Part 2: DEVELOPING A GOVERNANCE MODEL
By Terry Hughes
WELLAND – One of the major criticisms of the WRCC (Welland Recreational Canal Corporation) by the city was the efforts of the board to operate and make decisions without council approval. There is a precedent for this issue when examining the minutes and notes of the Welland Canal Parkway Development Board from 1994-6 to develop a possible governance model that supports this approach by the WRCC. Let’s see how this idea evolved.
The reactivation of the Welland Canal Parkway Development Board in 1994 would include a number of issues that had developed on the canal. Water safety in terms of power boat operations had been highlighted by Coun. Joe Spadafora. A report titled, Well and Safe on the Recreational Waterway, expressed concerns about how people were operating vessels of all kinds, as well as the fatality that occurred at the Division Street Bridge involving two motorized craft. The Regional Police Maritime Division was just created and they shared with us the heavy responsibility they had inherited and the lack of watercraft to patrol the waters surrounding the region. We rejected efforts by “Sea Do owners” (a group that represented people who own and operate Sea Dos who wanted to have a “say” in where and how they operate their water craft) for representation on this board.
Several development opportunities were noted in the board minutes. Along with a possible campground development, a proposal was made by two local sponsors promoting the creation of a marina next to the Cross Street Pool. Fortunately, Public Works Canada and the regional government nixed the idea stating that environmental issues were at issue due to the location of the intake for city water was close by.
For several years before the Welland Canal Parkway Development Board was reactivated, the city had been involved with the federal government in negotiating a deal for transferring the canal lands to us. The 1995 budget cuts had killed the federal deal with the city and further negotiations were not going anywhere. In the meantime, our Member of Parliament, Gib Parent, had alerted us to begin developing a model for a board that would take control of the canal lands. Such an undertaking was an ominous task – it was an overwhelming job because we lacked the legal talent to develop a document. We decided to not reinvent the wheel but to use existing models – the Niagara Parks Commission, Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority and Welland Canal Parkway Development Board from 1981-84.
One of the obvious similarities was the fact that each of these organizations was responsible to a parent-governing institution. However, it was also apparent that they exercised autonomy to initiate ideas to satisfy their purpose in serving the public. This idea was introduced to Mayor Damian Goulbourne at the beginning of his administration with positive results as will be noted in a future article.
Another issue that was considered was who should serve on this board. It was felt that this organization should have local representation with some members from council. To ensure that local politics not interfere with its operation, city representatives were to not chair any sub committees nor the board as a whole. The money received from the federal government for the taking over of the canal lands was to be controlled by the city.
Next in the ‘Ghost’ series: Incorporation and comparing canal lands development by two city administrations.
(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)