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Opinion

Incumbents and wealthy neighbourhoods prefer “at-large” – poorer prefer “Wards”

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Red Deer keeps saying they want to be treated as a big city but campaign as a small town.
Elections for city councils are held through either a ward system or at-large system, depending on the location. Vancouver is the largest city in Canada to use the at-large system, while most other larger cities use wards.
Wards versus at large: Niagara Falls (population of 88,071),candidates discuss. If you want to get in the game, some say a ward system is helpful. … Now, more than a decade into an at-large system where eight councillors are elected to represent the entire city, some candidates are calling for a return to the ward system.
It may better represent the city, but some people find it confusing. One political scientist says we should consider bringing back the ward system with the civic election one week away.
A ward system, essentially, has an elected representative from varying neighbourhoods around the city.
Langara College political scientist Peter Prontzos says it’s a little more democratic and things won’t be rushed through council because there are more voices to be heard and more issues brought to the table.
But he warns there are cons.
“It may be a little more confusing in some ways and there may be occasional gridlock on city council, but I think that’s relatively minor.”
He says right now those who run for office are people with money who only represent wealthy neighbourhoods where something like public transit may not be issue.
Today, 8 out of the 9 current incumbent city councillors and mayor live south of the river and east of Gaetz.

This blog was posted on Todayville.com a year ago. How far off was I? Please read and consider next week’s vote and should we ask ourselves the same question now.

“At Large” versus “Ward” municipal governance.

A year from now, October 16, 2017 there will be a municipal election and the citizens of Red Deer will vote for (1) mayor, (8) city councillors, (7) public school trustees, and (5) separate school trustees.
Red Deer uses the “At Large” system for voting so you have the option of voting for all positions mayor, councillors and school trustees either public or separate. 16 spots or 14 spots respectively.
The last election in 2013 we had 5 people running for mayor, 30 people running for council, 14 people running for public school board and 7 people run for the separate school board, 56 people in total.
How many people can remember all the candidates, anyone? Let us make it easier. How many people can remember , everyone who won, anybody?
The huge advantage of the current “At Large” system falls to and gives advantage to the incumbents and then to the more wealthier campaigns,
It takes money to advertise to every household in the city, so naturally you will find that the wealthier candidates more often than not live in the wealthier neighbourhoods. It is less expensive and easier for the city staff and management to deal with councillors, at large, in bulk than it would be to deal with the ward system and on individual basis. There is I have been told less infighting among councillors, perhaps because they have more in common, under the at large system than under the ward system.
The advantage of the “Ward” system is that poorer neighbourhoods get equal representation. The citizens are closer to their elected officials and poorer candidates have smaller areas to cover. The city staff will have to refine their method of dealing with councillors in regards to neighbourhood issues.
There are pros and cons to both system, and we had a plebiscite on the issue during the 2013 municipal election. 71% voted to remain with the “At Large” system, feeling that Red Deer is still small enough to stay with this, the current system. The city council incumbents voted to budget $30,000 to inform the electorate of the issue, which was heavily in favor of the current system. They held an open house with a heavy leaning to the current system with just one local person, Larry Pimm, speaking a popular former councillor, known for and speaking for the “At Large” system.
I believe that by looking at the city today, the current system has systematically and historically failed one third of our city.
One third of our city lives north of the river and they are represented by 1 person out of 9 at city hall. Out of 7 indoor ice rinks and 4 aquatic centres in Red Deer, they have 1 north of the river and the latest buildings are being built or planned south of the river. When it comes to school boards, the city has, is building and planning 6 high schools, all on the south side and 5 high schools are unbelievably along 30 Avenue. So 1/3 of the population gets shafted and has been since merging with the city nearly 70 years ago.
Let us get back to voting. In 2013 we had 56 candidates for 21 spots and naturally most incumbents who ran won. How can anyone know and understand the positions of 56 candidates. Many would like one or 2 newcomers, vote for them and fill the rest with known incumbents. They are sabotaging the chances of newcomers by voting and electing their opposition.
I have been advocating for 4 wards within city limits. Each ward would have 25% of the population, give or take 5%. 100,000 residents would mean that each ward would have between 23,750 and 26,250 and the boundaries would change with the population growth.
Each ward would elect 2 councillors, perhaps the school boards would adopt the ward system, so the public school board could for example. have 2 trustees from each ward, and the mayor would be elected city wide.
Using the 2013 ballot, you would elect 1 mayor out of 5 candidates, you would elect 2 councillors out of 7 or 8 depending on the ward and the public school voters would elect 2 trustees out of 3 or 4 candidates, again, depending on the ward.
Perhaps under the ward system, with representation at the table, using my previous arguments, the residents living north of the river will actually get a new indoor ice rink, swimming pool and perhaps (dare I dream),their own high school. One can only dream.
The incumbents will say no to the ward system, stating the small size of Red Deer, omitting the fact that most incumbents are relying on their constituency of voters that are spread across the city and may not their constituency of voters may not be strong enough in only one ward.
Lately, there has been some voices out of city hall, demanding to be recognized as a big city and to be included in the “Big City Charter” and the extra money and power associated with it. Incidentally the cities covered by the big city charter currently use the ward system.
Should we hold another plebiscite, asking that our councillors represent their neighbours, should we ask that school board trustees represent the neighbourhood families, should we take the step to recognize that Red Deer is now a big city and not that small town anymore, and prepare for and govern like a big city.
2017 will see a few candidates run against the incumbent mayor but we may see in excess of 30 candidates run for city council and in excess of 20 candidates running for one of the 2 school boards’ trustee positions. Under the current system we will again see governing concentrating their attention in the same areas like downtown or the east hill. We will continue to ignore the needs of residents living in neighbourhoods like those north of the river.
“At Large” is an ideal that fails when reality is involved, the “Ward” system is a flawed ideal that may best represent our reality. What would do you think? It is your home. Thank you.

