Bradley aiming to restore trust
Longtime MPP promises to take ‘collaborative approach’ as new chair
The newly appointed head of Niagara’s regional council says it’s time to restore the public’s faith in the municipal government.
While anxious to help Niagara Region move forward on key issues, Bradley said public trust is job one.
“No. 1 priority is to return the trust of regional council to the people of Niagara. I think it is going to be very important to return that trust, to show integrity, to show civility, transparency and openness,” he said.
Bradley was selected regional chair by his fellow councillors Thursday morning.
Lincoln Coun. Rob Foster and Welland Coun. Leanna Villella also contested for the position.
All three spoke of the need to for the Region to break with the politics of the past four years and restore integrity and transparency to the government and office of the chair.
Councillors elected Bradley with 19 votes. Villella won seven votes, and Foster got five.
Council later passed a ceremonial motion to make the vote for Bradley unanimous.
“It was encouraging that all three of us as candidates (for chair) had a similar theme to present to council,” Bradley said. “I think we have a brand new council there, we have some people coming back that will provide us with experience, we have a lot of new enthusiastic councillors that want a new start for Niagara, and that bodes very well.”
Bradley, who was a Liberal St. Catharines MPP for nearly 41 years, also promised to take a “collaborative approach” as regional chair and said he would not act in a “dictatorial fashion.”
Although Brdley did not mention him by name, former chair Alan Caslin was at the heart of several controversies that hounded regional council. Caslin’s spending, which included several expensive and unexplained meals, drew sharp public criticism.
The former chair was also a key architect in the illegal seizure of a St. Catharines Standard journalist’s computer and notes on Dec. 7, 2017, that made national news and triggered an Ontario Ombudsman investigation.
The involvement of Caslin and his staff in the tainted 2016 hiring of Region CAO Carmen D’Angelo is also under investigation by the Ombudsman, as is the lucrative contract extension Caslin unilaterally awarded the CAO.
Caslin was defeated in the municipal election, placing 20 out of 23 candidates in St. Catharines.
In an interview after the swearing-in ceremony Thursday morning, Bradley acknowledged coun-
cil must grapple with issues pertaining to D’Angelo, but he declined to opine on what shape that will take without council’s input.
“I want to consult with the council on the timing of dealing with these issues,” Bradley said. “There are going to be members of regional council who are going to want the ombudsman report before them before making any decisions. There may be others who will say we’ve seen and heard enough and they want to proceed. So I don’t want to be presumptuous and say to council this is the direction we should take or not take.”
D’Angelo, who informed staff he had to undergo a “cardiac related procedure,” was not at the Region Thursday.
In spite of his experience, Bradley said he, like every new member of the council, has some learning to do.
“The last time I walked out of a municipal council meeting was in June 1977. So I am not an expert on everything and anything at this point,” Bradley said. “Fortunately, we have some excellent staff at the Region who will undoubtedly show some patience with me.”
The inaugural meeting of the new new regional council was held Thursday, with Jim Bradley assuming the regional chair’s seat.