It’s back to the Status Quo when it comes to Municipal Governance in Niagara – At Least for Now
A News Brief by Doug Draper
Posted February 7th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Arguing that democracy in Niagara would not be better served by having dual-duty representation on city and regional councillors, a majority of St. Catharines councillors voted against the idea following a public meeting this February 6th.
“There is no proof that double-direct (another way of saying double-duty) representation will result in any improvement (in governance for citizens) … There is no evidence to suggestion communication will be improved,” said St. Catharines councillor Bruce Williamson, who was one of the first out of the gate to say he would vote against dual-duty after a majority of citizens who spoke earlier in the evening expressed their opposition.
Some have been promoting dual-duty representation on the grounds that “it is time for change” in the way government works at the municipal level, but “I don’t know where this drive for change is coming from,” added another city councillor, Mark Elliott. “I’m not hearing a call for this at the door,” said Elliott, noting that as much as some members may have supported it, none of them showed up to speak for it earlier in the meeting.
The dual-duty idea being considered by the council would involve having six councillors continuing to serve their wards in the city on a part-time basis and six in each ward serving part-time on city council and part-time on regional council – effectively making them full-time councillors along with the mayor who also represents the city at both the city and regional government level.
It’s a form of representation that has been in practice for a number of years in other regions of Ontario that still have lower and upper tier municipal councils and if St. Catharines councillors approved if for their municipality, it would still need approval from a majority of the councils serving Niagara’s other 11 municipalities, and those approvals would have to come from councils that serve a majority of residents in the region.
But that a vote by other councils is – for the immediate future, anyway – no longer in the cards now that the dual-duty idea has been voted down in St. Catharines.
Just before the St. Catharines vote, the city’s mayor, Walter Sendzik, who has been a proponent of the idea for the past few years, argued that it is no longer enough to only have the mayor serving on both city and regional council because you are dealing with a regional government that is responsible for handling a large host of services and an $800,000 budget each year and it takes more than one dual-duty person to deal with all that effectively.
“It is about understanding the services that are provided by the city and the services provided by the region, which are becoming more and more complex,” said Sendzik, and the “gap” of understanding between the two will only get “bigger” if there aren’t more councillors serving at both the city and regional both level.
Dual-duty representation “makes for more integration” between the two,” Sendzik stressed.
But by the time the mayor made his final case for the idea it was already clear to residents in the gallery that there weren’t enough votes on the council to approve it.
Sendzik, along with councillors Matthew Harris, Mike Britton, Sandie Bellows, Matthew Siscoe and Sal Sorrento voted in favour of the dual-duty.
Voting against it were councillors David Haywood, Jennifer Stevens, Joe Kushner, Mark Elliott, Bill Phillips, Carlos Garcia and Bruce Williamson.
For an earlier commentary by Doug Draper on dual-duty representation, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2017/02/06/niagara-doesnt-need-dual-duty-politicians-it-needs-politicians-who-are-truly-dedicated-to-serving-the-interests-of-the-people-of-this-region/ .
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