Frank Klees

Frankly Speaking

Article as Published in the Auroran
May 8, 2012


Why You Couldn't Vote for the Most Powerful Politician in York Region


So why couldn't you vote for the most powerful politician in York Region ? 

Is it because you don't live within the boundaries of the electoral district he represents ?

No. In fact, if you live anywhere within York Region, this politician presides over deliberations on services that affect every aspect of your life. Those services include urban planning and economic development, oversight of residential and commercial development, infrastructure including regional transit and roads, waste management, water and wastewater treatment, public health and social services and policing.

And what's the budget for all these services ?

For 2012, York Region residents and business will pay $2.8 Billion for these services. That's a bigger budget than many provincial Cabinet Ministers oversee, and unless they get elected first they don't get appointed as a minister.

How many people are affected by this politician's decisions ? 

The latest number posted, puts York Region's population at 1,044,313. And as we know all too well, that number is expected to reach 1.5 million by 2030.

If not elected by the residents, how does this person get to hold this office ?

Of the more than one million residents in York Region, only twenty people have a say in who will hold that office. The nine Mayors of the Region and eleven Regional Councilors make that decision at their inaugural meeting following every municipal election.

So what position is this ?

The Chairman and CEO of York Region.......

Surprisingly few people know that the man wearing the Chains of Office as he presides over deliberations at York Regional Council as the Chairman and CEO is not directly elected by the voters.

How did this come to be ?

Here's a bit of history:

In 1970, the provincial government created six regional governments in Ontario. The objective was to ensure that these regional governments would have the financial and administrative strength to manage the impending growth.

On January 1, 1971, The Regional Municipality of York was created and the former Warden of the County, Garfield Wright was appointed the Regional Chair by the Government of Ontario through a Cabinet Order.

The position of Chair was appointed by the provincial cabinet as a matter of necessity. The Region had just been created by the province, and it was impractical to require an election to fill this inaugural position. It was imperative however, that competent leadership was put in place to oversee the implementation of this new structure of government. It was never intended that subsequent Chairs would be perpetually appointed and that they would become progressively more insulated from electoral accountability. 

Time to insert some democracy into this process ? I think so. 

This is not a discussion about the current Chair or his record. In fact, I have always enjoyed a good working relationship with Bill Fisch and consider him a friend. This is about whether the time has come to make the office of the Regional Chair an elected position rather than leaving it to be played out in a back room.

A great deal has changed since that first appointment in 1971, when York Region had a population 169,000 and a budget of $18.7 million. I believe that more than ever, residents and taxpayers want to know that they can hold decision-makers accountable. That's why we need........

Legislation to make the Regional Chair an elected position. 

A Private Member's Bill was recently tabled by Richmond Hill MPP, Reza Moridi that would require the Regional Chair to be elected by general vote effective with the next municipal election. I intend to support that legislation.

Halton and Waterloo Regions already directly elect their Regional Chairs, and Durham Region is poised to do so. I believe it's time that we do the same and infuse a good dose of democracy into our regional politics.

As always, I look forward to hearing your views on this and any other issue you may want to discuss. I can be reached through my website at or by calling 905 750 0019.


Frank Klees, MPP