October 26th, 2020

Ward system worth considering?


By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 2, 2020.

Back in November city council’s Open and Effective Government Committee brought forth a proposal that a ward system should be examined in the city.

A ward system is common in larger cities where city councils want to ensure local communities and neighbourhoods are having their specific concerns heard by the decision makers. The idea is if you elect your own local representative from your neighbourhood or area to city council, they will likely mirror the views and economic makeup of the majority of your residents.

In November councillors narrowly rejected paying for an $80,000 study on the issue by a vote of 5-4, but held out the possibility of including a question about moving to a ward system for voters to consider as they vote in the next municipal election in 2021.

One of the potential benefits of a ward system, on top of enhancing local neighbourhood representation, is it prevents special-interest groups from having undue sway, in theory, because the elected representative is more beholden to his neighbourhood rather than any one political perspective or economic status group in the city. It does not always work out that way in practice.

According to some, a ward system may also allow for a greater diversity of candidates to be elected in the city from different walks of life and from different backgrounds.

Currently city council is elected on a “first past the post” model with the top eight councillors garnering votes from the entire electorate going on to sit in local government. (The mayoral vote is a separate animal entirely). The current system does not take into account where a councillor lives in the city, which means a majority could be elected from one side of Lethbridge or another depending on the qualities of the candidate and the composition of the electorate on that day.

Now this is not necessarily a problem, and many communities continue to use this type of system. Some argue a council elected this way represents, in theory, the entire city and the entire electorate, even if it does not often work that way in practice as different political perspectives and interest groups in the city each find their champions among councillors.

But that is why we hold council votes on policies, and the majority, in the end, takes the day.

With the province proposing to change the Local Authorities Election Act to loosen election spending rules in municipal elections there is a concern, already expressed by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, it will unbalance the checks and balances in the current system, and candidates with more money sponsored by special-interest donors (which would not have to be revealed until after an election if these changes are enacted) would gain a strategic advantage over others.

In light of these proposed provincial changes, finding the right balance and mix in municipal representation is important and will require some deep reflection and strategic thought by all citizens as we approach the next local election in 2021.

Comment on this editorial online at https://www.lethbridgeherald.com/opinions/

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biff

no tweak to the present system will change very much. we need a significant change: councilors need to be accountable to the resident and not to the admin. the infrastructure – especially roads – is rotting, but money seems to be always found for niche projects and events. we have roads that get paved more regularly, and many. many roads that have been left to sink and bubble for decades.
then there is the ongoing pocket lining. the usual cast of characters getting rich off the public trough. and, i doubt we had the ridiculous golf tourney this year in paradise canyon, that the city gave 750 thousand dollars to the course owner for two years…this was year two on that dreadful handout. has half that money been repaid to the city?

Dogknox

Is the Ward System more accountable? It seems to me if I remembered correctly these councillors we have said in their statements as they ran for the office “I will work for you transparent and accountable to the citizens of Lethbridge” why do they not allow the “Citizens for transparency” group access to the city landfill operation costs? WHY…..
Why has the city not been transparent, hid the increase in cost for home garbage pickup?
Why has the city NOT been audited for money’s spent at the SCS?
Questions need to be answered: How mush does the city spend on the Shelter every year?
Clearly accountable government should be number one importance to the citizens will the Ward System improve transparency if the answer is Yes then let’s bring in the Ward System what we have today is atrocious!

buckwheat

The ward system would require certain counsellors to be responsible for certain sectors of the City. They would be in direct contact with their “constituents” in the particular area where they were elected. Accountability first and foremost. In the situation that exists today when you contact all counsellors through the usual avenues, phone, emails, etc., you may if you are fortunate receive an “out of office till _____ reply, an email reply berating you as self serving and it being “all about you”, totally ignored as you are not one of the “voting blocs”, a thanks for your input auto reply, all due to the situation that each and every council member knows that they’d are “responsible” to represent 100,000 where only 28% show up to vote. They currently react to that 28% to stay elected. A ward system would change all that so why would anyone in council want to change the status quo. A ward system would also narrow the field at election time as performance of council is easier to determine. It would get rid of the current mess where everyone runs and you have 30-35 attempting To display their “fifteen minutes” only learning that they are being used as dupes or they are wasting time and in the end lose to name recognition. Any one with any good ideas gets lost in the shuffle.

Dogknox

I agree 100% with you buckwheat maybe the promise “If I am elected I will be accountable and transparent” might mean something!
Accountable… An audit of the city expenses for the SCS.
Accountable… An audit of the city expenses annually for the shelter!
Transparent…. True cost of recycling city waste! (Apparently they are making money)
Transparent…. Answer the questions the “citizens transparent committee” asked the city! The city refuses to answer question we all have a right to know!

biff

provincially and federally we have the idea of a ward system…and we get absolutely no local representation. the real power in govt always rests in the central office; the real power of the land always rests with the largest corps and utmost wealthiest individuals, and govt merely does what it is told when it is told. will a ward system stop the usual folks from filling their pockets with public money? not a chance…if you do not appreciate the fed/prov analogy, examine any city with one.
independent audits that are regular and come with teeth and criminal investigation when warranted, and laws that command whistle blowing – rather than prohibit it – are two essential aspects to ensure transparency and integrity.

Dogknox

The real power rests with those who have a voice! The Ward system would give more voice to more diverse groups! You can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the time! The truth comes out every time it is allowed to be voiced! Every time the people are not silenced by the select few the Truth shines!
The Ward system takes away the power of the few. The Ward system gives us more ears to hear us!



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