“My concern is that the decision council is going to make is as important as the decision to amalgamate,” said Phillipe Warren, a Ward 4 resident living in Limoges, during a phone interview. “I don’t believe 30 days is enough time (to decide).”
Last month The Nation council received a report from Watson & Associates Economists LTD and listened to a presentation on the report July 13 from two of the consultants who worked on it.
The municipality has seen almost a 30 per cent increase in its overall population during the past several years but not all of the existing four wards have seen the same amount of population change within their boundaries. That can result in unequal representation at the council table for residents of the community.
The consultant report reviewed the present electoral ward setup for The Nation and proposed two options for future changes. One option is to maintain the four-ward system but adjust the boundaries to try and provide more equal representation of residents at council.
The second option is to create a six-ward setup to provide better representation of residents at council. That option means redrawing all of the ward boundaries, which would result in reducing the size of the existing wards to allow for creation of the two new wards.
Council was expected to make its final decision on the report option August 10. The report was put on the municipal website and residents encouraged to read it and send their comments to council as part of the review process.
Review process worry
Warren and several other residents fear that the 30-day period that council has allowed for the feedback review process is too short to guarantee that all residents have time to read the consultant report and decide which option they support as best for the municipality. He also noted that during the current COVID-19 situation, many people are focused on more personal concerns.
“The Nation is such a big territory,” Warren said, “and how do you get the pulse of the people during a pandemic?”
He also noted that not everyone in The Nation has access to the Internet, and may not be able to read the report on the municipal website.
Warren’s own preference is for Option Two, increasing the number of wards to six. That would mean some increase in operating expense for the municipality, with the addition of two more councillors and their annual stipends and expenses. But Warren noted that even the consultants presenting the report to council last month emphasized that the additional cost in council operation costs should not overshadow the need to provide equal and fair representation of residents.
“I go back to their recommendation,” said Warren. “Don’t let cost dictate your decision.”
Warren also urges residents of The Nation to read the report if they can access the municipal website or have someone provide them with a copy to read, and then give their opinions to council before the August 10 session.
“We want the people to become involved in determining the future of The Nation,” he said. “It’s an important decision. Let’s select the option that benefits us all.”