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Talking about council

Committee hosts sparsely attended meeting on the future of regional council

durham-region-headquarters-mainBy Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The committee that will be making the final recommendation on the future of the size of Durham’s regional council has made its way across the region to hear what residents have to say. It would appear that Oshawa residents are keeping their opinions to themselves.

A Monday evening meeting at the Legends Centre drew only two members of the public, both more than happy to give their opinions on the future of regional council’s size, scope and how they will be elected.

One of the key questions that have come out of the committee is how regional councillors would be elected. More specifically, the committee is deliberating whether to recommend councillors be elected in a double direct system – the current system where a councillor sits as both a city and regional councillor – or in a direct system, where the councillor would only sit at the regional level.

One of the residents in attendance, former Oshawa mayoral candidate Bill Longworth, said that as long as there is both a municipal and a regional level of government, a direct election system would not be effective.

“Under our current system, regional representation should come from the municipality. I don’t think that’s the best system, though. I think that local municipalities are redundant. When the provincial government formed the regional government system, they gave all every one of the important responsibilities to the regional governments, leaving very little to the municipalities,” Longworth said during the question and answer period of the night. “I think the ultimate organization is direct election of regional councillors, but only after the municipal-level governments disappear.”

Regardless of the poor attendance at the first of three public meetings, Dr. Tim McTiernan, the president of UOIT and the head of the council composition committee, says he is encouraged by what he saw that night.

“I feel really good. What we got tonight was the concerns and perspective of people in our community who have been following politics for quite some time,” he tells The Oshawa Express. “We had some good debate, some better than what we see in committee.”

Following the public meetings, the committee was set to get back together again and decide where to go from there.

We have these questions to deal with. We’ll be going back to the committee to deal with the feedback and come up with a recommendation,” he says. “We’ll be facing, head on, the double direct versus direct election. Critical to that is the feedback we’ve heard.”

In addition to the Oshawa meeting, the committee held public consultation meetings in Ajax and Port Perry.