“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.
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.
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