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Newmarket to Decide its Position on Electing the Chair of York Region

Newmarket councillor Christina Bisanz deserves a round of applause for bringing forward a motion to Council tomorrow evening (Monday 8 February) calling on the Town to

“express its support for Bill 42 and request the Province of Ontario to pass Bill 42 to enable the election of the Regional Chair by general voting beginning with the 2018 Municipal Election.”

It will be interesting to see which way the Mayor jumps. When the Region last debated the issue on 19 November 2015 Van Bynen said there were more important things to be concerned about than election of the Regional Chair. We shall see if he has changed his tune or, indeed, if he ventures to express an opinion at all. He sits on York Region by virtue of his position as Mayor.

The Chair of York Region, Wayne Emmerson, is indirectly elected by the members of York Regional Council, not by the voters at large. Three years ago, I blogged about the issue, quoting Professor Robert MacDermid from York University who follows these matters closely and who believes the Chair exercises huge influence, often behind the scenes.

* The Chair votes in the event of a tie.

* He has the power to break the deadlock “at the very moment when the council is most divided”.

* The chair can vote ex officio in Committee meetings and can move motions advancing his view.

* And, when other councillors are narrowly focussed on their own patch, the Chair takes an expansive region wide view. He ends up with a leadership role on key strategic issues facing the region.

There have been previous attempts to change the law to introduce direct election but these have run into the sand.

And who knows when Chris Ballard’s Bill 42 will be brought forward? It has been parked for over a year with the Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly and we wait to see when its members will finally stir themselves to consider the Bill. In the meantime, we should continue to bang the drum for direct election and urge the politicians to get a move on.

Queen’s Park is currently in recess but will return on 16 February. We need to see some progress soon.

York Region Council will debate the issue on Thursday 18 February.

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Update on 9 February 2016: At the Council meeting on 8 February Councillor Bisanz's motion is carried with only the Mayor voting against. Joe Sponga speaks in favour. John Taylor says he strongly supports the election of Chair by the residents of the Region. Dave Kerwin says direct election of the Chair would eliminate the possibility of a by election which would be triggered if a member of York Region became Chair in an indirect election. Tony Van Bynen says he cannot support the motion at this time. A directly elected Chair would change the dynamic of the Region and he believes a comprehensive review of governance is needed. He also believes any changes should apply across all Regions and not just to York. Councillors Twinney, Vegh and Broome-Plumbley choose not express a view one way or the other. Councillor Hempen is absent.


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