Sunday, June 23, 2024

Public Voted Ward System Nay & Less Councillors Yea

I always thought that my parents had better service from the politicians in their community. My parents rarely follow local politics, but it seems like local politics often follow them. They vote and they live where the ward system is implemented. On a regular basis their Councillor will drop by and knock on the door. They are used to the visits. These visits are regular and not just during municipal elections. Their Councillor initiates discussion with the public and engages tax payers to participate in local politics. Their Councillor ensures that the community residents including my parents are satisfied with the city services. When they have an issue it would be difficult for them to find their way around City Hall. They are not happy about rising taxes, who is, but they are pleased with their Councillor who helps them out when needed.

Yes, the City of Mississauga has a ward system and the Councillors are employed full-time. The City of Mississauga Councillor’s full-time salaries can be justified then. Interestingly enough Toronto Star reported: “In Mississauga, where Councillor Bonnie Crombie edged out her competitor to inherit the mayoral chair from the long-reigning Hazel McCallion, roughly 36 per cent of voters bothered venturing to the poll.” What is it then? Why is the voter turnout still low? I cannot conclude then that better service from the politicians in Mississauga motivates residents to participate in local politics. Perhaps my parents have just been lucky.

“The demands on Councillors will definitely change and a ward system will provide a way to deliver better public service.”

We don’t have a ward system in our municipality. We were asked to vote for one on the Ballot during the October 27, 2014 Municipal Elections, Ballot Question #1, “Are you in favour of electing all Aurora councillors, other than the Mayor, by ward vote instead of general Town-wide vote?” I voted nay and so did 54.75% (6,670 of 12,182) of Town of Aurora voters. In my opinion, I don’t think that our town issues are distributed evenly just yet for a ward system to be effective. What I have observed so far in our community, if we had a ward system today, from ward to ward Councillors would be unevenly swamped with issues. One would get more over the other. In order to have a fair ward system the Town of Aurora growth needs to stabilize. Perhaps the ward system can be revisited in the future, but not just yet.

For individual issues I was always successful dealing with the Town directly. For community wide issues I voice my concerns directly to individual Councillors or as you may know, I scribble my thoughts here. In eighteen years living in Aurora I can count all my concerns and dealings with the Town on one of my hands. Interestingly enough I’ve come across some individuals who only deal with the town when they have to pay their taxes and water bills.

I expect that the ward system was designed to promote more community engagement. I can see it being successful in the future when the Town of Aurora has no more room to grow and there will be fewer developmental issues to deal with. The demands on Councillors will definitely change and a ward system will provide a way to deliver better public service.

But on this next point I have a different view. Currently, we have eight part-time Councillors on Aurora Town Council. “Are you in favour of reducing the number of Aurora councillors, other than the Mayor, from eight (8) councillors to six (6) councillors?” Source: Town of Aurora Additional Items for General Committee Meeting, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. That was Question #2 last year on the Ballot during the 2014 Municipal Elections and I voted yea; and so did 64.55% (8,060 of 12,487) of voters.

Update October 18, 2017: Council to mull reduction from eight members to six by Brock Weir.
Update October 30, 2017: Aurora council betting on lucky number 7 after cutting 2 seats by Teresa Latchford.

Overall I think the addition of the two Ballot Questions was an interesting initiative brought forward last term by Cllr Pirri. We now know a little more about what those who participated and voted in the Municipal Elections are in favour of. Let’s see if those results will be put to good use. It was probably the largest survey done in Aurora that I can remember. It was also probably the only way to get a Town wide survey done.

Well, does that mean there will be no ward system and our Town Council will be less two Councillors in the next 2018-2022 term?

The answer is NO because voter turnout during the 2014 Municipal Elections was less than 50%; actually only around 33% of 37,123 eligible voters voted on the two Ballot Questions. That means that the results of the Ballot Questions were not binding and Council would remain free to proceed as they wish. They would still have the power to vote for a ward system and to reduce the number of the Council members. But then, did they?

NO again, they did not. Cllr Pirri, who put forward the original motion to include the questions on the Ballot, continued with a follow up main motion after the elections: “THAT the composition of the Council of The Corporation of the Town of Aurora be changed from nine (9) members to seven (7) members, comprised of one (1) Mayor, who shall be the Head of Council, and six (6) Councillors.” Source: Council Meeting Minutes Tuesday, March 10, 2015. He obviously went with the public input on Ballot Question #2. He fought to the end and finally lost the battle, only 2 yeasversus 7 nays.

I do have a different view. Perhaps the battle is not over for the public. Those 8,060 votes supporting Ballot Question #2 appear to be telling us something. I was surprised that the majority of Town Council shot the idea down. My position on the ward system is clear; but the idea of reducing the number of Town Council members seems to be worth investigating and analyzing. Interesting thoughts for another day.

Ward System

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON


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