“In the past, I have avoided commenting on the legacy of turmoil we inherited from the previous term of council (under the chairmanship of Al Caslin). ….But I think it is worth remembering how far we have come. … I am honored to work with a team of councillors who took immediate action to set a new tone and reestablish Niagara Region’s character and standing in the community.”
– Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley, Nov. 3rd, 2022, at final session of 2018-2022 Council
Posted November 4th, 2022 on Niagara At Large
(A Brief Foreword from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large – In the wake of this October’s municipal election and the final meeting, this November 3rd, of the current Niagara Regional Council before a new council is sworn in, I thought it would be of some value to post the complete text of the opening remarks the Region’s Chair, Jim Bradley, delivered to the outgoing council and to any members of the public listening in.
In this final session of council, many concerns were also raised about proposals by Ontario’s Ford government to change and, more to the point, weaken rules and systems for protecting and preserving what is left of Niagara’s natural heritage to build more housing at any cost to that heritage.
Niagara At Large will have more news and commentary on that issue in the days ahead. Please stay tuned.)
Chair’s Remarks to Council
November 3, 2022
“I want welcome everyone this evening for what is the final meeting of this term of council.
I want to begin my comments by stating that serving as Regional Chair has been one of the great honours of my life, and it is a position that I continue to hold in the highest regard.
I consider myself fortunate to have worked with such a dedicated and committed group of individuals, each of whom brought their own unique experiences and talents to this chamber in an effort to represent their constituents and advocate for the betterment of the Niagara region.
To those members who will not be returning, I know that I speak for all of your colleagues on council when I say thank you for your service and your contributions during your time working on behalf of the residents of Niagara. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reflections this evening.”
Restoring the Region’s Reputation
“For many of us in this chamber, we were elected in 2018 after the people of Niagara wanted a fresh start and a new beginning. Many of us ran on platforms of transparency and restoring trust. There would be few who would disagree that we delivered on that expectation.
n the past, I have avoided commenting on the legacy of turmoil we inherited from the previous term of council.
But I think it is worth remembering how far we have come, and the role that each of you played in getting us to where we are today.
In late 2018, the Region’s controversy was on the front page of the paper seemingly every day, we were awaiting the results of the Ombudsman’s investigation, and we had been recognized as Canada’s most secretive municipality by the Canadian Association of Journalists.
I am honored to work with a team of councillors who took immediate action to set a new tone and reestablish Niagara Region’s character and standing in the community, with the media and with other levels of government.”
But we did not stop there.
This council brought in Niagara’s first lobbyist registry, ensuring the public can have a better understanding of who is attempting to influence public policy, and how dollars are spent.
We approved a whistle blower policy so our staff have a protected avenue available to them to report issues and concerns.
We also implemented all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations ensuring that the Region’s hiring practices are safeguarded against future controversy.
The results have been noticeable and it is my sincere hope that each of you is satisfied with the part you played in restoring the Region’s reputation and ensuring that it will never happen again.”
“As you all know, Council’s accomplishments were not limited to governance and reputation.”
“Despite the impacts of COVID-19, Regional Council, as a team, we continued to make significant strides.
While it would be impossible to reflect on all the ways this council managed the pandemic, I believe it is worth remembering that essential regional services continued to be delivered across Niagara throughout the pandemic. We worked with our local municipal partners to share resources and knowledge, and we advocated for much needed COVID relief funding from senior levels of government.
And finally, in partnership with Niagara Health, pharmacies and primary care providers, we delivered more than 1.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to residents across the region. This was a monumental task and I believe it is worth celebrating.”
Investing in local Health Care
“As a council, we invested an unprecedented $55 million into the construction of two new hospitals, despite such investments being outside our core mandate.
We also invested more than $175 million into the redevelopment of two of our long-term care homes. These homes will be world-class facilities, attracting private investments, and creating a health care hub with affordable living options.
As a council, we knew that health care is important to our constituents and that we had a role to play.”
“This term of council has also made history with the consolidation of transit services across the region.
Through our leadership, this council changed the landscape of Niagara to the benefit of passengers, the environment and the economy.
The progress we made on transit will be part of council’s lasting legacies and I am proud that all of Niagara could come together to do what was right.”
And as a team, we put Niagara’s environment first.
We showed courageous leadership by passing policies that resulted in a 24% increase in waste diversion through the green bin program. When totaled, we diverted over 12,000 tonnes of garbage from our landfills.
We declared a climate emergency, held our first summit, and hired a dedicated resource who is committed to tackling climate change in Niagara. I look forward to seeing progress on this file over the coming months as we set an emission target together.
We updated Niagara’s Official Plan making sure that future growth and development will occur where it will provide the greatest benefit and have the least impact on our natural environment. And in doing so, we safeguarded our green space, ensuring that 70,000 hectares – or more than 170,000 football fields – of our natural heritage would be protected.”
Housing affordability and homelessness
But, unfortunately, like the rest of the country, we have not been immune to the challenges of housing affordability.
In response to this crisis, we invested over $20 million over the last three years to bring more affordable housing into the market. When combined with funds from other levels of government, more than $43 million has been dedicated to tackling this problem.
But we also know that we will not fix this problem on our own. To help ensure that we attract private sector investment, Council voted to fund new incentive programs targeted at affordable housing.
There is clearly more to do on this file and I anticipate that Regional Council will continue to make headway as they take office in a few weeks.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
“We also made efforts to build a more welcoming Niagara. In addition to joining the Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities, we established a Diversity Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, hired dedicated staff resources, and approved an Action Plan to chart our path forward.
Additionally, this term of council made more progress in regard to Indigenous relations over the last 4 years than what had been accomplished in the previous 20.
While I know there is much work still left to be done, I believe that we have made some real progress that I am eager to capitalize on as we move forward together.
As you will all recall, for two weeks last summer we welcomed thousands of Canadians to Niagara to celebrate sport and culture as part of the 28th Canada Summer Games.
This council ensured that the required investments were made to help make sure that the games were a success and that they will have a lasting impact on Niagara for generations.
“As we look back on this term, it is my hope that we will remember it as one of respect.
- Respect between councillors, who were able to disagree at times, but understood they were always working towards what is best for Niagara.
- Respect for the autonomy of local councils and their ability to make the decisions which are best for their community. As Regional Chair, I always viewed the 12 local municipalities as equals and I both respect and appreciate their expertise and independence.
- Respect for our natural environment and all that makes Niagara unique.
- Respect for Niagara’s business community and the important role they play in generating wealth and prosperity.
- Respect for the need to make investments in our public infrastructure. Yes, these investments cost money, but we have shown the courage to do what is right, instead of what is easy.
- Respect for transparency and for just doing the right thing even when no one is watching.
And finally, respect for Niagara’s residents which we demonstrate every single day by continuing to provide the services they expect and deserve.
Niagara is a community that has demonstrated, time and time again, that when we work together there is nothing we cannot accomplish.
As this term of council meets for the final time, I hope that each of you can reflect on all that we have accomplished together. “
Thank you. Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley
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