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Let Us Vote to push for plebiscite on ward system

A newly formed group is pushing for a plebiscite on a ward system on the Oct. 21 civic ballot in Red Deer.

Let Us Vote is comprised of about seven city-wide residents who want to give city residents an opportunity to their say on Red Deer city council representation.

Member Lloyd Johnson, who has lived in north Red Deer since the early 1990s, said the bike lane controversy was one motivation for the petition but it is one of many issues where there is not enough public consultation.

“I am not saying the councillors are doing a bad job but there has got to be a change on how they operate with the public,” said Johnson, 54. “Part of their job is to work at ways to involve the public.”

Earlier this month, city council rejected a motion by Councillors Chris Stephan, Frank Wong and Buck Buchanan to add a ward question on the next civic election ballot. Council also turned down Stephan’s motion to include a ward question on the next Ipsos Reid Survey.

Johnson said the at-large system is good but it is not being used properly by the current council because council is overlooking the involvement of public.

Johnson said some councillors endorse an at-large system so they can represent everyone but he does not see them representing more than a few people.

“It’s an ideal that they represent everybody but they clearly don’t,” said Johnson. “I think more public involvement makes a healthier city and a healthier council. There wouldn’t be so many angry people if they could be involved. People complain when they feel left out of the process.”

Garfield Marks, the man behind the petition, said there is mounting support to switch to a ward system.

The group wants to see a ward system with four wards –– north, south, west and east –– with two councillors per ward.

Marks is in frequent contact with Frieda McDougall, the city’s Legislative Services Department manager, to ensure the group is taking the right steps to request the bylaw to attach a question to the ballot.

The group needs 10,000 signatures to be accepted by the city under the Municipal Government Act. An accurate and valid petition would force a council to vote on a plebiscite bylaw.

Marks said the group is currently brainstorming ways to gather signatures and is getting ready to set up an office. A lawyer is currently reviewing the text on the official petition.

“We will take it one step at a time and see what we can do,” said Marks.

The group will begin circulating the petition on April 1.

Volunteers are needed for canvassing and support. Contact Marks at 403-340-2854 or gjmarks@telusplanet.net

crhyno@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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