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Council opposes Ward Boundary Review at this time

October 1, 2020   ·   0 Comments

A request to undertake a Ward Boundary Review in New Tecumseth and investigate reducing Council from 10 to an uneven number was shot down 5-4 on Monday evening.

Deputy Mayor Richard Norcross brought the motion forward in light of the Provincial government asking Municipal and County governments to reduce their size and composition.

“Their philosophy is less is better,” he said.

An independent Ward Boundary Review was last conducted locally in 2009, which was the first one completed since the Town’s inception in 1991.

“We could reduce the size of Council, pass on the savings to the residents, look for more efficiencies, make sure we have effective representation by population and account for future growth,” said Norcross.

“But, of course, the Provincial government has the authority to change municipal council compositions, so my feeling is why wouldn’t we want to do it ourselves instead of others trying to make those decisions for us? A classic example would be the Toronto Council.”

Simcoe County Council proposed a reduction from 32 to 16 Councillors earlier in the year, which was also shot down.

Ward 4 Councillor Fran Sainsbury said she attended Council meetings in New Tecumseth from 2009-2010 to get familiar with local issues before running for office. She said at that time Norcross moved the motion to go from nine Councillors to 10.

Norcross said he made the decade-old decision using information Council had at the time, based on reports and staff recommendations. He noted that now things have changed.

Sainsbury voted against the new motion for a Ward Boundary Review, noting an internal review was conducted for the 2018 election, so she’d prefer to save the money that would be used hiring a consultant to conduct the review for 2022.

Norcross’s motion stated the funds for the review would come out of the Tax Rate Stabilization Reserve, which is sourced from this year’s surplus.

“I don’t like to take money out of reserves right now for that particular purpose,” said Sainsbury.

“I would really like for this 2022 election to leave the formation of Council as it is. We’ve only ever had one hot button issue that’s ever been tied, everything else just seems to sail through.”

Ward 7 Councillor Shira Harrison McIntyre agreed with Sainsbury in that a Ward Boundary Review was done for the 2018 election which took up significant staff hours and some funding.

“The taxpayers and residents came out and spent their time making comments on this, so putting it back to them a couple of years later seems redundant,” she noted.

“The exercise was done and the wards were evened up and I just don’t understand why during a pandemic, when there’s so many concerns, and why during a time of growth in our town we are starting to look at this again.”

Harrison McIntyre said what she hears from residents is concerns about the safety of their roads and that’s the business that Council should focus on.

Ward 2 Councillor Michael Beattie said he disagreed with Harrison McIntyre’s statement regarding the internal boundary review conducted in 2018 and was heavily disappointed with that process.

“I won’t call it a Ward Boundary Review, that one doesn’t count, that was a massacre, it was a disaster,” he quipped.

“The reason it was a disaster was because politics and personalities were injected into it, so I’m certainly supportive of doing one of these, on two conditions… it be funded by a surplus or operating budget rather than reserves and that this be completely independent from start to finish.”

“We should not be involved in this if we’re deciding on jobs and numbers and things like that,” Beattie added.

Ward 6 Councillor Stephanie MacLellan noted that the Ward Boundary Review conducted in 2009 recommended that the 2018 term of Council conduct another one by a professional consultant for a new composition of Council in 2022.

“I believe if memory serves me correctly, every other municipality in Simcoe County has an odd number of Council members and I think it’s glaring that we don’t,” she said.

“I think that we are all capable of taking on another 500-2,000 people if necessary but I think that we definitely need to have a professional look at our ward boundaries and see if they continue to meet the needs of the residents.”

Ward 3 Councillor Paul Foster said he doesn’t like consultants due to their high costs, but understands the need to reassess the Town’s ward system.

“As much as I’m opposed to consultants in a general nature, this is one aspect where I can get behind it and support it,” he noted.

Since the motion was defeated and won’t move forward, New Tecumseth Council will likely be unable to change its Ward Boundary for the election in 2022.

The review and any appeals have to be complete by December 31, 2021, which is a tight timeline as consultants for this type of work are tied up since all of Ontario’s municipalities have the same deadlines, noted Town Clerk Cindy Maher.

By Sam Odrowski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



         


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