Electoral reform for Collingwood

Collingwood elects all of its council at large. There are no ward systems for local or neighbourhood voting. But is it the best system for Collingwood? I don’t think so, and want it to be discussed by the next council. And maybe a referendum question on the next ballot.

At-large are good for mayor, and deputy mayor (if the latter is elected directly and not otherwise selected from the representatives). Everyone gets to vote for the top positions. But the next seven we choose are also elected at large. And why should everyone have to vote for all of council? Why not simply for one ward representative?

Can any councillor elected at large truly represent all the interests, issues and voters throughout the community? Based on my experience both as a reporter covering the region for a dozen years and a councillor for three terms, I don’t believe so. The electorate here is very diverse and what affects, say, voters in the long-established far east side of town may be very different from what affects them in the new subdivisions in the west.

This term the problems of at-large of representation have been exacerbated by a large group on council focused not on the electorate, but on furthering their own agendas and entitlements. As a result, the community has suffered much these past four years. Electing blocks like this is harder to do under a ward system.

Back when I was on a previous council, I wanted to have a ward system added to the ballot for a referendum, but the council of the day voted it down. I want to open that discussion again. And if not a referendum, I want it to be an open, public discussion with public input. (There was a staff report, 2009-11, that is on p. 63 of the agenda package, which noted that in a ward system, “Elected officials have the ability to build strong relationships with the people he or she represents, becoming more aware of their needs and concerns and are more accessible to those people.”)

There are some good reasons for a ward system:

  • Residents always know to whom they can turn or can call about local issues.
  • Localized issues that may get overlooked by an at large council can be brought to the table more easily when there is a ward advocate.
  • Election campaigns for wards are less work and less expense, so they allow a wider selection of candidates to be able to run.
  • In wards, people often vote for (or against) someone they know, not a stranger, so the choices are more personal.
  • In an at-large system, areas of the municipality may be under-represented or not represented at all by anyone on council.

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Statement for the Judicial Inquiry

NB: This is the statement I read aloud at the public meeting for the Judicial Inquiry, Monday, Aug. 13, 2018. It is a much-abbreviated version of a statement I have made in my written submission to the inquiry.

Thank you, your honour, for letting me speak tonight. My name is Ian Chadwick. I was a member of the previous council.

This inquiry is about two of the many challenges council faced and overcame last term.

First was the changing nature of Ontario’s energy sector. Prior to the provincial election, all three political parties vowed to reduce the number of Local Distribution Companies across the province. The town expected legislation to force amalgamations after the election.

Council chose to be proactive.

Council listened to our utility board, to our utility and town staff, and to a consultant from the world-renowned firm KPMG. We created a Strategic Planning Team tasked with the responsibility of finding the best option and then guiding us along that path through an open public process.

Our decision to engage in a strategic partnership was lauded around the province as a model of cooperation and collaboration.
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My responses to residents: 4

Questions? I have answers.NB: As a candidate for Deputy Mayor in the upcoming municipal election, I receive questions from residents about my stand on various issues and policies. I will post my responses here for everyone to read. My responses are in italics, below.

Please keep your answers short and to the point. The following are my questions:

1.What do you see as the main issues in this upcoming election campaign?

Answer: A return to open, accountable and ethical government to regain the trust of the people and staff is the first priority.

2.What experience do you bring to the office of Deputy Mayor?

Answer: Three terms on council, a dozen years before that in local media covering regional councils and politics, two decades serving on municipal boards and committees, serving the last four years on the county’s library, museum and archives board, serving the past two years on the local source protection committee. Plus being a contributor to Municipal World as both feature writer and book author on municipal issues. Plus owning and operating a successful local retail business for a decade which taught me much about financial management and budgeting.

3.What is your vision for Collingwood?

Answer: A return to open, accountable and ethical government will allow us to rebuild our tattered reputation, and restore public faith in town hall. A return to proper fiscal management will allow us to take on projects and initiatives for the betterment of the people and the town.

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My responses to residents: 3

Questions? I have answers.NB: As a candidate for Deputy Mayor in the upcoming municipal election, I receive questions from residents about my stand on various issues and policies. I will post my responses here for everyone to read. My responses are in italics, below.

