Inaugural Meeting has Many Councillors Resigned to Idea that Ford’s Assault on Municipal Government Decision-Making will Prevail
In an Interview, Niagara Regional Chair Assures Niagara At Large his “first responsibility will continue to be to the people of Niagara.”
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted November 24th, 2022 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – After walking into Niagara Region’s headquarters today, passed more than a hundred citizens holding up signs scorning the Ford Government’s assault on local democracy and on what are left of our precious farmland, wetlands and other natural places, a majority on the newly inaugurated regional council said yes to Ford reappoint Jim Bradley as Regional Chair.
The only ones who voted no to a straight-out reappointment of Bradley without the usual voting process that the Region’s council goes through for the Chair’s position were recently elected St. Catharines regional councillor Haley Bateman and second-term Welland regional councillor Leanna Villella.
Haley Bateman was specific in her views for saying no to simply following Ford’s order, making it clear it had nothing to do with her respect for Jim Bradley, but everything to do with the Ford government marching in to Niagara and dictating who will be our municipal leader.
Wayne Redekop, a third veteran member of Niagara regional councillor and Mayor of Fort Erie went so far as to “sign off” and walk out of the Region’s council chambers before the vote for reappointing the chair took place.
Redekop made it clear that he has a great deal of respect for Jim Bradley but cannot accept the province coming in, even before legislation has been passed, and dictating to regional councillors who the chair should be.
“This is no reflection on Jim Bradley,” Redekop stressed.
But this is the second municipal election in a row, he added, that the Ford government has interfered in how citizens and their elected representatives choose their leaders (the first being 2018 when Ford cancelled a region-wide vote for the Region’s chair), and he said he did not want to be “complicit” by simply saying yes to a Ford government order to say yes to whoever that government decides should be Niagara’s Regional Chair.
Haley Bateman, echoing Redekop’s respect for Jim Bradley, followed up by saying she hopes the new Regional Council will challenge the Ford Government’s so-called “Better Municipal Governance Act” (Bill 39) that gives Ford and company significant new powers over decision-making at the municipal level
But there were few expressing a willingness to challenge the Ford juggernaut at this inaugural meeting of Regional Council. Most seemed to go along with the line that this Bill 39 was going to pass anyway and that, if they are going to fight at all, they will leave any courage they might muster in that department for another day.
Anyone who remembers dealing with bullies out on a schoolyard, knows that you are never going to stop a bully by backing off or cowering before them. Yet that is what we say with a majority of our Niagara Regional councillors on this first meeting of their new term.
Perhaps they should be reminded that what they really should be afraid of, if they continue capitulating to the dictates of Doug Ford, is what countless thousands of Niagara citizens – like the ones they passed with the picket signs as they entered the Region’s headquarters – do in the next regional election.
Because what Niagara citizens will do, as they did in the 2018 municipal elections when Al Caslin and his cabal wreaked havoc on our regional government, was throw the majority of them out of office.
About the only assuring message Niagara At Large received following council’s decision to go along with the Ford order to reappoint Jim Bradley’s to the Chair’s job came from Jim Bradley himself.
In an interview with Niagara At Large, Jim Bradley offered repeated assurances that he will continue to represent the views of Niagara citizens and elected members of municipal council, and will ‘not be moved off my view” that green lands must be protected.
“My first responsibility,” Bradley stressed, “is to the people of Niagara.”
Bradley said he has also not been told that there are any conditions attached to his reappointment.
That sounds good, except for at least one thing, if not many poison pills may emerge from the Ford’s Bill 23 (containing plans to gut conservation areas and parcels of the Greenbelt)and Bill 39, working to dismantle local democracy and municipal government.
That one thing is the unelected facilitator Ford and company plans to force on Niagara to work with Bradley around reshaping municipal governance here.
Bradley told Niagara At Large he has no idea who Ford will appoint for that position and what the full extent of the facilitator’s powers will be.
In my darkest moments, I worry that he might appoint someone like Bart Maves, Al Caslin or even David Barrick to the job. With Ford, at this point, I believe that anything is possible.
If he is willing to pave over land we need for growing local food, all bets are off.
I put that to Jim Bradley in our interview, and he had to concede that anything is possible too.
In conclusion, I have to say that in all of my more than 40 years as a journalist, covering municipal politics in Niagara or at least working next to newsroom colleagues who do, this is about the saddest inaugural meeting for a new council in our region.
The only bright spot was the more than 80 Niagara citizens who were rallying for our green lands and democracy outside, and the very few councillors like Wayne Redekop and Haley Bateman who said no to Ford’s dictatorship inside.
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
Niagara At Large will have much more to report on all of this in the days and weeks ahead.
Meanwhile, I urge all citiziens in this region to follow what Ford and his government are doing closely because there is nothing less than our democracy and the future of our communities,both economically from the standpoint of your taxes and pocketbook, and environmentally around saving what is left of our food-growing lands and natural resources, at stake.
Please Stay Tuned!
To Watch Niagara Region’s Inaugural meeting, click on the screen below –
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