Council ponders viability of ward system

Dividing the City into wards was considered in a recent City council meeting when Legislative and Governance Services (LGS) provided a report regarding remuneration for council’s consideration.

Elaine Vincent, manager of LGS, said a ward system is usually related to the size of a municipality. “We had committed to a review of the ward system in preparation for the upcoming election and we are directing a report to come back to council in 2012.”

Vincent did say, however, that Red Deer might be too small for a ward system to function well.

The choices handed to council were whether to maintain the status quo of councillors elected at large or to consider the report on wards in 2012.

A ward system in Red Deer would see a councillor elected for each region within the City. Vincent also said that council would need to make a decision on whether they want the number of councillors to stay at eight or have that issue addressed in the report on wards.

City Manager Craig Curtis said he worked with Vincent on the report and that a number of City staff had been over the alternatives in all areas.

“The situation [with wards] is that each tends to want exactly equal treatment but there is not equal need across the City.

“My experience and recommendation is that it would be best for everybody to run at large and have consideration for the City as a whole,” said Curtis.

Councillor Chris Stephan said the decision about wards is not council’s to make and that the public should have a say.

“I’m not sure we’re big enough to go to wards yet. I think that right now the direction we’re going we are representing the whole City and that’s really important,” said Councillor Lynne Mulder.

She also said that she wouldn’t like to see that change right now but maybe in 10 years’ time it would be a consideration.

“Either way it’s a decision of the citizens.”

Councillor Tara Veer also supported council’s continuation of being elected at large.

“I think our decisions are less political because we make them with the general community in mind rather than politically tailoring our opinions to a specific part of the City,” said Veer.

Most council members reiterated the fact that it is a decision to be made by the public and that now is not the right time for a ward system.

Council agreed to keep the number of councillors at eight and a report on the ward system is expected to return in mid-2012.