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Review of Regional Governance

Tonight Newmarket Council will be debating a motion proposed by John Taylor on the governance of York Regional Council.

At Newmarket’s Committee of the Whole on 18 October 2016, Taylor proposed a motion arguing for no change to the Region’s governing structure pending the direct election of the Regional Chair in 2018. He told councillors that the 2018 election campaign would give candidates for chair the opportunity to set out their stall and consult the public and any changes would follow.

Tom Hempen and Christina Bisanz appeared a bit hesitant about some of this and Taylor withdrew his motion, promising to re-table it this evening.

Taylor told his colleagues:

“It appears and it is the strong belief of the Chair of York Region, Wayne Emmerson, and the staff of the Region, that news articles and other information coming from the Government (suggest) that while it isn’t enacted at this point they will shortly be moving forwards (to) an elected Chair position, elected at large, not just in York region but across all the remaining regions.”

Earlier this year, when I gave evidence to the Bill Committee at Queen’s Park on Bill 42 (Chris Ballard’s Bill on the election of the Regional Chair) I mentioned in passing that the population of York Region is now bigger than PEI, Newfoundland, Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, and it is rapidly closing on Manitoba.

So the way in which the Region is governed matters. At the moment, the person who leads York region, Wayne Emmerson, is indirectly elected by 20 people.

Election-at-large is on the cards

But, as Taylor says, that is likely to change. There are indications that the Provincial Government is going to introduce legislation to mandate the election-at-large of the Council Chairs in Niagara, Peel and York where the position is currently in the gift of the Council itself - with all the nefarious backroom deals that go with indirect election.

When he voted against the direct election of the Chair of York Region (and against the clear wish of his own Newmarket Council) Van Bynen called for a comprehensive review of governance. Well, we now have a paper from York region staff setting out some of the options and it would be good to hear the great man’s views in detail.

At Newmarket’s Committee of the Whole meeting on 18 October he mumbled something about Regional meetings now being held on Thursdays and this makes it easier for those municipalities with only one representative on the Regional Council (Aurora, East Gwillimbury, King and Whitchurch-Stouffville) to get to meetings.

And that was it.

Sometimes he can be such a disappointment. In addition to his Mayoral salary in Newmarket he gets a $54,337 top-up for being a member of York Region plus benefits amounting to 18% of base salary. For that, he should at least let us into his thinking on how regional governance can be improved.

A quiet and comfortable berth on York Region

As a retired banker, he may be active on the Region’s Audit Committee. He may be up to something on the Broadband Committee (which he chairs) but in the Regional Council and its Committee of the Whole he is, for the most part, quietly somnolent.

Let’s hope that if Van Trappist is silent tonight he will stir himself when the governance issue is debated at York Region’s Committee of the whole on 10 November 2016.

But, perhaps, as with OMB reform, he doesn’t have any great insights to share.

Fair enough.

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Regional Councillor John Taylor moved the following motion at Newmarket’s Committee of the Whole on 18 October 2016. It was seconded by Tom Vegh and, after debate, withdrawn.

“The Council of the Town of Newmarket take the position that no changes be made to the current governance structure of York Region at this time and Newmarket Council encourage the fullest open debate of any potential governance changes during the elected chair process in 2018, regardless of if that process does or does not occur, any and all changes be considered immediately following the 2018 election.”

You can see the discussion on the Committee video here. It starts 2 hours and 15 minutes in.

Update on 25 October 2016: At last night’s Council meeting, John Taylor moved the following motion which was carried with one against (Tom Hempen):

THAT the Council of the Town of Newmarket takes the position that no changes be considered to the governance structure of York Region until after the 2018 municipal election with the exception of Council’s recorded position in supporting an elected Chair.

The 10 minute debate can be viewed here at 1 hour and 1 minute in to the video.


 

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