History of Niagara Region and Regional Council

Niagara Region

Niagara was first settled by indigenous people of the Neutral Nation. Early English settlements included Newark (the first seat of government) now called Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines (site of the first Welland Canal).

Following the American Revolutionary War, a strong influx of British settlers migrated to the counties of Lincoln and Welland. They brought with them strong roots of loyalty to King and country. Many played key roles in the agricultural, economic, industrial and educational development of the area.

Niagara Region is the successor government to the former counties of Lincoln and Welland created in the late 1860s. Over the next century, the counties prospered as 26 cities, towns, townships and villages were born.

26 original municipalities in 1966
Municipality NamePopulation
Bertie Township9,281
Crystal Beach1,857
Fort Erie9,793
Grimsby North7,180
Grimsby South2,669
Niagara Falls56,891
Port Colborne17,986
St. Catharines97,101
Township of Niagara3,113
Township of Thorold8,111

Source: 1966 Census

Work on local government reform began in 1963 with the creation of the "Niagara Peninsula Municipal Committee on Urban and Regional Research". Dr. Henry Mayo was commissioned in 1965 to report on such a restructuring to the provincial government's minister of municipal affairs, the Honourable J. W. Spooner. The Mayo Report, released in 1966 recommended that the Regional Municipality of Niagara be created.

A movement to reform local government in the decade of 1965 to 1975 saw many county governments (in place since confederation in 1867) reorganized in the populated industrial corridor around the Great Lakes.

Niagara became part of the reform movement to create new forms of governance - regional governments. On June 26, 1969, the provincial legislature enacted The Regional Municipality of Niagara Act. On Jan. 1, 1970, 12 area municipal governments and one regional government replaced the two counties and 26 municipal structures.

In 1971, a single policing unit was also created through an amalgamation process.

Niagara Regional Council

Niagara Regional Council is comprised of a Regional Chair and 32 councillors representing five cities, five towns and two townships.


  • 1969: Regional Municipality of Niagara Act passed by the province; first election of Regional Councillors held in October; John Campbell appointed Regional Chairman by the province
  • 1970: The Regional Municipality of Niagara officially formed on January 1
  • 1978: Decision to add a seventh seat to represent St. Catharines
  • 1984: Regional Council becomes governing body under the Ministry of Health for the Public Health department
  • 1985: Wilbert Dick elected Chairman
  • 1991: Brian E. Merrett becomes Regional Chairman
  • 1995: Coat of Arms unveiled to mark the Silver Jubilee of Niagara Region
  • 1997: First female Regional Chair, Debbie Zimmerman, appointed
  • 2000: Berkley Report released
  • 2003: Council seat for Pelham added, Peter Partington is elected as Chairman of Niagara Region
  • 2006: Start of four year council terms for Regional Council
  • 2010: Gary Burroughs appointed Regional Chair
  • 2014: Alan Caslin appointed Regional Chair
  • 2018: Jim Bradley appointed Regional Chair

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