Time is now to examine regional council: NCO

David Siegel presents a Niagara Community Observatory policy brief about municipal council representation.

David Siegel presents a Niagara Community Observatory policy brief about municipal council representation.

Although the next municipal election is still a few years away, Brock’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) recommends we spend time now examining how residents are represented on regional council.

The NCO released its tenth policy brief on Sept. 15. The brief, entitled “Representation on Municipal Councils in Ontario,” examines how regional councillors and regional chairs in Niagara are selected compared to a number of other jurisdictions in Ontario.

“This brief is timely because it addresses important issues that should be the subject of careful debate and citizen discussion,” said David Siegel of the NCO.

If changes are proposed before the next municipal election, provincial legislation might have to be changed as well, Siegel said. So the potential changes would need to be discussed well ahead of campaign time, which opens Jan. 1, 2014.

The brief, summarized during a presentation at the Four Points Sheraton, outlines advantages and disadvantages of current regional council structures in two main areas: representation on regional council, and the way in which the regional chair is selected. Highlights include:

  • Niagara Region has 125 elected councillors, which is large compared to other jurisdictions, but which means a low ratio of population per councillor, and potentially easier access to elected representatives
  • Ways to reduce the number of councillors, including double direct or weighted voting methods
  • Options for selecting a regional chair, including direct election by the general electorate

In Niagara’s current legislation, any qualified elector may stand for regional chair. But Siegel said that tradition has seen regional councillors select the chair from one of their own rank. Tradition has also dictated that the chair not be a mayor.

The brief, written by NCO research assistant Doug Hagar and Brock student Margaret Corbett, is available online at the NCO website.

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