niagara Falls

As spectators cheered, Wallenda safely made it across the tightrope – held firmly in place by two massive cranes, one on the American side, the other below the visitor centre in Niagara Falls – and was greeted with cries of “Welcome to Canada, Nik!” as the daredevil fulfilled his destiny, as the seventh-generation member of the world-renowned circus family which traces its roots back to the 1780s. Wallenda followed, literally, in the footsteps of many others who’ve attempted to cross the mighty Niagara Falls, not always successfully. His spectacular crossing on June 15, 2012 marked the first time a permit to cross the Falls on a tightrope was granted since 1896 when James Hardy – the youngest person to successfully cross the chasm at age 21 – made a number of crossings in July of that year.

If anyone ever had any doubts about Niagara Falls and its place as one of the world’s leading tourist destinations, the spectacle of the Wallenda event permanently put them to rest. “We had 125,000 people here live watching it, which was the biggest event we’ve ever had here,” says Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati enthusiastically. “On TV, it was viewed by a billion people within a 24-hour period.” Covered by media in Canada, the United States, and around the world, the successful tightrope crossing proved to be a ratings sweep; for Mayor Diodati, it came as no surprise. “You’ve got two great brands: Niagara Falls, and the name Wallenda, and when you get them coming together, magical things happen.”

The event sparked an increase in tourists from not only across Canada and the U.S., but China and countless other countries. “We’ve gone from the back burner to the front burner, and we’re on peoples’ bucket lists as a place that they need to get to.”

Serving on City Council for seven years, the 47-year-old Diodati was elected Mayor in 2010. With a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Ontario in psychology and business, Mayor Diodati has extensive experience in marketing and business, including owning and operating his own bakery distribution business, which provided sweet goods to all major retailers across Ontario. In the mid-1990s, he served as General Manager of the Ontario Winter Games under the auspices of the City of Niagara Falls and the Ontario Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Recreation. Today, the charismatic Mayor looks forward to furthering Niagara Falls’ worldwide reputation as a first-class tourist destination through new attractions, making the Falls even more desirable to over 12 million guests who visit annually.

Something for Everyone

Rich in history, Niagara Falls was originally called Elgin, merged with Clifton, and remained known by that name until 1881, when the name was changed to Niagara Falls. An additional merger with Stamford Township in 1963 saw the city continue to expand its base as a respected hub for tourism and commerce.

Today, Niagara Falls continues to benefit the local economy and that of the province of Ontario. A major tourist destination, Niagara Falls is also responsible for generating electricity for the province. The site of battles between British forces and Americans during the War of 1812, the area is valued by historians for its pivotal role, and is the site of 200 years of peace along the world’s largest unmilitarized border.

Locally, the area benefits from food, automotive and other manufacturing, wine production, theatres, golf courses, beaches and a great deal more. When many people think of Niagara Falls, they think of its many attractions for all ages. “Niagara Falls is really a buffet for entertainment, in that there’s something here for everyone: meat for the carnivores, and vegetables for the vegetarians, and everything in-between,” says Mayor Diodati.

A beloved destination for generations, Niagara Falls Canada is home to countless attractions for the young and the young at heart. There is the world-renowned Niagara Parks Butterfly Conservatory. The second largest in North America, the fully accessible Butterfly Conservatory –located on the grounds of the Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens, just 10 minutes from the Falls – is home to over 2,000 bright, colourful tropical butterflies, and is a visual delight.

Next to the magnificent spectacle of the Falls itself, the world-famous Skylon Tower continues to be a tremendous draw. Situated overlooking the Falls and across from Fallsview Casino, the iconic Skylon Tower continues to be one of the city’s best-known landmarks, offering amazing views aboard glass-enclosed “Yellow Bug Elevators,” two levels of fine dining 775 feet above the Falls, movies, shopping and fast service restaurants on the Main Concourse level. Opened in 1965, the Skylon Tower has seen an increase in tourism, particularly from China, since Canada received Approved Destination Status (ADS) by the Chinese Government, with the possibility of 100 million approved travelers leaving China every year by 2020. With a growing Chinese middle class seeking to travel, Canada – and Niagara Falls in particular – has become a dream destination, with many tourists visiting for days on end.

“The door’s been opened, and we’re at the tip of the list of places they want to visit,” comments Mayor Diodati, who says the Skylon Tower has experienced a 30 percent increase in visitors from China since ADS came into play in August of 2010. Having visited China several years ago, the Mayor was impressed by the knowledge many Chinese visitors have of Canada. “They are most aware of five things about Canada: maple syrup, icewine, Dr. Norman Bethune, Niagara Falls, and Justin Bieber, not necessarily in that order.”

