Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What's In A Chair?

Since a recent topic of discussion around kitchen tables, on radio call-in shows, and on the editorial pages has been about the election of the next Regional Chair, I wanted to provide you with a little context.

The members of the newly elected Regional Council will convene on Thursday, December 9 at 10:00 AM in the Regional Council Chamber. After the Regional Clerk administers the “Declaration of Office” for our 30 members, the first “order of business” will be the election of a Chair.

The election of the Chair will be a public process; the proceedings will be open to the public and Cogeco Cable will broadcast the live (tape-delayed) proceedings beginning at 11:00 AM.

In the first phase of the election, the Clerk will ask for nominations for qualified candidates; only Regional Councillors can “move” and “second” those nominations. Following nominations, each qualified candidate will have a chance to speak for five minutes (in alphabetical order).

Then, the Clerk will oversee the “run-off” election which will be similar to the process used in political leadership contests. For example, if after the first ballot, no one receives a majority of the votes – 16 – then the candidate with the least number will be removed and the vote on another ballot would occur. The voting continues until a candidate receives a majority.

While the Municipal Act does allow the election of any qualified elector from Niagara to be nominated and elected Chair, you may be interested to know that the precedence from the last six elections (since 1991) has been to nominate and elect a Chair only from the members of Regional Council.

What prompted this practice, you might ask?

Well, from 1972 to 1983, Council continued to re-elect John Campbell as Regional Chair; Mr. Campbell was first appointed by the Province to serve as Chair during the start of the Region in 1970. But, when Campbell retired, Regional Council elected a member of Council – Wilbert Dick – to serve as Chair in 1985. Interestingly, in 1988 Council re-elected Mr. Dick, even though he didn’t run for re-election as a Councillor.

However, the matter was clarified in 1990 as Council endorsed (and in 1991 re-affirmed) a recommendation in the report of the Niagara Region Review Commission that “Only regional councillors elected at the most recent election should be eligible for election as Regional Chair.”

Given the discussion in the community and the candidates who have already announced, it should be a very interesting election on December 9th.

By the way, I was recently on the Tom McConnell Show on 610 CKTB talking about the election of the Regional Chair. Click here to listen.