Ward boundaries discussed at forum

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Andrew Sancton
Andrew Sancton

“Ward Boundaries – Representation by Population” was the topic of first TV show of the CK Community Development Forum on Monday night.

Andrew Sancton, a professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, was the keynote speaker.

Former councillor Bill Weaver, who hosted the event, called Sancton the “go-to person” for municipal governance issues in Ontario.

“There are no answers to the questions we are going to ask tonight,” Sancton said. “There is no automatic way. There is no clear way and that is part of the problem.”

Sancton said he does believe in representation by population.

“I’m not going to lay down the law here. The rules about this are pretty loose.”

Sancton said 1% of the population can petition municipal council to re-draw the ward boundaries.

However, if council does not act upon this, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) can step in and make the decision for the community.

He said this happened in London back in 2006.

“It was not a happy situation,” he said. “I think it is better not to have the OMB involved.”

Sancton said there haven’t been any adjustments to the ward boundaries in Chatham-Kent since amalgamation in 1998.

“Basing them on old corporate boundaries from 20 years ago does not seem like the most rational way of drawing boundaries.”

He said another problem he can see in C-K is that the population distribution has shifted since 1998 and not all of the built-up parts of Chatham are covered in Ward 6.

He added that Chatham also has 43% of the population of all of Chatham-Kent, but only 35% of the representation.

Sancton offered up an idea to split the city of Chatham into three wards and the rest of Chatham-Kent into four wards, with two councillors in each ward.

“This is just an idea,” he said. “The best strategy is to work out a consensus.”

The forum also included some comments from the public.

Council was also set to debate the issue following the forum, as Chatham Coun. Derek Robertson had brought forward a notice of motion to have the ward boundaries issue be re-visited.

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