Who Will Be Appointed Niagara’s Next Regional Chair?

Will The Ford Government Take Steps That Have An Impact On Who Gets Niagara’s Highest Political Job?

“If (the Ford Government doesn’t) like the option(s) for Chair from Council – like odds-on favorite Jim Bradley, for instance – they could open it up for someone else to run. … It could go one step further and actually appoint the next Regional Chair.”

A Commentary by Dave Augustyn, outgoing Mayor of Pelham and Niagara Regional Councillor

Posted November 5th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

And, so it begins.

How much of a role will Doug Ford play in picking Niagara’s next regional chair?

We are hearing rumblings of at least one – Niagara Falls Councillor Bob Gale – testing the waters in an attempt to become the 2018-22 Regional Chair.

While the new term of Council officially begins December 1st, Regional Council cannot convene until the indirectly-elected Councillors – the 12 Mayors – are officially sworn in at the local Councils.

So, on Thursday, December 6 at 10:00 AM, the Regional Clerk will officially convene the inaugural meeting. She will first administer the “Declaration of Office” for the 19 directly and 12 indirectly elected members.

Then, the first and only order if business is the election of the Regional Chair.

Candidates from Council Only:

Niagara Falls regional councillor Bob Gale’s name is already floating around as someone who has already been testing the waters for a run at the chair’s job.

In the first phase of the election, the Regional Clerk will ask for nominations for candidates. Only newly-minted Regional Councillors can run as a candidate to become Chair. Following nominations, each candidate will have a chance to speak for five minutes.

While the Municipal Act does allow the election of any qualified elector from Niagara to be nominated and elected Chair, historic precedent, two Council resolutions (in 1991 and again in 2013), and confirmation from the Minister of Municipal Affairs, means that Council elects a Chair from the recently elected members of Council.

Run-Off Election & Secret Ballot:

If two or more candidates run for Chair, the Clerk will oversee the “run-off” election (like used in some political leadership contests). For example, if after the first ballot, no candidate receives a majority of the votes – 17 – then the candidate with the fewest votes “drops-off” the ballot, and Councillors will vote on the remaining candidates on another ballot. The voting continues until one candidate receives a majority.

Interestingly, while the Municipal Act allows for the option of secret or open ballots, Niagara Regional Council’s procedural bylaw stipulates that the vote for Regional Chair “shall” be a secret vote.

Believe it or not, the new Council actually considers a motion to destroy the ballots… I voted against this last time; I hope this new Council will do the right thing and release the ballots publicly.

Filling the Vacancy:

Karrie Porter, a newly elected St. Catharines city councillor, helped start a petition this past summer in an effort to restore the right of citizens at large across Niagara to vote for the next regional chair. Ford stood by his position to cancel region-wide elections for the chair’s job anyway.

Following their election as Chair, the Councillor must “give up” his or her seat – creating a vacancy on Council. How is that seat filled? Regional Council follows the advice of the local City or Town Council. The options include a by-election, appointing the next candidate in the last general election, appointing another qualified elector.

In the case of filling the Chair’s seat, precedent has been to appoint the next candidate in the most recent election – Tim Rigby after Peter Partington was acclaimed Chair in 2006; David Lepp after Gary Burroughs became Chair on a fourth-ballot victory in 2010, and Kelly Edgar after 18 voted to appoint Alan Caslin as Chair on the first ballot in 2014.

Horse Trading:

Sadly, this appointment system has significant drawbacks. First, it’s anti-democratic. We should be able to elect the Regional Chair – who is like the Mayor for the Niagara Peninsula – from across the entire Peninsula.

Other Regions – like Waterloo – have been doing this for more than 25 years… You and I were to have elected the Chair “at-large” across Niagara this time, but Premier Ford and the PC Majority at Queen’s Park negated that election on Friday, 27 July 2018.

Second, the appointment system lends itself to “horse-trading.”

We saw this in spades in 2014 when some Councillors traded their vote for Chair for something else.

“If you vote for me, I will ensure that you get on the Police Board.” “I’ll support you if I can be chair of the Public Works committee.” Or, “I want to get on the Niagara Parks Commission. Can you guarantee that?”

And, sadly, there was some bullyingly too: “We already have 22 votes for him. If you don’t support him as Chair, we will make sure your community doesn’t get any Regional investments.”

As you can see from the votes in 2014 – it was easy to figure out the single-ballot – this is where the so-called Cabal got their foundation. As nauseating as it is, some Councillors were actually given “who to vote for” cards so the Cabal could live-up to their Board appointment assurances.

Again, an election at large would help sanitize appointments and help to stop this kind of Cabal formulation.

Ford’s Wildcards:

Not many agree, but I think the Ford Government can still impact the Niagara’s Chair election. Here’s how.

First, they could insist that nominations for the Regional Chair must be open to any Niagara elector (and not just from Council).

Why would they do this?

If they don’t like the option(s) for Chair from Council – like odds-on favorite Jim Bradley, for instance – they could open it up for someone else to run. It would mean that someone on the sidelines could throw their hat into the ring. Ford would take this option if there is an element of success for a preferred “outside” candidate.

Second, the Ford Government could go one step further and actually appoint the next Regional Chair. Yes, it is possible.

