Saturday, June 16, 2007

Oshawa's not the LAUGHING STOCK of Canadian City Politics---Or Is It?

The following letter has been sent to the Managing Editor of FORUM MAGAZINE, the Political Journal of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities sent to politicians of all levels across the country.

Unbeknowst to you, loyal reader, 6 of our 11 council members were at their recent conference in CALGARY thanks to your local tax dollars---the highest in the GTA.

Oshawa's representation was so large that it may have constituted a forum for regular city council meetings...perhaps one should have been scheduled there.

Robert Ross,
Managing Editor
FORUM--Canada's National Municipal Magazine
Federation of Canadian Municipalities


Re: Oshawa Council supports change to the general vote

Contrary to the belief that municipal government should be closest to the people, Oshawa’s City Council has voted to implement the general vote for the election of our municipal government thus insuring that the constituency of each municipal councillor is almost twice the size of that of our Federal and Provincial members.

By moving to the general vote, they have also taken away local neighbourhood or ward representation thus making all of our council members less accountable to the people. They believe that all members of council should be responsible for the constituency concerns of all city residents in this city of 160,000.

When Oshawa last had the general vote for seven councils prior to 1985, the vote was not responsible for any change on council as all changes took place through the death or resignation of members which then left an open spot for fresh representation. Because the experience demonstrates that councillors could not be defeated under the general vote, the votes tendered at elections were not real votes that made any difference whatsoever to the composition of council. This is a lessening of democracy when the vote is ineffective in determining your political leaders.

In addition, out of the 109 council seats voted on over that time, not one of those seats was won by anyone in the half of the city south of King Street. Huge areas of the city were unrepresented as most politicians came to reside in a few of the more affluent areas of the city. Eight of Fifteen Council members came from one of seven wards in the city and three council members resided in one polling subdivision. This is a lessening of democracy when the system is not inclusive of all demographics of the municipality.

It appears as if council members are more interested in securing their council seats until death or resignation rather than providing good governance for this city. It is a disrespect for democracy as well as the citizens when politician’s want to institute a system that puts their interests before the citizens that they purport to serve.

Your recent conference in Calgary was well attended by Oshawa Council members Mayor Gray and Councillors April Cullen, Tito Dante Marimpietri, Nester Pidwerbecki, Joe Kolodzie and Robert Lutczyk, four of whom (highlighted in bold type) voted in support of the change. The italicized member is the introducer of the motion and prime supporter of the change which he justified by 2 reasons---1) It was time the question was asked, and 2) Oshawa was getting too large for the ward system.

A confusing referendum question was designed after a number of council revisions whereby people had to vote “NO” to retain ward voting and “YES” to reject it. The question carried unfortunately: 1) In all probability because its confusion made it hard to understand, and 2) because council’s strategy was to keep it as a low-profile “non-issue” and thus failed to adequately inform the public about it or promote any public debate or discussion. Council had a public meeting before the vote that was so low-profile that only two citizens attended. The result then was that voters were confronted for the first time in the voting booth by a convoluted question about an important and complex issue they had not considered, thought about, or discussed---hardly a democratic process.

In adopting the general vote, council voted to maintain the existing city wards, a technicality that allowed the politicians to implement the change without any possible citizen appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board for any outside and objective scrutiny of the merits and benefits of the change.

Most council members voting for the change say that they don’t support a change to the general vote but are voting in support of the referendum result. Obviously they are supporting a severely flawed process---not the public will at all.

Beyond that, who ever expected that politicians would vote for something they have publicly stated to be “not best” for the city. We trust politicians to bring their best judgment to issues and vote accordingly.

It appears that council knew what they wanted and then designed a strategy to get it.

Council has never communicated to the people what benefits are to come from the change or indeed what was wrong with the ward electoral system which appeared to be working well since not a whimper of public dissatisfaction was ever expressed about it.

Mayor Gray publicly stated in a regular city council meeting that council had no responsibility to communicate information about the change to the public prior to the vote saying this was the responsibility of taxpayers who were opposed to the move….incredulous! Is this democracy in action?

As Canada’s largest city with the general vote devoid of party politics, perhaps Oshawa politicians know something about good municipal governance that is worthy of being written up in the Federation of Canadian Municipalities FORUM magazine so that politicians of every Canadian municipality can take advantage of the wisdom of our Oshawa politicians.

In addition, we believe that invitations should be tendered to Mayor Gray and Councillor Nestor Pidwerbecki to address your next convention to explain the benefits of the general vote to municipalities and perhaps even the process municipalities can follow if they too want to introduce the general vote.

After all, we in Oshawa believe in sharing our political knowledge to make Canada a better place, and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities organization has the mandate to communicate best local governance practices across the land.

If our politicians do give such an address to your organization, this would be the first opportunity for Oshawa citizens to hear of their rationale for the change and the benefits they expect to accrue to our city.

We don’t for a second believe that Oshawa’s moves to the general vote would make us the laughing stock of Canadian Municipal Politics but a breath of fresh air for all others to follow.

You may find more detailed information about this issue at

Bill Longworth,
Chair/Founder VOTES (Vote to Eliminate Self-Serving Politicians)
Contact details removed

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