City not ready for wards

The issue of bringing in a ward system to Red Deer was discussed earlier this week by a special panel at the iHotel in the City. Panelists included Duane Bratt, former Red Deer City Councillor Larry Pimm and political blogger Dave Cournoyer.

The three men offered advantages and disadvantages to ward systems and at-large systems. Voters this month will have the chance to answer a question on the ballot as to the suitability of a ward system for Red Deer.

The idea of establishing a ward system in Red Deer has been talked about for many years. There are plenty of opinions on the concept of a ward system, many pointing out that Red Deer is just too small.

Others feel it’s high time this was implemented in our City to bolster representation because a neighbourhood would have one councillor representing their particular regional concerns.

On the other hand, and as was pointed out Monday night, City councillors’ minds could grow a bit narrow as they might tend to focus squarely on their one particular district and lose their overall vision for the community as a whole.

However, there are also those who think just the opposite, saying it’s also been thought that those who favour ward systems suggest that wards ensure a greater balance of representation for all geographical areas of the City.

On council over the last few months, we’ve heard opinions vary as well. Some say that without a ward system, council is thought to be more accountable to the entire electorate. Citizens can vote for all council positions and can pose questions of any councillor regardless of their geographical location.

Some Red Deerians may also feel more comfortable approaching a certain councillor over another as well.

Disadvantages include creating a council which may under-represent minorities or perhaps needs of different parts of the City. Examples include a ‘north versus south’ mentality or new developments versus established neighbourhoods etc.

It has also been suggested that an at-large system favours the election of candidates with greater financial resources.

But those who speak against it claim that a ward system cause councillors to be more concerned about their own ward where they must seek re-election especially during a municipal campaign. During an election, another drawback is that one might find two candidates from one ward competing against could both be better than a candidate in another ward.

At this point, it seems that a ward system is just not realistic for Red Deer essentially because of its size. Having an at-large system works well for the City at this time, so why alter it? The population of Red Deer is expected to nearly double over the next 20 years – certainly that would be a more appropriate time to visit the idea.

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