Brian Baty hopes to extend his unbroken streak of election wins
BY DON RICKERS
Special to the VOICE
Brian Baty made it official on July 5 that he will be seeking re-election as Pelham representative to Niagara Regional Council.
He first won a seat on council in 2003, and has been returned to office four times.
“I remember my initial run,” said Baty. “Ralph Beamer was Pelham mayor. Regional government was expanding, and a new seat had been created in Pelham. I retired as principal at E.L. Crossley on June thirtieth, and from July first until election day I went to every Regional Council meeting to get to know the people and the nature of this level of government, so that if elected I could hit the ground running.”
Born in England, Baty emigrated to Canada with his parents and spent his early years in the Maritimes. They moved west to Burlington, and then Thorold, where he attended Thorold High School.
Baty settled in Fonthill, and then shifted to rural Fenwick, where he has resided with his wife since 1981. One of their sons, a teacher, lives next door. Another son is in Milton. Baty holds undergraduate degrees from Dalhousie and Brock, and earned a Masters in Education from Niagara University in Lewiston, NY.
Baty loves the “people part” of the job. Public health and social services are his areas of greatest interest, and he has a strong commitment to environmental issues.
Baty has served on numerous committees, most recently those dealing with agriculture and regional transportation connections with future GO Train service. He was appointed to the Niagara Escarpment Commission by the provincial government, and sits on the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, chairing the organization’s foundation wing.
Within the educational realm, Baty has been an executive member of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) and the Ontario Principal’s Council.
The current Regional Council has enjoyed some real successes, said Baty.
“We have had a policy for a decade of prioritizing affordability, and have been able to bring in budgets in the last session at or below the rate of inflation. We will be challenged fiscally in the future because there is no more uploading of services to the province. This is the last year the province will be taking back responsibility and cost for some services that they had downloaded during the Mike Harris era…so budget-setting is going to get far more demanding. We’ll have to see what the new Doug Ford government brings forward…it certainly will be a more constrained environment. In my opinion, the residential taxpayer should not have to bear the burden of the provincial debt.”
Baty is also concerned about migration of young people out of Niagara, and is hopeful that improved job creation schemes will keep college and university graduates in the area.
“We have a number of made-in-Niagara incentive programs to attract business to the region,” he said.
“The new General Electric plant in Welland [sold recently to Advent] is the best example, but there are others.”
Baty would like to see discussion of a Mid-Peninsula Corridor highway bear fruit.
“Maybe this government will listen,” he said. “Adding lanes to the QEW is not the answer. There are sixteen lanes on the 401 around Toronto, and it’s still jammed. We have prime agricultural land below the escarpment which shouldn’t be touched, and lesser-quality land south of the escarpment which would be ideal for the mid-corridor highway.”
There has been some streamlining of committees on council, which Baty has had a hand in.
Baty commented that the public health impact of medical and recreational marijuana use and production must continue to be examined.
“The opioid crisis is a national tragedy. I can see Niagara having a significant role to play as we move into the cannabis era, with six grow sites in Pelham. What precautions and restrictions should be in place? What about light contamination, unpleasant odours, separation from livestock…these all need to be addressed.”
Some have identified what they characterize as a “Conservative Cabal” on council. Baty’s take?
“It’s not exclusively Conservative. It includes others who are more Liberal, judged by past performance, who want to be part of the power structure on council. There was a strong schism at the beginning of this session of council. I think it has moderated over time.”
Asked about Councillor Andy Petrowsky, who was recently docked pay while on leave from council after having sent a sexually explicit image via email, Baty was clear.
“More than 95 people opened that email he sent. The image attached would make a gynecologist blush. Bottom line, the offending email was transmitted from a Regional device provided to the councillor, and he should have had greater regard for its security. A myriad of things that happened with that gentleman were a disservice to the public at large.”
On Pelham’s municipal election, Baty predicted an interesting future.
“Because the fiscal brakes have been put on, I don’t see the next mayor and council being able to fund many new projects. But some great things have been achieved in recent years in Pelham. Fonthill, Ridgeville and Fenwick have been revitalized. We have two new fire halls, a totally refurbished library in Fenwick, a skate park, a magnificent new community centre. But I foresee two or three terms of upcoming austerity in Pelham. Because of all the financial discussion and concern, some people have turned against the community centre, and I think that’s unfortunate. We are a growing community, with new residential builds going on all around us. Clearly the need is there for amenities for young families.”
Referring to complaints of overcrowding and excessive development in town, Baty said, ”The density issue is not being driven by Town Council. It’s a provincial mandate. The new reality is smaller lots, higher density to afford the infrastructure.”
From now to election day, Baty has his course charted.
“I’m not going to populate the universe with signs. I have ten four-by-eight signs which I will have placed at strategic locations. My website will be revised, because I know social media is important. I’ll be knocking on doors, primarily in new subdivisions and housing developments, since people in established neighborhoods likely already know me. A household mailing was successful last time, so I’ll repeat that.”
Baty has had two of his signs disappear in the past.
“One vanished the year I retired from E. L. Crossley, during my first run for office. I don’t know if it was former students who wanted it for a dart board, or whether they were building a shrine to honour their former principal.”
He will have no campaign manager.
“I run my own campaign, and I self-fund,” said Baty. “I haven’t accepted one cent of contributions in any of my campaigns. I just want to be totally independent, accountable to the taxpayer, not to certain benefactors. The government-established limit for self-funding a campaign is about $7700, but I haven’t spent anything close to that in the past.”
So how does an admitted workaholic and Type-A personality relax?
“I love the outdoors—hiking, gardening on our property, and exercising our two dogs,” said Baty.
He also enjoys playing his guitar and singing—tunes by Simon and Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, Glenn Campbell being his favorites.
Baty is not prepared to coast in retirement.
“I continue to enjoy my interactions with people. The negativity in politics can sometimes pull you down a bit, but it’s gratifying to see progress —albeit often slow progress —on [Regional Council]. We’ve always got to be looking ahead. As a politician, you should always be making decisions for tomorrow.”