After a Notice of Motion regarding a plebiscite on a ward system in Red Deer failed at City council, local resident Garfield Marks has taken it upon himself to see that Red Deerians are given a voice in the matter.
“I’ve heard from a lot of people that they want a plebiscite to decide on this matter, and after it was defeated in council they said a petition with 10,000 signatures was the only way to go,” said Marks.
He said the idea started because he saw a lack of communication between council and the public. He wrote the letter last fall and “Started hearing from 300 plus people that they were dissatisfied.”
One of the big issues people mentioned was the bike lane project. Many people speaking to Marks said they felt if Red Deer had a ward system that they would have someone directly accountable in their community or ward, he said.
“Right now as it is you have nine people to contact and hope one gets back to you.”
City Councillor Buck Buchanan was one of the three councillors who brought forward the original Notice of Motion wanting to proceed with a plebiscite. Councillors Chris Stephan and Frank Wong were also involved in the Notice of Motion.
“If you have a councillor from a ward it’s like having your own personal voice in the community,” said Buchanan.
He also said that he doesn’t feel like the current system is bad or that either system is better than the other.
“The whole nuts and bolts of it was that I wasn’t adverse to asking the people what they thought they wanted through a plebiscite,” said Buchanan.
Marks suspects that some council members don’t feel they would have a strong enough platform to win in their ward and that may be why they are against the idea of changing systems.
The petition, in order to meet all legal standards, can only be available to sign for 60 days and Marks said he feels it’s important to do things properly so that council sees how serious the community members are about wanting a plebiscite.
“A lot of people have said council doesn’t communicate well with the public and that they appear to exist inside a bubble. Right now we have about 400 people in favour of the ward system and willing to sign,” said Marks.
Buchanan added the benefits of a ward system are that councillors would each have their own area to look after. He did, however, say that he is not necessarily in favour specifically of a ward system over the present system.
“I’m just not against asking the people. I am all for giving the public that voice and making sure they have the best representation they can have. I don’t think anybody sitting at council is any different,” said Buchanan.
If the plebiscite were done outside of the election ballot it would cost the City between $150,000 and $200,000. Buchanan said he would rather see it happen on the election ballot, which would only cost the City about $5,000.
Marks said the petition will begin circulating April 1 and will close May 30.
“We are going to get as many volunteers as possible and signs and hold the petition in public areas. It should all work out if we just keep plugging away at it.”
To contact Marks about his petition email firstname.lastname@example.org.