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Wards are not walls

By their very nature, wards are dividing lines. Their purpose is to disect and delineate different portions of the city in order to ease the roles of both electors and candidates come election time.

With that said, they are simply lines on a map, lines that don’t exist when one steps outside their front door and walks the streets of the city and it’s this mindset councillors need to remember.

The city’s new ward system received tentative approval during a special meeting of council on June 15, and pending approval of the bylaw at the next council meeting, a mere technicality, Oshawa will be electing officials in a five-ward system come 2018.

And looking at each ward at a high level, one can clearly see distinctions that any councillor running in that area come election time will want to focus on.

Sure the south end (Ward 5) has issues with slum landlords and pockets of crime, but it also has the harbour and the potential for a serious impact from developments along Harbour Road.  Any candidate in Ward 4 will surely focus on the revitalization of downtown, while Ward 2 candidates will perhaps focus on the airport. Whatever the case may be, candidates can easily turn inward and focus on their single ward, a habit that could follow then into the council chambers.

However, that doesn’t benefit the city as a whole.

At city hall, things will grind to a standstill as each councillor looks to focus on their own area and self-serving interests, completely defeating the goal of “effective representation” the ward review set out to accomplish in the first place.

It is here that Councillor John Shields deserves recognition for his wise words during council’s discussion on the new system.

“We’ve been talking about these boundaries as if they’re walls,” he said. “Regardless of what ward you’re in, whoever is here is going to have to work together.”

While councillors will be elected in wards, they need to keep a holistic approach to issues in mind because behind those dividing lines and behind those issues and opportunities are the people of this city, and they only benefit when their councillors put self-serving desires aside and use tax dollars effectively. And that can’t happen in silos.

Wards are not walls, and this council and those that come after will be all the better if they remember that fact.