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OMB appeal over PEC ward boundaries launched

A Prince Edward County resident has launched an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board against council’s resolution to redefine ward boundaries.

Pierre Klein, of Cherry Valley, has launched the appeal on the grounds that the County’s municipal bylaw is in contravention of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that “the process and the basis by which the council made this decision was defective.”

In November 2015, council approved changing its 16 member makeup to 14 and reducing 10 wards to nine by merging Bloomfield with Hallowell.

At that meeting, Mayor Robert Quaiff, asked his council “to finish the process it started” and to consult the municipality’s lawyer. Council’s ensuing decision, Quaiff said, was going to be “a sure trip to a lengthy and costly Ontario Municipal Board hearing”.

The bylaw was passed in January and the municipal act gives 45 days for a decision to be petitioned – until March 11.

Klein had addressed council in the fall, proposing a 10-ward system with 10 councillors and one mayor, which he said met requirements for representation by population, parity, community interests, natural boundaries and historical context “better than any of the four plans that went through the public consultation process.”

“The council not only didn’t follow their own process, but didn’t follow the one outlined by law,” said Klein. “This is a very significant decision to make in terms of our democratic process and there are specific laws… constitutional rights…. Councillors did none of that and in fact, turned down the ability to consult their own lawyer on whether or not they meet the tests… They were only interested in preserving the status quo.”

His appeal, dated March 4, 2016, states the municipality’s decision, among other things, “does not provide for effective representation, lacks voter parity, fails to provide representative accountability and accessibility, … is based on a municipal and public process that was unfair and failed to analyze that the decision to re-divide meets the tests of the Carter decsion by the Supreme Court of Canada.”

While the appeal is over the ward boundary decision and the number of councillors is not appealable, Klein notes, that in the end if the OMB orders a change, there could well be a change in the number of councillors afterall.

“I will be requesting that the Ontario Municipal Board decision include a remedy that will set the ward boundaries for the County and may consequently affect the composition of council,” said Klein, who notes experience in these issues and OMB appeals as a former regional councillor with the municipality of Peel.

The initial filing fee is $125, but he notes a long and expensive journey forward that he is being supported by a core group of about five people. He also launched a Facebook page on the topic today.

Following the expiry of the appeal date, the County must forward all its information to the Ontario Municipal Board – including council minutes, reports, resolutions and maps.

The matter of redistribution of council size and ward boundaries has been ongoing in the County since 2008.

BACKGROUND:

– In 2008, a Composition of Council Committee was established and provided a report to council with various options on electoral boundaries and council representation. The report contained various electoral boundary options for a council comprised of 10 councillors and a mayor. Those included a 2 Electoral Ward System, 5 Electoral Ward System, and an Election at Large option with no electoral boundaries. The report of the Composition of Council Committee was received and no further action was taken on the matter.

– Following the above-noted decision by council, a Petition of Electors was presented by Lyle McBurney, Chair of Electors of Prince Edward County for Restructuring Wards and Council. The petition requested council enact a bylaw to restructure the present 10 Wards into 6 Wards, and reduce size of council from 15 plus a Mayor to 2 Councillors per Ward and a Mayor at large.

– Further to that petition, there was an OMB Hearing that led to the following question being included on the Ballot for the 2010 municipal election:
“Are you in favour of Council commencing a public consultation process to review the size of Council for the County of Prince Edward?”

– In 2013, although the results of the question on the Ballot did not mandate the municipality to take any further action, the municipality issued a Request for Proposal for Consultant Services to Review Size of Council. A Citizens’ Assembly was established and provided a report to Council with a recommendation that Council be reduced from the current 15 Councillors plus a Mayor, to ten (10) Councillors and a Mayor, to represent the County of Prince Edward.
The report of the Citizens’ Assembly was presented at a Special Committee of the Whole meeting held on September 19, 2013. The Committee of the Whole report from this meeting was considered at a Special Council meeting held on October 9, 2013 and,
although the Committee of the Whole report included motions related to the Size of Council and Electoral Ward Boundaries, they were not adopted by Council at that meeting.

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  1. Marc says:

    What a waste of money. We elect councillors. They made a decision. Pretending that that is undemocratic is just plain silly.

  2. Sandar says:

    I say wait and see if the OMB even takes the case.

    This is all hype and regurgitation, really not very interesting at this point.

    Who are the 5 secret backers of the appeal is my question.

  3. Fred says:

    Who and when has ever complimented Councilor Fox in this fiasco? Just saying, I’ll leave the official response to Dennis Fox, who is unrelated.

  4. Susan says:

    Mayor Quaiff who did his best to lead Council away from their selfish agenda is going to be in a tough spot when called in front of the OMB. His off the cuff comments right after that vote will be center stage.

  5. David says:

    Interesting that by denying your ‘relation’ to Councillor Fox that you are complimenting him!

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    Hello All-
    Please don’t relate Councillor Fox to me – absolutely no relation!

  7. Susan says:

    And then we had Councilor Fox stating to fellow cohorts that he felt an OMB appeal was not worthy of consideration. LOL

  8. Gary says:

    With all respect to Paul, this is not a matter for arbitration. Council has had 10 years at it and way too much ratepayers $$! The current Council deceived the populace. It’s time for the OMB to rule and provide residents voter parity and their rights under our Charter. Yes we all will pay for Council’s games, but it is worth every cent to protect our rights. No longer will Shire Hall antics be more important than the people!!!

