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TIMMS: Duty-dual councillors would be a positive step

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19 Oct 2016
Bruce Timms, special to Postmedia Network
Monday, October 3, 2016 4:56:34 EDT PM


In response to Grant LaFleche’s column Sept. 17, ‘Dual-duty innovation now on life support.’ Is it on life support — or has it been given new life?

Steven Soos, who spoke at regional council last month, and St. Catharines’ young city councillor Mike Britton supported the dual-duty by ward model. Do they reflect a trend among younger citizens?

The desire for change, for improvement, for more direct and less complicated government is present in Niagara’s youth; and I have heard it for many years among my generation.

It might be useful to look outside Niagara and see how many Ontario cities and towns use a dual-duty by ward system.

The concern about a ward councillor being too close to the people in the ward is sometimes called parochialism. Oakville has been using dual-duty by ward for more than 25 years, and similar to St. Catharines it is a city of six wards, 183,000 people. Parochialism is not a large problem for them.

When it comes to representing your ward at regional council as one councillor out of 30, perhaps you should be a little bit parochial. Our political structure is based on balancing the tension between the interests of the local constituency and the interests of the region.

The dual-duty innovation will, I think, get new life from more public meetings.

What is “on life support” is any progress at all for the next term. As Mayor Walter Sendzik explained, the process for change is long and complicated. The city passed a motion by a 9-4 vote to ask the Region to request the minister of municipal affairs to consider and post the regulation for this specific change for St. Catharines: Dual duty by ward.

The Region said yes. The minister said yes, and posted the regulation, “Dual duty by ward for St. Catharines only.” That’s it.

So there are no other options available for the next election: Dual-duty by ward or no change at all.

George Darte had a good question about the survey: “Where was Option 3?”

The survey said, “Do you like dual duty by ward? Yes or no.”

The survey could have said, “Dual duty by ward or no change. Pick one.” There is no Option 3 available for the next election.

In my mind, it is change for the better that is “now on life support.” By ward or at large, councillors who sit at both the Region and on city council can be much more effective for the citizens.

Access to staff at both city and Region will better enable councillors to resolve issues like: whose road is it, who controls the water rate, who looks after social housing and the homeless?

The mayor will have a lot of help from the six city councillors who have responsibility at both the city and Region. Is the real question, ‘election by ward or election at large?’

Good question, but city council has already decided it will be dual-duty by ward.

So now the question is: change or no change? Improvement or no improvement? That’s what is “on life support.”

— Bruce Timms is a Niagara regional councillor for St. Catharines
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Last Modified: October 19, 2016 08:11 PM
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Timms Dual Duty LaFleche

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