It falls under the “Municipalities are the children of the Province mantra” that we heard during the 47-seats to 25-seats chaos with the City of Toronto election. And, as most people forget, the Provincial Government appointed Niagara’s Regional Chair from 1970 to 1985 – namely the beloved John Campbell.

But, why would the Premier even entertain these options?

It would allow the Province to dictate and oversee a governance review in Niagara. At the recent AMO (Association of Municipalities of Ontario) conference, Municipal Affairs Minister Clark promised a “review” of Regional governments following this Fall’s elections.

Appointing a Chair would ensure governance is dealt with this term. And, as a side benefit for the ruling Conservatives, it would stop Jim Bradley, life-long Liberal, from becoming the Chair. (The Tories could also use this step in Peel – where Brampton recently elected Patrick Brown as Mayor.)

Regardless of what happens in December, expect City / Town / Regional governance reform to be a top-priority for this 2018-22 term of Council.

And, please call for a release of the ballots when the new Council appoints its Chair.

Dave Augustyn

Dave Augustyn served as the Mayor of the Town of Pelham and a Niagara Regional Councillor from 2006 to 2018. You may provide your ideas and feedback to Dave at daugustyn@cogeco.ca or check out his Dave Augustyn NOW columns at www.daveaugustynnow.blogspot.com.

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

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


5 responses to “Who Will Be Appointed Niagara’s Next Regional Chair?

  1. We don’t need any Political Interference from the Premier or anyone else. Niagara is capable of cleaning up their own mess that was left over from the previous council!

    Franko Zupcic commented on A Plea To Our American Neighbours

    For the Sake of Peace, Love, Justice, Democracy and the Future of our Planet, Vote this Tuesday, November 6th! Vote for the …

    Mr. Gale has no respect for us taxpayers. The golden hand shake to the past police chief was disgusting, and made no sense except to stroke Mr Gales ego. Mr Gale should not have any decision making powers. I’m shocked Mr. Gale was reelected


  2. Amazing that Dave has the nerve to still try and throw darts after he chose not to stay and screw the cabal out of there forced sending of Carmen to China. He walked out of his last meeting as a Rep of Pelham and Niagara So he could go to a photo op at a Rotary club meeting with Family and friends. That frustrates me beyond belief. Now Doug you are giving him this pulpit to preach from?

    A Response to Tim from Doug Draper – Hi Tim, I rarely respond to comments sent to Niagara At Large because I feel I have enough opportunities here to have my say and this space is for you.
    But since you seem to be wondering why I gave Dave Augustyn a pulpit here after what went down at the November 1 regional council meeting, I have him one because I give you and others one. That is what it is all about.
    And as for him leaving before the vote on the CAO going to China, all I know from a couple of other councillors is that he left for something that he apparently felt was important to him and his family and, after all, this last regional council circus was only supposed to last half an hour and was already working into its second hour.
    The way the vote went, I know there were people who later expressed anger that he left and there were also people who were upset with Niagara-on-the-Lake regional councillor Gary Burroughs for going along with the cabal and voting in favour of D’Angelo taking the trip. Had he voted no, the CAO would probably not be off to the airport.
    At the end of it all and in fairness to Dave Augustyn, few others took more garbage from the cabal than he did during the four year term because few others joined him in speaking out. If he wanted to have an easier time of it, he could have sat there and said nothing for most of the term like others did, and simply let the cabal do what they were going to do anyway.
    But he didn’t. He was one of the few who fought back and they did everything they could to tar him and possibly succeeded if the tar was one the reasons he came in third in the election, even behind Brian Baty, cabal member and NPCA board member that he was.
    Finally, if it was a photo op he went to, I wonder who is going to run the photo. I haven’t seen it. Would it run in the Voice of Pelham? That paper did one hatchet job on him after another.
    So I ran his commentary which has some important cautionary information in it for the rest of us, and if Dave Augustyn shares another with NAL that speaks to the issues we are wrestling with, we will run that too.


  3. The secrecy bylaw requirement for the Chair can be set aside by a council vote.


    Section 2.4 can be applied and I hope to see some members bring forth a motion to suspend the “secrecy” requirement.

    Section 2.4 reads: “In the absence of any statutory obligations, the Rules of Procedure may be temporarily suspended by Council by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Members present.” (It will require 21 members to vote for the suspension. No secrecy is allowed for that procedural vote. The Regional bylaw only speaks to voting for the chair.
    We will then know, by their vote NO, who the secrecy-freaks are.

    The council, in advance of voting, can decide to suspend the clause calling for “secret ballots” and require the results of the final round to be posted with
    each councillors vote. Getting rid of unnecessary secrecy begins with this first vote of the new council.

    Don Alexander
    St. Catharines


  4. John Ringo Beam for Chair.!!!

    A Note from Niagara At Large – John Ringo Beam was one of four candidates registered last summer to run region-wide for the Niagara regional chair’s position, but was deprived of the chance when Premier Doug Ford and his self-described “Government for the People” cancelled the election for that position. The other registered candidates for the position were Dave Augustyn, Al Caslin and Damian Goulbourne.


  5. I disagree with your support for Augustyn. Yes he is a moral man. Yes he was the best candidate for Chair, but he lost. Not staying for an important vote was foolish. He was still a voting councillor. He threw away his vote! I am deeply disapointed. He leaves local politics a disgruntled looser!


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