By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
In one of Oshawa city council’s most contentious decisions, councillors voted 6-4 against the Region of Durham’s new council composition bylaw.
Currently on its way through Durham’s lower tier municipalities after approval from the region earlier this month, the bylaw would see Oshawa council lose two representatives at the regional table, those seats being given to Whitby and Ajax.
Councillors went back and forth on the motion to approve the bylaw brought forward by Councillor Bob Chapman, who said he was “very confident” that Durham’s seven other municipalities would approve the change. Ajax has already done so earlier this month.
“I think this is fair in the context,” Chapman said, noting the growth of the other municipalities in Durham and Oshawa’s potential overrepresentation in regional chambers.
“It will go to regional council, that decision will be made, with or without our consent.”
At the region, Chapman, along with colleagues Nancy Diamond, Nester Pidwerbecki and Amy McQuaid-England all voted in favour of the switch. However, Councillors John Aker, Dan Carter and John Neal voted alongside Mayor John Henry in opposition.
Pidwerbecki was not present for Monday evening’s vote.
“I believe we have to maintain our democratically elected councillors to speak on behalf of the citizens of Oshawa at the region,” Aker said.
“Oshawa is the largest municipality, the fastest growing municipality, we are the absolute engine of the Durham Region, bar none.”
The same was said by Neal who accused the region of “attacking” Oshawa’s representation.
“I say you’ve got some nerve,” he said. “We basically carried these other municipalities since 1974.”
However, Chapman did receive support from Diamond who said Oshawa, for years, has been overrepresented at the region.
“I believe it is the right thing to do, it is fair to the other communities where they do not have equal representation from their council at the region,” she said.
The division between the regional councillors meant the decisive votes were left to Oshawa’s city councillors.
While Councillor Rick Kerr supported the switch, both Councillor John Shields and Doug Sanders joined the opposing side.
“We’re always at a disadvantage here in Oshawa,” Sanders said. “I don’t support Oshawa being disadvantaged in any way.”
Despite Oshawa’s opposition, its lone voice will need to be joined by other councils within Durham if the composition changes are to be defeated.
The region is hoping that councils will make their final decision before the end of the year.