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First round of ward review consultations wrap up

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

After a trio of open houses and a batch of online surveys, the city and its consultants have wrapped up the first round of public consultations in the process that will lead to the creation of Oshawa’s new ward system.

Originally slated to end in 2016, the process was extended by nearly a month when bad weather forced the third and final meeting to be moved from Dec. 15 to Jan. 12. The city also left its online survey open until Jan. 20.

Robert Williams, the lead consultant along with Watson and Associates responsible for the review, says the timeline won’t be “significantly impacted” by the delay in wrapping up public consultations.

“It does not affect the procedure very much,” he says. “We built a little bit of slack in the sense that we knew we could work around particular dates.”

All in all, he says the process was a success and has given them a better idea of what residents are hoping to see in their new ward system.

“It was lively, there’s certainly some engagement in the community and that’s good,” Williams says.

“We’ve got a sense of what kinds of design people want and how they think it should run.”

And while they’ve got an idea of what people want, they also have a strong sense of what people don’t want –strip wards, or wards that run all the way from the city’s northern most reaches right down to the lakeshore.

“Anyone who’s ever had anything to say about that is utterly opposed to that idea,” he says.

According to a news release from the city, 53 people attended one of the public open houses and 36 people completed the online survey.

Council approved the switch back to the ward system in 2015 in response to a ballot question during the 2014 municipal election, which saw support for steering away from the current at-large system.

The process was previously mired with uncertainty as the Region of Durham’s composition bylaw made its rounds through the municipalities. With that now locked down, and Oshawa set to lose two seats, things can move ahead. It’s still uncertain how that change will affect the city’s council chambers.

That could possibly be addressed along with “potential models” and different approaches to a new system in the interim report that will come to council along with the results of what the consultants gleamed during the public open house. Williams says discussions are ongoing to set a date for that report to come forward.