For the sake of argument, let’s use the same councillor-to-citizen ratio as Hamilton, about 30 thousand people. I fiddled with the exact ratio a bit to come up with a round total, but that’s not really important. Thirteen councillors may seem like a lot of politicians, but it is a considerable improvement on thirty.*
I think it would be prudent to do away with the old municipal boundaries in favour of wards (again, like Hamilton). First, Port Colborne cannot be represented by a half councillor. Second, it could help us get past the old parochialism is a councillor represents Ward 7, for example, rather than Thorold.
The reality today is that no municipality in Niagara exists in isolation of any other (except maybe Niagara-on-the-Lake; it’s more of an amusement park than a town). The beggar-thy-neighbour approach to local politics has to stop. When Niagara Falls gains at the expense of St Catharines (as in wranglings over NRP headquarters) the region is poorer for it.
Having said that, I do have misgivings about amalgamation, especially with regards to St Catharines. Being a designated urban growth centre and without green-fields to develop, the city faces challenges unique to the region. With a fairly progressive city council in place and the re-urbanization of St Catharines getting under way, I’m reluctant to give up any influence to people who are predisposed to ignore or be hostile to large cities. We get enough of that from the federal government.
*2006 population statistics found here.