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OMB dismisses appeal of changes to electoral ward boundaries

County solicitor Wayne Fairbrother, co-council Samantha Foster and appellant Pierre Klein, right, at the first day of the Ontario Municipal Board hearing in Shire Hall in July.

UPDATED: The Ontario Municipal Board has dismissed an appeal of Prince Edward County council’s change to electoral ward boundaries.

OMB Chairperson Mary Ann Sills in her decision called the bylaw “appropriate”, the public consultation process “open and fair and the engagement by the public was impressive… and well beyond what is required and may typically be expected.”

In January 2016, council passed a bylaw to merge Bloomfield and Hallowell into a single ward, reducing the number of wards to nine, from 10. Sophiasburgh’s representation dropped to one councillor, from two, reducing council’s makeup in the next election to one mayor and 13 councillors.

Council considered four ideas before choosing the option put forth by former Sophiasburgh councillor John Thompson. In the other plans, Mayor Robert Quaiff proposed splitting the municipality in half with 10 councillors and a mayor; County resident Gary Mooney proposed three wards, 12 councillors and a mayor. The final option was status quo.

Pierre Klein’s plan for 10 councillors and mayor, (10 wards) arrived weeks past a lengthy public consultation process was rejected as being “late to the party.”

Klein represented himself at the OMB hearing July 19-21 at Shire Hall, on the grounds the bylaw was in contravention of the Canadian Charter Rights and Freedoms and that the process and the basis by which council made the decision was “defective”.

Klein feels the OMB decision “fails to address the significant admission by the Clerk and the author of the ward plan Mr Thompson who both stated voter parity meant the number of councillors you vote for in each ward rather than the correct articulation that voter parity means the number of electors per representative. This is key as the (Supreme Court) Carter decision makes it very clear that voter parity is paramount. These statements were contained in documents presented to council and relied on as the basis of their decision.”

Klein said the OMB could have asked the municipality to make adjustments to ensure voter parity was met, as was done in other OMB decision.

“It could have issued an earlier decision to allow for the Council to adopt changes that are consistent with the Charter and Case law. Or the Board could also have chosen Mayor Quaiff’s plan as it, at least, meet the voter parity issue albeit seriously flawed otherwise.”

He said Sills’ decision “refused to use the remedies available to the board to correct a bad decision. Instead, she justifies it by saying it is less bad… It would be like concluding that being shot once is better than being shot twice rather than not being shot at all.”

“We are pleased that OMB Chairperson Mary Ann Sills upheld the bylaw and found that the public consultation process was open and fair,” said Mayor Robert Quaiff. “With this matter resolved, we can move forward and start preparing for the 2018 municipal election.”

Quaiff said at a meeting earlier this month that County staff was anxious to hear results of July’s OMB hearing as the clerk’s offic especially has much planning to do to gear up for the election process. Quaiff’s executive secretary is retiring Dec. 1, but is scheduled to return to help the clerk with the election process.

“That’s something people may not understand about the election,” said Quaiff. “There’s a lot of work to be done to be organized for it.”

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. wevil says:

    the county should re-coup costs after all this OMB hearing was not representing all residents of the county but all residents have to pay the price in their taxes

  2. Paul Cole says:

    It is time to put a price on “democratic and charter rights” when two OMB hearings have ruled in favor of the County. OMB hearings are expensive there are many other issues that need immediate attention infrastructure housing crisis. The County should be attempting to recoup costs associated with these OMB hearings. Council has that responsibility to recoup tax dollars when possible.

  3. Fred says:

    You place a price upon democratic and charter rights.

  4. hockeynan says:

    I hope my tax dollar isn’t paying for this.Some people never give up.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    BTW – I don’t believe this matter of the OMB decision is finished.

  6. Snowman says:

    wevil has the idea. Keyboard pundits and OMB hearings haven’t effected change. Name calling, tantrums and lack of respect for other’s opinions haven’t changed anything either.
    Get your name on the ballot.Do some work.

  7. wevil says:

    Perfect solution to all of this IF YOU THINK YOU CAN DO A BETTER JOB AT ALL THIS PUT YOUR NAME ON THE BALLOT FOR THE NEXT ELECTION OF COUNCIL

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    And as shown here in the comment section – the dinosaurs still roam The County and have temporarily retained a form of life. While not what most wanted, there is at least a reduction of two dinosaurs on council. As for the rest of the dinosaurs, history has proven that it is only a matter of time.

  9. Susan says:

    Fine John. I shall let it go for now, but I am no fool and I know my 1 Councillor vote does not provide me voter equity. I can only hope that with the upcoming municipal election that we can elect persons that have a broader view in correcting this undemocratic situation.

  10. John Thompson says:

    Susan, in a small ward we vote for 1 and in the large ward we vote for 3 but each vote is diluted to one third of the weighting as there are 3 times the number of voters.

    The bottom line on this though is that the Board has said that voter parity and rep by pop are the same thing so a ward with 3x the population gets 3x the Councillors. A single ward system would not fly here as we are a community of communities and many would not have a rep in a single ward system.

    Irregardless, the new system is in place, inequities have been removed and we are moving on.

