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Fate of BIA to be decided by secret ballot vote

Members of the BIA will be voting to decide the fate of the organization via secret ballot despite some trepidation from councillors.

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Downtown Oshawa Business Improvement Area (BIA) members will be deciding the organization’s fate via secret ballot vote.

At a recent special council meeting, Oshawa city councillors voted five to four in favour of the secret ballot vote. Councillors Derek Giberson, Jane Hurst, Bradley Marks, and Bob Chapman were not in favour.

Mayor Dan Carter and Councillor Tito-Dante Marimpietri weren’t in attendance due to declarations of conflict on the issue.

The motion to vote via secret ballot was presented by Councillor Brian Nicholson, who released a statement regarding the importance of council’s decision.

“This places the onus where it belongs. Those that pay the levy… that fund the BIA will now vote on the future of the organization,” he says.

Under Nicholson’s motion, council also voted to prohibit the use of public funds in support of shutting down the BIA, or in opposition.

The survey will be conducted in the same manner as an election, with in-person voting, which left some councillors hesitant to vote in favour.

“There was no way I was voting in favour of a process that puts people in our city at risk during a global pandemic by requiring a couple hundred members to cast ballots in person,” Giberson tells The Oshawa Express.

He adds there was previously a staff recommendation to allow mail-in voting, but council went another way.

Nicholson tells The Express the city will be working with Durham Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Kyle on a safe strategy which will comply with provincial regulations when the vote takes place.

Giberson believes the directive passed by council will mean the disenfranchisement of hundreds of small businesses downtown which will now miss out on the chance to vote.

“Everyone who talks about dissolving the BIA and handing the work over to the city to run the downtown events, do promotions, provide support and advocacy for businesses… seem to not want to talk about the over quarter of $1 million BIA budget that would then have to be transferred and added to the city’s budget and the general property taxpayer,” he says.

He believes it is a minority of BIA members who have “dissenting but loud voices” who wish to the see the organization dissolved.

A date and time for the vote will be announced at a later date.