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Voter Parity Update & Presentation from March 9/17

On May 4, 2016, a delegation to Council was received from a resident regarding Representation by Population in which he expressed his concerns regarding the imbalance of eligible electors in each ward. The Electoral Data for the Election in 2014 was as follows:

Ward One (former Bangor, Wicklow and McClure) Eligible Elector Count – 3,048 or 43%

Ward Two (former Herschel) Eligible Elector Count – 2,581 or 36%

Ward Three (former Monteagle) Eligible Elector Count - 1,483 or 21%
Total 7,112 (100%)

Further to this, on November 23, 2016, a Special Meeting of Council, was scheduled (advertised and open to the public) to discuss Municipal Governance Structure in which staff outlined the options available including advantages and disadvantages of the At-large, composition change, realignment of ward boundaries and status quo proposals.

A public comment form was advertised and made available on the Municipal Website and in the office.

On December 14, 2016, a petition was received from 135 eligible electors (4 ineligible) fulfilling the requirement of 1% of the electors requesting the Municipality of Hastings Highlands to restore the civil rights of its citizens. Based on Section 223 of the Municipal Act, the petition was deemed to be valid and further to this under Subsection (4) “if council does not pass a by-law in accordance with the petition within 90 days after receiving the petition, any of the electors who signed the petition may apply to the Ontario Municipal Board to have the municipality divided or redivided into wards or to have the existing wards dissolved”.

Results from the Public Comment Form due February 1, 2017 identified that only 155 comment forms had been received by the Municipality and most of the responses chose Option # 5 to remain status quo with the Current Ward System with 7 members.

A Special Council meeting was held on Thursday, March 9, 2017 (open to the public) for a discussion on Ward Boundaries and At-Large Voting with specialists in the field, Beate Bowron and Dr. Gary Davidson. They provided Council with the following options:

• Option 1- Remain status quo although voter parity problem is maintained and OMB may impose a solution and could award costs to the municipality

• Option 2 – Reduce Monteagle Ward (Ward # 3) to one (1) representative and elect Deputy Mayor at-large. Voter parity is maintained and there is limited grounds for appeal to the OMB.

• Option 3 – Switch from wards to At-large system. Council must chose a council size number with a minimum of 5 and a choice of an odd number. The Deputy Mayor can either be elected or appointed and this system can be implemented for the 2018 election. Council size cannot be appealed to the OMB and there is limited grounds for a valid OMB appeal.

• Option 4 – Undertake a ward boundary review. With the population projections information from Watson and Associates 2013 study and through a public process Council would undertake to determine new ward boundaries. Costs associated would be in the range of $25,000 plus costs of potential OMB hearing. The review would unlikely be in place for the 2018 election.

In conclusion, it was determined that voter parity problem would still remain if Option 1 was chosen and Option 4 to undertake a ward boundary review with the required public process would not be achievable for the 2018 election and there would be substantial costs. If either Option 2 or 3 is chosen by Council, the Petition is no longer valid and there will be limited grounds for an appeal to the OMB.

Council's resolution from the March 9, 2017 Meeting was as follows:

Roberts/Matheson (124-2017)
THAT Council direct staff to bring back to March 22, 2017 Council Meeting a discussion on Voter Parity.