I believe it is time for Red Deer to have a ward system for city council. Red Deer is split into two ridings for provincial MLAs and apparently it is going to be split into two electoral districts for federal MPs. So why not four wards, each represented by two city councilors?
Several conversations these past few weeks have shown the need for a ward system has increased in the past years.
A downtown businessman said it was useless to complain about the loss of business during the long-term construction in the downtown area. Everything seems predetermined by the few in advance and which person would be receptive to a complaint, which elected official would care and understand the issue? Some group has already decided who our next mayor is going to be, and candidates for city council do not campaign for their votes downtown.
Interestingly enough, I had similar concerns in residential neighbourhoods. Who do you contact for continuous issues, bylaw infractions that are ignored, problematic neighbors, etc.? If we had area representatives who needed our vote, then maybe, just maybe, someone would respond to a neighbourhood issue.
As it is now, with about 20 people running for eight spots, you could theoretically win a seat with six per cent of the vote. Name recognition helps because I doubt if anyone will research 20 different campaigns. If you had just five people running for two spots in your ward, you may undertake to understand five campaigns and how it affects you. You could theoretically still win a seat with 21 per cent of the vote but that is still much better than six per cent.
Our provincial and federal representatives have become talking heads for their parties. City council was our last hope for voter representation, but in the last few years it has become ‘Politics for the sake of politics’ and the voters have become disenfranchised numbers. Candidates will go for the easiest votes, the least expensive votes. Candidates will address a highly-publicized issue during a campaign but often times not a non-public issue during their term, even if it diminishes a citizen’s standard of living, or their rights to peace and privacy.
How can eight people on council understand the traffic patterns in all parts of the city, understand the needs of new neighbourhoods, mature neighbourhoods, downtown, and each industrial and commercial zones sufficiently enough to properly represent them? How can they understand the different needs of each area at different times of the day, week, month or year for all areas in Red Deer?
Who do we, the citizens of Red Deer, contact to represent us at City Hall? The more diligent ones are overwhelmed with issues, others just do not respond for one reason or another. In a ward system, you would hope that at least one representative would make the effort to understand the nuances and complexities of our corner of the city enough to be able to articulate the problem to the other city councilors and bureaucrats if need be.
With that in mind, I do think it is time to establish a ward system or even to initiate a plebiscite to establish if there is a desire for a ward system. Let the citizens decide and not the beneficiaries of the current system. Would you not agree?