Rocky View electoral reform - limited public consultation opportunities
As we noted in an earlier post, the County is pushing full steam ahead with a number of initiatives. Another important one is potential changes to the electoral boundaries and the County’s governance structure. The County has an on-line survey that is open until Wednesday, April 29th and can be accessed here
This survey appears to be the only opportunity residents will be given to provide input on this issue. This might be almost reasonable if all that was being proposed was a realignment of the existing electoral boundaries. However, the possible changes go far beyond that.
How the County is governed may be changed by replacing the current structure where the reeve is elected by his/her fellow councillors with a mayor elected directly by residents across the entire County. The number of electoral divisions may also be changed. These are substantive changes that require significant consultation and buy-in from residents before they are introduced.
There also appears to be a serious design flaw in the on-line survey. If you answer “no” or “no comment” to Question #5 – “should the current division boundaries be changed?” – your version of the survey excludes important questions. For example, you will not be asked for input on what factors are important in making changes to electoral boundaries. This question is key to thinking about why it matters where the electoral/divisional boundaries are drawn. Fundamentally, people need to decide if mathematically purity is more important to effective representation than maintaining communities and having boundaries that are meaningful and easy to understand.
We are troubled by the extremely limited public engagement on such important changes. The recent closure of the Rocky View Weekly newspaper magnifies those concerns. With no local newspaper, how will the many residents without internet service learn about this initiative? And, realistically, how many residents check the County’s website regularly “just in case” there is something new that might affect them? We hope that the County recognizes the importance of the loss of Rocky View Weekly and mails notices of this important survey to all Rocky View households rather than restricting resident input only on those who happen to learn about the proposals through other avenues.
We have prepared some background information on the topic that can be accessed through this link.