Caslin’s Cabal is Trounced as Winds Of Change Sweep Niagara’s Regional Council

Former MPP Jim Bradley Leads Pack, Caslin Is Buried in Race for St. Catharines Regional Council Seats

A News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted October 23rd, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Former St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley was a big winner in these municipal elections, leading a pack of 23 candidates for one of St. Catharines’ six seats on Niagara Region’s council. Could he be appointed the Region’s new chair next?

If it was change the people of Niagara wanted in these municipal elections, we certainly got it – especially at the regional level.

So much so that when a new regional council is sworn later this fall, a full 23 of the 32 members, including the Region’s chair, sitting on it will be new.

The number of incumbents swept out in these October 22nd elections was extraordinary by compared to elections gone by, but hardly all that shocking given the amount of controversy the outgoing council, chaired by the ever so controversial Al Caslin, became mired in over the past four years.

Lest there be any doubt that St. Catharines voters have had enough of the ill-conduct at the regional council level, Caslin polled 20th in a field of 23 running in the city for a seat on the Region’s council, while long-time regional councillor Bruce Timms – one of Caslin’s fellow travellers during this now finished term of council – ranked ninth, with only the top six in the field winning a seat.

The candidate who came out on top was Jim Bradley, a former MPP for the St. Catharines Riding and someone who, in this reporter’s view, would be an excellent choice for the next chair to turn the Region’s council around and restore some public integrity again. But more on that later.

Al Caslin, the controversial chair of Niagara Region’s council, was soundly defeated in his run for a regional council seat in St. Catharines. Caslin polled 20th in a slate of 23 candidates for seats on the council, trailing Jim Bradley’s 18,954 votes (in an unofficial tally) with only 1,928 of his own.

Along with Caslin and Timms, other who lost their seats this October 22nd, who were commonly viewed as members of the so-called cabal, included Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata, defeated by Tom Insinna, Grimsby regional councillor Tony Quirk, defeated by Wayne Fertich, Pelham regional councillor Brian Baty, defeated by Diana Huson, West Lincoln Mayor Doug Joyner, defeated by David Bylsma, Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor Patrick Darte, defeated by Betty Disero, Welland regional councillor Paul Grenier, who failed to win one of that city’s two seats on the council, and Niagara Falls regional councillor Selina Volpatti, who fell short of winning one of the three seats on the Region’s council for that city.

A few others who won another term this October 22nd and who often voted in lockstep with the same group included Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati, who defeated Niagara Falls city councillor and former MPP Kim Craitor, Niagara Falls regional councillor Bob Gale, who won back one of the city’s three seats at the Region (along with Peter Nicholson, a first-time regional council candidate and son of former Niagara Falls MP Rob Nicholson), and Welland Mayor Frank Campion.

Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and his supporters come to terms with his loss in a race for a regional council seat this October 22nd. Many across Niagara hoped he might become the Region’s next chair. Photo by Doug Draper

Some members of this group decided months ago not to run for another term. They include Port Colborne regional councillor David Barrick, whose seat will now be occupied by veteran Port Colborne city councillor Barbara Butters, Port Colborne Mayor John Mahoney (Bill Steele has won the mayor’s seat in that city, Niagara Falls regional councillor Bart Maves, who leaves as Barbara Greenwood makes a comeback as a regional councillor for the city, and Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs.

There were also a number who sat on the Region’s council and who more often than not and, in the case of some of them, always voted against Caslin’s cabal when it came to such thing as the hiring of CAO Carmen D’Angelo or auditing the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, who were defeated this October 22nd.

Niagara-on-the-Lake Lord Mayor-elect Betty Disero defeats Patrick Darte, who also sat as a board member on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority

They included Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn, who was running for regional councillor this time and was viewed by many as an promising candidate for the Region’s chair, Thorold regional councillor Henry D’Angela, defeated by Terry Ugulini, long-servingWelland regional councillor George Marshall, who missed winning back one of that city’s two seats on the Region’s council (they went to Pat Chiochio and Leanna Villella), and St. Catharines regional councillor Kelly Edgar, who fell just short of the votes needed to win one of the six seats on the regional council for that city.

Others who lost this October 22nd, who more often than not, voted on the other side of the cabal, included Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani, who lost to Thorold city councillor and deputy mayor Tim Whelan for that city’s seat on the Region’s council, and St. Catharines regional councillor Debbie MacGregor.

A number of those who lost in these elections also sat on the board of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) which, like the Region’s council, has been a focus of intense controversy over the past four years. They include Annunziata, Baty, Timms, Joyner and Quirk. NPCA board survivors include Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati and Welland Mayor Frank Campion. Outgoing Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs and Port Colborne Mayor John Mahoney also sat on the board.

In Fort Erie, Wayne Redekop was returned as mayor, Sandra Easton was returned as mayor in Lincoln while Robert Foster will replace the town’s retiring regional councillor Bill Hodgson.

Fort Erie regional councillor Sandy Annunziata, who drew public criticism for his role at the Region’s council as well as his role as chair of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, was one of many incumbents who went down to defeat this October 22nd.

In Grimsby, Jeff Jordan won the mayor’s seat being vacated by Bob Bentley, who decided not to run again, and in Wainfleet, the new mayor is Kevin Gibson.

Marvin Junkin, a Fenwick area farmer who quit his town council seat in Pelham last year and joined a group of residents in leveling charges against Augustyn and the council of mismanaging the town financially, was elected Pelham’s mayor this October 22nd.

Last but not least, St. Catharines regional councillor Brian Heit, a vocal opponents of the cabal, and another St. Catharines regional councillor, Tim Rigby, a much-like former mayor of the city, won his seat back on the Region’s council – were among the  minority of incumbents on the council who survived these elections.

There is an awful lot for anyone to digest here in terms of what it means for the coming term of Niagara regional councillor and for the NPCA and whether that body can rediscover its conservation mandate.

On balance, there appears to be reason for hope that we will not be treated to anywhere near as much of the divisive, dysfunction conduct that poisoned the regional council chaired by Caslin. We shall see.

More news and analysis on all of this later. Stay tuned.

(A Footnote from NAL reporter and publisher Doug Draper – Suffice to say, it was one wild election night. If you feel I left one or more significant individuals out in this story, by all means mention them in a comment below. We will do our part to catch up to them ourselves, in future posts.)

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

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