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    Paul – you have made some excellent points. But just think of how much this entire process has cost the taxpayers since the beginning… the cost of the original OMB hearing was $125K, then the cost of the referendum(which council ignored), then the $25K that it cost the Citizens’ Assembly (which again council ignored), then the cost of all the Town Hall Meetings and the survey – all again went ignored by most of this bunch at Shire Hall. I would imagine the cost of this OMB will exceed the last one. The taxpayers have every right to be upset, but focus that onto the Council that ignored and misled the public. I once again have to appreciate Mr. Klein and his efforts.

  10. Paul Cole says:

    When Constituents become so suspicious of their elected officials on such a contentious issue there must be some sort of mechanism to halt proceedings and bring in an Arbitrator of sorts to solve the issue especially when its already been before the OMB. I won’t call it a waste of time because it is not, BUT the amount of time and money it has cost the Tax Paying Citizens of Prince Edward County is ridiculous. Either way the Tax Payer is left holding the bag on both sides of the issue paying as Appellant and Respondent. Time spent defending Councils ridiculous solution could have been spent on other important issues.. Lets hope its finally dealt with properly. Good luck to Mr. Klein and the Fix PEC Council group…Of course we could always get the Donald to come and build some walls for us.. 😉

  11. Chuck says:

    Why on that November vote by the Committee of the Whole would the Athol Councilor be selected to chair? Why would the Mayor not chair the most important meeting in a decade? The process manipulation, voting and cutting off of debate was wrong and smelled ripely that the fix was in.

  12. Emily says:

    There is strong suspicion that some Councilors colluded so as to arrive at the least possible change to Council size. If that happened to deny residents democratic rights it is illegal. We do know they first chose the least desired option by residents, that being “Status Quo”. Then when under pressure they settled for the next least desired option. This left the impression they colluded to make a minor change to Council size in hope to meet their agenda and put it to bed, thinking residents would just suck it up! Thanks to Mr.Klein much of this will now become transparent. Me thinks Council will need to buckle their seat belts on this one!

  13. Paul Cole says:

    This could also be a conflict of interest when you consider Councilors are voting on an issue that may eliminate their seat on Council(job). Could the Municipal Conflict Of Interest Act come into play Gary ? There has to be an easier way of getting through this mess that has taken valuable Council time and huge Tax Payer dollars ? I agree Gary a change is needed this has dragged on long enough…

  14. Gary says:

    That is not a solution in this instance Paul. We need the OMB to do the work that Council would not. The only resolution is fair representation and voter parity to all residents. Council have refused to entertain that either for self interest or protectionism of their little turf or in the case of one Ward the desire to hold more power.

  15. Paul says:

    There must be some sort of municipal arbitration instead of a time consuming costly OMB hearing..

  16. Chuck says:

    Judy, defending one’s democratic rights is never a waste of time.

  17. judy kennedy says:

    what a waste of time and money.

  18. Mark says:

    Will the County actually attempt to defend their decision and dig the hole even deeper and the costs even higher? The Council collusion and deception of the public when exposed will be extremely embarrassing.I would think counsel will have advised that they are in a real mess.

  19. Susan says:

    So huge for our County democracy. So huge a message to our Council that our basic rights cannot be ignored and trampled upon.

  20. Emily says:

    The County is going to look really, really badly in this appeal. Quite frankly I do not know how they can defend their actions through the process. The OMB will have the power to order corrective action so that residents rights are no longer sluffed off as meaningless.

  21. Dennis Fox says:

    Thanks Chuck! Now to help those people who believe that someone should pay for this appeal process I have an idea…. according to the Oct.8/14 Wellington Times Survey – Councillors Epstein, Hull, Nieman and Ferguson all claimed to support a council of ten (10). Ask them why they betrayed the voters when once elected – maybe they should be the ones paying for his appeal process?? If they had kept their promise to the voters, this appeal would not be happening. Place the responsibility where it lies – and that is not on a resident(s) who expects their elected representatives to act with credibility, when they have acted on every other way imaginable. Council deserves to be challenged on this issue and on their self serving decision. So blame them, not a taxpayer!

  22. Chuck says:

    Agreed Dennis. I expect the costs will fall to the taxpayer because of Council’s negligence. Mr.Klein is to be commended.

  23. Dennis Fox says:

    This cost should be paid for by Council – they are the people responsible for this appeal – anyone expecting a citizen to pay the freight on this one has no idea of what the word democracy means. It doesn’t mean that only those who can afford to pay for the system has a right to use it. Let’s place the responsibility where it belongs – that is directly in our Council for not following the public’s direction as their survey showed, for not following their own process, as they told the public they would and for ignoring all staff advice! Yes, Mr. Klein is very right in challenging this appeal and I hope the majority of the public respect him for doing so. I know that I do!

  24. wevil says:

    HOPE MR. KLEIN IS PREPARED TO PAY FOR THE COST OF THE APPEAL AS IT SHOULD NOT BE PAID FOR BY THE TAXPAYERS

  25. Chuck says:

    The voting irregularities at that November meeting will surely be under scrutiny. Council did not heed staff advice, they discarded their own criteria, survey results and forged ahead determined to protect the “status Quo” as best they could. This should be an extremely interesting appeal and one that just could bring democracy back in play. Cheers to Mr.Klein for his efforts.

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