The Ward System – the discussion continues


by Brian Lonergan

I welcome former Mayor Ralph Raina’s comments on my Ward system proposal published last week in this newspaper. However, I do dispute several of his arguments.
In his comments, Mr Raina suggested that I called for some Wards having a larger population than others, that Ward A would have 100 people, whereas Ward B would have 3,000 people. Such a population breakdown per ward was not proposed whatsoever in my article. Democracy requires One Person, One Vote and that’s how it has to be.

What I did suggest is that the number of Wards be increased from the present four to eight. There are approximately 6,000 households in North Grenville. Breaking that number down, each Councillor would represent 750 households. If voters decide to appoint only 6 Councillors, then the number of voters represented by a City Councillor would be 1,000 households. In no way was I proposing the lopsided population representation that Mr Raina suggested.

Another issue that Mr Raina expressed is that I proposed residential restrictions according to length of time that residents have been living in North Grenville. That is incorrect and I admit to not expressing my concept on this issue very clearly. If you are residing in the Ward at election time, you vote in that Ward. What I was concerned about is that 3 or 4 people living in one particular Ward in the at-large system could take it upon themselves to run the Municipality in their own particular interest. The Ward system prevents such an unequal distribution of Councillor residency.

The Ward system also increases representation of social and economic minorities in the area, rather than having their votes merged with those of the general community. This brings diversity and greater fairness to Council, bringing more voices from varying neighbourhoods to the table.

Mr Raina mentions that issues pertaining to specific Wards can get bogged down in red tape. I contend that it’s up to the Mayor and Council to unravel that red tape and do what’s right for all concerned. Who is responsible for the red tape in the first place and why should that block necessary progress?

As for each Ward looking only after only its own constituency, that does not make for a good Councillor. That idea suggests the worst in people who run for office bereft of the greater good for all. Mr Raina also suggests some Ward representatives might ignore safety issues on route 43 that affect the City as a whole. Again that implies the worst possible scenario as I’m confident that all Councillors would prioritize any such safety occurrence for the good of the community at large. Proposing that the Ward system would incur such foot dragging, unprogressive behaviour, and irresponsibility on important Municipal issues is a far stretch indeed.

My main contention in the original article is that the at-large Ward system may prevent local issues of great concern to the smaller communities from reaching the full attention of Council. We need a better balance. Preserving a local historic building from being razed or neglected in one area, for example, may be of little consequence to the at-large elected representative, but have a major effect on the quality of life of one small local community within the whole.

Thus, the Ward Councillor would widen Council attention on local issues and make them much more accountable and accessible to the voters. At-large Councillors are much less accessible and may not even be interested in pursuing a local interest.

Finally, the at-large system prevents many qualified people from seeking office as the task of campaigning throughout the entire Municipality of 6,000 households, as compared to only 750 households, can be very overwhelming. Many good people are deterred from taking the necessary time and funds required to get elected in the ponderous at-large system that favours those with name recognition, and gives an unfair advantage to incumbents.

It should also be mentioned that when a Councillor resigned earlier in this current term, the administration took it upon themselves to select his replacement. In my opinion, the person who achieved fifth place in the last election should have been appointed to that vacant position. The voters were denied their fifth choice, as if their votes no longer mattered. The Ward system would deter that by making it much less costly to find a replacement in such a case, as only those living in that particular Ward would vote.
Here is a quote from Garfield Marks speaking recently about the Red Deer Alberta at-large system: “The current system has systematically and historically failed one third of our City “. Let’s open up North Grenville to a more equitable system of representation.


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