By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express
A regional councillor from each of the Durham’s municipalities, as well as representatives from boards of commerce and post-secondary institutions, met for the first time to discuss what regional council is going to look like in the future.
The committee, chaired by UOIT president Tim McTiernan, is set to report to regional council by November and provide a final report by March 2016.
A report provided to councillors in attendance included possible scenarios of the composition of council, including maintaining council size but redistributing how many residents on average each councillor represents and reducing the size of council by a quarter. All four scenarios would see Oshawa losing seats.
Councillor Bob Chapman, Oshawa’s representative on the committee, voiced his concern that students – a demographic that is more transient and may not necessarily be reflected in population figures – be accounted for.
“We have the transient communities for university and college that come in and live on Simcoe Street and south of the university,” Chapman said before citing a recent decision by the Ontario Municipal Board and Kingston.
In 2013, the board ruled that Kingston’s electoral boundaries as set by its council were not proper as they did not include the post-secondary student population, and ordered the city to redraw its boundaries in time for the 2014 municipal election.
“The board finds that the council, in a 7-6 vote, acted unreasonably in adopting an option that does not count more than 20 per cent of the city’s population when determining electoral districts,” Sylvia Sutherland, a former mayor of Peterborough and then a member of the board, wrote in her judgment in 2013.
The city had argued that because post-secondary students typically didn’t vote in municipal elections, they should not be counted.
“In Oshawa, those that are attending UOIT, Trent and Durham College from outside the region…those types of figures have to be included in there when you’re looking at population and electors,” Chapman said. “Those types of things, especially given the (Ontario Municipal Board) decision, need to be looked at in the basis of this because I know the point from, especially from Ajax, was just talking about having representation by population. I think there’s more than population to consider here.”
Gary Valcour, chair for the Oshawa Port Authority and member of the council composition committee, says the committee also needs to be looking at where the economic drivers for the region are coming from and have that as part of the basis for how many councillors each municipality has.
“I would like to understand not only the population and the expectations of population, but also – because it’s not like we’re making more land – is where we’re getting our money and where we’re going to be spending it,” Valcour said at the meeting. “Generally speaking, the man with the gold rules and whoever is going to be paying the piper for all of this…we’ve got to factor that in, and there’s ways to do that.”
The meetings, which Regional Chair Roger Anderson confirmed will be webstreamed online, will take place every fourth Friday, with the next meeting coming on Aug. 28.