Resistance to democratic reform in York Region

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Likely, the most powerful position in politics in York Region isn’t democratically elected directly by voters. Instead, we elect a group of Mayors and Regional Councillors and by proxy, they elect the Regional Chair.

This is the way the Regional politicians want things to remain.

While York Region wields a lot of power (and holds unprecedented amounts of public debt), there is very little public scrutiny over what this level of government. This fact alone is the reason why York Region Taxpayers Coalition was founded earlier this year.

At York Region Council tomorrow morning, the issue of having the public elect the next York Regional Chair will be considered. The York Region Taxpayers Coalition expects that the Regional Council will opt to keep things status quo.

Newmarket Aurora Liberal MPP Chris Ballard had been seeking an endorsement for his private members bill calling for this change. As a former councillor of the Town of Aurora, Mr. Ballard’s failure to obtain support can only be read in a negative light. Ballard was ineffective at building a consensus.

But Chris Ballard is not the first York Region MPP to try and fail to bring democracy to York Region. His colleague, Reza Moridi , MPP from Richmond Hill, tabled this same motion in 2012; and Markham-Stouffville-Oak Ridges’ MPP Helena Jaczek tried again in 2013.

The provincial Liberals have had three attempts in 4 years – and still could not move the yardsticks down field.

What is discouraging is that more than a few candidates for Regional Council ran on the promise of an elected Chair. The York Region Taxpayer Coalitions is calling on these members of Regional Council to fight for the principle of democracy on this issue.
Earlier this year, our organization wrote to Mr. Ballard voicing our support. We also encouraged the MPP to include in his bill the same protections that the residents of the City of Toronto enjoy, namely mandate an Ombudsman, Integrity Commissioner, Auditor General, as well as a code of conduct and a lobbyist registry.

When asked about these types of transparency and accountability measures, one Regional Council member said, “It doesn’t make sense for Councillors to be conducting business at the Region while operating under a variety of local codes of conduct.”
The York Region Taxpayers Coalition welcomes comments like these because we were the first organization to raise suggestions on how to improve transparency and accountability.

Despite the willingness of some members of York Region Council signaling support for our suggestions, the York Region Taxpayers Coalition is disappointed that MPP Chris Ballard steadfastly refuses to include these protections in his bill.

About Maddie Di Muccio