… And a Well-Deserved Trouncing in the Polls for Regional Council Incumbent Brian Baty
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted October 17th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
One bright, sunny morning this past July, things finally seemed to be looking ups for people dreaming for an end of the four-year nightmare at Niagara regional council.
At a Tim Horton’s diner in Pelham, packed with friends and supporters, the town’s mayor, Dave Augustyn, did what so many hoped he would do and announced his plans to run in what was still on the books then – a region-wide race for Chair of the Region’s council.
At the time Augustyn made his announcement, a race for the Chair’s seat was already shaping up between him, the seat’s current holder, Al Caslin, former Welland mayor Damian Goulbourne and Niagara Falls resident John “Ringo” Beam. And given all of the controversy swirling around Caslin, the hiring of the Region’s CAO and related matters, it looked like Augustyn might have a pretty good shot at campaigning his way to a winning finish in this October 22nd municipal elections.
Shortly after Augustyn made his announcement, Pelham resident Diana Huson announced her plans to run for the town’s only directly elected seat on regional council, now held by Brian Baty.
“I’m running for Pelham’s regional seat because I’m passionate about our beautiful community and, like many people, I’m disappointed with our Regional Council,” Huson said at the time.
Then, on July 27th, the last day for candidates across Niagara to register to run in these municipal elections, Ontario Premier Doug Ford made his surprise announcement to slash the number of seats on Toronto city council and cancel the region-wide races for chair in Niagara and three other regions of the province.
Suddenly, Augustyn found himself scrambling to file papers to run for a regional council seat, if he wanted to stay in municipal politics at all, and Huson found herself running against Augustyn, as well as Baty and fellow Pelham resident Jim Hagar.
Up to the moment Ford made his bombshell announcement, Niagara At Large was prepared to endorse Augustyn in the regional chair’s race, Huson in the race for Pelham regional councillor and give a firm thumbs’ down to Baty for his role this past four years on the Region’s council and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s board of directors.
The thumbs’ down to Baty still stand. And I will get to the reasons for that shortly. But first I want to deal what you do when you have two good people – Augustyn and Huson – running for the same seat and you’re wishing both of them could win.
My hope is that maybe they both can if Augustyn polls first and Huson comes in second, and if enough others are elected to the regional council who might then vote to appoint Augustyn Chair. If that were to happen and the Pelham council seat became vacant then by rights, the candidate who polled second, Huson, should be the first one invited to fill it.
That’s my dream, anyway, but it is obviously up to the voters of Pelham to make win-win for Augustyn and Huson happen.
As it is now, I hope Pelham voters will put Augustyn at the top of the polls because over the past few years, he has been one of only a handful on the Region’s council who have repeatedly shown the courage to stand up to almost everything that has gone wrong at the Region and one of its partner agencies, the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA).
From the start of this term of regional council, in December, 2014, he was one of only 11 who voted against appointing Caslin the Region’s chair.
Augustyn when on to vote in favour of hiring an integrity commissioner to address code of conduct complaints at the Region against hiring then NPCA CAO Carmen D’Angelo to the CAO job at the Region.
He repeatedly voted in favour of an independent audit of the NPCA’s operations and for an independent investigation of questions and concerns around the hiring of D’Angelo.
For all of this and more, Augustyn had a lot of mud thrown his way by Caslin’s fellow travellers on the regional council, but he never backed down.
Augustyn’s experience in municipal governance, and the strength and courage he has shown over this last four years have earned him the respect of residents across Niagara, many of whom called on him to run for chair before Ford cancelled regional chair elections.
As for Baty, after voting against appointing Caslin chair and in favour of hiring an integrity commissioner, he went on to vote in favour of hiring D’Angelo CAO, then against an independent, value for money audit of the NPCA where he holds a seat on the agency’s board.
This past July, with questions and concerns growing over the possibility that the process used to hire D’Angelo to the CAO job was compromised or corrupted, Baty voted with those in Caslin’s camp to close the door on any further questions and for an apology to D’Angelo for any questions that were asked in the first place – all of this working to put a lid on it ahead of an Ontario Ombudsman’s Office investigation in to the hiring that is now underway.
Then there is Baty’s continued membership on an NPCA board that has presided over a long litany of negative findings over the way that agency operates and uses our tax money – all listed in a special report recently released by Ontario’s Auditor General Auditor Bonnie Lysyk.
Among the more egregious acts of the NPCA and its board was the 2017 censuring and smearing of Lincoln regional councillor and then board member Bill Hodgson for reasons that had something to do with his pressing for an independent audit – reasons that the Auditor General concluded did not justify the ugly way Hodgson was treated.
Baty certainly has his supporters in Pelham.
Among them are members of the same group of people who showed up at a number of regional council meetings, upset about the way the town is changing (one of them wistfully talked about how much better it was way back when there was only one set of traffic lights at the top of the hill) and firing off unfounded allegations that Augustyn and his council have been so reckless with the finances, they have steered the town down the road to bankruptcy.
Beyond that, let’s hope there are enough voters in Pelham to send Baty packing on October 22nd, and pave the way for a win-win for Augustyn and Huson.
That would give all those people who packed the Tim Horton’s last July and a good number of the rest of us something to cheer about.
To read a story NAL posted this July on Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn’s announcement to run for Niagara Regional Chair, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/07/13/breaking-news-dave-augustyn-mayor-of-pelham-for-12-years-and-member-of-niagara-regions-council-announces-his-run-for-niagara-regional-chair/
To read story NAL posted this July on Diana Huson, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/07/24/diana-huson-running-to-represent-town-of-pelham-on-niagara-regional-council/
The read Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk’s entire Special Report on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s operations, click on –http://www.auditor.on.ca/en/content/specialreports/specialreports/NPCA_en.pdf
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