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Nine ward plan chosen to reduce council size

Just as it looked like County council was destined to do nothing, the least favourite electoral ward and boundary proposal to reduce council’s  size of 15 councillors and mayor was chosen.

In the third recorded vote on the subject, at 9 to 7, council Tuesday night approved changing to a nine ward system (13 councillors and mayor. See chart below).

Mayor Robert Quaiff said the decision is a sure trip to an Ontario Municipal Board Hearing.

“I am 100 per cent certain this now will be challenged to the OMB and will go through the lengthy, costly process of challenging a plan that does not meet any of the criteria that was set out by any of the reports or plans – even with the Citizens’ Assembly,” he said. “The two-ward and three-ward plans that were submitted met that criteria and now for this plan to be on the table and considered and now approved, is in my opinion, appalling.”

Some councillors expressed the nine-ward plan was a good compromise; others, throughout the evening said they felt “boxed in” or there was “trickery” at play. Others asked repeatedly for clarification of the motions.

“I think the rationale for the drastic change with the two ward (10 councillors and mayor) was unacceptable because it was too quick, too swift, and I can accept that,” said the mayor, who authored the two-ward plan. “At least now I can defend my position when I go out to the public. The three ward, (12 councillors and mayor) we know that met the criteria. The nine-ward and status quo they just don’t meet the criteria.”

First, a 7-9 vote defeated the motion that the two ward proposal and three ward proposal be accepted as the top two preferred options.

Voting in favour:
Bill Roberts
Jim Dunlop
Lenny Epstein
Gord Fox
Kevin Gale
Treat Hull
Robert Quaiff

Opposed:
Barry Turpin
Steve Ferguson
Jamie Forrester
Steve Graham
David Harrison
Janice Maynard
Brad Nieman
Dianne O’Brien
Roy Pennell

Second, a vote on amendeding a motion for further investigation on the three ward and the nine-ward plans (amended from 10-ward plan) resulted in a tie.

Voting in favour:
Fox
Gale
Hull
Roberts
Turpin
Dunlop
Epstein
Quaiff

Voting opposed:
Forrester
Graham
Harrison
Maynard
Nieman
O’Brien
Pennell
Ferguson

Councillor Bill Roberts said the nine ward system didn’t feel like a compromise since it was the last choice in public surveys, the Citizens’ Committee, the last choice of the Committee of the Whole and against staff recommendation.

“We are going to ignore our own criteria that we established. It’s stranger than fiction. Kind of like an electoral twilight zone.”

“There is no plan that will avoid an OMB hearing,” said councillor Treat Hull. “There is a perception by proponents for significant change and by proponents for status quo, in the community… Our community is profoundly divided on this issue… Feelings are running strong so there is no solution we can come up with that will avoid an OMB hearing. My preference all along is the three-ward system, but having said that… I think we ought to find a compromise we can agree on here.”

The decision, said Mayor Quaiff, “doesn’t come anywhere close to what council was setting out to accomplish.

“At the end of the day it’s a recorded vote, so those that voted in favour will have to answer to members of the public and their constitutents.

In favour of the nine-ward:
Forrester
Graham
Harrison
Hull
Maynard
Nieman
O’Brien
Pennell
Epstein

Against the nine-ward plan
Fox
Gale
Roberts
Turpin,
Dunlop
Ferguson
Quaiff

“Issues such as this that are very passionate… and at the end of the day democratic process was followed and right course or not remains to be seen,” said Quaiff. “Members of council, and myself, need to receive our packages of information, recommended staff reports, recommended motions, read that material, study that material and come to a conclusion on our own and not have to be worried about the lobbying efforts of certain committees or certain self-interest groups to entertain their opinions. It doesn’t represent the majority of citizens.

“So now, rather than remaining as status quo, a petition would have to come in with signatures of a percentage of the residents in order to challenge. With the clear, defining acceptance of the nine ward plan, now you are open to an OMB appeal once you sign that into bylaw.

The issue cannot be re-visited before four more meetings of council have passed.

“We saw with the last term of council how many times we went down that road that argument was used and we need to move on,” said Quaiff. “I’m going to do my best to move on, tackle the budget, and some of the other issues that we have like our water, our sewer rates, our transporation needs and infrastructure needs knowing in the background that there will be that knock on the door and it will be someone going to the OMB. Then we’ll have to cover that when we get there.”

An appeal may be made within 45 days after the bylaw is passed.

John Thompson, author of the nine ward plan, said he was not surprised, noting “common sense prevailed” though it took a while.

“They thought what I thought. It’s the common sense solution,” he said. “I think odd-number, even-number is not a criteria of the OMB and it’s quite good in the representation by population; there’s one high and one low but the rest are within 15 per cent so the average overall is quite good.”

The criteria included:
a) Odd number of council members;
b) Voter parity;
c) Equitable distribution of population;
d) Respect identifiable communities of interest;
e) Utilize natural physical boundaries;
f) Serve the larger public interest.

Results of voting in the Minutes of the Committee of the Whole, October 29/15:

results-of-voting

Nine-Electoral-Ward-Map

Filed Under: Local News

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  1. Emily says:

    When the knock on the door comes for an OMB hearing, how does the County defend the actions taken by Council? Just curious how such a decision could be defended.

  2. Hildagard says:

    SGR –you’ve got the best plan. One representative for each ward and a Mayor–that is all we need. This would be a simple and fair way of dealing with this mess!

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