Opinion

We want free trade with everyone but Canadians living in other provinces.

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bc-wine Pipeline
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Free Trade with everyone but ourselves.
Canadians have been hearing a lot of talk about the need for and benefits from free trade with the Americans, the Europeans, the Chinese, and the Americans. Yah, let’s get it done.
What about free trade within our own country with other provinces?
Not so much.
We have been fighting amongst ourselves over healthcare, education, labour certification, lumber, minerals, water and a thousand other things. The latest is Alberta and British Columbia over oil and wine.
British Columbia with it’s fragile government put up barriers to the twinning of a pipeline, citing environmental concerns. Alberta countered with a ban on British Columbia’s wine.
There is a connection between oil and air pollution but there is also a connection between wine and alcohol related deaths. So is one government more righteous than the other? No, they both looking after the economic well being of their respective provinces.
British Columbia has great dealings with other governments over their energy resources, especially in the north, so they are not so pure in their stance. Alberta will continue to drink their wine, most notably from other countries.
The Federal government is the missing player in this game. They have the power to solve this situation. They can push the pipeline, which they previously approved, through British Columbia’s legal challenge. Will they?
Alberta has not been a supporter of this federal government and British Columbia has shown more support. This government needs British Columbia seats in the next election and will not gain any seats in Alberta in any case.
If they push the pipeline agenda they will be seen as anti-environment and lose seats in British Columbia and possibly in other areas that are environmentally sensitive areas.
If they do not push the pipeline agenda, they may retain their seats in British Columbia but may lose seats in the more right-wing economic sensitive ridings in other parts of the country.
We, Albertans, have been consistent in denouncing the Liberals for everything they have done or said, oftentimes without justification, in the past. We are reaping what we have sown in the political arena, as we wait for the next shoe to drop.
Mr. Trudeau, will push the pipeline agenda, and there will be people who will still complain, drive cars, fly airplanes, heat their homes and drink wine, drive under the influence, or know someone who will die due in some part to alcohol.
Then we will find another provincial barrier to argue about while we clamour for free trade with everyone else. Right?

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Opinion

A rural response to Gerald Stanley’s acquittal from a Saskatchewan farmer..

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As a person who lives on a farm in rural sask. I can offer the following insights into rural realities. I only speak for myself and my family. I don’t claim to know what I would or wouldn’t do if I was in the Stanley’s situation, nor if I was in that vehicle with Colton. I hope I never have to find out. I don’t know what life is like on farms in other places, I can’t speak to that.
I can only offer what knowledge I have of rural life…
1. If you live on a farm you are responsible for everything yourself. Snow removal, garbage disposal, water, sewer, security and safety. If your house starts on fire it’s very unlikely that the FD will arrive in time to save it. If you have a heart attack it’s very unlikely that the EMTs will arrive in time to save you. And if your family is attacked it is very unlikely that the RCMP will arrive in time to save you. You are basically on your own. I don’t feel that to say that the Stanleys could have locked themselves in the house and called the police is very reasonable. They weren’t in the house, they were all over the yard. Maybe their door didn’t even lock. Had they been in the house already they may have just hid there like their neighbor did. We can’t know either way. And where I live the earliest RCMP response would be greater than 30 mins. A lot can happen in 30 mins.
2.Anyone who enters a farmer’s property with the intent to steal from or threaten the occupants should be aware of the likely presence of weapons. All of the farmers I know have guns. More than one. Some have many. They aren’t solely or primarily for protection from would be thieves or attackers. some people collect guns, some people enjoy target shooting or hunting. On a farm it is pretty much necessary to have a gun. Where we live there are coyotes, raccoons, cougars, wolves, wild boars etc. An aggressive or rabid animal can attack your family dogs or a beloved animal may be injured or sick and need your mercy. It’s just a rural reality. But a gun can kill people just as easily as animals so everyone should just be aware that on farms there are usually guns.
3. The reasons farmers are easy targets for crime are the very same reasons they are often forced to deal with it on their own. Essentially no effective police response and isolation.
I don’t live in an area with a lot of rural crime. We’ve been robbed before and neighbors have had vehicles stolen and equipment vandalized but I would not say it’s a regular occurrence. Regardless, I have fears. I fear that this far from town someone will get injured or have a heart attack so I have our land location written by the phone and I took CPR. I fear that a snowstorm will take out our power and block our roads so we have a genset and snow moving equipment. I fear that our sewer will back up so we have an alarm and an extra pump. And I fear that if someone came into my yard with the intent or ‘the perceived intent’ to hurt my family the police would be of no help. So we have dogs, and locks on all our doors. And guns. And when guns get involved people can get hurt or killed. My point is we have to take extra precautions for things that urban people are comfortable letting ‘the professionals’ handle. Most farmers, most men actually, will do what they feel is necessary to protect their families and deal with the consequences later. No one wants to be in that position but when you live on a farm you are. You can not depend on anyone else to protect you or save you.
When people are intoxicated their judgement is impaired and they do not act or react in a predictable way. And it is safe to say when people are scared their judgement is impaired and they do not act or react in a predictable way. It’s very unfortunate that this tragedy happened at all and I feel terribly sad for all involved.

Regan from Saskatchewan

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