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May. 27, 2022 | Friday
Local News
Letter: Emergency group decision on Queen Street was undemocratic

Dear editor:

The recent move by the mayor and senior staff person of Niagara-on-the-Lake, apparently urged on by the president of the Chamber of Commerce, to overturn a decision reached by our legally elected town council, is troubling and I believe undemocratic.

In October 2018, when residents voted in a new mayor and town council, we elected nine individuals (one mayor and eight councillors) to represent us and make decisions on our behalf. 

We did this in the knowledge that each of the individuals we elected would have a single vote at the council table and in the belief that our elected municipal government would operate in a democratic manner. 

We did not elect the town’s chief administrative officer (CAO) nor the president of the NOTL chamber of commerce, nor did we bestow unilateral decision-making authority on the mayor.

Despite this, within days of council making the decision in late June to close a portion of Queen Street to vehicle traffic during weekends and statutory holidays on a trial basis, beginning July 1, the mayor and CAO acted to make significant changes to the closure provisions agreed to by council.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic led to a state of emergency being declared in NOTL and the establishment of an emergency response group, which includes the mayor and CAO, no clear health- or safety-related rationale was identified to justify the emergency group overriding the direction set by council in regard to Queen Street. Nor was a valid reason given, if indeed the mayor had concerns, why the matter could not have been brought back before our duly-elected council for further consideration.

If the president of the Chamber of Commerce was unhappy with aspects of council’s decision to close Queen Street, as reported by the media, surely the issues he raised could have waited until it was possible to reconvene council to consider them.

 We elected a council to represent our interests, make decisions on our behalf and provide good government to our town.

That’s democracy. 

It isn’t unilateral decision-making that overrides a decision of council, nor the mayor acting alone or as part of the emergency group, nor town staff doing anything more, with respect to governance, than providing informed advice to our elected officials.

Terry Davis