Proposed New Electoral Boundaries
In case you haven’t heard from other sources, the County has released its proposed new electoral boundaries bylaw. You can access it here.
The proposed bylaw reduces the number of electoral divisions to seven from the current nine. It also retains the current governance structure with council selecting the chief elected official on an annual basis but the title of this position will be changed from Reeve to Mayor. Council will consider the bylaw at its October 27th meeting. It will not be a public hearing. Assuming the bylaw is passed by council, the new divisions will be used in the October 2021 municipal election.
Beyond the basic geographic boundaries of the new divisions, the County has not provided any supporting information for this proposed change, making it difficult to assess the reasonableness of the proposal. Without supporting information, the new divisional boundaries appear somewhat arbitrary.
We have asked Administration to provide what we see as critical information for understanding the proposed changes, including:
1. a breakdown of the population by each new division,
2. the rationale for switching to seven divisions, and
3. the rationale for choosing the divisional boundaries that they are recommending.
When Administration responds to our request, we will share whatever information we receive.
It is interesting to note that the proposed changes do not reflect the public feedback the County received in its online survey. A substantial majority of respondents to the survey favoured keeping at least nine elected officials. This strongly indicates that most survey respondents wanted to keep the status quo in terms of the number of electoral divisions. The survey responses also identified a strong preference for a directly elected mayor, which has not been included in the proposed bylaw.
We believe the fact that the proposed bylaw deviates significantly from residents’ input makes it even more important for the County to explain the proposed bylaw. Otherwise, they are asking residents to blindly accept the result, which is unacceptable on any measure of good governance.
The notice posted on the County’s website states that Administration’s report on the proposed bylaw will be released on October 21st. The notice also points out that residents have the option to submit a petition by October 19th requesting a referendum vote of all residents on the proposed bylaw. The notice has no information on how else residents can comment on the proposed changes.
If Administration does not provide the supporting information we have requested on a timely basis, it is not clear how residents can possibly make an informed decision on this bylaw in time to prepare a petition if that is what residents want to do.