LANSDOWNE – Voters will get a chance to decide in 2018 whether the Township of Leeds and The Thousand Islands will have councillors representing the entire municipality.
Township councillors have recommended the question be put to the electorate in a referendum during the municipal election, following Tuesday’s meeting.
The Committee of the Whole meeting heard two presentations on restructuring – one from Elizabethtown-Kitley Clerk Yvonne Robert and another from Township Taxpayers’ Association representative Nattanya Hewitt.
According to Hewitt’s report to council, “there does not seem to be a groundswell of demand for restructuring in TLTI.” In fact, she states the issue did not get a lot of interest during the all-candidates debates in the 2014 municipal election.
Even so, council’s recommendation would lean toward Hewitt’s position that “an acceptable option for the majority of the population (would be) using the most effective democratic process,” through a referendum.
TLTI currently has one mayor and six councillors under a ward system. Ward 1, represented by three councillors has 4,866 electors. There are two councillors serving 3,537 constituents in Ward 2 and one councillor serving 1,332 in Ward 3.
Ward 2 Coun. John Paul Jackson, a strong supporter of abolishing the ward system, supported Coun. Liz Huff’s recommendation to cease all staff work on the file and put it to the voters in 2018.
“Fearing her motion would be defeated as well as my belief that there was positive momentum to keep this matter alive, even if it meant a referendum question as opposed to implementation for the 2018 (election), and I will admit my concern at seeing all of my efforts to have this issue fully addressed would be lost, I supported Liz’s motion arguing that low voter turnout at our two previous (public) meetings did not show voter apathy but simply a belief that we would make the right decision on the electorate’s behalf. In this case I believe we have,” Jackson said in an email to Brockville Newswatch.
Jackson adds that the electorate should be able to hold all seven members of council accountable for decisions, which can’t take place under the current ward system.
“Under our current system, when we are elected we are elected by our ward but once the election is over we must serve the will of the whole township which begs the question, why bother having wards at all if we all agree they simply serve a one day event…election day?,” Jackson wrote.
The ward system has been around since 2000 during amalgamation of three adjoining townships.
The move follows an online ward restructuring survey this summer, which started online in late June and continued through July.