On November 27, Bob Bell recounted some of his varied experiences as a local politician in Grantham Township from the 1950s through to the 1980s.
Bob Bell was born in 1921 in Louth Township decended from the Loyalist families Secord and Pawling. He worked at McKinnon Industries (now General Motors) for forty-seven years before retiring in 1986. During the second World War, Bob served in the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Bell’s political career began in 1959 as a councillor on the Grantham Township Council and then as an alderman for the Grantham Ward on the new City of St. Catharines Council. He remained an alderman until 1969 when regional government came to Niagara. From 1970 to 1985, Bob was a Councillor on Regional Council. Among his body of work includes time on the Planning and Development Committee, the Shaver Hospital Foundation, the St. Catharines General Hospital Board of Governors, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and currently is the Executive Director of the Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Foundation.
What Mr. Bell brought to politics was the farmer’s mentality of never promising what you cannot deliver. He and his fellow representatives strived to get things done without wasting a vast amount of time. They were closer to their constituents than today’s politicians.
In 1961, Grantham and St. Catharines had grown to the point where amalgamation was necessary. Mr. Bell was among the group responsible for naming all of the streets affected by the amalgamation. From 7:00 to 12:00 pm, a mere five hours, names were called out, checked by the clerk and voted on for all of the streets in the newly aligned city.
In 1972, Bob became the Chairman of the Regional Planning Committee – a position he held for a number of years. After eight years of preliminary work, the Committee met with the provincial cabinet to get the Region’s first Offical Plan approved. Niagara thus became the first municipality with a policy plan in Ontario.
Mr. Bell was also part of the initiative in 1959 to create the Lester B. Pearson Park. It came about when the opportunity arose to get the properly for a dollar a year. The space was ideal for a public recreation area as it remains today.
Mr. Bell’s talk was quite informative and highlighted the accomplishments of those who dedicated their time to making Grantham Township, St. Catharines and the Region a better place to live. He ended his talk with the words, “Grantham was a great town with great people. The good old days were all not that bad.”