Burroughs seeks second regional council term

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

Gary Burroughs would love another term as regional chair.

But his focus is on getting elected as regional councillor in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“I want to be very clear, it’s Niagara Regional Council I’m running for.”

Would he like another term as chair?

“I would love it. I love my job. I can’t wait to get to work in the morning and what new issues we’re going to tackle. But realistically there are six or seven others who would also like the job, and I’m not even slightly assuming I’ll get it for another term.”

One of the most important accomplishments of the last term, says Burroughs, is the way the region is dealing with economic development.

There is a new focus on job creation, and new staff to deal with it.

Stats Canada has said there are 57,000 people who have moved to the region, and of those, the majority are young working people. The Region is focused on ensuring there will be jobs for them, he said.

And new jobs anywhere in the region are good for everyone.

“We have changed the way we do business, and that needs to be expanded. We’ve refocused our economic development approach and it will see the whole region move forward. We’re going out for jobs.”

With new staff, and more to come, “we’ve changed our economic envelopment model. It’s more oriented toward getting new businesses and keeping the businesses we have. We’re even directing our planning department toward focusing on economic development. And that will help every municipality.”

While Burroughs is excited about regional issues, he knows his campaign has to be focused on Niagara-on-the-Lake, and there is no doubt his experience as regional chair, the contacts he’s made, the people he’s talked to at the provincial level, will benefit the residents of NOTL if he gets another four years at the regional council table.

“I know how the council works, I know the issues, and I want to put that to good use for NOTL.”

One of the regional issues that has been long-discussed in NOTL is the high cost of policing, based on assessment.

But other municipalities are never going to agree to pay more so NOTL can pay less, he said.

He believes the answer is in changing the way the Niagara Regional Police increases have been arbitrated, lowering the increase that is settled with every two-year contract—that benefits all municipalities—and he hopes to continue being a part of that negotiation.

He also believes NOTL pays too much for education—$11 million—and receives too little in return.

“We need to be at the province to push for a better structure that governs how school boards operate, and how rural schools are considered—not just going by numbers, but by their effect on their communities.”

NOTL has done well by the region in the last term as far as infrastructure—$45 million for the new waste water treatment plant, $8 million for upgrading the pumping stations that will connect to the new plant, and the cost of rehabilitation to the Lakeshore Rd. ponds once the existing plant is decommissioned will be in the millions as well, says Burroughs.

“The region is investing in NOTL, in sewage treatment, but the need is broader than that. We need to be looking at the environment as a bigger picture—the hazardous waste dump on the other side of the river, the delisting of Love Canal when it’s still leaching into the Niagara River, a uranium site from the Second World War with just 10 feet of cover in Youngstown—it’s leaching as well. We need to be looking at all of these issues.”

The region is doing a good job with its anti-dumping program, “but we have a responsibility to our residents, especially our younger residents, to do more. The environment is incredibly important to their future.”

Niagara needs an activist, someone who will demand change when change is needed, he said—and his four years as chair has helped him to develop the contacts that will allow him to do that.

“Water quality is important to all of us. We’re told we can fish and eat what we catch above the Falls, but not below the Falls. That says something that should matter to all of us.”

Bringing the GO Train to Niagara is an issue all the mayors are behind—Burroughs says he is working on the file daily— “and it’s something I believe will happen sooner rather than later.”

Regional transit is also going to come up in the next term, and it becomes even more essential once the GO Train comes to Niagara.

Now that NOTL has a good public transit system, it’s even more important it also have access to inter-municipal transit.

But when the pilot project for regional transit wraps up, the answer, he says, will not necessarily be a system delivered by the region—it will be time to look at private partnerships.

A chartered accountant and businessman by profession, Burroughs was the previous owner of the Oban Inn.

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