The Standard (St. Catharines - Niagara) Fri 12 Dec 2003
Byline: Kalvin Reid
THOROLD - Municipalities need reliable, stable and independent sources
of revenue to ease the burden on a "strained" property tax
base, Niagara Region's new chairman said in his inaugural address
Thursday night. And with new leadership in Ottawa and Queen's Park,
Peter Partington hopes the Liberal governments will see the need to
better support municipalities in their struggle to maintain infrastructure,
clean up water and provide social services.
"The cry for a new deal for cities must now resonate with these
leaders," Partington said, kicking off the 14th edition of Niagara
regional council. "We must succeed in forging newer, stronger
ties with the other levels of government."
In a well-received address that at times sounded like a throne speech,
Partington outlined a clear vision for Niagara that includes improved
transportation, renewed relations with the police, clean water and
resolution to problems with the ambulance system.
"During the first year of this council's term, we will assume
responsibility for the direct delivery of the ambulance service and,
hope, ambulance dispatch," he said. "We need to ensure that
there is a
smooth transition and that we look at opportunities to integrate the
One of the most challenging issues facing regional council in 2004
is the budget, with a $14-million shortfall already predicted. A review
of services provided by the Region will be conducted over the coming
year, the outcome of which Partington hopes will be a more performance-driven
organization. "The needs are many, our resources are not,"
he said. "We need to look for innovation to create supports for
all our residents."
Following through on one of his key issues in the municipal election
campaign, Partington identified five transportation initiatives to
ahead over the next three years -- the mid-peninsula highway, an expanded
Highway 406, a new border crossing at Fort Erie, bringing GO Transit
to Niagara and intermunicipal public transit.
"As we plan for the future, we must be committed to a transportation
plan that supports made-in-Niagara smart growth and protects our unique
and special agricultural lands in the north part of the peninsula,"
He also encouraged continued partnerships with Hamilton to find a
garbage disposal alternative to landfills, and he would like to see
Hamilton and Haldimand County buy into Niagara's water quality protection
strategy. "The two areas give rise to the headwaters of our watershed,"
Partington, elected chairman by regional councillors two weeks ago,
will preside over the largest council since the Region was created
in 1970. The addition of a new seat for Pelham pushes the number of
elected representatives sitting in the council chamber to 30, plus
the chairman. "You have set an ambitious agenda for this council,"
Thorold Regional Councillor Robert Gabriel said to Partington.
The Region's fifth chairman, Partington highlighted his roots in
Niagara Peninsula, dating back to his great-great-great grandfather
John Kennedy settling in St. Anns in 1796. Kennedy planted Partington's
roots in politics, as well, serving as the reeve of Gainsborough Township,
near present-day Smithville, in the early
"The special place that is Niagara was special 200 years ago,"
Partington said. "It will be special 200 years from now."