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Monday, November 03, 2008

edmonton journal adopts 12-ward system.

Never mind the public hearings scheduled for February 17, 2008, the Edmonton Journal seems to have framed Edmonton City Council's proposed Ward changes as a fait accompli.

Though I support changing Edmonton City Council representation from the current 6-Ward/2-Councillor system to a 12-Ward/1-Councillor system (for various reasons including size, population, etc), I also believe that public hearings are an important part of this decision-making process and should not be overlooked as a formality.

Also, this isn't the first time that the Ward debate has come up...

"The ward issue languished until shortly after the 1986 election, when two city council members, Ron Hayter and Jan Reimer, announced the ward system was totally inadequate and called for changes to be made. After Reimer moved that the wards be increased from six to twelve, with one member elected from each, council referred the proposal to a committee chaired by Hayter. Although he made a concerted effort to obtain support for ward reform, public response was unenthusiastic, and reform efforts collapsed when Mayor Decore, who had just been re-elected with one of the largest majorities in the city's history, announced that he needed a lot of convincing that "we should shake up the system" and he had "difficulties" accepting the idea of single-member wards. In September 1987 council narrowly defeated a proposal calling for twelve wards with a single member elected from each. Alderman Lilian Staroszik explained that, in her opinion, Edmonton already had "probably the best possible representation."*
*Masson, Jack; Edward C. LeSage Jr. (1994). Alberta's Local Governments:Politics and Democracy. University of Alberta Press, pp. 297

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Something that has been overlooked here is the fact that for at least two election-cycles now, the administration has recommended an increase in the number of councillors.

Moving to one councillor per ward is great, but the voters per ward will still be too high for good representation. I would have liked to see the move to single member wards paired up with an increase from 12 to 14 councillors, as changing the new wards later on will ignite another turf war among incumbents (which was the real reason we kept 2 per ward for so long).

Anonymous said...

While 14 councillors would be nice (city wards are *way* bigger, even under this plan, than provincial ridings), the public would never go for it -- when property-tax hikes are as steep as they're looking to be, adding more councillors (even though the expense is relatively minor, in the context of something as big as the city budget) would just encourage outrage from people who wouldn't even consider paying the extra $2/household (envelope math) that two more councillors would cost. (The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation would say that councillors just want lighter workloads -- no chance the dialogue would include the concept of 14 people doing more work than 12.) Adding two councillors at the same time as making the long-overdue shift from two councillors per ward to one would sink the whole plan. I'd rather have half the changes than nothing. And, for my money, splitting the wards is also the more important of the two changes.

SD said...

I think that the second anon has it pegged. Although his or her negative tone toward public opinion is in poor taste. I think it is reasonable to expect City Council to lead by example if they want the other city departments to cut costs. That being said, one councillor wards are a must. They would vastly improve representation and community relations without creating any additional costs. Moreover, Dave, just think about how easy it will be to get Don re-elected if his ward goes from the Whitemud to Belgravia...

C. Young said...

Dave - I feel a strange urge to point out that I agree with you on this issue, because that sometimes seems to be a rare occurrence ;-). One Councillor wards would be a huge improvement, but I'm not going to get too excited until it actually becomes a reality (here's hoping!).