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Councillor seeks support to review size of council

Prince Edward County could be reviewing the size council again.

Hiller councillor Chris Braney announced a notice of motion at Tuesday night’s meeting that he plans to put forward March 14 to seek support to review the current governance of council – at 13 councillors plus a mayor.

“During the recent election campaign, one of the main topics of conversation amongst residents throughout the County was a review of our current governance structure,” said Braney. “We’ve not undertaken a review since 2015.”

His notice of motion for March 14 council meeting, he said, will direct the CAO and clerk to develop terms of reference outlining “the guiding principles, scope, timing and cost of a possible third-party review of the County council governance structure.”

Braney wants the report to “build on the research of the public feedback” gained in the 2013 size of council review, the citizen’s assembly and 2015 review.

If approved by council, Braney also seeks the report to identify options for robust public consultation, an engagement process and return to council no later than June 13.

In 2015, council was reduced from 16 to 13 councillors plus a mayor and cut one ward, to nine, merging Bloomfield with Hallowell, resulting in a reduction of two councillors from three. Sophiasburgh was was reduced to one councillor from two.

Several sessions seeking residents’ opinions on options were held.

Deadline extended for public opinion on council size

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

Representation was identified by the province at that time as one councillor per ward plus one extra councillor per 2,500 people. This structure was altered somewhat through the negotiation process at the time. The result was a council of 15 with one mayor.

The issue comes before the horseshoe regularly. For more on Prince Edward County’s history of investigating the size of council click here.

– A 2013 Citizens’ Assembly, led by Queen’s Political Studies Professor Jonathan Rose.

– A 2010 election question on the ballot in which just 41.87 per cent of the eligible electors voted on the question, so the result was not binding.

– A 2008 Ad Hoc committee review along with a petition and OMB hearing.

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  1. SS says:

    Henri’s point regarding “whether the elected councillors will represent the interests of all voters” is more important than how they get elected, or even how many there are.

    Urban issues are not the same as rural issues.

    Elected councillors should represent and advocate for their constituents’ wishes.

    If the structure allows urban voters to displace the wishes of rural voters by simply overwhelming them with numbers, then rural voters will have even less incentive to vote than they already do.

    The structure is one problem, but the bigger challenge is “whether the elected councillors will represent the interests of all voters”. Council must be held to account by those voters, regardless of the structure.

    My 0.02 worth, from South Marysburgh.

  2. Henri Garand says:

    Perhaps my concern about voter representation has been misunderstood. The issue is not whether everyone gets a vote for every councillor, but whether the elected councillors will represent the interests of all voters. If “urban” residents in Picton, Bloomfield, and Wellington have more political power because of the candidates they have chosen for council, the elected councillors may be tempted to favor decisions, especially budget decisions, which serve the urban voter base.

    If you don’t think this can happen, consider federal politics. The Liberal powerbase is the GTA, not rural Canada and particularly not Alberta. When GTA residents are alarmed by rising handgun crime, rural owners of long guns somehow get caught up in proposed federal legislation. When GTA residents think about energy, they focus mostly on the supply of electricity and may regard electric vehicles as a viable transportation alternative to public transit. So it’s easy for the federal government to penalize the Alberta fossil fuel industry and to mandate the future elimination of ICE vehicles, despite the present inadequate technology that limits EV usefulness for rural residents.

    If PEC councillors were elected at large—and they want to get elected and re-elected—they will target issues that resonate with the largest number of potential voters, who live in the more densely settled areas of the county. Why would any councillor worry about the needs of 2000 voters in Sophiasburgh, where the benefit of tax expenditures may never be seen by the urban voter base?

  3. Bruce Nicholson says:

    It’s preferable to have one representative elected from your Ward rather than zero. Henri is right on the mark. Perhaps a combination of existing Wards to reduce the total numbers and electing only those candidates running in your Ward. Loyalties to old townships is an obstacle to good governance. I agree that the number of Councillors should be reduced along with an increase to their salaries.

  4. Mark says:

    Congrats Council allowing this motion to move forward. The deputations against lacked forward thinking.

  5. Fred says:

    Living in a 1 Councilor Ward, I only have the right to elect one of thirteen Councilors who all are making decisions that affect me. Other individuals in this County get to elect 2 or 3 Councilors. That clearly is not voter equity. This is a County Council not a Ward or Township Council. There lies the difference. It’s time to allow each resident the right to cast a vote for a full slate of Councilors at large.

  6. Gary says:

    Let’s proceed with Councilor Braney’s motion and finally get this matter resolved. I also believe a reduced Council elected at large provides voter equity compared to the present model.

  7. Emily says:

    Well I would have to say the interests of North Marysburgh, Athol and South Marysbutgh residents would be better served with an at large elected Council. At least they would be casting votes for the entire Council. The way it stands now 13 of the 14 Council members are making decisions on their behalf without being elected by those residents. That is not equitable representation.

  8. Susan says:

    That’s exactly the point. We would no longer be hanging onto outdated Wards ( former Townships). Every voter would have equity in electing a Council at large. It’s a County Government.

  9. Henri Garand says:

    Equity on council requires the balancing of rural and urban interests. Areas with large populations (Ameliasbugh, Picton, and Wellington) may dominate elections if councillors are elected at large. Voters may choose candidates based on their residence, and any candidate residing in a large population area will have a strategic advantage. How will the interests, for example, of Athol, North Marysburgh and Sophiasburgh be served if all elected councillors reside in the current three most populated wards?

  10. B Wilder says:

    Brighton has six, Belleville has 8, Quinte West and Kingston have 12 each.
    Mississauga with a population over 700,000 only has 11 council members.
    Puts things into perspective.

  11. Chuck says:

    This County desparately requires an at large election. Councilors are determining County wide decisions not antiquatd Wards. As examlpe I feel disenfranchised when someone in Ameliasburgh has 3 vote representavives and I have 1 in Athol. I just so want voter Equity!

  12. Sandra L Norval says:

    I agree with Mark. Also, it might just justify the increase in salary.

  13. Argyle says:

    Reduce the size of council, absolutely. The previous attempts each failed simply because the sitting council of the day had a strong reluctance, then refusal to support a reduction of the number of councillors. It is time to eliminate the Ward system, and have five at large councillors representing the entire County. Then council can tackle the spiralling costs for administration and services coming out of Shire Hall, and obscene annual property tax increases for residents.

  14. Mark says:

    Very happy the Hillier Councilor is bringing this forward early on. Ward system needs to go. All Councilors are representing the entire County so a reduced slate and elected at large would bring us voter equity.

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