Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley was the guest speaker at the Niagara Centre Board of Trade and Commerce (NCBOTAC) this week.
Introducing Bradley, NCBOTAC member Mal Woodhouse noted how Bradley, who spent 41 years in the Ontario legislature, is respected across political stripes.
Bradley asserted that, while businesses don’’t operate within community boundaries, it’s important to keep municipal government to provide a voice to citizens.
Saying he welcomed the review because it’s always in the best interest of government to get better, Bradley hopes the intimate access to councillors provided at the municipal level will not be lost.
Alluding to the governance review underway by the Ford Conservatives and the spectre of looming amalgamation, Bradley said, “You need your own community where you can deal with issues that affect only your community. Regional councillors don’t have intimate knowledge of the various communities.”
He said, “I’ve always appreciated that the people of Thorold are proud to be from Thorold. There’s a long history and tradition here. There’s pride in community here.”
And, he added, "The NCBOTAC is recognized by the region as playing a vital role in this community and across the region.”
At the same time he recognizes the value of Regional Government and stated that the new Regional council and staff are “great people to work with.”
He went on to say. “There are accusations of parochialism but when we have to work together as a team, not just politicians but everyone, and all businesses - the Niagara Region has no limits.”
Bradley cited the recent arrival of Go Transit to Niagara and securing the 2021 Canada Games in Niagara as two examples in which everyone came together to achieve a desired goal.
Noting that all eight Regions were under review, Bradley said, “I have the view that I like that we have local communities with a local view. We have a good cross-section on our elected councils but if you have one small council, you don’t get the cross-section.”
Bradley argued that municipal representation is vital, because “It allows people who may not have a lot of money to run for office and be a part of the local government.”
He continued, “ Each of the eight regions are different. I hope when the province looks at it, they see what is working well.”
Bradley explained, “We’re really working on Regional transit, affordable, decent housing and we need to work on aging infrastructure - old sewers, water, roads, bridges. I am proud of Niagara, as I know you are.”
Bradley noted the upturn in business since the recession. “In the last three years, new building construction in Niagara totalled $6 billion, and that’s up 56 per cent. Investments in industrial construction is up 186 per cent, while commercial investment has more than doubled. And you can see the new investment right here in Thorold.”
“Ultimately, we can rise to the occasion and match any of our problems and be equal to our opportunities when we’re all working together,” he concluded.