  11. Susan says:

    Sorry; finishing. Who is fond of Turbines is able to vote for three (3) Councillors representing his or her position. How is that voter parity??

  12. Susan says:

    Mr.Thompson. I present you with a scenario. If I live in South Marysburgh and oppose Wind Turbines, I am able to vote for one (1) Councillor that supports my position. My friend in Ameliasburgh who is fond of Turbines

  13. Mark says:

    That is far from correct. They could have opted for an at large system where you elect 8 Councillors and a Mayor. The problem is the antiquated mind set that we still need to recognize former Townships that no longer exist.That would be true voter parity. How does Belleville manage and get things done with half the size of the County?

  14. John Thompson says:

    It was not possible to reduce the Council size by more than 2 without going astray on voter parity or representation of communities of interest, neither which could have been approved.

    The 13 Councillor positions was a result of the need to meet all relevant criteria, not just someone’s favorite.

  15. Mark says:

    Well said Dennis. Council shunned the public interest, view, input and desires.

  16. Dennis Fox says:

    The OMB approved plan does nothing but perpetuate the ridiculous situation of having less than 25,000 people being represented by 14 councillors. The example shown by Mr. Thompson only displays this even more – a total of 4,000 people being represented by 4 elected and paid officials is not an example of a well thought out method of governance. However, it does display how some politicians (both current and past) have the sense of entitlement to ignore the will of the public – as it has been shown on a number of occasions. The OMB decision was not a good one -it was an example of one level of an incompetent government supporting another. It had nothing to do with democracy, but more to do with dinosaurs.

  17. John Thompson says:

    Voter parity was explained by the Board member to all present at the hearing. If for example, one ward has a population of 3000 and elects 3 members and another has a population of 1000 and elects one member, this is voter parity. I suppose the mathematical rational of this is that in one case a vote for a Councillor in a small ward counts as 1 in 1000 and in the large ward it is 1/3 in 3000 so the weighing is the same. The numbers are never perfect so there is a range of rep by pop that is acceptable.

    The approved plan meets the over riding principle of effective representation of identifiable communities of interest, meets the criteria for voter parity and reduced the size of Council by two.

  18. Paul Cole says:

    You can only beat a dead horse for so long then it starts to stinks. I hope the County seeks costs as well maybe folks will think twice before challenging with expensive time consuming OMB hearings. If Mr.Klein had been so serious maybe he should have gotten his proposal in on time for consideration….

  19. Snwman says:

    I hope The County asks for costs. I hope those costs are well publicized. In my opinion, the appellant’s case was weak ,under funded and probably should have been dismissed before it ever started.
    If you read the decision, The Member states that she (and by extension, any board member) would not abuse the democratic function of an elected Council to arbitrarily change ward boundries. So maybe we can stop using “The OMB Boogeyman is coming to make a decision for us” as an excuse to threaten Council on this issue?

  20. Emily says:

    Council cheers their misdoings as the residents once again take it on the chin. It’s most difficult to keep faith (although we must) in our current government’s.

  21. Chuck says:

    Kinda like the County having their friendly cousin sitting as judge! Huge loss to democracy. Actually 1 voter wards are now worse off than prior to the Council minor tinkering. Ameliasburgh residents should be happy as they gain even more of a grossly unbalanced voter parity representation.

  22. Argyle says:

    Remembering the OMB chairperson was a former mayor of Belleville.

  23. Gary Mooney says:

    The OMB’s decision is available here: http://www.quintenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/OMB-Decision-PEC-Ward-Boundaries.pdf.

    I hope that the County will not seek a costs award from Pierre.

  24. Dennis Fox says:

    I have read the OMB’s report and it does not address the issues that should have been addressed – they ignored the concept of voter parity, which the Canadian Constitution supports and they never addressed nor mentioned how council failed to recognize their own process, nor the outcome of their own survey – not even the voting results of plebiscite from a few years ago. Frankly, the OMB decision resembles the same process that is taking place around the wind turbines – one where the public is walked on by politicians. This is clearly an issue where the broader public opinion lost the day – anyone thinking otherwise just hasn’t been following this issue and is likely happy to let the politicians take care of them- without having to think. This is how the OMB gets away with such stupid decisions.

    Next year is election year and I bet every councillor who lied about supporting change will still get re-elected – not that they deserve to.

    Thanks to Pierre Klein for his hard work in trying to protect our democracy!

  25. Snowman says:

    OK. 2 OMB hearings on this one in recent years.Council has carried the day both times. Let’s get over it and move on.

  26. Susan says:

    No comment to the constituents who have voiced over and over again a need for voter equity. This is purely disgusting and unacceptable.

  27. Fred says:

    Mayor said he is pleased with this result. What an insensitive comment to the electorate.

  28. Mark says:

    Truly sad result. Great fight Mr.Klein. My personal vote of only 1 ward councillor has now even more exaggerated my loss of voter equity. As a taxpayer I get to elect one voice while my friends in Ameliasburgh get to have 3 voices. So unfair and undemocratic. The Mayor and Council should find no satisfaction in this result. We have all been let down.

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