North Huron councillors vote for status quo, keep ward system

·3 min read

NORTH HURON – North Huron councillors voted not to change anything after another lengthy debate regarding the ward system, council size, and whether or not to change the deputy reeve to an “at-large” (voted in) position.

The original report was broken into four layers of decisions for council to make regarding council composition.

These decisions were summarized as follows:

1. Selection method for the position of deputy reeve.

2. Size of council.

3. Retain a ward system or dissolve the wards favouring electing all council members by general vote (at-large).

4. If a ward system is to be retained, decide whether any council members, except for the reeve and potentially deputy reeve, will be elected by general vote (at-large). If wards are to be dissolved, this fourth consideration is unnecessary.

Clerk Carson Lamb brought a new report to council on July 5, outlining the available options in precise terms to make things easier and streamline the process after the matter was deferred at the last council meeting.

“Council expressed a desire to consider all four ‘layers’ of decisions simultaneously and deferred a decision on the method of selection for the deputy reeve position until the July 5, 2021 meeting,” stated Lamb’s report.

Lamb also provided an answer to a question from Coun. Chris Palmer at the previous meeting, who questioned whether the original council would approve of such significant changes to their original plan. Lamb provided information to council from the township’s solicitor stating, “it is evident that there is nothing in the order requiring the township to permanently maintain its current council composition.”

Five options were presented to council for consideration.

Option 1 – smaller council but maintain wards. This option would see council reduced to five members, including reeve (voted at-large), deputy reeve (voted at large), and one council for Wingham Blyth and East Wawanosh. Lamb’s report said this option would be beneficial if council wanted to select the deputy reeve at large, reduce council size and retain the ward system while maintaining an equal number of councillors for each ward.

Option 2 –smaller council and eliminate wards. This option would see the ward system dissolved, with the reeve, deputy reeve and three councillors voted in at-large. This option would be beneficial if council wanted to reduce the size of council, dissolve the ward system and elect all members of council at-large.

Option 3 – maintain the size of council but dissolve the wards. This option would see the ward system dissolved, with seven members of council elected (reeve, deputy reeve and five councillors). All seven members would be elected at-large. This option would be beneficial if council wanted to dissolve the ward system and elect all members of council at-large.

Option 4 - maintain the size of council and partially retain the wards. This option would see the size of council remain unchanged and alter the ward system. The reeve, deputy reeve and two councillors would be elected at-large, while one councillor for each of the Wingham, Blyth and East Wawanosh wards would be elected. This option would be beneficial if council wanted to elect the deputy reeve at large and keep the current council size while maintaining an equal number of council representatives for each of the three wards. This option is based on the composition of Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh council.

Option 5 – maintain the current council composition of a reeve elected at-large, and two councillors for the Wingham, Blyth and East Wawanosh wards. The deputy reeve would be selected by council from among the ward councillor positions at the inaugural meeting.

Ultimately, councillors voted 4-3 in favour of Option 5, maintaining the status quo. Councillors Anita van Hittersum, Chris Palmer, Ric McBurney and Kevin Falconer voted in favour, with Reeve Bernie Bailey, Deputy Reeve Trevor Seip and Coun. Paul Heffer voted against.

Cory Bilyea, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wingham Advance Times

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