By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
The thin timeline to establish the ward system by the end of 2017 has some residents starting to bite their fingernails.
While the city has announced it is not moving forward with any review until the region’s composition bylaw is enacted or quashed, some are saying their hands are tied as they wait for the final outcome.
On May 16, it was announced that the proposed bylaw had been posted to Ontario’s Regulatory Registry, a step in the process that allows for public comment on the changes. It is required the bylaw stay in this gestating legislative state for 45 days, the final day for comments now being June 30. Following that, Ted McMeekin, the provincial minister of municipal affairs and housing, will issue a final decision on whether or not the Region of Durham can move ahead with the changes.
However, there is no set timeline for McMeekin to make his final judgement.
“We have no idea how long that process will take,” says Sandra Krantz, Oshawa’s city clerk.
The same was previously told to The Oshawa Express by ministry spokesperson Conrad Spezowka.
“At this time, we do not have a timeline on when a decision will be made,” he said.
That uncertainty has some residents concerned that there may not be enough time for the city to complete its ward boundary review process in time for the next election.
“There really isn’t very much time if you think about it,” said resident David Conway at the most recent meeting of council.
Conway suggested that the city needs to move forward in the “very near future” and that, potentially, councillors should consider sending a letter to the minister to try and grease the wheels.
“A letter from our council would be very helpful in moving the process along,” he said.
He also suggested council and staff could start considering options in the short-term without setting anything in stone, such as considering if the previous seven-ward system was viable, or if they are supportive of a new five-ward system once Oshawa council loses two of its regional council members.
Currently, the city is in the midst of finalizing its terms of reference for the request for proposals in order to obtain a consultant to assist with the review. According to Krantz, that process is expected to be completed by the end of the summer.
Oshawa councillors are not legally bound to move back to the ward system, due to the fact that less than 50 per cent of eligible voters turned out for the 2014 referendum. However, of those that turned up to vote, 72 per cent of them requested a switch back from the at-large system.
Conway says it could mean trouble for the city if the switch back is not made in time.
“If those ward boundaries are not in place, it’s going to be chaos for that election in that year,” he says.
Conway’s delegation received no response from councillors.
Speaking after the meeting, Mayor John Henry says a letter to the ministry isn’t needed, as the clerks of both Oshawa and the region are working on a current report on the matter.
“I don’t think there’s a need to do it at this time,” he says.