New IJC Commissioner Gioia Brings Experience Finding Common Ground

kevin bunch
Kevin Bunch
robert gioia

Having spent much of his life living on the Niagara River in Buffalo, New York, Commissioner Robert Gioia is no stranger to cross-border concerns.

Gioia, confirmed by the US Senate on May 2, has seen firsthand the importance of collaboration between Canada and the United States.

That includes cooperative management of the Niagara River and majestic Niagara Falls, along with spending summers at a lifelong family vacation property in Ontario. These experiences have allowed many opportunities to see how people in both countries contend with similar issues, as well as how common it is to live, work and play on both sides of the border. 

“We have many neighbors up in Canada, people that come down for the summer from Toronto and even farther away,” Gioia said. “They realize what a jewel especially the Great Lakes are.”

Gioia has spent decades working with non-governmental organizations in Western New York. Prior to coming to the International Joint Commission (IJC), he was president of The John R. Oishei Foundation, and chair of organizations including Great Lakes Health, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. and the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo.

Gioia explained that key to these roles and his current one at IJC is seeking common ground and consensus between a wide range of interests and stakeholders.

“Whether it's building a new airport, whether it's developing the waterfront and (deciding) what is the proper use of the waterfront with mixed use, recreation, fishing and housing,” Gioia said. “It's that, plus working with the public and (making sure) that we're listening well and responding to what everyone's needs are, and hearing what they have to say.”

While he’s still getting up to speed with the array of responsibilities and projects the IJC is involved in, Gioia said the Great Lakes hold a special place for him and are an area he wants to personally work with.

I would like to be involved with the Great Lakes,” Gioia said. “I've lived on them for so long, and recognize the nuances of algae blooms and high (water levels) and lakeshore erosion.”

While individual Commissioners often have specifics topics they want to look into, these do not represent the views or priorities of the Commission until adopted by the Commission as a whole. 

Gioia added he’s also looking forward to traveling to different parts of the shared transboundary and meeting people across the continent. He said that while people have their own regional issues, there are commonalities to be found as well. One of his first official trips was to the IJC’s Ottawa, Ontario, office to familiarize himself with the organization, its Canadian staff and meet members of Parliament.

“It's quite remarkable,” he said. “I'm learning not just all the challenges, but the opportunities for us to be involved in that really make a difference."


Author Biographies Block

kevin bunch
Kevin Bunch

Kevin Bunch is a writer-communications specialist at the IJC’s US Section office in Washington, D.C.