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Citizens’ assembly ballots in the mail

The selection process for the County’s size of council citizens’ assembly has begun. Packages were to begin arriving at 5,000 residents’ mailboxes this week offering an opportunity to be involved in shaping the future of local government.

The packages invite residents to volunteer for the 24-member citizen’s panel. The packages provide information about the assembly and include a ballot to enter for random selection in the 24-member assembly.

“This kind of opportunity does not come along very often,” said Queen’s University professor Dr. Jonathan Rose, who will lead the team hired to carry out the public consultation. “If you fill in and return your ballot, you have a chance to change, quite literally, the shape of your local government.”

The Citizens’ Assembly is being convened to consider the question: How many municipal councillors should represent the citizens of Prince Edward County?

The 24 citizens selected are to meet for three Saturdays in July and August before making a recommendation to council.

“Questions about the appropriate size of County Council have been circulating for a few years now,” said mayor Peter Mertens. “It is time we resolved those questions and I cannot imagine a better way to do that than directly involving the people whose votes put us in office.”

The Citizens’ Assembly invitation packages should begin arriving in residents’ mail boxes this week. If residents have any questions,
contact the assembly coordinator at 1-800-921-2776

Jonathan Rose

Jonathan Rose

APRIL 26, 2013 – County council has determined a citizens’ assembly will guide the public consultation process to review the size of Prince Edward County council.
Dr. Jonathan Rose, Queen’s University Political Science Professor, has proposed the innovative model where citizens of the County will review and consider recommendations. The review is expected to cost approximately $25,000.

Rose, a former Academic Director of the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly, and his colleagues will help 24 randomly selected citizens reach a consensus on complex issues through deliberation.  Rose will attempt to achieve balance across a range of demographic elements including gender, place of residence, age and education, among others. Both year-round and seasonal residents are to be included in the selection.

Roses’ research interests include Canadian Politics, mass media, political communication, political advertising, propaganda. More recently he has been interested in the practice of deliberative democracy and the demands such experiments make on citizens and governments.

The review is expected to begin this spring and be complete by fall, with key elements to include:
• Needs assessment and project-scoping
• Preparation, awareness raising and volunteer recruitment
• Education and consulting
• Data assessment and report preparation
• Report submission and Council presentation

“I have full confidence that our citizens, with Dr. Rose’s support, will work together to identify a respected and sound solution to a historically divisive issue,” says Mayor Peter Mertens. “This is another step towards our goal of long-term sustainability.”

Prince Edward County was amalgamated as a single tier government in 1998 with 10 wards which corresponded to and have the same boundaries as the previous 10 townships, villages and town.

The amalgamation proposal approved by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, was to retain the historical municipal boundaries as the new ward boundaries.  Representation was set by the province at that time as one councillor per ward plus one extra councillor per 2,500 people.  The result was a council of 15 with one mayor.

In 2008 council established a committee to look at different governance structures including a reduction in the size of council.
Although some members of council wished to proceed to a full public process to determine the best option, the majority were of the opinion that there was no strong public interest or support for either changing the size of council or the ward boundaries.
To gauge public opinion on the matter council decided to add the following question to the ballot of 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?”

The matter of ward boundary changes became contentious, both on council and in the public and was the subject of a ward boundary petition and appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board in 2009.  The board dismissed the appeal based on the fact that council had added the question to the ballot.  For the results of the question to be legally binding, at least 50 per cent of the eligible electors must have voted on the question and more than 50 per cent of the votes on the question must have voted in favour of the result.

As 41.87 per cent of the eligible electors voted on the question, the result was not binding.
The results of the vote for the Question on the Ballot were as follows:
Eligible Electors 22,403Ballots Cast 10,614 (47.37  per cent of eligible voters)
Ballots Voted on the Question 9,381 (41.87  of eligible voters)
Yes Votes 7578
No Votes 1803

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  1. Marnie says:

    Taken individually Steve the newcomers are good people with lots to contribute but the problem is they did not come into the county in a trickle over a long period of time. It was a tsunami. They irrevocably changed the face of the county. Ever pick up one of those glossy new mags about county life? Look at the photos inside.Is that your life or mine that you see? The lifestyle depicted is not that of your average county resident. Most of us can only dream of what it would be like to live like that. Like it or not there is a them and an us and “us” is in real danger of being outnumbered. Yours was indeed the first “county” magazine and in reality is still the only one. It depicts county life as it was and still is for many who were born here. It’s not dissing the county’s newcomers to make an accurate observation – they changed our way of life when they brought their lifestyle to a quiet rural community where not much has changed over time. Was it in a good way? Time will tell.

