Chatham-Kent ward map (Image from the Municipality of Chatham-Kent)Chatham-Kent ward map (Image from the Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

CK council plans to look at ward boundaries, council size

It's been a longstanding argument in Chatham-Kent, is the municipal council too big?

On Monday, Chatham-Kent Council voted in favour of a motion from Ward 4 Councillor Rhonda Jubenville that will see the hiring of a third-party consultant to review the ideal size of the council and the region's ward boundaries.

"Campaigning, people brought this up a lot," Councillor Ryan Doyle, who seconded the motion, said of council's 17 seats.

It took a number of friendly amendments for council to finally agree to the motion and even then, the vote was far from unanimous.

The discussion was broken down into two parts: the size of council and the possibility of redistricting.

Ward 3 Councillor Trevor Thompson was vehemently against both parts of the motion.

"I think, to be quite honest, that this is an earnest and honest motion of someone who means well, but doesn't do anything to alleviate the issues," he said.

Thompson declared that Jubenville's original idea of council being cut down to 12 members was just an arbitrary number, adding that it wasn't even a cost-effective measure.

"I took a look around here tonight, and back in 1997, those pre-amalgamation good old days, we had 45 local politicians," Thompson concluded. "It was ridiculous. We're already down to 17, so maybe we've made the cuts. Maybe it's the right size."

Jubenville emphasized that her intention with the motion wasn't to put anyone out of a job or to be a cost-cutting measure, it was to be more efficient.

"I was doing comparatives," she explained. She pointed out that the Greater Sudbury Area is also an amalgamated municipality that covers a larger geographical area, with a higher population, and only has 12 part-time councillors.

After a lot of back and forth, and amendments from Councillors Brock McGregor, Carmen McGregor, and Melissa Harrigan the first part of the motion became:

Chatham-Kent Council invite a third-party consultant to conduct a review of the existing size of Council membership to decrease the size of Council, providing various options.

The motion passed with a vote of 8-6.

Councillors Allin, Anderson, McGrail, Pinsonneault, and Thompson voted against the motion. Councillors Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Finn, and Wright weren't present or didn't vote at all.

When it came to reviewing the municipality's districts, council was much more amenable. It was mostly agreed that since CK is such a fast-growing community and since ward boundaries haven't been looked at since amalgamation in 1998, it was important information to have.

"I believe that we collectively make decisions for Chatham-Kent. We all live in different areas but, I've heard so many people say, we're thinking of Chatham-Kent," Mayor Canniff said. "There's winners, and there's losers in many of the decisions we make, but overall the community benefits."

He added that it's important and fair that the area's districts be looked at so council has the best, most up-to-date information available to make decisions. "We need to review based on representation. The federal government does it, the provincial government does it, many other communities do it, and we haven't done it in a long time," Canniff said.

He told the rest of council he would support both parts of the motion because even if they don't change anything in the end, the information is important to have.

The second part of the motion passed with a vote result of 11-3. It read:

The review should include consideration of respecting communities of interest, and options to ensure both rural and urban voices are represented and included in each ward, as well as other potential options taking into account community consultation and best practices.

Councillors Pinsonneault and Thompson voted against the second half of the motion. Councillors Bondy, Ceccacci, Crew, Finn, and Wright did not vote.

The municipality's administration will now be tasked with finding a company that can complete the reviews.

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