Saturday, February 3, 2007

An Open Letter to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

The Honourable John Gerretsen,
Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing,
Queen’s Park,

Dear Sir:

Oshawa City Council voted to have a question on last November’s Municipal Election Ballot to seek the opinion of voters as to whether Oshawa should once again revert to a general vote. They worded the question in such a way that voters had to vote “NO” to maintain the present ward system of electing our council. Further there was no real effort to provide information to residents regarding the question and so voters were kept “cold” on the question until they saw it on the ballot in the voting booth.

The question of returning to the general vote was purely political as not a whimper of expressed public discontent with the ward system was heard. In point of fact, Oshawa was flourishing under the ward system with new major recreational facilities servicing all areas of the city, a boom in high quality housing, and the fastest growing region in the GTA. There seemed to be no reason for change outside of politician’s self interest in insuring their re-election with minimal competition at election times.

The general vote had been in use with severe shortcomings in Oshawa from 1933 to the time of the 1985 OMB ruling (M840053-March 21, 1985) which quoted a number of principles underlying its decision.

1) “The use of a ward system … would be one way of encouraging political responsiveness. The election of a council at large tends to reduce the representation of diverse political interests and conflicting political views and thus provides a less accurate reflection of local values.” (pg. 10)

2) From the 1972 Ministry of Treasury, Economics and Intergovernmental Affairs report entitled, “Proposal for Local Government Reform In An Area East of Metropolitan Toronto”, under the Regional Government proposal, the lower tier councils will be performing fewer functions than the Region. It is desirable, therefore, to minimize the number of people sitting on local council who are not on regional council.” (pg. 11)

3) A 1971 select committee of the Ontario Legislature stated, “It is important at all times to ensure that local government is kept close to the people. It is important to guard against the potential danger that members of Local and Regional Councils may have to represent too large a number of residents for effective representation.” (pg. 10)

4) Any change to the existing system which would appear to be operating for the benefit of the entire city would have to be based on some concrete evidence of inefficiencies or ratepayer dissatisfaction on a large and well-informed basis. (pg. 13)

5) “It is clear from the evidence that during the period 1971 to 1985 and in the last 7 general vote councils which collectively contained 109 seats in that time span, three of the seven wards have not been represented by residents of those wards….adding to the argument that Council has been essentially a north end council seven successive times.” (pg. 23)

In light of the above statements of fact and evidence quoted from the 1985 OMB finding, particularly point 4, I would ask the minister to:

1. Declare invalid any attempt by Oshawa City Council to implement a bylaw to have Oshawa revert to a general vote.

2. In light of point 2, I would ask the Minister to order the elimination of local councillors in Oshawa. This is certainly a point that we will be presenting at any OMB hearing called to hear the question.

I have given notice that I will appeal any bylaw to revert to the General Vote to the OMB, unfortunately at significant cost both to the Oshawa taxpayer and to the Provincial Government. Action by you to stop this irresponsible, self serving, and undemocratic action of Oshawa Council can save the time and expense for all concerned.

William Longworth
Chairman VOTES (Vote to Eliminate Self-Serving Politicians)
159 Spirea Court,
Oshawa, Ontario

February 3, 2007

No comments: