Council moves forward with plebiscite on ward system

  • May. 1, 2013 4:49 p.m.

Red Deer City council voted in favour of spending $35,000 to carry out a plebiscite regarding a ward versus an at-large system in conjunction with the municipal election this fall.

This money would not only be used to hold the plebiscite itself, but it will be used for communication, education and awareness about wards versus at-large systems of representation.

“We will be doing an educational program as close to the election as we can. We will be doing lots of saturation in the fall so people understand what the issue is,” said Julia Harvie-Shemko, the City’s communications manager. “If we were to start the educational component now, it would be lost because come the fall people would forget.”

Education in the form of meetings where political experts are featured as guest speakers will take place later this year.

During Monday’s meeting, council gave feedback regarding the wording of the question on the plebiscite.

Administration suggested the plebiscite read, ‘Are you in favour of council passing a bylaw dividing the City of Red Deer into wards for municipal election purposes?’

The suggestions for answers included ‘Yes (a ‘yes’ vote means you support changing to an electoral system where the City if divided into electoral divisions (called ‘wards’) and you must be a resident in the ward in order to vote for a councillor in that ward and councillors are elected for each ward, unless otherwise provided for in the bylaw)’, or ‘No (a ‘no’ vote means that you support maintaining the current at-large electoral system where you may vote for councillors for the entire City regardless of where you reside in the City.)’

Many councillors wanted to see the wording of the question on the plebiscite simplified.

“I’m in favour of simplifying the wording but not removing all of the wording and just providing a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. I think it’s great that we are going to do all of this education beforehand, but not everyone will take advantage of that, so I think it’s important to have a description on the plebiscite,” said Councillor Lynne Mulder.

Councillor Cindy Jefferies said the question on the plebiscite should not be taken lightly.

“This is a very important question. We need to have some sort of explanation.”

Administration will take some of the feedback council gave regarding the wording of the question on the plebiscite and bring it back to council for approval.