Our Ward System
Greater Napanee is divided into five wards. There are seven members on council. The mayor and deputy-mayor are elected “at large” by vote of all the electors. The five councillors are elected by the voters in his or her ward.
Thus, each of us gets to vote once every four years for only 3 of the 7 persons who will run our Town for the next four years. The other 4 can safely ignore us. Are we well served by this governance model? Would council be more responsible to the wishes of the electorate if all seven of them had to face all of the voters at election time? Does the ward system promote governance for the good of all?
The Mayor and Deputy Mayor both stated publicly at the November 22, 2016 meeting that the time had come to abandon the ward system and have all councillors elected at large. Stone Mills voted to eliminate the ward system in April 2013. An appeal to the OMB was dismissed. Since 2015, Stone Mills has operated with all members elected at large. Many municipalities in Ontario have done likewise.
A ward system, may have been necessary in 1997 to assure the constituent municipalities that their concerns would not be overwhelmed in the larger structure. Whether that is still the case is questionable. Today, the nature of the rural areas is far different. Some of the most sought after real-estate is in the rural area and business owners, academics and professionals are divided between urban and rural areas. Many highly qualified candidates for council reside outside the urban core and in fact senior management and present and past council members hail from both regions.
Questions, Questions, Questions…
Is a ward system still in the best interests of the electorate? This is a judgment each of us has to make. Council will be consulting with the public on this issue and on ranked ballots during February. The Municipal Act, section 222 provides that council can dissolve the ward boundaries by a majority vote.
So, what problems are there with the ward system?
Under a ward system, each councillor is motivated to protect the interests of his constituents often to the detriment of the good of the municipality as a whole. Councillors are not accountable to all of the voters, only the ones in his or her ward.
Disputes arise as to allocation of resources. Complaints, real or imagined, are made about unfair divisions of services. Cliques often develop with secret caucus sessions to map out strategy in advance of meetings. Information is not evenly shared. This is very distracting to council members and opportunities for overall cost savings are often missed. Staff, who have to remain neutral, often end up having to stickhandle decisions past the regional divisions. All of this consumes staff time and resources. Both staff and council end up paying less attention than they should to the important job of seeking improvements in efficiency.
Exhibit “A” for the ills of ward systems is Toronto. It has an urban-suburban divide similar to the urban-rural divide in Greater Napanee. Since amalgamation in Toronto, virtually no subways have been built because no councillor wants his constituents to think he is supporting a plan to pay for infrastructure in other wards. It’s not hard to compare this to our local squabbles where the urban councillors refuse to allow the Napanee Electric fund to be used to pay off the arena loan (the arena is in former Richmond Twp) and the rural councillors refuse to allow the sale of “their” former Township halls. Huge amounts of money have been wasted here because of these spats.
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Hubert Hogle 532-3672
Dennis Mills 354-6375
Arthur Ronald 354-4291
We have added six additional directors, John Wilson, Judy Wood, John Stinson, Briane Birney, Suzy Sheltler and Anne Hogle. All residents and taxpayers in Greater Napanee are welcome to become members and all interested parties are welcome to receive our regular newsletters and contribute content to the website. If you are interested in serving as a director, let us know.