I must commend councillors Frank Wong, Buck Buchanan, and Chris Stephan for their plan to introduce a motion at the Jan. 21 City council meeting asking for a plebiscite on the electoral ward issue.
A plebiscite allows the public to be part of the decision-making process, and offers some distance to the sense of councilors having a conflict of interest and being self-serving.
The public may vote against a ward system, and they have every democratic right to do so, but it would be their decision. A successful vote would mean the ward system would still be years away, and that would appease those that believe a ward system is inevitable but for the future.
To vote against a plebiscite (perceiving to keep the advantage incumbents have in future elections) would be an attack on the democratic principles that our elected politicians are elected to uphold. Would city councillors feel this plebiscite would be abatement on their power? Do they believe that the voters incapable of making an intelligent decision?
They just need to be reminded that the people in Red Deer need to feel represented and the current system does not appear to be working.
The upcoming election in October will be an example of the need for the ward system, and perhaps the school boards will take note. There will be by my estimation eight people running for mayor, (no incumbent), 24 people running for City council, (five incumbents) and 14-16 people running for each of the different school boards. The incumbents will have a huge advantage because no one will be able to understand all the platforms of approximately 50 candidates and the incumbents will be the fall back votes.
Under the ward system you will have eight choices for mayor but you would only have three to six candidates for City council and possibly the same for the school boards in your ward. Picking five out of 15 is much better than trying to pick 16 out of 50.
The plebiscite is an easy option for City council, they can allow the voters to participate in an electoral exercise and still keep their name-recognition advantage for one more election, and prepare for the ward system several years away. How can they say no?