Monday, November 24, 2014

Opening Up the Regional Chair’s Election

Niagara Regional Chair's view in Council Chamber 
While Niagara Region Staff will host sessions to help orientate new (and returning) Councillors this week, the members of the newly elected Regional Council won’t officially convene until Thursday, December 11 at 10:00 AM.

After the Regional Clerk officially administers the “Declaration of Office” for our 30 members, the first “order of business” will be the election of a Chair.

Candidates from Council Only:
In the first phase of the election, the Regional Clerk will ask for nominations for candidates; only Regional Councillors can run as a candidate to become Chair. Following nominations, each candidate will have a chance to speak for five minutes.

While the Municipal Act does allow the election of any qualified elector from Niagara to be nominated and elected Chair, the precedent from the last seven elections and the policy from two resolutions from Regional Council (in 1991 and again in 2013) means that Council elects a Chair from the recently elected members of Council.

Run-Off Election & Secret Ballot:
If two or more candidates run for Chair, the Clerk will oversee the “run-off” election (like used in political leadership contests). For example, if after the first ballot, no candidate receives a majority of the votes – 16 – then the candidate with the fewest votes will be removed from consideration, and Councillors will vote on another ballot. The voting continues until one candidate receives a majority.

Interestingly, while the Municipal Act allows for the option of secret or open ballots, Niagara Regional Council stipulates that the vote for Regional Chair “shall” be a secret vote.

Filling the Vacancy:
Following their election as Chair, the person must “give up” his or her seat – creating a vacancy on Council. How is that seat filled? Regional Council follows the advice of the local City or Town Council: the options include a by-election, appointing the next candidate in the last general election, appointing another qualified elector. In the case of filling the Chair’s seat, precedent has been to appoint the next candidate.

Opening Up the Election:
The Regional Chair holds an extremely important role in Niagara. Not only does she or he set the legislative and economic agenda and preside over Regional Council, the Chair also advocates for all of Niagara with Provincial, Federal, and other Governments.

Despite policies and precedents that preclude a direct election for Regional Chair, the process should be as open and transparent as possible. I applaud Niagara’s eight local Chambers of Commerce, local newspapers, and TV Cogeco for organizing a public debate of candidates for Chair on December 3. I hope that this effort begins the discussion about who we should elect as Niagara’s Regional Chair for the 2014-18 term of Council.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Transitioning to a New Pelham Council

With our last meeting of the 2014-18 Council term on November 17, some have asked me about our transition to a new 2014-18 Council.

As a result of the municipal election on October 27, our new Council will be very similar to our current Council; myself and five Councillors – Gary Accursi, John Durley, Catherine King, Peter Papp, and Richard Rybiak – were re-elected and will return. Only one new person – Marvin Junkin – was newly elected, so it will be important to include his ideas and efforts into the new Council.

Since it helps to know each other socially as we work together closely on your behalf, we will gather together for a breakfast this week. Then, as is a tradition in Pelham, Council will meet socially with Department Heads at a dinner prior to Christmas as well as have a chance to participate in the Staff Christmas Party in mid-December.

But, predominately, the transition will include much work. Councillors-Elect will participate in an Orientation Session on November 24 to learn about the role of Council, meeting protocols, conflict of interest requirements, Council’s code of conduct, the Town’s accessibility standards, and our budget process and overview.

Your new Council will officially make our “Declaration of Office” at our Inaugural Meeting on Monday, December 1 from 6:30 PM at Old Pelham Town Hall, Ridgeville. Not only will this special meeting officially begin our public service of your Council, it will also be the first event in the newly revitalized facility. All are welcome, so please join us!

On December 3 your new Council will work together to develop a Strategic Plan for the Town. We will use this opportunity to not only focus Council on key strategic goals for the next four years (and beyond), but we will also include information, opinions, and ideas from the recent election.

On Monday, December 8 at 6:30 PM in the Council Chambers, your new Council wants to hear from you directly with ideas and suggestions about what we should include or not include in the 2015 Town Budget and future budgets. All are welcome to this Public Meeting. (You can also provide a written submission to or at Town Hall.)

So that your new Council better understands its fiduciary responsibilities, we will learn about the Town’s insurance coverage, and receive a legal briefing and a human resources overview on December 10.

We will hold our first full Council & Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting on December 15. Our Committee meeting will include presentations by department directors and a discussion of our 2015 Water & Waste Water budgets.

This is an exciting time! I look forward to working together with our new Council and our community to continue to improve our Town.

Monday, November 10, 2014

A “Glorious & Free” Remembrance

Voice of Pelham Photo, 2014
The weather on Sunday morning was glorious. The leaves on the ground and the chill in the air reminded us that Autumn was upon us. The sun shone beautifully through the trees and the air was clear and sweet.

It felt so peaceful and so serene. It felt like the perfect example of freedom, of promise, and of individual choice.

The weather made it feel so far from the ravages of war. It felt so far from oppression and from tyranny. The airplane we heard in the distance was for recreation, not a vehicle of war or destruction. Photo, 2014
And yet, Pelham residents took time to gather with members of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Ladies Auxiliary, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, and others at the Cenotaphs at Centennial Park, Old Town Hall, and Peace Park to commemorate and remember the sacrifices of Pelham’s Veterans.

Each Remembrance Day it is right to remember those brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict, and peace.

We honour them for their courage, their commitment, and their devotion to standing “on guard” for Canada.
Bruce MacKinnon, Halifax Chronicle Herald

The recent slayings of Warrant Officer Vincent (near Montreal) and of Corporal Cirillo (in Ottawa) also came to mind this week. And while those heinous acts were intended to intimidate us, to cause us to fear our safety, and to chip away at our freedoms, they did not.

Instead, we witnessed other acts of courage, of duty, of selflessness, of true patriot love, and of deep respect for the brave men and women serving in Canada’s Armed Forces.

Our Remembrance Day commemorations remind us of our freedoms – the freedom to express ourselves, to participate in cultural, religious, and political activities, to come and go as we please, and to pursue a safe and happy life. These freedoms are all due to the sacrifices of Veterans and of those who serve today.

They sacrificed their futures and continue to make those sacrifices so that our future might be free and might be one of peace and happiness.

Engraved on the cenotaphs throughout our Town and on the bricks at Veterans Park are the names of those from Pelham that were killed in service. May their memories also be engraved in our minds and on our hearts.

As we commemorate Remembrance Day 2014, let us be thankful. Let us never forget. And let the prayer in our National Anthem be fulfilled: “God keep our land glorious and free!”