Niagara’s Unpredictable Election

Written by David Siegel

We’re deep into election season and so it is not surprising that many of the contributors to this blog are predicting who the next mayor or head of council in the blogger’s jurisdiction is likely to be. I will not be following that path.

This would have been the first time that Niagara chose its Regional Chair by popular election. However, the Ford government scuttled that, so we are back to a system of allowing councillors to select the Chair at the first meeting of council.

Even under normal circumstances, this would make it somewhat difficult to predict the next Chair, but these are far from normal circumstances. In normal circumstances, incumbents are highly likely to be re-elected as Michael McGregor has rightly pointed out elsewhere in this blog. My previous contribution detailed a serious issue hanging over incumbents that makes the normal pro forma re-election problematic.

I could mention a few other issues that I don’t have time to elaborate in full. The Police Services Board gave the police chief a three-year renewal of his contract and then almost immediately dismissed him without cause resulting in an $870,000 settlement. The Conservation Authority is under investigation by the Provincial Auditor for governance issues and operational practices. It has also been attacked for supporting a major development in an environmentally-sensitive area.

Not surprisingly, the major issue in this campaign can be summarized in one word— integrity. There has been very little discussion of lower taxes which has been a mainstay of previous campaigns. It seems like the current tribulations have attracted some good new people to run for office. Of course, many of them are inexperienced, although some have experience at other levels of government or in other environments.

In this environment, I can’t even predict who the next group of councillors will be, much less who they will pick as their chair.

The phrase about this being a watershed election that will determine how the jurisdiction will develop for future generations is much over-used, but this could be that kind of election for Niagara. The previous leadership of the Region has driven Niagara into the depths. This is a golden opportunity for a new broom to sweep into council and lead it into a new direction.

The extent of the change hinges on how attentive the electorate is. These issues have been much discussed in the print and social media. However, we start out with low voter turnout for local elections anyway, then we confront the fact that voters are generally less interested in regional elections than in the area municipalities that are closer to home. We can always hope that the situation at the Region is so bad that it will attract the attention of voters.

This is an opportunity for Niagara to turn a page. We shall see what happens next Monday.

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