November 17, 2005
Central Frontenac Council working 9 to 5, almost
by Jeff Green
With 2005 waning, Central Frontenac Council considered whether it should eliminate four council positions when municipal elections take place next year.
At their meeting on Monday night Nov. 14, a resolution was proposed that would have cut one councillor from each of the four wards in the township, but it was defeated in a 5-4 vote.
Township CAO Heather Fox pointed out in a report to Council, that in order for any changes in the makeup of Council to take effect for next year’s municipal election, a decision would have to be made by the end of the this year, and for that to happen action would have to be taken almost immediately.
“If Council decides to downsize Council, a by-law would have to be passed and notice be given of its intention to pass the bylaw and hold at least one public meeting,” read Fox’s report.
Fox also attached a chart of municipalities in Ontario, including population and the number of people on Council. The chart shows that Central Frontenac is the smallest township, by population, that has a nine-member Council. Her report identified a potential savings of $48,104 if four Council positions were eliminated.
In discussing the resolution, the councillors who favoured downsizing argued it would make for shorter meetings and easier decision-making, without eliminating the ward system or curtailing public access to Council.
Those who opposed downsizing cited the geography of the township as a factor, and argued that more councillors lighten the heavy workload and make for a more varied debate and better decisions.
One by one the councillors expressed their positions. Councillors Frances Smith and Bob Harvey, both from Oso ward, supported downsizing, but Deputy Mayor Faye Putnam and Hinchinbrooke Councillors Bill Snyder and Janet Gutowski opposed it. Councillor Bill Guigue expressed support for downsizing, and Councillor Murray was opposed. Mayor Bill MacDonald has supported downsizing for many years, and he expressed that opinion once again.
This left a four-four tie with the 9th and deciding vote being held by Councillor Jack Nicolson from Kennebec Ward. Nicolson tantalised the “yes” forces by talking about the possibility of four councillors being elected in a ward system, with the Mayor and a Deputy Mayor being elected by the entire population of the township. This would make a six-member Council. When it came to a vote, Nicolson opposed downsizing and the motion was defeated.
In an election in the year 2000, there were two proposals put to the public as referendum questions. One question proposed a five-member Council, and the other proposed an elimination of the ward system, calling for four councillors and the mayor to be elected at large, in a vote of all ratepayers.
Both of the referendum questions received majority support, but the turnout in the election was less than 50%, making the referendum non-binding on Council. The issue has lain dormant for the past five years, and it has now been put aside for at least another three years.