Former candidate wants Mono to consider ward system

May 13, 2015   ·   0 Comments

The lone council candidate from urban Mono in last October’s municipal election appeared before Mono Council Tuesday asking it to consider introducing a ward system for the town of 8,000.

Mr. McCrae said a ward system could help address the issues of both community involvement and representation on Council.

“When I was running for council last fall there were a large number of progressive initiatives that if elected I was going to bring forward,” said Mr. McCrae. “Not being successful with that means I get to make these presentations from this side of the table. Thank you for this opportunity.”

Noting the vast differences across Mono, from urban, to semi-rural, to extremely rural, Mr. McCrae explained that oftentimes, it becomes difficult for appropriate representation for each of the different parts of the community.

“This is a positive and progressive proposal to restructure Mono’s ‘at large’ electoral system to a balanced representation ward electoral system,” Mr. McCrae contended. “The composition of Mono has changed over the years with rural in the north and urban subdivisions in the south. Even though the composition has changed, we still elect our Council in basically the same way we did when the Town was established 165 years ago.”

He added that currently, 45 percent of the Town population lives in subdivisions, and once the Brookfield subdivision is fully occupied by 2018, that number will increase to 50 percent.

“There is no direct representation of the subdivisions on Mono Council now, and there wasn’t during the last term,” said Mr. McCrae. “There is no way [in place] now to ensure that there is direct representation of this large part of the Mono population.”

Part of the reason Mr. McCrae feels a ward system would be a good substitute for the current system is that it would encourage more community involvement in the political process, something which has proven to be lacking in the Town.

“Citizen engagement in the Mono political process is at an all-time low,” he said. “A Ward system would guarantee balanced representation of all residential groups on Mono Council. Because residents know they will be represented, they will be more encouraged to be directly involved in the Town.”

Mr. McCrae’s proposal included the possibility of restructuring into a four- or three-ward structure, either of which would involve a five-member council. In the four-ward scenario, the mayor would be elected at large, with four councillors elected in their respective wards. A deputy mayor would then be a councillor appointed by the mayor. In the three-ward plan, the mayor and deputy mayor would both be elected at large, with three councillors elected in their wards.

“This Council has an exciting opportunity during their term of council to make a fundamental and necessary change to Mono’s electoral system,” Mr. McCrae concluded in his presentation. “This change will reflect the current reality of the composition of our Town, ensure balanced representation on Council, and open the possibility for greater important citizen involvement in the Mono political process.”

Councillor Fred Nix was the first to respond to the report, and while he wasn’t in total support of it, he did feel it was something worth considering.

“I think you have identified some issues, and I don’t disagree with them,” said Councillor Nix. “I think you have presented some good solutions here. I could go for it, but I’m not sure I know enough just yet to go with it.”

One of Councillor’s Nix’s fears regarding a ward system is that it would follow the footsteps of some municipalities where that has failed, and led towards an almost ‘fiefdom’ type of government, where everyone is focused solely on their ward.

“One of the advantages to staying with the ‘at large’ system is that as councillors, we have to be aware of the situations with all the people in Mono,” he added. “Whether they live in the subdivisions, or the far northern area of Mono, I have to be aware of and represent everybody, not just my area.”

Councillor Sharon Martin added that while she likes the idea, she likes the fact that the at-large system allows Council members to represent the Town as a whole.

“When someone has a problem in a subdivision, they call me, regardless of where I live,” she explained. “If we’re in a ward system, I’m not just going to call the person whose representing me in Ward 1, I’m still phoning all of them to let them know that I’m pissed off and want something dealt with.”

After more discussion, as well as letting Mr. McCrae know that they would be receiving a delegation specifically to address community engagement, it was decided that Council would accept the report and consider it along with all other information.

“I haven’t heard this as an issue from anyone else before, and I don’t really see a downside to having an at-large council,” explained Mayor Laura Ryan. “It forces each representative to look at the municipality as a whole. We will take your report, and receive it, and discuss it.”


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