(Municipality of Chatham-Kent)

A motion to include a question on the 2018 municipal election ballot about reducing the number of councillors in Chatham-Kent has been rejected.

Meanwhile, a Wallaceburg Councillor called the motion vague and a political play from the Chatham representatives.

Sulman’s motion not approved

Chatham Coun. Doug Sulman wanted to include the question ‘Effective the term of Council beginning December 2022, the number of Councillors in Chatham-Kent be reduced’ on the ballot for the upcoming municipal election.

However, the motion did not receive approval from the majority of council. The final council vote was 11-7.

Sulman said the citizens of Chatham-Kent have never been polled on their opinion on the size and composition of Council.

“Dr. Meyboom 20 years ago created six wards with 17 Councillors and one Mayor,” Sulman said in his motion.

“There have now been 20 years of experience of an 18 member Council… there have been 20 years of demographic and technological changes.”

Wesley says motion was not clear

Wallaceburg Counc. Jeff Wesley told the Sydenham Current the motion presented was vague and not clear and concise, which the Municipal Election Act requires.

“What does ‘the number of Councillors in Chatham-Kent be reduced’ actually mean? Reduce by one, five or 10? Reduce the urban Councillors? Reduce the rural Councillors? Change the ward boundaries?” Wesley said.

“This vague motion could have led to Wallaceburg having no specific Councillor to represent us or even a reduced level of Council representation. It was very telling that the only Councillors to support the motion all came from Chatham. This last minute motion, with very little facts, discussion or public input, was done for no other reason than playing politics from the Chatham Councillors.”

Wesley said the motion as presented to reduce the size of Council “by some undetermined amount” would lead to no cost savings,as the remaining Councillors would want to be paid more, poorer representation and service for Wallaceburg taxpayers.

“Therefore I could not support it,” he said.

“Our community has fought too hard and too long for local issues to see our representation on Council diminished.”

Wesley said the next elected Council can consider this option if they wish.

“A Council in their last year of office should not be doing this,” he said.

“Why did the Chatham Councillor who presented the motion not do this back when we were first elected? Given the number and size of the Wards the representation we have in Wallaceburg (with two Councillors) is adequate. Anything less and our community will suffer.”

Feedback at public meeting

A public meeting was held in council chambers at the Civic Centre before the regular council meeting.

Some of the comments, included:

– Council should not reinvent the wheel, status quo is best

– Reduce council members to two per ward, resulting in five fewer Councillors

– Reduce to 10 councillors from the current 17

– Fewer, better paid Councillors is the way to go

– More research needed

– Must work together to address issue

– Cut Council size by half

– Amalgamation already reduced local reps from more than 100., move would mean full time council and limit candidates

– More dialogue needed

– Don’t compare Chatham-Kent to Windsor or Sarnia

– Ward representatives shouldn’t protect ward interests

– Fewer councillors not the answer

– Public doesn’t have enough information to decide

– Question of rural representation must be addressed

– Hamilton has 15 representatives for 500,000 people.

A total of 15 people provided deputations to council about the issue.

– Photo credit: Municipality of Chatham-Kent on Facebook