QUEEN’S PARK – Ford’s decision to strip Niagara residents’ ability to elect their regional chair is a slap in the face to Niagara communities, say Niagara-region NDP MPP’s Jeff Burch (Niagara Centre) and Jennie Stevens (St. Catharines), especially at a time where concerns about transparency and accountability have ushered investigations by the Ontario Ombudsman and the Auditor General.
“As the premier should know, people in Niagara have serious concerns about their regional representatives. The Ombudsman and the Auditor General have both been involved with investigations of their activities and another complaint has been filed as recently as last Friday,” Burch charged. “Now more than ever, Niagara residents are looking to bring more democracy and accountability to our regional council.”
This year would’ve been the first time Niagara residents would’ve been able to elect their choice for Niagara Regional Chair but, Burch says, since the Conservative premier started cooking up backroom deals with his friends to rig municipal elections, he’s stripped residents of their democratic power. It was revealed Friday that Ford is cancelling that election, even though nominations have already closed.
Stevens and Burch have both stood up to Ford in the provincial legislature for failing to recognize that the decision should be in the hands of Niagara people – not a dictator.
“Does the premier believe that consulting with the public is important to the political process, yes or no?” Stevens asked Ford earlier this week. “Why did Ford think it was appropriate to skip any public consultation or transparency when it came to removing democratic rights from the people of Niagara?”
Burch explained that in the most recent investigation into the region, the Ontario Ombudsman acknowledged that there was an attempt to not only influence the investigative process and challenge well-established, statutory authority but also to dictate the content of the Ombudsman’s final report.
“Mr. Speaker, cancelling the election of the chair will only allow these problems to persist,” Burch said.
“Does the premier intend to prop-up unelected, unaccountable politicians like some dictator? Or will he reverse his decision, and give the power back to the people to elect their regional chair?” Burch asked.