Looking forward to your review & response to enclosed questions to understand your level of support to improve cycling infrastructure in Collingwood that you will provide if elected in the upcoming election.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment and respond to your questions. As a bit of background, when I was on council (2003-2014) I advocated for and championed alternate transit, spoke up for dedicated bicycle lanes and ‘sharrows’ on side streets, requested three-metre sidewalks for shared use (such as were installed on the north side of First St), and requested a change in the sidewalk bylaw to permit riding on the wider sidewalks. I also supported the installation of roundabouts for traffic calming on Poplar Sideroad and the proposed one at High and Sixth Streets. I spoke with the clerk’s bylaw staff about prohibiting parking in marked bicycle lanes along Ontario Street and the liability that parking presented to the town.

I also advocated for mandatory bicycle racks and dedicated bicycle (and pedestrian) lanes in all new commercial developments and malls within the town’s urban design guidelines. Plus I asked for a report on more upscale bicycle locking and storage devices downtown (I saw a presentation on a vertical storage unit that seemed appropriate).
My wife and I bicycle around town in the clement weather. Although we are not sport cyclists, we like to ride the local trails and sideroads for short (10-20km) trips to the waterfront, our parks and other communities. We are both aware of many of the issues that face cyclists including traffic and streets not designed for shared transportation.

Given the growing interest in cycling in the region, both among residents and as a tourist/visitor attraction, it is appropriate to create a regional committee with members of all local councils, staff and the cycling community to collaboratively examine challenges and opportunities. I support a regional cycling strategy where common standards and priorities are adopted by all local municipalities.

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My responses to residents: 2

Questions? I have answers.NB: As a candidate for Deputy Mayor in the upcoming municipal election, I receive questions from residents about my stand on various issues and policies. I will post my responses here for everyone to read. My responses are in italics, below.

Hi Ian,
Where do you want the hospital to be built ?

It’s not where *I* want the hospital built that matters – it’s where the hospital’s staff, consultants, planners and board identified as the best place after many months of surveying, studying and planning. They are the experts, not me, not anyone on council.

It’s the site with the best access for ambulances and helicopters, land to grow in the future, and which serves the region best. The current site would lose its helicopter landing access if it built up on that property.

The hospital consultants and planners said that the best site was on Poplar Sideroad. And that’s the site the council should have supported. It’s a mere two minutes from the current site by car, but it addresses the hospital’s plans for our future healthcare best of all three sites surveyed. And because it’s beside Georgian College, it provides an opportunity for the college to expand its own healthcare education programs in concert with the hospital.

Site number two was in Wasaga Beach, but I would hope that it stayed here. Council should have supported the hospital and not have hired lawyers and consultants to contradict the board’s decision.

My responses to residents: 1

Questions? I have answers.NB: As a candidate for Deputy Mayor in the upcoming municipal election, I receive questions from residents about my stand on various issues and policies. I will post my responses here for everyone to read. My responses are in italics, below.

One of my main concerns is development in the area. I do understand that development is important for the economic growth of Collingwood and builds a tax base. My concern is the natural area that makes Collingwood beautiful is shrinking especially with the future housing plans.

Is this a priority for you? If yes, what will you do to ensure protected areas remain protected and the natural beauty remains? If not, please explain.

Response: I too am concerned, but there’s not much any municipality can do because planning is controlled predominantly at the provincial level. Collingwood was designated as a growth area several years back, as part of the provincial plan to limit sprawl in more rural areas. The county also supports this, by the way. It means we see more residential growth than most of our neighbours. And yes it means increasing loss of greenspace.

Compounding this is the shift in real estate that has driven many homeowners in the GTA to sell and move outside the city – and with it a demographic change because many of these new residents are older and retired. That has driven up the market for housing and accelerated the growth in some areas.

Although growth brings in new money – and for a council that manages its finances carefully, that helps keep taxes low – it also means more demands on infrastructure and services, which can also raise costs for them. And few if any of the new homes are in the “affordable” range for many of our residents (especially seniors and low-income earners).

The Planning Act, the county’s Official Plan and our own Official Plan lay out what can be developed and where. Since all of this land is in private hands, we can only regulate it according to these documents: things like servicing, density, setbacks, roads, tails, parkland, etc. We can slow growth down through bureaucratic means, but not stop it indefinitely.

We even have little to no control over things like style and design (although last term I did manage to get a change to stop the building of ‘snout houses’ here). Last term I also raised mandatory tree planting in new developments, but it didn’t gain traction (I’ll try again next term).

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