Council opts not to investigate ward system

By Karen Fallon

Changes to the way Amherstburg residents are to choose their elected municipal candidates was quashed by council April 10.

“I don’t understand how you can build a community by dividing it,” said councilor John Sutton, who recollected that at the time of amalgamation the Provincial Commissioner had recommended that elections in the municipality be held at-large.

At an earlier meeting councilor Bart DiPasquale raised a Notice of Motion regarding the exploration by the town of a ward system.

DiPasquale says he believes it is time for a change.

“I think a ward system will unify the municipality – properly formed wards will bring unification,” he said.

“I think this is a huge, huge step backwards,” said Sutton. “I will never support something that divides our community, or pits one resident against another.”

In a recorded vote the majority of council agreed that a ward system was not something they wanted to see at this time.

Sutton says that this is the first time that there hasn’t been a representative on council from the old Malden Twp.

However, he notes: “All the significant capital investments we are making are going to that area of our town.”

These projects include upgrades to the 3rd and 6th Concession North, and a commitment to work on Texas Road during 2013-14.

“All done without having a ward councilor from there,” said Sutton, who added that being a councilor from a ward, restricts the individual as to the issues they can raise and support.

DiPasquale pointed out that his motion was designed to initiate an investigation into the possibility of a ward system and to take the issue to the electorate to determine what they would like to see.

The issue was sparked by local resident Wilf Fortowsky who has explored the conditions that could lead to a petition from the residents seeking a ward system for future elections in the municipality.

According to the Municipal Act: “Electors in a municipality may present a petition to council asking the council to pass a bylaw dividing or re-dividing the municipality into wards or dissolving the existing wards.”

A petition requires one per cent or 500 of the electors in the municipality, whichever is less.

“I am hesitant as we are building our community to not see ourselves as a tri-community,” said councilor Carolyn Davies. “This is a very sensitive time to be moving a ward system back to old boundaries.”

Although, says Davies she would like to see how many people are interested in a move to a ward system.

Councillor Robert Pillon, notes that he too isn’t in favor of dividing the municipality. Although, he says, on occasion he has been approached by people from the Anderdon area who are of the opinion that they don’t have any representation in town hall.

This, says Pillon, is incorrect as everyone on council represents all of the people throughout the community.

Following amalgamation, pointed out councilor Diane Pouget, residents weren’t given a choice regarding how they were to elect their candidates.

Deputy Mayor Ron Sutherland and Pouget agreed that the motion was only to investigate a ward system and hold public meetings.

“I believe we owe it to our residents to hear the pros and cons before we make a decision,” said Pouget. “This is just a fact finding mission.”

In a recorded vote councilors: Pillon, Davies, Sutton and Mayor Wayne Hurst voted against the motion.

The politics of this council, says Hurst, has resulted in: “Anything and everything except trying to get something constructive done and every time we have a council meeting there is something new being thrown out there instead of trying to push this community forward.”

“Often times we look through that rear view mirror instead of looking at the windshield,” he continued.  “We are in a position to be an attraction to many investors and we keep coming up with things to try and in my estimation, to cause us a division and I can not understand it.”

Comments are closed.