Change in appetite for at-large voting?

 In Opinion

Clearview Township is once again evaluating the structure of its government. While staff is undertaking a review of the size and shape of council and how it represents its constituents, it will be up to those elected officials to make the final call. Council will have to decide how many members are needed, and if they stick to a ward system or convert to an at-large system, and for that they are seeking public input.
The council of the day undertook the same exercise in 2013. At that time there was a high level of public engagement. People attended public meetings and filled council chambers to hear the final decision.
Back then it was decided to stick with the seven wards and rearrange the ward boundaries to what we have today. This was all done with the help of a consultant, and in the end council supported their recommendation, with the approval of the public.
At that time there was an overwhelming support for the ward system but there was some division on whether there should be five or seven wards.
It remains to be seen if there is an appetite for an at-large system now, but some believe there has been a shift.
This review has been prompted by a desire at the provincial level to see municipal government reform. The province has been doling out money for municipalities to find efficiencies. At the county level, members have been unable to come to any conclusion on how to reduce its numbers. Currently, the mayor and deputy mayor from 16 member municipalities sit on county council, for a total of 32. With that structure in place, Clearview is required to elect a mayor and deputy mayor.
That only leaves wiggle room in the number of council members. Here we weigh the pros and cons of the ward system versus the at-large system.
It’s possible an at-large system could help bring Clearview closer to its goal of truly amalgamating as one community. An unknown number of people would put their names forward and voters would chose which ones they wish to represent them and the interests of the municipality as a whole, theoretically. This would force candidates to campaign in all parts of the municipality, making themselves known to all, or at least all who are paying attention. This would stop people from being acclaimed because they are well connected in one part of the township.
On the flipside, we know that no matter how much we look for cohesiveness, there are distinct interests in the individual communities that make up Clearview. Creemore is notorious for having a distinct and vocal opinion on certain issues, as demonstrated by the ATV quarrel. The ward system seems the best way to ensure Creemore maintains a clear representational voice. But then again, with the at-large system anything can happen and one community could be overrepresented on council.
This is the quandary we are facing, and we can’t even be in the same room. We must weigh the pros and cons, and then click.

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