Podcasting to Reset the Region – Governance Review

Here’s Episode #3 of Podcasting to Reset the Region. Settle in for an exciting chat about reviewing how Niagara Region is governed.

The transcript for my hearing impaired friends and followers is as follows:

Welcome to Podcasting to Reset the Region. I’m Laura Ip, and I’m running to represent the people of St. Catharines at Niagara Regional Council.

Today’s exciting topic is governance review. Before you listen more, go grab yourself a cup of tea, maybe a snack, settle in and have a listen.

Governance review was passed by our previous provincial government, and you may know it as Bill 68 or by the very exciting title of Modernization of the Municipal Act. This is the Act that brought back our Integrity Commissioner that this term of Regional Council removed probably during their very first meeting [correction: it was February 26, 2014…one of their very first meetings].

One of the things that’s included in this Act is the review of the composition of Council. You’ll recall that a couple of weeks ago, within hours of the nomination deadline, the Premier cancelled the election of the Regional Chair. Now, initially, I thought that this review of the composition of Council would permit us to go back – after this election in 2018 – and include that we would like our Chair to be directly elected. It doesn’t seem to do that from my interpretation. So, if we want to have a directly elected Chair for our 2022 municipal election, we are going to have to have a Regional Council that understands how disappointed citizens across the Niagara region were when that election was cancelled. You are going to need to choose Regional Council candidates who will advocate for the direct election of your Regional Chair.

We’ve talked about what this Act doesn’t do. Now, let’s talk about what this Act does.

Every eight years, the requirement is that within two years after every other municipal election, so two years after the 2018 municipal election; two years after the 2026 municipal election and so on, it gives Regional Council the opportunity to review the number of councillors in council chambers. Currently, because we just added one in West Lincoln, there are 32 regional councillors [thereĀ will be after this 2018 election]. Is that too many? Is it too few? That’s a matter of opinion. There are arguments in favour and against from a number of different angles, but it now mandates us to look at those numbers and, so, when we have a municipal election, if you believe that there are too many or too few, you can ask what your Regional Council candidates think and vote for people based, in part at least, on that, because hopefully we’re not voting on single issues. It is a question that you can ask, and there is a direct requirement now for that review.

Now, if you’re not sufficiently bored by discussing governance, there’s one more piece of Bill 68 that’s relevant here, and it has come up for discussion in this current term of Regional Council, and that is around the Code of Conduct. So, if you’ve been following regional politics closely, you will know that a few months ago, a new Code of Conduct was written by our Integrity Commissioner, and it was a much more robust Code of Conduct. It was holding Regional Councillors or it would have been holding Regional Councillors to a much higher standard than they are currently held. It would have also addressed a number of the concerns that we’ve had as far as the Integrity Commissioner complaints that have been made to date.

I think we need to go back to that Code of Conduct that was written [by John Mascarin; before being edited by Councillors Quirk and Volpatti], so I’m not asking us to spend more money, I’m asking us to go back to work that has already been done, and review that Code of Conduct. It’s possible that there are some things that need to be tweaked, but certainly the Code of Conduct as it was written is, again, much more robust and holds Regional Councillors to a higher standard.

By this term of Regional Council not accepting that Code of Conduct, they’re essentially saying, “we want to be held to the lowest bar possible.” To me, that’s not acceptable.

Now, because I am afraid that maybe I’ve lost you; maybe that cup of tea put you to sleep with this governance review conversation, I’ll end it here. I will just encourage you to visit my website: lauraip.ca; seek me out on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram by searching Laura Ip for Regional Council; or send me an e-mail: laura@lauraip.ca.

And on Monday, October 22, 2018, please vote to Reset the Region. Vote for me – Laura Ip – for Regional Council.

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