Why regional Chair Karen Redman’s run for AMO’s presidency could be good for Waterloo region

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Regional Chair Karen Redman has announced she will seek the role of president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

The association, often referred to by its acronym AMO, is an advocacy group that works with the province on behalf of 444 municipalities in Ontario (minus Toronto and some smaller municipalities) on policies and programs and it also administers the federal gas tax funding.

In announcing her candidacy for the role, Redman said she had the support of regional councillors.

“My experience in Waterloo region, where urban and rural communities work together, is an important part of the leadership I believe in. I believe that we all have an important role to play in the recovery of Ontario’s families, businesses, and communities in these uncertain times,” she said in a release.

The move may have some in the region wondering why Redman might seek the role and what benefit Waterloo region might see from it.

David Siegel is an emeritus professor of political science at Brock University in St. Catharines. He says the move is a smart one for Redman to be able to bring the needs of Waterloo region to the province.

“She can’t just push for the needs of Waterloo [region]. You have to think of the entire organization. But it will certainly be helpful for Waterloo to have somebody who is familiar with their interests in this position,” he said.

“When you’re president, you make contacts with the provincial government and with other influential people in the province that stay with you when you’re no longer the president. And so those contacts and that knowledge that you get as president of AMO has real value beyond your two-year term.”

Offers a ‘variety of insights’

Robert Williams, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Waterloo, says Redman already has an impressive resume, having served as a member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre and as a regional councillor before becoming regional chair in the last municipal election.

“I suspect it’s more what she can bring to it rather than what she would take out of it,” Williams said, noting she has a “variety of insights” she could bring to the association. 

He said Redman being president of AMO wouldn’t directly help Waterloo region beyond visibility and recognition through statements, which would mention Redman is chair of the region.

“It’s part of the process of working together with other municipalities that comes through AMO that probably would have a benefit in a more longer term … of office,” he said. 

Siegel said taking on a role like president of AMO would add to Redman’s workload, but it’s unlikely the region would suffer because of it.

“She’ll have a role in setting policy and making decisions and attending meetings, so it will take up a certain amount of her time. But I notice that she has the support of her regional council and other people can step in to fill things like the chair of the police services board or other things that she might be doing,” he said.

AMO has full-time staff, he added, and Redman appears to be “pretty good at time management anyway, I don’t see that there is a significant problem there.”

Elections for the president of AMO’s board of directors will take place virtually in August. The term for whomever wins would start this year and run to 2022.

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