Mark Cherney, business manager of IBEW Local 303, is running to represent Niagara-on-the-Lake on the Niagara Regional Council. If elected on October 22, he hopes to bring more accountability and transparency as well as a common sense approach to local government.
As the leader of a local union, it may be tempting for some to pigeonhole Cherney as a strictly pro-worker candidate. Cherney says that’s not true. “I know that when labour and management collaborate effectively it benefits both,” he says. “I feel I can represent both sides, because I have respect for the entire community and those who live here. I know that everyone works hard.”
Cherney’s family has lived in the Niagara region for several generations. “I grew up as the son of a local business owner, helping out with our family greenhouse business. We faced all kinds of challenges with the seasonal nature of the work, so I understand the employer’s perspective first hand,” says Cherney.
He continues, “In my work with the IBEW, we appreciate our contractors. When we send out the best-trained electricians in the market, that helps our contractors prosper and grow. That benefits the local workforce, who spend their money right here in the community.”
Aside from his work with the IBEW, Cherney has been actively involved in a number of local and provincial initiatives.
He was part of the labour committee that successfully lobbied for the construction of the Meridian centre. During initial consultations for the Pelham community centre, he spoke about the benefits that the creation of new jobs would bring. He is also on the Niagara Workforce Planning Board and on several working groups for the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (IHSA).
He is also a husband, father, and youth sports coach.
With his wide-ranging experience, his bridge-building perspective may be something the council can use.
“I have incredible passion for the Niagara region,” Cherney says. “I’ve lived here for 38 years, and my parents and grandparents lived here. I feel strongly that we can do better if we try to represent a wider view. We need to be understanding, respectful of our differences, and most importantly to collaborate.”
Finding the Real Cost Savings
“Local Jobs for Local Workers” is a pillar of Cherney’s Five-Point Plan. It’s also a key to finding cost savings for the region.
“We have a lot of overspending on regional infrastructure construction, and we could be stretching our tax dollars much better for the region as a whole,” Cherney says.
“When one project goes over budget, it impacts the next ones, which are postponed or cancelled entirely. This ends up trickling down to the local skilled trades, who can’t open up apprenticeship opportunities.”
Cherney cites several recent major construction projects that have gone well over projected costs and schedules. “Look at the Burgoyne Bridge delays and cost overruns. The OPP investigation found no wrongdoing, but it’s just sad that there was that level of incompetence. Same thing with the new sewage treatment plant – it’s long overdue and the costs keep going up.”
The problem is the procurement system, says Cherney, which rewards the lowest price bidder without doing due diligence to find out how the low costs are derived. He accuses some unscrupulous contractors of deliberately underbidding to get the contract, and cutting corners on the work. The result is that the region has to pay extra to get the mistakes fixed.
“I’ve been trying to work with the region on tendering policies in infrastructure and it’s clear that we’re dealing with elected officials that just aren’t willing to address the needed changes,” says Cherney.
Giving Communities a Larger Voice
Cherney also feels Niagara residents are frustrated with the number of recent scandals the Regional Council has been involved with. This, he feels, is a distraction from the necessary work that the Council should be doing on a day to day basis.
“The issue with how the new CAO appointment was handled, and the fact that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has been embroiled in controversy, means that the needs of our smaller communities are falling behind the larger ones,” he says.
Cherney feels more accountability and transparency will help prevent situations that turn into major problems. Giving the smaller communities a stronger voice will also help ensure their needs are met.
What the Niagara Region Needs to Grow
Cherney is keen to expand on what the Niagara region has to offer. “We’re a unique region. Niagara Falls is known worldwide, and tourism is a mainstay of our economy. Our agricultural industry, especially our wineries, are successful but we need continued support for our farmers,” he says.
“We can build our agriculture and tourism industries, and the Regional Council has a responsibility to provide leadership in that area.”
He also would like to see more industry in the Welland area. “We should work together with new businesses, because more industry means more and better jobs in the surrounding areas,” he says.
Cherney’s plan also includes emphasis on protecting the architecture and heritage of Niagara. “We’ve seen a lot of growth, and we should continue to welcome new businesses and residents, but development has to be done responsibly and in consultation with local people.”
Not Your Typical Union Candidate
As a father of two children, Cherney has an investment in Niagara’s future that echoes his family history in Niagara’s past. He wants to see better decision making on the Regional Council to encourage prosperity that will benefit all businesses and working families alike.
“I like showing people that labour is willing to do our part – we are an important voice in the solution to get Niagara back on track,” Cherney sums up.