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Plebiscite sought on ward system

A petition calling on Red Deer city council to put a plebiscite about a ward system on October’s civic ballot may soon be circulating.

Garfield Marks, an advocate for a ward voting system, confirmed on Wednesday that he is getting the paperwork together to petition the city.

Marks said he has been approached by members of the community because of his letters to the Advocate and his strong stance on letting residents decide the issue.

Earlier this month, city council struck down the motion brought forward by Councillors Chris Stephan, Frank Wong and Buck Buchanan to ask a question about a ward system on the Oct. 21 municipal election ballot. Council reaffirmed a position it took in April 2012 that an at-large voting system was most appropriate for Red Deer.

Marks said he is not sure this is what the voters of the city truly want and he feels a plebiscite would give a clear indication.

He said has about 20 people who will help him circulate the petition throughout Red Deer, beginning in April.

According to Alberta’s Municipal Government Act, citizens can force a plebiscite on an issue through a petition requesting a bylaw, if the petition is signed by at least 10 per cent of adult citizens of a municipality.

Marks said initially he did not think he could get 10,000 signatures on the petition but given the recent feedback, he believes it will be no problem.

Frieda McDougall, the city’s Legislative Services Department manager, said there are a number of steps involved in producing a legal and valid petition.

McDougall will be in contact with Marks to explain the steps.

A citizen has 60 days from the time he or she collects the first signature to the last.

Then the city would have 30 days to determine the accuracy and validity of the petition. Another two to three weeks would be needed to get it on council’s agenda. Council would then have to act on the petition within 90 days.

“Even if that took us to the end of June, that would still be enough time to get a question on the ballot,” said McDougall. “If it is something that citizens want to do, they would have to do it fairly quickly.”

The city must also advertise under the Local Elections Act whether there will be any questions on the ballot.

“We haven’t had a sufficient petition since 1989,” said McDougall. “We would be walking through this very carefully to make sure we got it right.”

The 1989 plebiscite was about declaring the city a nuclear-free zone. Seventy-six per cent of voters favoured that plebiscite, and subsequently signs were posted at the entrances of the city.

To contact Marks about his petition, call 403-340-2854 or gjmarks@telusplanet.net.

crhyno@reddeeradvocate.com

 

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