Let’s Embrace The Move To Publicly Electing The Regional Chair In Niagara

“During the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in August  … Niagara stood as the only hold-out Region that still wanted to appoint the Chair from among members of Council.”

A Column by Town of Pelham/Niagara Mayor Dave Augustyn

Posted November 21st, 2016 on Niagara At Large

Niagara, Ontario – Last week, the Province introduced legislation that included mandating the election of all Ontario’s Regional Chairs by the public-at-large, starting in 2018. While this push toward a more accountable and democratic election alarmed a few folks in Niagara (including our current Chair), those watching the Municipal sector weren’t surprised.

Town of Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn supports move to Niagara residents electing Regional Chair

Town of Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn supports move to Niagara residents electing Regional Chair

First, during the Association of Municipalities of Ontario conference in August, the Hon. Bill Mauro, Minister of Municipal Affairs, called for changes to increase the “accountability and transparency” of Regional Councils.

Second, Niagara stood as the only hold-out Region that still wanted to appoint the Chair from among members of Council. All other areas either already elect their Chair of Regional Council at large, or were working toward doing so.

Waterloo Region began electing their Chair 19 years ago. Halton Region has elected a Regional Chair since 2000. Durham Region first elected their Regional Chair in 2014.

A bill to elect the York Regional Chair at large was recently before the Ontario Legislature. And, in 2013, Peel Regional Council directed staff to report after the 2014 election on options to directly elect their Chair for the 2018 municipal election.

Finally, with the next municipal election two years away, the Province needed to announce changes now to give various municipalities time to appropriately adapt.

Surprisingly, some suggested that it would be too difficult for Regional Chair candidates to campaign across the equivalent of four Federal ridings that cover our peninsula. Interestingly, Niagara would actually be the smallest area: 4 ½ ridings cover Halton Region; 5 ridings cover Waterloo; and 5 ½ ridings cover Durham.

Similarly, some suggest that the cost to mount a campaign would keep good candidates out of the race. While the spending limits in Halton, Waterloo and Durham are higher than it will be for Niagara (estimated to be $306,0000), the most any candidate spent in those campaigns were nowhere near the limits. Winning candidates spent $16,000 in Halton; $56,000 in Waterloo; and $74,000 in Durham.

With this latest improvement, candidates for the Chair’s position will have to put together a vision that would appeal to all of Niagara. This would be similar to the visions that Mayoral candidates present to the public – but it would be for all in the peninsula.

I believe that this change  will help us to work together to become more open, transparent, accountable, and democratic in Niagara.

Lets’ embrace this improvement because publicly electing the Regional Chair will help pull the views and hopes of our Region’s citizen’s together and can become an important and unifying force for moving Niagara forward.

You may read Mayor Dave’s past columns at www.pelhammayordave.blogspot.ca.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater binational Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space below the Bernie quote.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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6 responses to “Let’s Embrace The Move To Publicly Electing The Regional Chair In Niagara

  1. Great idea – elect our Regional Mayor at large.

    Candidates would never need to leave St Kitts to win an election. (Ok, maybe 1 perfunctory quick drive to Niagara Falls & Welland to imply that their big city votes count, but no need to visit the small towns & townships.)

    Why not go further and have ‘one big region’?

    Let’s move Government so far from average people, into the hands of élite advisors that we find and vote for our own … Trump.

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  2. There has been an “OLD BOY” mentality in this Region for too many years, a mentality that fosters CRONYISM along with NEPOTISM in just about every phase of Life, Living and Employment in this Region. When one does not conform and opposes the dictates of the OLD BOYS CLUB they find themselves Threatened, Ostracized and basically Blackballed.

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  3. This move is vital to help bring an end to the lack of transparency at regional level. Now if only something could be done about the NPCA…

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  4. Somebody please explain the advantage of directly electing the chair? Personally I think elected council members are in a better position to chose the best person.
    Then what about the cost of yet another election campaign?
    Campaigns are nothing but a snow job to confuse voters enough to get their vote.
    Look what Toronto ended up with – Rob Ford. And the U.S. With Donald Trump.

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    • Yeah, what good is democracy anyway? Much better to let the bureaucrats and technocrats run things for us without the great unwashed sticking their fingers in… 😒

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  5. I applaud the province for initiating the direct election of the Chair. In response to Lorne’s post, St. Catharines is only 30.7% of the electorate in Niagara, so it most certainly would need to be a Region-wide campaign. Also, in Durham Region the Chair is from Ajax (smaller than Oshawa and Whitby), and in Waterloo Region the Chair is from Woolwich (much smaller than Waterloo, Cambridge and Kitchener). The smaller municipalities would actually be have a better chance in having a chair from those respective municipalities because some are only represented by a mayor such as Wainfleet and West Lincoln (so they have no chance), and Thorold, Port Colborne, NOTL, Lincoln Grimsby, Fort Erie, Pelham only have 1 mayor and 1 Councillor, so their chances are much less than the big 3 municipalities who have multiple councillors.

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