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Two seats down for Oshawa

Committee approves report that sees city lose two regional council seats in 2018

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Regional chair Roger Anderson, top, tell The Oshawa Express that the proposed changes to regional council are only fair so that municipalities are over- or underrepresented. Gary Valcour, bottom, proposed that future committees looking at the makeup of regional council need to have fewer than half of its members be elected officials, saying it’s easier for non-elected members of the public to be objective.

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

You may be seeing fewer Oshawa faces on regional council in years to come.

That’s the recommendation put forward by Durham’s regional council composition review committee, which has just completed its final report on the makeup of council.

According to the report passed unanimously by the committee’s members, Oshawa would lose two seats, with Ajax and Whitby each picking up one.

If approved by regional council, the goal is to have the new composition in place for the 2018 municipal election.

To go into effect, the motion must be passed by regional council and then down to the individual municipalities. If a majority of them approve it – or enough councils representing more than 50 per cent of the region’s population approve it –it will then go on to a review by the provincial government before being made official for 2018.

Even if Oshawa goes down to six seats from eight, Councillor Bob Chapman, the city’s representative on the committee, says that while some may be upset, it comes down to quality over quantity.

“I know some people in Oshawa aren’t going to be happy and some of my colleagues might not be happy that I supported this. It’s not losing two seats, it’s redistributing them,” Chapman tells The Oshawa Express.

“But a lot of people believe that because we have eight seats, that gives us a lot of power on regional council. If you’re watching votes on regional council, not all Oshawa councillors vote as a block of eight. We all vote, in my opinion, the way we should be – for what we believe is the right thing for residents of the region, slash down into the city. We’ll still have six representations, and it’s a matter of who the people elect.”

Regional chair Roger Anderson agreed that based on how the population of the region is currently spread out, Oshawa is overrepresented compared to other municipalities on regional council.

“The problem is if you look at numbers and how many people regional councillors represent in other municipalities, there really is a big difference,” Anderson says. “I understand Oshawa’s citizens’ concerns, but I don’t think it’ll change that much. It doesn’t matter how many people you’re represented by. It’s how well they represent you, and Oshawa does a pretty good job of representing Oshawa. They also do a good job of representing the region.”

Future reviews

Another part of the report voted on by the committee lays out parameters for how council will be reviewed in years to come.

According to the report, a committee will be created after every third term to decide how the next three councils will be configured.

Gary Valcour, the chair of the Oshawa Port Authority and a member of the committee, put forward a motion calling for future committees to be comprised of more members of the public, with elected officials accounting for less than half of the committee’s makeup.

“You’re more likely to get people to make a dramatic change if they’re not going to be directly involved (with the result),” Valcour said during the meeting.

“I think it’s easier to be objective if it isn’t your ox being gored.”

Chapman says that the next round of deliberations around the makeup of council will be dramatically different due to how much the region is changing.

“Coming back in nine years, this is going to change again. Oshawa is growing, Whitby’s growing, Pickering’s growing, Ajax is going to be almost outgrown. We’re going to have to change it again,” Chapman tells The Oshawa Express.

“Pickering is going to be almost the biggest community if Seaton goes through with Oshawa a very close second or the two of them fighting for it. We might have to increase the representation when that happens in nine years.”

The committee’s report is set to be presented and put to a vote at the next meeting of regional council on March 9.

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