WEGO: Making Access Easier

Niagara Falls is a destination which is not content to rest on its reputation. Constantly innovating and looking toward the future, Niagara Falls recently made getting around from one attraction to another easier with the introduction of WEGO, formed through a partnership between The City of Niagara Falls and The Niagara Parks Commission to provide integrated bus service to visitors.

The WEGO service, which commenced last August, has already proven itself to be a tremendous success. Fun to ride, the year-round, state-of-the-art bus system seamlessly connects accommodations and Niagara Falls tourist areas, helping visitors get the full experience without the hassle of driving and parking at every stop. Once the $50 million system is completed in 2014, it will see 27 fully accessible buses with intelligent transportation and fare collection systems in service; additionally, eight of the existing Niagara Parks Peoplemover stations will be upgraded. New pick-up and drop-off points will be established, and other improvements including a storage and maintenance facility for the new buses will be built.

For Mayor Diodati, the WEGO Visitor Transportation System – funded by the Federal Government, the Government of Ontario and Falls Management Company (FMC) – will mean a more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way for tourists to use one pass to get to and from attractions, hotels, restaurants, shopping, and much more. “The goal is to get you out of your car and make it easy to get you where you want to go,” he says of the system, which creates fewer emissions and is affordable, quiet, fully accessible, well-planned, and can be navigated using a Smartphone app and WEGO map. Using the latest in intelligent transportation technology, WEGO buses feature on-board screens, next stop display and announcements, transit signal priority, and real-time information on the Web.

New Entertainment Centre

In 2011, Falls Management Company (FMC) – which operates Fallsview Casino Resort and Casino Niagara – commissioned Deloitte to undertake a detailed analysis on the feasibility of a new 7,000 seat Entertainment Centre. The analysis concluded that a new Centre would not only be feasible, but would help boost the length of stays and revenue, and add to the over 33,000 persons employed by the tourist industry in Niagara Falls.

“We’re already got the built-in infrastructure,” says Mayor Diodati. “We’ve got 16,000 hotel rooms, all of the attractions, and we currently handle upwards of 12 million tourists a year, so a theatre would definitely be at the top of that list.”

The casino, with a capacity of 1,400, is a great benefit to Niagara Falls. The addition of a 7,000 seat venue – to be located in the city’s core – would attract Vegas-style acts, including singers, dancers, and other performers. “It would give people one more reason to come, and one more reason to stay longer,” he says. “This is a natural missing link to what we have. We have a world-class convention centre, we’ve got the people mover, we’ve got the infrastructure in terms of rooms, restaurants, and attractions, we’ve got everything. This is the missing piece of the puzzle, and it will work well.”

According to the Deloitte study, the addition of a new Entertainment Centre could attract 1.15 million new annual visitors to Niagara. The additional visitors – along with the positive financial impact resulting from construction jobs and 480 indirect jobs – is expected to also boost hotel room occupancy by 7 per cent, providing 224,000 additional room nights year-round and generating over $115.3 million annually in new revenue for various levels of government. “Investments made here truly do give a solid return,” says the Mayor.

With countless attractions including Marineland, the Skylon Tower, and casinos, Mayor Diodati has a soft spot for the Falls itself and one of its main attractions, the famous Maid of the Mist, a boat which takes visitors into the basin of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. “To me, it is the most spectacular way to see the Falls,” he says. “It’s breathtaking as you have the mist in your face.” Tracing its roots back to 1846, the Maid of the Mist will have a new operator starting on the Canadian side in 2014, while the traditional operator will continue to manage the American side. Services will not only continue but likely expand as a result. “It is probably the best tourist attraction that we have in terms of popularity, value, and getting up close and personal with the Falls – nothing beats that one.”

As for re-enacting Nik Wallenda’s tightrope crossing from last year, Mayor Diodati won’t say for certain. “There are always discussions,” he says. “So much has happened here in Niagara Falls, it really does have quite a daredevil reputation. I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

June 19, 2018, 8:12 AM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

About forty skilled Central and South American workers from Ecuador, Peru, Columbia and Costa Rica came to British Columbia, Canada as temporary foreign workers (TFWs) in 2006. This story incited Labourers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA) call for reforms to Canada’s TFW program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP). LiUNA, a powerful voice within the construction industry with over half a million members – 110,000 of whom are in Canada – has been the only Canadian union to address the issue.