No direct election of the Regional Chair and no governance review for and by Niagara

This was a WILD ride at this morning’s Corporate Services Committee meeting.

Here is the motion that was discussed:

That Correspondence Item CSC-C 11-2020, being a memorandum from A.-M. Norio, Regional Clerk dated July 15, 2020, respecting Referral of Motion – Direct Election of the Regional Chair – Additional Information – Past Work Undertaken on Governance Reform, BE RECEIVED and the following recommendations BE APPROVED:

1. That the Office of the Regional Clerk BE DIRECTED to form a citizen committee of 15 people, as representative as possible of the local area municipalities, and engage in a public consultation process;

2. That the citizen committee and public consultation process ADDRESS the following questions:

  • Should the Regional Chair be directly elected by the citizens of Niagara or appointed by Regional Council?
  • How many Regional Councillors should represent each municipality?
  • If the number of Regional Councillors that represent each municipality is suggested to be different than it is currently, should the votes of Regional Councillors be weighted? If so, how should they be weighted?
  • By which method should Regional Councillors be elected?
  • What strategies are recommended to increase citizen engagement for and following elections?
  • What strategies are recommended to get more people to consider running for elected office?
  • What can be done to have Council be more reflective of the demographic make up of the Niagara region, e.g., gender, age, race/ethnicity, income status, etc.?
  • Examine options for dual duty councillors (friendly amendment)

3. That the citizen committee, with the results from the public consultation process, REPORT back to Corporate Services Committee by April 2021; and

4. That staff PREPARE a Report providing additional information respecting a public consultation process including a draft terms of reference and membership considerations for the citizen committee for the Corporate Services Committee meeting being held on August 5, 2020

~~~

First of all, the idea that we should focus on only one issue was interesting/perplexing, given that when I brought the single issue of the direct election of the Regional Chair to Council in February, *several* of my colleagues said that we should be looking at many issues.

Second, in crafting this motion, I went back to the video from February’s meeting and tried to incorporate every issue that was raised by any of my colleagues to write a motion that was as comprehensive as possible.

Third, Councillor Heit clearly doesn’t understand that the motion was quite focused with questions that were quite clear.

Fourth, maybe it’s been “studied to death” in Councillor Heit’s view, but Councils he’s sat on *for years* have not had the courage to do a single meaningful thing.

Fifth, a number of my colleagues, this morning, said variations of “we were elected to make these decisions, we don’t need citizens’ input.”

That is extraordinarily troubling.

Sixth, there was a question in my motion to seek input about making Council be more reflective of the demographic make up of the Niagara region, and I spoke to the value of diversity in decision-making.

Members of our entirely cis, white, straight, able-bodied, 75% male Council suggested we have enough diversity and that we should be after ‘quality’ (presumably them) and not ‘quantity.’

Seventh, I noted a few times that I was open to suggestions for amendments, as it would be disappointing to see the entire motion scrapped and for us to not engage at all with the citizens of Niagara.

One amendment was put forward and accepted, and those who agreed with the amendment still voted down the entire motion.

Finally, I am more than a little puzzled by Councillor Fertich wanting the motion for the directly elected Regional Chair to come back on it’s own, given that he’s is vehemently opposed to the idea and that it was essentially killed with this motion anyway.

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