This Monday, October 22nd, Let the Clean Up Begin by Firing Caslin & Timms, and Hiring A Mix of Incumbents and New Faces on the Region’s Council
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted October 18th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
In the days leading up to this coming Monday’s municipal elections, I have never encountered more of a “throw the bums out” mentality among voters than I have this time around – especially when it comes to Niagara’s regional council.
That mentality is driven by a good deal of anger over what people have been hearing and reading around the CAO hiring issue and other controversies at the regional council level. And it makes more sense when it comes to the incumbent regional council candidates running in some Niagara municipalities more than others.
When it comes to the extraordinarily large slate of regional council candidates in St. Catharines – more than 20 in all, running for six of the Region’s 31 seats (not including the regional chair’s) – Niagara At Large believes that voting all of the incumbents out would be a huge mistake.
In the 2014 municipal elections, St. Catharines voters elected at least a few individuals to the Region’s council, including Tim Rigby, Debbie MacGregor, Kelly Edgar and Brian Heit, who are certainly not members of what has come to be known as “the cabal” who have, among other things, worked to close the door on any further probe in to the questions and concerns surrounding the hiring of the Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo.
Two of those incumbents, in particular, have consistently stood up for getting to the bottom of that hiring and a number of other matters, including so many concerns over the way the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (an agency with a board of directors dominated by members of the regional council cabal) is operating with millions of dollars of our tax money.
In 2016, these same two St. Catharines regional councillors were even sued (lawsuits that were eventually dropped) by a private firm doing business with the Conservation Authority (NPCA) for efforts they made to inform other members of the council about Carmen D’Angelo’s record as CAO at the NPCA before he was hired to the same position at the Region.
Those two St. Catharines regional councillors, on the ballot again, and hoping to be re-elected so they can be part of making the Region’s council more open, accountable and functional again, are Kelly Edgar and Brian Heit.
And if Edgar and Heit are not re-elected in these elections, that would definitely be a mistake because if any of the incumbents have earned another term, they have for their stand up and speak out persistence and courage.
When he announced his decision to run for another term a few months back, Heit said he “believes that working with a new council and chair, the Region can restore its image and operate in a more transparent manner. A region that is respectful to its citizens, and of which we can all be proud.”
More recently, in a response to questions the St. Catharines Standard asked him about how he would restore integrity to regional council, Heit added; “I am willing to right what is wrong. … I will make the tough decisions to restore the public trust, to create a Region that operates in the best interests of all taxpayers.”
Earlier this October, at a public meeting for candidates in St. Catharines, Edgar spoke of his last four years on the Region’s council and hopes for the future this way; “I’ve learned a lot during my time on Council. But most of what I have learned is that nothing you do matters unless you do it with honesty and integrity, both of which have been sadly lacking at times on this current Regional Council.”
“We need to change that! And we can,” Edgar concluded, “but it will be up to you, the voter in St. Catharines to take action to see that it’s done. Fill the Council seats for St. Catharines with people who feel as I do, that “Issues change. They come and they go, but integrity and honesty are forever.”
It may take a good deal more strength and willingness to speak out to get that integrity back and given their efforts of the past four years, Edgar and Heit have proven that they are up to the job.
St. Catharines votes are fortunate to have a number of other good people running for regional council seats, which makes it hard when you only elect a few, but I will list a few that I feel could play a role in getting the Region’s council back on a positive track.
First and foremost, there is former veteran St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, who is running in a municipal election for the first time since he ran and won a seat on St. Catharines city council in the 1970s.
In between then and now, Bradley represented St. Catharines for almost 40 years in the Ontario legislature (holding a number of cabinet positions along the way, including Environment, Tourism and Transportation), and he probably would have been re-elected this past June to four more years, had it not been for the widespread public dislike for his Liberal Party’s leader, Kathleen Wynne.
During June’s provincial election, people canvasing for Bradley told me they heard the same thing over and over again at the doors; “We like Jim,” people would tell them, “but we can’t vote for Wynne.”
Well Wynne isn’t around anymore and there is no doubt in this reporter’s mind that Bradley has the temperament and decency, not to mention the skills and knowledge of the challenges in Niagara faces and how to address them to play an important role on a new regional council
Three other St. Catharines regional candidates I would recommend here are all younger people – and we sure could use some younger voices at the Region – who are running for municipal office for the first time. All three of them have demonstrated a keen interest in what has been going on at the regional council level, often showing up at the council meetings and speaking as a delegation from time to time on such issues as a code of conduct for the council, the need for more openness and accountability, and tolerance for minorities and other groups in the community. Transit, affordable housing and protecting our natural and cultural heritage are also among the issues they raise.
These three candidates are Haley Bateman, Mo Al Jumaily and Emily Beth Spanton, and for more information on them and their campaigns, I will list links to their websites below.
Another candidate for St. Catharines regional council that you should give serious consideration to – a retired police officer with many years of involvement in the community – is Peter Gill. He has repeatedly expressed a determination to clean up the mess at the regional government level too. Last year, he also organized a fundraiser to help pay the legal fees for St. Catharines citizen activist Ed Smith, who ultimately had a lawsuit slapped against him by the NPCA defeated in the Ontario courts.
With at least two good incumbents in the St. Catharines race for a regional seat, and others running for a seat at the Region for the first time, there is even less excuse for anyone in the city to mark an ‘X’ beside the names of either Al Caslin, the Region’s current chair, and incumbent St. Catharines regionalcouncillor Bruce Timms.
f you have been paying the least bit of attention to the controversies that have unfolded around the Region’s council and the NPCA, both of these gentlemen have played a far greater role in contributing to the mess than in trying to clean things up.
To read Caslin’s campaign literature, leaves one wondering if he and many of the rest of us have been attending council meetings on the same planet over the past four years.
One of the few points Caslin has put forward that I might agree with is that Niagara has “too many politicians.” We could begin addressing that problem by retiring him from politics on October 22nd.
As for Timms, he has not only gone along with everything from voting to hire D’Angelo to the CAO job in 2016 to closing the door on any further probing of the hiring this past July, he has sat on the NPCA’s board of directors, serving as the board’s chair for part of this past council term, while that body racked up page after page of serious operational issues, all listed in a recently released Ontario Auditor General’s report that no self-respecting public servant should ever be proud of.
To read some of the responses Timms shared with The St. Catharines Standard this October for candidate profiles was breathtaking. Just as an example; “The process (for hiring the CAO and extending his contract) was seriously compromised,” said Timms, “and the contract extension should not stand because it is beyond the authority of the chair.”
This coming from someone who voted to close the investigation last July and issue D’Angelo an apology. Had it not been for others who were brave enough to blow the whistle about how the hiring process and contract extension, we might not be at a point now where the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office has finally been called in to get to the bottom of it.
Sounds like Timms has just found some religion on these matters, and it is a little late, isn’t it?
Surely the people of St. Catharines and our region at large has had enough of this guy.
Niagara At Large encourages you to learn more about the candidates endorsed in this commentary on line by clicking on the following websites –
To learn more about Kelly Edgar and his candidacy, click on – kellyedgar.ca
To learn more about Brian Heit and his candidacy, click on – www.brianheit.ca .
To learn more about Jim Bradley and his candidacy, click on – Bradley4Region.com .
To learn more about Haley Bateman and her candidacy, click on – www.haleybatement.ca
To learn more about Mo Al Jumaily and his candidacy, click on – electmo.ca
To learn more about EmilyBeth Spanton and her candidacy, click on – Emily-beth.ca
To learn more about Peter Gill and his candidacy, click on – electgillregion.ca
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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