Ongoing ‘wards’ issue

City council opted to change course this week and give the green light to adding a question to this fall’s ballot regarding a ward system for Red Deer.

It’s a welcome move. Not necessarily because a ward system is better for the City than the current ‘at-large’ representation system, but because it’s only right that citizens have a say in how they are governed.

A ward system would divide it up the City for electoral purposes. Councillors would represent a certain section of Red Deer.

In a vote of five to three, council in effect reversed a decision they made early last month when they voted against the move to have a plebiscite attached to the Oct. 21 vote.

And while few said the issue was the absolute most burning topic that citizens are bringing their way, most admitted it was on the public’s radar and needed to be settled one way or the other.

It’s difficult to understand why any councilor wouldn’t want to move in the direction of holding a plebiscite. The results are not binding on a council. And how on earth can it hurt to see how voters feel about it?

It’s been pointed out that it’s more than a yes/no question – that it’s a comparatively complex issue that needs lots of discussion and study.

But ultimately, how much more does it need to be discussed? There should be a certain level of trust amongst council that the public does have a grasp on the issue, and can certainly understand a simple question put forward regarding ‘to have wards or not to’.

As for whether having a ward system is appropriate for Red Deer, there are important things to consider.

Some have pointed out that Red Deer is simply too small to cut up into wards, and that it would complicate elections with a multitude of candidates representing various areas.

But others feel Red Deer is more than ready to move in this direction because a neighbourhood would have one councillor representing their regional concerns.

On the other hand, the ‘at large’ representation system has its good points, too. With a City of Red Deer’s size, it seems appropriate to have a block of councillors working on the issues that affect the City as a whole. It also can have something of a balancing effect, bringing out the strengths of various councillors when addressing a single issue. This can work to provide optimal solutions.

At this point, it’s good to know citizens have several months to weigh the pros and cons of both ward systems and at-large representation systems.

The important thing is that citizens will be able, regardless of how it all plays out, to have their say.

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