Monday, January 29, 2007

A Citizen Letter Reprinted from WardSystemOshawa blog

Reuben N. Roth
30 Connaught Street
Oshawa, ON
L1G 2G9
Tel: 905-579-6578

January 23, 2007

Dear Mayor and Councillors:

I’m writing in support of retaining Oshawa’s ward system of representation and against switching to a general citywide vote.

The turnout for last November’s vote was well under the 50% turnout needed for a binding referendum vote. This means that the results of the ward vs. general vote referendum in last November’s municipal election are not binding and council need not act on these referendum questions in any way. To do so in the face of low voter turnout is to ‘playact’ at democracy – but it isn’t democratic. Oshawa is a large municipality that’s growing – this alone is reason to maintain the Ward system.

If we’re to encourage voter turnout in future elections, we need to simplify the municipal/regional ballot. A general, citywide vote threatens to confuse and further alienate voters. Moreover, the questions were badly written and confusing. I found that I had to reread the two questions to fully grasp their meaning. Cynics might interpret this as a ‘tactic’ rather than an honest attempt to solicit voters’ views on an issue. Lastly, a citywide campaign is expensive and has the effect of ‘shutting out’ potential candidates due to cost factors alone. Favouring wealthy candidates with deep pockets is anathema in a city whose roots are unquestionably working class. One argument in favour of a system that eliminates ward councillors is that this system relies on name recognition and tips the scales heavily in favour of incumbents. Surely the optics of this alone are going to be detrimental to local politics. If it’s still alive in 2010, this issue will threaten to dominate the next municipal campaign and distract voters from the urgent issues of development, services, and the environment.

Reuben N. Roth, Ph.D.

CC: Oshawa This Week

Mr. Roth was a member of the Oshawa Public Library Board of Directors and is currently an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Laurentian University. What does it say about the wording of the referendum questions when Mr. Roth, a Professor with a Ph.D in Education and Sociology and one of the brightest individuals I have met, indicates that even he had problems reading and understanding the question?

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