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Oshawa a step closer to losing council seats

Durham council approves byloaw that sees city lose two spots at region

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

Regional council is now one step closer to seeing fewer Oshawa faces in its chambers.

At the end of the Sept. 14 meeting of regional council – the first since the summer recess – councillors passed a bylaw confirming that it would be reconfiguring its municipal representation following the 2018 elections. Under the new configuration approved in March, Oshawa would lose two seats, bringing it down to six. Those two seats would then be given to Whitby and Ajax respectively.

With the Ministry of Municipal Affairs approving the region’s request to change its council composition over the summer, the bylaw was the next step in approving the new structure.

However, some remain unhappy that this will be the new face of Durham’s council moving forward.

Mayor John Henry, who has long voiced his opposition to the city losing two seats, says this change is being made based on the opinion of a small sliver of the region’s populace.

“In total, 80 participants attended those sessions, and we received 131 comments. So if each of those participants made comments, and we had received 131, you’re changing council composition on the opinions cast by the public and the people who put those forward of 211 people,” he told his colleagues in council chambers.

“That’s all that’s been collected in data to support this, other then the conversation that has gone on in this room.”

The mayor received some support from Councillor Dan Carter, who says that the region should be looking at increasing representation across Durham, not just in certain communities at the expense of another.

“I believe that we shouldn’t get any smaller. I believe that we should get larger, and the reason that I believe that is because municipal politicians and representatives have more contact, day in and day out, with our constituents and our community more so than MPs and MPPs. We get calls day and night, seven days a week in order to solve issues,” he said.

“I would rather see that Whitby got an extra seat, Ajax got an extra seat and if Clarington wants another seat, let’s give it to them. I know that these people don’t mail it in.”

However, not all Oshawa councillors were on board with the city keeping eight seats on council. Councillor Bob Chapman, who was the city’s representative on the council composition committee, says that the region has needed to look at reconfiguring its layout for some time.

“This didn’t just pop up this year. I’ve been on council for six years, and this was talked about before I got on council, about how to balance council,” he said.

“Then this council took the initiative to say we should do something.”

The Oshawa councillor added that when the matter makes its way to city hall for a vote that it be passed lest Oshawa become the outlier in Durham.

“I’m hoping Oshawa’s council majority – because we have three local councillors – I hope the majority passes it there because I certainly have the feeling that it’ll pass in the other seven municipalities, which means Oshawa not supporting it would be in the minority there,” he said.

“We won’t be the poor sister, but we might be the downtrodden looked on type person.”

In the end, all regional councillors, with the exception of Henry, Carter, John Neal and John Aker, voted in favour of the new change.

The next step towards cementing the new council layout will come when the composition is put to a vote at each of the region’s municipalities. A majority of municipalities representing a majority of residents must vote in favour of the new composition in order for it to come into effect by the 2018 elections.