Report calls for Province to step in and fix Durham's serious representation issues
AJAX, ON, May 16, 2013 /CNW/ - Ajax Council has unanimously approved a staff report calling on the Province's Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Linda Jeffrey, to impose strict measures on the Region of Durham for repeatedly failing to address serious representation issues and diluting the voting power of the majority of electors.
The report concludes that the 28-member Regional Council falls far short of both representation-by-population principles and effective representation standards expected in a Canadian democracy.
Despite extraordinary growth in various municipalities in the Region since 1997, there have been no changes to the Council resulting in some municipalities gaining a substantial and entirely unjustified representation advantage. Population projections indicate that this injustice will get even worse in the coming years and that the time to re-balance Council is now. (See quick facts section below.)
In addition to restoring fair representation to all electors and taxpayers in the Region, the report also calls for the "right-sizing" of Council composition that is smaller and less costly. Currently, the basic governance cost for Durham Regional Council is nearly 2.5 times more per-capita than Peel and York Regions, who have significantly higher effective population-per-member ratios (both more than 50,000 compared to 21,715 in Durham).
The report puts forward a 17-member Council solution based on a modest 40,000 pop-per-member ratio. The viability of this much smaller Council is supported by Regional Council's apparent contentment with the current underrepresented pop-per-member ratio in Ajax (36,533 in 2011; and soon to be more than 40,000). Using an estimated annual cost of $60,000 per member, such a "right-sized" Council would save Regional taxpayers approximately $660,000 annually.
The deliberate and continued refusal by the Region to act makes it necessary for the Government of Ontario to intervene in order to ensure that fair, effective and cost-efficient representation is provided to all electors, residents and taxpayers in the Region of Durham.
The report also recommends that the Province amend the Municipal Act to require all municipalities, immediately following the 2014 elections, to undertake substantive representation reviews and implement the changes required to maintain fair and effective representation, at least once every three terms of Council (12 years).
"I am very troubled by what this report shows. Regional Council bears an ethical responsibility to provide fair and effective representation, and as it stands right now, we are failing the Durham electorate terribly. Regional Council is too large and costly and requires a complete overhaul - the facts are overwhelming. I am hopeful that the Province will step in and impose representation changes to give all taxpayers in Durham an equal voice."
- Mayor Steve Parish
"The unequal representation detailed in the comprehensive and convincing Ajax report is outrageously unfair and must not be tolerated in a democratic society such as ours. The negligence of Durham Regional Council, together with examples of serious representation imbalances on other upper-tier Councils in Ontario, makes it necessary for the Province to take urgent action to uphold and protect the fundamental democratic principle of representation by population in these municipalities."
- Andrew Sancton, Professor of Political Science, Western University (UWO)
- Expert in the fields of Canadian local government and democratic representation.
- Three-time member of the Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission for Ontario.
"The Ajax report on regional council representation in Durham Region is a clear message that the pursuit of equitable representation in Ontario municipalities is optional not essential: there is no obligation on the part of elected councils to ensure that the distribution of seats meets elementary principles of Canadian electoral democracy. As a community changes, so must the electoral arrangements. Durham's population has changed significantly since 1997 but the distribution of regional seats seems to pretend that nothing is different. The Province needs to accept that it must help address this issue in Durham and other regions across Ontario."
- Robert Williams, Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of Waterloo
- Pre-eminent consultant to Ontario municipalities on representation issues.
- Ajax, Whitby and Clarington have a combined 2011 population of 316,162 and 10 members of Regional Council. Oshawa and Pickering have a combined population of only 238,328, but have 12 Regional Councillors.
- Ajax and Clarington, combined population of 194,148, have a total of 6 Regional Councillors. Scugog, Uxbridge and Brock Townships, combined population of 53,533, also have 6 members.
- Ajax has population of 110,000, compared to 89,000 for Pickering (24% more) - yet Pickering has 4 Regional Council members and Ajax 3.
- York Region (pop 1.03M) has a 20 member Regional Council with a basic cost of $1.2M ($1.11 per capita). Durham Region (pop 608,000) has a 28 member council that costs $1.7M ($2.76 per capita), or 2.5 times MORE.
- Richmond Hill (pop 186,000) has three members on York Regional Council. In Durham Region, Oshawa (pop 150,000) has 8 Regional Councillors.
- For more information or to download the staff report, visit www.ajax.ca/fairrepresentation.
SOURCE: Town of Ajax
Christie McLardie, Manager of Communications, 905-619-2529, ext. 3362, 905-999-8254, firstname.lastname@example.org