Saturday, February 3, 2007

Should Oshawa Council Serve the People…or the Politicians?

Oshawa City Council is likely to play loose with Democratic Ideals once again at a meeting of Oshawa City Council scheduled for 6:30 pm Monday, February 5, 2007. The basic question Council will have to ask itself is, “Who does the Council serve, the people or the Members of Council?” I’m betting that Council will adopt a position that makes it clear to all that they believe the system of local government should serve them first…the people be damned!

At Monday’s Council Meeting, politicians will receive and debate a staff report suggesting that they can adopt a general vote and this cannot be appealed to the OMB as long as they do not alter the wards. This means that they would retain the ward boundaries but that they would not be used for electoral purposes.

At the OMB hearing leading to the 1985 finding for ward elections in Oshawa, the first argument proposed by the city solicitor was that the OMB did not have jurisdiction in the matter. This argument was rejected by the OMB Chairman. This is the argument that the staff report is presenting to the politicians…that the OMB only has jurisdiction to alter wards but not to determine the method of electing council.

Indeed, the 1985 OMB ruling did lay out both wards and the election method to be used in Oshawa. At that time they ruled a ten ward system with one regional councillor to be elected from each ward and five local councillors to be elected from paired wards with the Mayor to be elected at large. The Ontario Municipal Act makes it clear that the ward vote is the expected for cities the size of Oshawa, and the general vote is the exception.

In any case, because of the strong association of wards with municipal elections throughout Ontario and its use in this context in Oshawa since 1985, we will present the argument in our OMB appeal that indeed for functional purposes the general vote does alter the wards…dissolving all wards into one for electoral purposes.

I have previously asked to be on the agenda to address Council on this question and encourage as many people as possible to attend and also to write the Mayor and Council and to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing who administers the OMB, the Municipal Act, and Municipal Elections stating your concerns.

This Council seems to think that our local system of government should serve them first. As ratepayers, we should be mad as hell that they place their self-interest before providing good representative local government to the city and its people.

This is Canada…and Council is being blatantly undemocratic!!!

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