October 23, 2013

Next election won't have wards, more councillors

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town council has rejected the possibility of creating wards for the 2014 municipal election, and of increasing the number of councillors from five to seven.

CAO Kathryn Ironmonger presented council with a series of options and they decided that maintaining the current system, in which all councillors represent the entire town, would be “in the best interest of the community”.

Among the rejected options is the hiring of a consultant for $9,000 to help draft ward boundaries. Increasing the council by two members would have cost about $50,000 per year in salaries and benefits.

The motion to do nothing was carried by a vote of 3-1, with Mayor Lou Maieron opposed and Councillor John Brennan abstaining. The mayor had been promoting the ward idea, and expressed concern that the issue was being dealt with now, when there is not enough time for the process to get a bylaw in place by the December 31 deadline.

He requested a report in May this year, but council was told by the previous CAO that it would not be ready until the fall. He had requested a report on the same topic in March of 2012, particularly on “establishment of a ward system by public petition”.

A municipal council can initiate a ward process, or it can be forced to do so by a 500-name petition from electors. The Advocate had front-page coverage of the 2012 report, but council did not receive a petition. A majority of councillors have said they oppose a ward system.

Councillor Jose Wintersinger spoke out against it in a letter to the editor in 2012, saying it would “take things backward”, creating a divide between urban and rural residents.

Last week’s motion said, “Anticipated growth facing our community is unknown, which could result in a further ward boundary configuration adjustment.”

It also said, “The short public consultation period would increase the possibility of an appeal being filed, which would result in the ward boundary being pushed back to the 2018 election.”