  2. County Steve says:

    Lots of great comments. I agree that consultants are a waste of money. I read a great restructuring plan penned by Gary Mooney (free of charge!) which I believe is completely workable … keeping the existing ward/townships, but selecting councillors based on north, south, east and west. This seems to be a fair twist … I remember when County bickered over two councillors in Picton, so Amel. wanted three, since they pay higher taxes. This kind of schoolyard mentality needs to go.

    Also, careful where you tread when you dis the ‘newcomers’. We spent years shrugging and saying: “You can’t beat City Hall,” Young and old, the newer people are actively adding to the voices that will help preserve our County way of life … for all of us.

    I do agree with Janet K … the word ‘citizen’ is a placebo. It’s actually run by the very people who bungled us up in the first place. More bureaucrats with all the right answers for a place they don’t even understand.

  3. SAB says:

    @Tax payer: I am sure any of the council members would be most appreciative if you were to send them a little extra from your pocket. As a taxpayer myself, I can barely afford to pay my own taxes along with water, sewage and the many other bills I receive for services.

    I did not receive a package, (is it because there are people who know how I feel about our large council)..Are we just playing more games with the taxpayers money?????????

  4. Marnie says:

    Good point, Fed Up. The county and many of its organizations no longer are being run by locals. It’s the retirees from outside communities who know what’s best for us. The citizens’ assembly was a dumb idea from the get-go. Can’t we do anything in this county now without a consultant or outside help to show us the way?

  5. fed up says:

    Didn’t get a package–but I’m not willing to give up 3 Saturdays of my summer, either. The only people who will, will be by definition not representative. More retired people from the city, who think they know what’s best, no doubt.

  6. Marnie says:

    Taxpayer, there was a time when councillors served with no remuneration. They did it because they cared about their community and saw it as a privilege. No one expects this today but I think our councillors are well paid for what they do and have been for a long time. And we definitely do not need so many of them.

  7. I got one of these packages and was astounded to see that it would require a commitment of three Saturdays in July and August. It was no surprise to me when I flipped the envelope over and realized that it originated in Toronto. Only someone from away would expect working people in Prince Edward County to give up three Saturdays in the summer. The timing of this effectively excludes farmers, anyone working in the tourist industry, and anyone dependent on tourist dollars to make a living – in short, the majority of working people in the County.I would suggest this approach is flawed right out of the starting blocks, and any conclusions reached by the panel selected will be non-representational and therefore invalid. Just sayin’.

  8. Tax payer says:

    I think that council members are underpaid for the tasks that they perform on a daily basis. Late night meetings, listening to peoples concerns and looking into those concerns by doing the follow up on those concerns wether its calling people or driving around to see what the issues are all about. Council in my eyes is fine. You want to save money put gps systems into county vehicles and see where they all go and do in a day.

  9. Jack says:

    Marnie: I think you hit the nail on the head with your comment,where I used to work we used the KISS ( keep it simple stupid) work application, perhaps council could apply this to some of their decisions.

  10. Marnie says:

    Why does it have to be so complicated? The whole business of a citizens assembly seems unnecessary. Why is a consultant, a citizens’ assembly or some other form of help required for almost every decision being made these days? We should have elected consultants instead of councillors.

  11. fed up says:

    They’re doing the study to shut the armchair critics up. Many people on this site have whined about council size, ad infinitum. On this issue, they may or may not be justified. I don’t know.
    However, I’m of the opinion the critics will never shut up, but at least council is making an effort to keep people happy. Here’s my two cents: In the next election, choose a mayor who is not heavily biased toward real estate development, and who is not the friend of a local “rag” publisher.

  12. Jethro says:

    Some more of my tax dollar being wasted. We got two packages in the mail on Thursday addressed to two of our four children who haven’t lived here for 15 years. Who is supplying this mailing info. If it is the county maybe they should hire ten more people to update there records.I am really getting p****d off with the County spending my money on crap like this and the fighting of wind turbines which we all know they are going to loose. Maybe they should drive around they county and check the roads. Since this new council got in the road repair has been a joke.two or three guys in a truck putting cold patch in isn’t repair

  13. Phil says:

    Put your glasses on when you read !

    $25, 000 not $250, 000

  14. Doris Lane says:

    Oh come on a Quarter of a million dollars to review council size.
    It is not worth it
    Just elect a mayor, a deputy mayor and 5 councillors at large let it go at that –no signs allowed , limited advertising and one all candidates meeting.
    We have better things to do with our money than hiring consultants

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