The Ford government should have Niagara included in its municipal management plan | Rare Techy


Here’s what Queen’s Park had to say in October 2019 about why it wouldn’t cram down our throats the changes it wanted to see to our local government:

“We know we can achieve positive results by working with municipalities without taking a top-down approach,” said Dakota Brasier, assistant to Ontario Municipal and Housing Minister Steve Clark.

Three years later, the partnership with municipalities has ended and the top-down approach is on.

As Clark himself might say, who needs a carrot when you can whip municipalities with a stick?

Niagara got the short end of the stick earlier this month when Clark announced the St. Catharines District County Government. Jim Bradley returns as Niagara Region Chairman.

The district council could have still held an election for the seat, as it has always done. But regardless of the vote, Bradley will remain chairman, Clark said. And that’s what happened in Thursday’s vote, the outcome of which was determined by the provincial government.

In addition, Clark appoints a supervisor with whom Bradley must work to assess the best way to divide roles and responsibilities between upper and lower levels of government.

Remember, we just went through the provincial election in June. Candidates running for Prime Minister Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Party said nothing about it at the time.

Remember, too, that in 2018, Niagara was supposed to allow voters to elect a regional chair for the first time — until the Ford government went down again, killed the plan at the last minute, and launched a local government review in Niagara instead.

A year after that, and several months into a review of local governance, Ford again reversed course and said he would not force changes on Niagara. And he wouldn’t make the results of that review public, either.

Force change, then don’t force change. And then decide, maybe the change needs to be forced after all. And what that change might be, who knows? If Clark and Ford know, they won’t tell.

In the past, Ford has pointed to Niagara as a place with too many politicians and too many levels of government.

Heck, here in Niagara we’ve known that for a long time.

Why doesn’t the government just engage us in an open and transparent discussion and review? We are open to change if someone listens to us.

However, “open and transparent” has not happened. Instead, we are left with sudden orders imposed on us from 125 kilometers away from Toronto.

In a recent interview, retired Brock University professor David Siegel said that while the government may say the governance reform is about clearing the way for rapid housing construction, there’s likely more at play.

“It’s pretty clear that these supervisors have a lot of autonomy in advising,” Siegel said, “and if the supervisors choose to do so, I think there could be big changes like the mergers that come from that.

“I think it’s absolutely possible. I think everything is on the table.”

The introduction of so-called strong mayoral powers in Toronto and Ottawa and speculation that it may be extended to other municipalities; Sterilization of Niagara District Chair Election; sending a facilitator to investigate possible changes. This is very undemocratic.

If everything really is on the table, as Siegel suggests, the Ford administration should also put its cards on the table.

This should clearly tell us what the endgame is. And it should work with us to get there, because maybe, just maybe, we have some ideas here in Niagara that could benefit everyone.

The first step is to let us review the plan.


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