Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Is a Ward System Desirable?

Posted by auroracitizen on February 20, 2010

The debate about whether to place a question on the ballot for the upcoming election is underway.

It seems Councillors Gartner & Granger want to be able to point to something they did (and can explain without notes) when asked about their contribution this past term. Mayor Phyllis Morris and Councillor MacEachern have acquiesced to their request for the very own motion (although surely written by others) — although Councillor MacEachern has already is quoted as stating “representation-at-large is best”. It make one wonder why they bother since MacEachern has already stated her preference. And we have seen the voting record for a motion by MacEachern.

The real issue behind the question is whether a ward system will increase the performance and accountability of Council. If the answer is “Yes”, then a case can be made. However, if there is no difference — then why change.

In business, you are faced with questions where there are no clear answers. The best way to discover the answers is to keep asking the question “WHY?”, until eventually the answers start to become clearer.

From our view, we were pleased to hear that Council will share their thinking and be presenting information to inform the public — and hiding behind the skirts of “the public said so” — before simply holding an Open House and wasting everyone’s time and our tax dollars. Citizens need to be provided with information so they can make “informed” comments, rather than just react emotionally.

In the interim, here are a few initial thoughts to get the discussion started.

  1. Currently each citizen can call 8 Councillors and 1 Mayor if they have an issue. A ward system reduces that number.
  2. Currently you can call any Councillor, a Ward system may force me to call someone you don’t like and/or didn’t vote for.
  3. Currently we get to pick up to 8 — the best of a long  list. The list will shorten and potentially new candidates won’t have the same ability to unseat incumbents.
  4. Wards work for the benefit of politicians. Less area to campaign, less issues to advocate on behalf of.
  5. Ward Councillors take a ward focused view. They tend to vote for what works for their ward since they need to solicit votes from a smaller voter pool who are focused on their own interests. They tend not to look at the bigger picture. Councillors at large have no such affiliation so they can vote for the greater good more often.
  6. Reducing the Councillors who represent my interests (my ward) does not increase their accountability. It just means less people who will take your call.

Frankly, we see no compelling reason for a change. Do you?

Agree or disagree?

5 Responses to “Is a Ward System Desirable?”

  1. hmmm... said

    Right now most of the G5 live in the same area. If we had wards they would be fighting for the same seat…

    Problem solved no?

    • Richard Johnson said

      Now that is a great argument in support of change !

      I don’t prefer the ward system for our small town, however we could consider passing a motion to try a Ward system for two terms and then revisit the idea when the dust settles. Let’s face it, cleaning house could have its benefits.

      At the same time we could put in term restrictions.

      Hmmmm… there are various possible options, but clearly something needs to be done.

  2. Richard Johnson said

    “As of 31 March 2006, the Region of York Planning department put the total [Newmarket population] at 77,518. According to the same source, the population projection for 2011 is 87,000 and for 2026 it is 98,000.” While Newmarket has a Ward System I do have to wonder what the advantages might be for them, let alone a smaller town like Aurora.

    How could I (Joe Public) possibly benefit by restricting the number of people I can turn to on council in order to represent my concerns when all too often we have witnessed Councillors that are very limited in their ability to process even the most basic information, let alone effectively represent or weigh the various interests of the town ? As it stands today, at least any given resident can approach the individual that may be best suited to deal with any given issue.

    Given how difficult it is to get competent people to run for council as it stands today, I also have to wonder how adding some kind of additional geographic criteria would help improve the professionalism on council. Please forgive me for being somewhat cynical here, but just maybe The Lone Granger is looking out for “number one” given that a broader based competition is not likely something he would benefit from.

    The fact that raising this issue is an attempt to resurrect an old and dead debate, while the Councillors themselves have not fully articulated their rational for raising this issue in the first place or the potential benefits of a referendum should also be questioned.

    On top of the suspect and apparently thin motives expressed by The Lone Granger, Councillor Gallo was right to ask how realistic it is to expect a minimum of 50% of ALL eligible voters to cast a ballot given that getting over 40% of the eligible voters to turn out on any given election is proving to be next to impossible. Furthermore Councillor Granger has pointed out that the referendum would be based on some kind of vague and nebulous question designed to merely gage the town’s preferences with no binding commitment to take any specific action. If this is not a binding referendum then I have to ask why we are wasting everyone’s time and effort ? Why not just ask for input and if you get none then move on to more pressing matters. Maybe Mr. Granger should just stick to doing what his constituents are asking him to do rather than trying to reinvent our political system based on his own self serving whim.

  3. White Knight said

    I have not really decided about the ward system one way or the other… although I do worry about the prospect of ending up with a dippy representative such as Granger, Gaertner, Gallo or Wilson in a ward system.
    I might be persuaded if I could be guaranteed someone like Collins-Mrakas, McRoberts or even Buck…

  4. Frodo said

    Let’s be real! Why now? Why the rush? Most of these people who have been elected agreed with a Ward System in the last election. This council does not want a Ward System. Why? Because a number of them would probably live within the same ward. If councillors were serious about a ward system these debates and discussions would have begus a few years ago so we ALL would know all know the negative and/or the benefits and TYPES of Ward Systems. So disappointing.

    Don’t be fooled. Don’t be blinded. This is just an election tatic by Granger to fulfill a promise at the LAST minute for those who elected him. View council on Rogers when this question was posted. Look at Granger when the Clerk first stated that a Ward system would be implemented next term if the majority voted for it. Granger does NOT want a ward system next term. Then the proposed question was changed. MacEachern stated she agrees the public should be informed regarding a Ward system then disagreed with the proposed meeting for the public to be informed.

    The electorate againd is being fooled.

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