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Citizens’ Assembly puts future of historic wards at risk

The Citizens’ Assembly will recommend to council – at a special Committee of the Whole meeting on September 19 – that the number of councillors be reduced to 10 from the current 15.  While the CA deserves credit for its hard work and thoughtful deliberations, this recommendation puts the future of the County’s 10 Historic Wards at risk.

Although not required by their mandate, there was a brief discussion by the CA of replacing the 10 Historic Wards with 5 new Wards, with boundaries drawn to ensure reasonable rep. by pop.  Doing so will erase more than 200 years of our heritage represented by the 10 Historic Wards – the successors to one town, two villages and seven townships.  Historic names like Hallowell, Sophiasburgh and South Marysburgh will be relegated to the history books.  I believe that many (maybe most) County residents, long-time and recent, want to see our 10 Historic Wards preserved.

Let’s step back a minute and consider three key issues relating to councillor representation:

1.  What is the appropriate number of Councillors?  This was the mandate given to the CA, and their recommendation is 10 Councillors.

2.  How to improve rep. by pop.?  Currently the range of electors per Councillor is too wide: Bloomfield = 584 and Sophiasburgh = 1,391 at the low end vs Hallowell = 2,110 and Hillier = 2,431 at the high end.

3.  How to preserve our 10 Historic Wards?

Going to 10 Councillors and 5 new Wards fails on #3 above.  Alternatively, sticking with the status quo of 15 Councillors fails on #1 (i.e. the CA’s recommendation) and #2.

NEW-electoralFortunately, there is an easy-to-implement solution that deals well with all three issues.  It’s called the N.E.W. Plan, and involves creating 3 Electoral Wards that overlay the 10 Historic Wards, with the latter being retained unchanged.  Each Electoral Ward could have anywhere from 2 to 5 Councillors, for a total ranging from 6 to 15 Councillors.  For a complete but concise description see http://tinyurl.com/mw8sp2j

The CA’s recommendation on Council size can be nearly met by implementing the N.E.W. Plan with either 3 or 4 Councillors per Electoral Ward, for a total of 9 or 12 Councillors.  Note: There was almost equal support within the CA for 8 or 10 Councillors, and four members wanted 14 or 15.  So, moving slightly off 10 Councillors doesn’t negate the CA’s work.

If you want to preserve the County’s 10 Historic Wards and/or you like the N.E.W. Plan, please let your Councillor know.  Contact information is available at http://pecounty.on.ca/contact_us.php

Gary Mooney
Hillier Historic Ward

Filed Under: Letters and OpinionNews from Everywhere Else

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  1. Phil St-Jean says:

    Gary makes it sound like changing how we elect council will wipe out our history.
    Absolutely Not true !
    Places like Waupoos, Cressy, Black Creek, Milford, Crofton, Northport, Cherry Valley, West Lake, Mountain View & Glenora haven’t disappeared or been relegated to the pages of history books. Each is a community within our larger community and always will be. We in PEC are proud of our history. We are attached to where we live within The County. Even people who haven’t lived here very long are proud of where they live in the county. I grew up in Waupoos. I lived in Glenora then in Hallowell and finally settled to raise a family in Bloomfield. Each place has given me special memories so I know I will not forget all tgese places. I doubt very much we will lose our history just because ELECTORAL boundaries are changed. How we currently elect our council has more to do with territorialism than it did with respecting historical boundaries. It was a power play to see who could get the most for their area. The current system fosters an us against them mentality where councillors do battle for “my neck of the woods” I’ve heard this too many times and witnessed it first hand when I was on council. It’s time we moved on to what’s best for The County. Parochialism should have no place at County Council. Moving to a smaller council size and a “fair” rep by pop system is the way to go.
    N.E.W. does not solve the issues, a 5 ward system does a much better job. The CCC in 2008 had a design that works much better than NEW.
    All the work has been done now we just need a few brave souls to do what’s right for the county instead of themselves for a change.

  2. judy kennedy says:

    Rob Ford! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahah

  3. Doris Lane says:

    As Mark says all the ouncillors have a say in what goes on in the county o let everyone inthe county vote for the councillors. Put a stop to signs, just let people advertise in the papaers and speakmat all candidates. no flyers involved and it would just be simple. If I had a problem in the past I always contacted a councillor from outside Picton. Make an election simple.Cut out all the nonsense that is going on now

  4. Mark says:

    Well I think each voter should be allowed to vote for the entire slate. All councillors have a say in the affairs of our present wards so if we are to be truly and fairly represented let the top 10 countywide sit at the horseshoe. This would be a true elected County Council and may just put and end to some of the selfish territorial issues.

  5. Brian says:

    Why does Picton choose to hire from outside is my question?? Its been tried over 5 years ago from other municipalities and has been PROVEN to cost the taxpayers a heck of a lot more money. They not only have to make good on their mistakes but some municipalities have had to re-hire, and re-purchase big ticket items to try to go back. Why doesn’t Picton learn from others before they choose to leap into the fire? New mngt., council’s, mayor’s, etc. sometimes only creates more problems, expenses, and heartaches for the families it represents.

  6. m york says:

    Agreed, clean house at Shire Hall and let us vote for whom we believe could/would represent the people. I want to vote for whomever is running (NOT just in my specific area) Do we need a group who believes a piano at Shire Hall is more important than the major issues in which the taxpayers are facing right now? NO!!!! Jobs are being lost and given to people who don’t even reside here. Everyday we see contractors from other towns doing the grass, water(just a couple of weeks ago, outsourced), roads, etc., etc., What message Mr. Mayor and council has been sending to the residents lately is that the people who actually reside here no longer need the work. And that hiring outside companies who have their own employees who spend county paychecks at their own towns is more important… So ya, time to do a total overhaul and get to heck out of dodge.

