Saturday, January 20, 2007

How Did This Issue Arise?

As there was not one whimper of expressed citizen discontent with the ward system of electing council, one has to question "why the change?".

All of the action for change has come from the politicians of Oshawa Council and because of this, one must question their motivation...if no citizen discontent was expressed, why are they pushing for change? The answer is incumbents know that they can have virtually life-long seats on council under a general vote because it is almost impossible to defeat incumbents in general vote elections.

To secure the desired referendum result Council followed a strategy of keeping the issue secret to confront voters "cold" at the ballot box so they had little opportunity or time to logically assess and discuss the issue before voting and also wording the question in such a way that you had to vote "NO" to preserve the present ward system...CLEVER!!! Realizing this "ploy" I did write to the Mayor and Council suggesting an information brochure explaining the pros/cons of ward/general vote be sent to all residents but this suggestion was ignored in the interests of keeping the secret to election day. I even offered to write the argument for preserving ward elections but this offer of help was not even acknowledged.

By way of background, Oshawa was the largest jurisdiction in the province to have the general vote in 1985 when my group, "Ward System Now" campaigned for over 5 years to bring ward voting to Oshawa and this campaign ended with a 21 day Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Hearing at which "Ward System Now" was victorious in winning ward elections for Oshawa. If council passes a bylaw to proceed to the general vote, we will once again appeal to the OMB for fairness and justice for the Oshawa taxpayer. We need a system of elections that serves the people...and not the politicians.

Oshawa's experience with the general vote was horrendous. Oshawa was a quiet and sleepy place where nothing happened. Even though housing prices were depressed here, commuters would bypass Oshawa to Bowmanville and Newcastle to live in more expensive "affordable housing" because no one wanted to live in Oshawa. We had little in the way of community facilities. There was no turnover in council to generate new ideas and because service to people was not the criterion for electoral success, council did nothing except backbite, bitch, and grandstand to increase their name recognition which was the criteria to get elected. Because every member of council was a competitor of every other councillor, co-operation, civility, and conduct degenerated to see who could get the most press.

While the general vote politicians did little for the community, severe problems set in. All of the councillors came to reside in a few of Oshawa's wealthier neighbourhoods with one fifth of council even residing in one polling subdivision of about 100 houses, much of Oshawa came to be unrepresented by any residents of their part of Oshawa. The south end, for example, had not been represented in living memory.

Under ward voting, council has been much more activist in representing the interests of all citizens of Oshawa. Community infrastructure has improved with new arenas and recreation complexes in all sections of the city. Oshawa has become the fastest growing region in the GTA with a lot of upscale housing areas and shopping complexes. Even the embarrassing downtown core looks likely to develop with improved downtown amenities. There is still a lot of work to do in Oshawa and this could once again be lost if we return to a "do nothing" general vote council. In that event, Oshawa amenities are likely to freeze, house prices will drop, and Oshawa could once again become an undesirable place to live.

An important point for residents to recognize is that getting elected is very important for a politician and they will do whatever is required to get elected. If high name recognition means success under the general vote, politicians will work at that as "Job One", If service to ratepayers and solving communuity problems is the secret to electoral success, politicians will work at that as "Job One". Which type of politician do you want?

This blog will publish a regular and steady "diet" of new information regarding this important issue and will allow you as well to publish your ideas and opinions on this site. We encourage you to bookmark this site and check back with us regularly. We also encourage you to bookmark the site which is an alternative site supporting the Ward System for Oshawa managed by strong ward advocate Alderman Brian Nicholson. And please tell your friends about these sites. This issue of ward vs. general vote is likely the most important issue this council will face regarding the future health of Oshawa.

If you want to write your views on this issue to be presented at the OMB hearing, you can direct them to Bill Longworth, 159 Spirea Court, Oshawa, L1G6S8 (strongest) or email at (weaker). You may also post your unedited opinions directly to this site and we encourage you to do so.

No comments: