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Region needs to evolve into effective team

BRUCE TIMMS, Special to Postmedia Network
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Double duty, directly elected, Regional council is not about saving money. It is about being more effective.

In today’s economy, it is about being more effective in attracting jobs and businesses to Niagara.

In any economy it is about being efficient and effective in service delivery to our citizens and our 12 local municipal partners.

It is time for municipal politics to evolve from two tiers into one team, a team of 12 municipalities working together. Niagara Region needs to evolve from a second-tier government to a team — a team of 12 where every member is respected and valued, respected regardless of size and valued for the set of assets they bring to the team. That’s a winning team, and Niagara needs to do some winning.

Double duty means serving at city and region councils, double direct means directly elected by the voting public to the double direct position, from a list of candidates for that job on the municipal election ballot.

The advantage of the St. Catharines proposal is the balance at city council between the full-time, double-direct councillors and the part-time ward councillors, the elected taxpayer. This model gives the city both, six elected ward councillors and six full-time city/region councillors.

The issues, experience and wisdom of the local city council are carried to the regional council by half of city council plus the mayor. So if it is the Region that is failing, then fix it with city councillors.

An added benefit can be had if other cities do the same thing. The Regional council becomes a gathering of city councilors and mayors from the 12 players on the Niagara team.

There will be much more sharing of common problems and common solutions when this team of Niagara’s local councillors are working on issues on a daily basis, and taking this working knowledge back to their local councils.

The major issues of Niagara will find Niagara-wide solutions much quicker, perhaps better solutions because they have been developed as a team, not by the “upper tier” and then being pushed down, but by all the players working to a common solution.

This is a fundamental improvement to the political structure of Niagara, one that is overdue in my mind.

Region of York does it with nine municipalities, Durham with eight, Peel with three and Halton with five.

Niagara with 12 is not that big a leap. It is a model that has been used by these successful municipalities with the blessing of the province for many years.

Do an online search for double-direct Niagara, have a look and see what others are doing.

And just to add a little spice to the mix, I would note that Halton — Burlington, Oakville, Halton Hills and Caledon — have elected their chair at large for years, and Durham region has just elected its chair at large for the first time, after a very supportive referendum on the previous election ballot.

Niagara needs change for improvement, not for the sake of change, not just to save money but to be more efficient and effective, to unlock the potential of Niagara, team Niagara, where all members are valued and respected.

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Bruce Timms is a St. Catharines regional councillor. He can be reached at
Last Modified: July 19, 2015 06:39 PM
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Bruce Timms Niagara Region reform

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