  7. Argyle says:

    Clean house and hire Rob Ford. That would be progress.

  8. Jack says:

    I wish to vote for the eleven best people I feel would make the correct and just decisions.Residing on a particular spot of geography should not be a factor, as for only getting to vote for the person who wants to represent your own little piece of geography. Absurd. 11 people 11votes. I point out again. Picton , Cherry Valley, Consecon, Athol, Hallowell, North Marysburgh etc will survive and life wll go on. You cannot save history you can only be part of it.

  9. Gary Mooney says:

    Re Richard’s points:

    Council decided in the past (not sure when) that it was not necessary for candidates to live in the Ward in which they decide to run. This has nothing to do with the importance of Wards per se.
    The 56 politicians who negotiated the 1998 amalgamation believed that retaining the County’s subdivision into one town, two villages and seven townships in the form of 10 Wards was important in preserving our history. It’s still important.

    The Citizens’ Assembly is recommending against an at-large plan, where there is only 1 ward — the whole County, as does the N.E.W. Plan proposal. Reasons:
    * It’s possible that outlying areas would be less well represented because of having fewer electors.
    * It would be very expensive for candidates to campaign to 27K electors, and would favour those who have greater financial means or greater access to campaign funding.
    * It would be expensive and time consuming for Councillors to travel throughout the whole County to attend to the problems of their consituents.

  10. Mark says:

    I think Richard makes a good point. We already have several Wards represented by non residents so why not have a County wide ballot. Under the NEW plan Picton is tossed to unconnecting Wards to the Southeast. Picton’s councillors could be from Pt.Petre and Cressy. So why not elect 10 at large.

  11. judy kennedy says:

    Stacking of council is a concern for me. Special interest groups could gain the control they seek.

  12. Richard Parks says:

    If you look at the present council,it appears that the voters have already decided that Wards and Ward boundries are just not that important.
    N.Marysburgh,Picton,Hallowell,Wellington and Hillier Wards are currently represented very well by non-residents.
    Historically speaking, at one time North and South Marysburgh were one Township and Athol did not exist,because it was completely in Hallowel.
    Under the present governance model, Wards are not very important when it comes to decisions coming from Shire Hall.If Council agrees with the CA and reduces itself to ten from fifteen members,it could also abolish the ward system for electoral purposes, thereby allowing every voter the opportunity to elect what they(the voters) believe are the ten best people to represent them.
    That would be true democracy.

  13. judy kennedy says:

    fewer councillors means more work per councillor–means more hours of work–eventually could mean full time job just being a councillor(like Toronto–my point) therefore, more money to pay councillors

  14. SAB says:

    As far a fewer councillors costing more money, I don’t understand…..when candidates run for council they know what the pay is….I remember when people ran because they wanted to help the community they lived in, not for the money….they should not have to experience an expense to themselves, but they should not expect to get paid a salary that is equal to the people working a full time job, this is a small community and we cannot afford to pay (mostly retired people) a salary they would get if they were working a full time job. Can you imagine if all the citizens that did volunteer work started to demand salaries…………

  15. m york says:

    Gary, I agree about our history. However its getting very hard to explain the craziness that continues to be allowed to go on at Shire Hall. How do we clean up that mess first? Is there not a policy on foolishness and making the taxpayers look like idiots? A piano, how do you explain this??? Not to mention all the other issues that council has been more than willing to sloth of and hand over to the CAO. Why do we need council if they are so willing to not do the jobs they were hired to do?

  16. Gary Mooney says:

    Keep in mind that the Citizens’ Assembly is not just about Council size, but about our Historic Ward structure. Do we want to erase 200 years of history that led to one town, two villages and seven township, which became ten Wards? The 56 politicians who agreed on an amalgamation plan in 1997 preserved history; we should do the same.

  17. Doris Lane says:

    Oh my goodness hire a CAO to make all the decisions. We have already done that–thats what we have now.
    Things are not good in the County–why spend 24,000 for this business of how to choose a council–all we need is one per ward–7, one for Picton, one for WEllington.
    Bloomfield is not large enough for a councillor–it is in Hallowell
    I hope this nonsense does not go on much longer
    Why does the CAO need a piano in his office–come on Council wake up and stop spending money on consultants
    In the last election someone said there should be a job description for councilors–that would be a good idea.

  18. m york says:

    Jim,
    They are already doing that. They hired a CAO that cost the taxpayers close to $190.000, he’s barely ever at the office and he has called all the shots since council agreed to it not to mention he has had a piano delivered to his office. NOPE, we don’t need to go down that road any longer we can’t afford it. Council needs a whole new face starting with the ones who agreed to all his demands.

  19. Jim says:

    Anyone that harbours the illusion that decisions will be faster or better informed with a smaller council should think again. And no money will be saved.

    Following this logic, it would make sense to get rid of council and hire a CAO to make all the decisions. Who needs democracy? It’s just too messy.

  20. Jack D says:

    This needs to happen. Years of dealing with the large council on different matters, demonstrated to me the process of decision making has and will continue to hinder the county as a whole. I also am absolutley positive that historic areas and communities will still be there in the aftermath. None worse for wear.

  21. judy kennedy says:

    We lost councillors during amalgamation. Now it looks like we are creeping toward a “Toronto” model—fewer councillors at higher salaries. It will end up costing more! Think about this before supporting a reduction in council. Just whose agenda is at work here?

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