St. Catharines All-Candidates’ Forum for Regional Council

Last night, the Committee for an Informed St. Catharines, hosted an event for all of the St. Catharines candidates running for Regional Council. To my recollection, it’s the first event of its kind, as there are typically so many regional council candidates that they are not given this opportunity.

Thank you to the Committee for pulling this event together and to all of the citizens of St. Catharines who attended to hear more from the candidates for Regional Council.

Sadly, I cannot possibly transcribe this entire video for our hearing impaired friends and citizens, but here is the transcript of my opening remarks:

Thank you for giving us an opportunity to speak and to take your questions.

When we were invited to this forum, we were asked to speak specifically to one point in our platform. I’m going to speak to integrity.

I was a St. Catharines City Councillor and I’ve run for City Council three times. In those campaigns, other candidates campaigned on integrity, but I never did. I didn’t feel that we should be “rah, rah, integrity.” Integrity should be a given; not some unique character trait.

This time, integrity is at the top of my platform, because we’ve been shown it’s not a given.

With the mess we’re in at the Region, the Police Services Board, and especially the NPCA, we have – unfortunately – seen what happens to local government when many of the people at those tables don’t have integrity.

Make no mistake, these things didn’t happen overnight. This is a years-long endeavour because people got comfortable and complacent.

The quickest way to restore integrity to Regional Council is to adopt a culture of open communication. When we are communicating with the citizens of Niagara, they can hold us to account. The media is not our enemy if we’re doing what we’re expected to be doing; what we’re elected to do.

We need a Council that will work to improve our transit system, increase our stock of affordable housing, and spend taxpayer dollars efficiently, whether it’s on $50 million projects…or how they claim their expenses.

We need a Council that prioritizes and understands the needs for seniors’ and children’s services, waste management, road maintenance, and good management of the many other essential services they deliver.

We need a Council that cares about you; that makes decisions in the best interest of all of the citizens of Niagara…and does it all with integrity.

On Monday, October 22, vote to Reset the Region.

I will say that the questions were challenging and difficult to answer in this format.

Whilst the question about party affiliation should probably have been asked of everyone, if it was to be asked at all, there is a straightforward answer to that question, and my answer would have been:

Municipal/regional politics are what I prefer to call community politics, and they should not be influenced by party politics. I have no party affiliation and have voted for three of the four mainstream parties in the last several elections, depending on what and who I felt was best for the province or the country at the time.
(I have previously written about/discussed this here: One cabal is not better than another cabal.)

With respect to the question that was asked of me, there was a lot in that question that doesn’t fall within the purview of Regional Council. The Region (as does each municipality) exists at the pleasure of the province. Whilst we are required to conduct a governance review within two years after this election and then within two years after every second election that follows (so, 2018, 2026, and so on), we do not have the authority to appoint anyone to regional council who was not duly elected.

As I noted, I would advocate for our agencies, boards, and commissions to be made up more of non-elected officials than elected officials (sidebar: to Bruce Timms’ insinuation that politicians are required to ensure those entities are accountable…that’s ridiculous. We’ve seen what ‘accountability’ looks like under the current crop of elected officials). I would, as I mentioned, advocate for there to be more balanced representation on all of our agencies, boards, and commissions, including ensuring that First Nations peoples are represented as much as possible.

Further to that point, I used to sit on the now defunct Mayor’s Committee on Community and Race Relations (and I would like to see that committee reinstated), and I am the only candidate who has advocated for the Region to join the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination. Had I been given the first question of the evening, I would have used that opportunity to talk more about my previous and current work with respect to racism and discrimination, as well as what I would like to see the Region work toward.

As of writing this entry, there are 10 days left until Election Day. Please get out to vote and Reset the Region.

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