Niagara to seek 'new deal' from province: Stable and independent sources of revenue needed, says Region's new leader

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 a
resolution to problems with the ambulance system.

"During the first year of this council's term, we will assume full
responsibility for the direct delivery of the ambulance service and, we
hope, ambulance dispatch," he said. "We need to ensure that there is a
smooth transition and that we look at opportunities to integrate the two."

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 push
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 said.

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," he said.

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 the
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
19th century.

"The special place that is Niagara was special 200 years ago," Partington said. "It will be special 200 years from now."



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