Tay decides to reduce council size, abolish ward system

·3 min read

Tay's council chambers could be slimmer next year with five council members elected at-large.

The matter came up for discussion again at this week's council meeting when staff brought forth a report, which included results from a survey that asked residents simple yes or no questions around their choices relating to council size and the ward system.

All totalled, the survey received 202 responses, 178 of those respondents had completed the full length of the questionnaire. The report shares the results of the four focal questions asked.

However, council made its decision based on its own convictions and conversations with voters.

Mayor Ted Walker invited council members to express their choice one-by-one, starting with Coun. Sandy Talbot.

"I will stick with seven members and with the ward system," said Talbot, who was followed by Coun. Paul Raymond, who agreed with her choice.

He was basing his decision on what he had gleaned from discussions with residents in his ward.

"The (survey) numbers seem to reflect the same thought process," added Raymond.

Coun. Mary Warnock also wanted to stay with status quo.

"I just really caution going to a five-member council," she said. "You're not going to get diversity; you probably won't get a woman. I just think you have to be cautious when you're decreasing your numbers in how you're going to service your people."

Coun. Barry Norris bucked the trend.

"I’ll go with five members, all at-large," he said. "I don’t believe the survey dictated enough of a major change."

Coun. Jeff Bumstead carried on in the same fashion.

"I would like to go with five members and at-large," he said. "I think if we’re going to move forward and stop communities from pitting one against the other, we need to go at-large. It’s working for Tiny, I see no reason why it couldn’t work for Tay."

Deputy Mayor Gerard LaChapelle sat in the middle of the seven-member and five-member options.

"I support either one of them," he said, "but moving ahead, I don’t have a problem with the five (members) at-large."

Walker said a recent change to the Municipal Act gives political candidates the opportunity to run from any ward in a municipality.

"A lot of municipalities after that decided there’s no sense in remaining in the ward system," he said, adding he would prefer an at-large system, too. "I’m good with either seven of five, but my preference would be five."

A recorded vote showed a four to three win for an at-large system, which will see five council members, with a mayor and deputy mayor, elected in 2022.

However, after passing the motion, caution took hold of council.

"This is a fairly significant change being proposed and I’m wondering if a public meeting would be appropriate," said Walker, adding at this point the passed motion should be viewed as a recommendation to be confirmed following a public meeting.

Raymond agreed.

"This is a big change for the voters," he said. "I think we owe them the benefit of again reaching out. We don’t have unanimous consent on this. I don’t believe we’re carrying the will of the voter. I think we owe the public one more kick at the can."

Norris said he would remain steadfast on his decision even if a public consultation was done.

"The decision’s been made; the bylaw can come through," he said. "Anyone that has an issue can come forward in an appeal."

Final approval of the decision is pending the results of a public meeting planned for March 17.

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com