Monday, January 23, 2017

Milton council and democracy: an oxymoron

Well, it looks like the majority of Milton’s council, the usual 6-5 block, will win the ward boundary change…going from 8 wards back to 4.  
Did you know that we citizens cannot challenge a council’s decision to reduce the number of wards?  We can only challenge the ward boundaries – and that deadline is January 26… this week.  BUT to challenge those boundaries requires upwards of $35,000 when we include necessary experts.  Too few people understand the implications.  

This 6-5 majority ignored their own expert’s opinion in taking the direction they’ve taken.
Milton’s majority of council, the 6-5 coalition, decided that despite ever increasing population growth, with all the work inherent in the planning, approvals, public meetings, etc., they just don’t want so many people at the council table.  They decided we don’t need the same representation we’ve had for so many years.  They’ve decided THEY are IN, let’s close the doors.

What does this mean for the ordinary Milton citizen? Does anyone know what gerrymandering means? It almost assuredly means incumbency reigns supreme.  It will mean big money in the pocket of anyone new wishing to run for council – more brochures, more postage and way more time to canvas a ward with an average of 32,000 people in it.   Worse still is the lack of foresight – Milton’s growth will continue until 2031.  These new ward boundary changes will likely have to be changed again for the 2022 election.  

It certainly doesn’t mean that your voice will have a better chance of being heard.  It doesn’t mean better council representation at the various community committees, boards and organizations at which many members presently sit.  

It is a loss for democracy, it means one town councillor for each for 4 wards representing thousands upon thousands more people in the ward, along with one regional councillor for each ward.  Make no mistake, regional council requires a huge amount of time all on its own.  Rather ironic that regional council expands its numbers to give Milton 2 more councillors and as a result this council cuts its town councillor representation.

In B.C. the law is for a city or district having a population of more than 50 000, the council is to consist of a mayor and 8 councillors – it should be the same in Ontario.   MY goal for the next election: bring democracy back to Milton.

It’s a huge disservice to its citizenry when council members use federal and provincial party affiliation to vote on items at the council table rather than voting for the good of the community.  Nothing good ever comes of block voting.

IN closing, I would point out the following from the Municipal Act:  224. It is the role of council, to represent the public and to consider the well-being and interests of the municipality.
225.  It is the role of the head of council (the mayor) to promote public involvement in the municipality’s activities.
270. of the Municipal Act speaks to when and how notice is provided to the public, and to ensure accountability and transparency to the public.  When the only notice is via the town’s website and the local paper, which is delivered to only about half of Milton residents and only once weekly, I would say sufficient notice wasn’t provided to the public.  I would also venture to say that transparency and accountability are sadly lacking.

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