Shame on Milton Council

Posted on July 25th, 2016, by Jan

Back in 2008/2009 Milton went through a change in ward boundaries and with it a restructuring of council.  For the 2010 election, we went from four wards to eight, one town councillor per ward, two regional & town councillors to represent four wards each..

In time for the 2018 election, Milton is to get two more Regional seats.  How difficult would it be to divvy the wards for the regional councillors at two ward each?

In the 2009 report Dr Williams said “in consideration of present and future population trends, Insofar as possible, the ward structure should accommodate growth for at least 12 years” following the 2010 election.

He also said “It is also reasonable to assume that the appropriateness of Milton’s ward populations would be monitored over the next two or three elections.”

Dr Williams also said in 2009 that every municipality should review its electoral boundaries on a regular basis and not leave the exercise to the preferences of Council. Regular boundaries reviews are mandated in Canadian electoral law but are absent in Ontario’s municipal electoral law. Note, however, that the operative phrase in this context is “reviewed on a regular basis”, not “changed on a regular basis.

Well, here we are in 2016, ignoring what went before, Council voted to hire consultants to come back with a recommendation for another boundary change.  Councillors and the public provided input.  But Councillors Hamid, Cluett, Malboeuf, Duvall, Boughton and Mayor Krantz decided they didn’t like what they heard.

IN the 2016 report, option 4 (continue with 8 wards, 8 town councillors, and to include an expanded Regional councillor number to 4, each to represent 2 wards each), was deemed to be the least disruptive by a substantial margin; because the work load is far too much for too few; that it was the best way to ensure “fair” representation for “the entire Milton community”; and an important way to ensure that rural residents have a voice at town and regional council – and of those consulted, no respondents disliked this alternative.

Milton is the fastest growing town in Canada, and has been for several years now.  And will continue to grow until 2031 when the population is expected to reach, if not surpass, 230,000.  To reduce council at this time, with such continued growth, with the associated work load, will not serve the Town and its residents well. I was on council 2003 – 2010 and am well acquainted with the workload.

While I would never ever condone wasting even a cent of public money, lack of oversight could cost the tax payer far more than any savings made by cutting council size.  Not to mention those who will find the work load too much and will demand more staff support – but lack of oversight remains a big concern.

Duvall thinks a smaller council could accomplish things in a more timely fashion; that it would be like shining a flashlight versus a laser point.

Of the three levels of government local municipal governments have the most immediate response, they are the closest to the public. Given how quickly this council has decided to go against what their own consultant has recommended, maybe it’s too fast.  So, notwithstanding the rather mixed metaphor, I would suggest to Councillor Duvall that he save his flashlight for when the lights are out.

He also noted that the four-ward system could help alleviate ward confusion for voters. I haven’t noticed any confusion among voters but surely, this council can’t think that another change won’t result in MAKING things confusing, not to mention costly and time-consuming, especially when there was also the suggestion of another go at ward/council changes in another couple of elections.

Councillor Malboueff is always talking about costs – I’ve heard that there will be some staff support for councillors, hmm what’s the cost there?  and that all councillors will eventually become full time – now there’s a steep cost – but the point is – what about the ability to perform due diligence with the ongoing growth of more than 100,000 more people moving to Milton over the next 14 years?  I think that laser is needed – the laser being a more powerful tool than a flashlight anyway.

It’s not just the council meetings and related material – it’s also representation on local organizations, all the public meetings associated with development and growth, and so on.

To the councillor who suggested residents want to see fewer politicians around the table – What!!!  Never in my almost 30 years in Milton have I ever heard “there should be less people around the table”.  Unless it’s to remove one or two of them from the table.

To the six on council who want to put us through this process now, I say, let’s worry about Milton and the people who live here NOW as well as the future.  We can’t afford to be short-sighted.  A smaller council will not serve the needs of Milton. Dr Williams said in 2009 that the ward boundaries recommended in the 2009 report are designed to anticipate the future rather than perpetuate the past.  Was council listening?  Did they read the 2009 report?

Another point to consider is the enormity of the costs to be borne by those contemplating a run at municipal politics – our most basic democratic institution is at risk in Milton.

A councillor told me there was a rather muted response to the ward boundary process, as if to say: the few who commented didn’t matter.  It’s a very complex process, so those who responded deserve to be heard, it shouldn’t be a reason to discount ANY response.  Muted or not, there WAS feedback.  In fact, it was the same kind of feed back in 2008/2009 review process.

Councillor Best tried to make a motion to allow delegates to be heard at this evening’s council meeting but the rules of council demand that one of those who WON the vote, must be the ones to make the motion to reopen the issue, to allow anyone from the gallery to speak to it.

When I was first elected to council in 2003, I heard a United Church person speak about keeping an open mind.  He said a councillor should always be prepared to make a decision but at the same time keep one’s mind open to new information.   No one person has all the information, no one person can know everything all the time.  One councillor being absent, not one of the other five wanted to hear anything further on the matter.  Not one of them has an open mind.   Shame on them. Is democracy anything more than a nine-letter word to them?

Huffman said the root of the issue is “all about adding two councillors to regional council, not disrupting our local wards.”

Right on, Councillor Huffman.

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