St. Catharines wants to move to a double-direct governance model. The city currently has 19 elected municipal and regional politicians and if dual-direct succeeds, that number would be cut to 13, who would fill the same number of roles.
Under the current system, some members of regional council are there by virtue of having been elected to a mayoral office in Niagara, and others are elected specifically to regional council.
The proposed model abolishes the six separate seats and replaces them with six St. Catharines city councillors, who would do dual-duty on both city and regional councils.
It’s also known as dual-direct, since a councillor would be directly elected to two positions in one election.
This is the governance model the City of St. Catharines has chosen for itself. The business community supports their decision.
A Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce survey of St. Catharines businesses revealed their endorsement for the initiative.
Niagara Region has prioritized red tape reduction and making government and the region “open for business.” St. Catharines’ strategic plan and long-term goals include attracting private sector investment and building economic vitality.
The government of Ontario has launched a major red-tape reduction initiative for businesses.
Dual-direct aligns perfectly with St. Catharines’ strategies. We know government can and does enable business growth and prosperity, but unfortunately we also know government sometimes stands in its way.
The dual-direct initiative could be a step in reducing the second kind of government impact.
Dual-direct would offer many benefits. When representatives are shared, there are more opportunities for co-operation and co-ordination between different levels of government, such as in budgeting or economic development strategy.
It could reduce red tape when different levels of government are in better contact with each other. There could be fewer conflicting and overlapping standards, permits, fees and so forth.
Some have said parochialism might be a concern — that councillors would be tempted to favour their ward at the expense of the region. But that’s already a concern. Councillors today could be tempted to favour their municipality at the expense of the region.
It’s also a concern for the premier, the prime minister, members of cabinet or any elected official who might be tempted to put his or her riding ahead of the province or the country.
That’s just how Canadian politics works, and it has worked so far.
Of course, this is a St. Catharines initiative, and it might not be the best model in another municipality. Governance is something each municipality has to decide for itself, and there is surely no single model that will be the best everywhere.
That being the case, we support the initiative St. Catharines has taken for its governance. It will be good for governance, good for business, and good for the economic prosperity we all seek for our community.
If you are interested in further information on this topic, please visit gncc.ca for a more detailed report.
Mishka Balsom is president and CEO of Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce