Red Deer City council talked about exploring the concept of a ward system at this week’s meeting, but opted to put the idea on hold for now. A wise move.
This issue has repeatedly surfaced over the years in Red Deer – normally around election time. Ward systems are of course feasible for large urban centres, but for Red Deer it doesn’t make any sense to carve up the City into various voting regions.
For one thing, it would be a massive change for Red Deer to begin with, to go from having eight councillors plus the mayor who represent them to only having one individual who they can turn to.
Consider these other downsides to installing a ward system. It could create serious conflict and may also pit neighbourhood against neighbourhood especially with the approach of an election.
It’s been pointed out that for a municipality of our size, it’s in the residents’ best interests to have council as a whole making decisions for the overall betterment of the City – not just their particular neighbourhood.
Citizens should really be able to approach any councillor that they feel comfortable with in regards to their concerns, and not just one person. What happens if you end up with a councillor you don’t care for – is this your only option to having a say in municipal politics?
Where would the boundaries even be placed in Red Deer? Of course, the river is an obvious dividing line but beyond that, where do you start? Geographically it just won’t add up to a fair or workable arrangement.
Many years from now, Red Deer may very well benefit from having a ward system but it’s hardly appropriate at this time. The City is eventually going to reach the size where a councillor can’t do their job effectively trying to represent the whole City, but we just aren’t there yet.
In Calgary for example, each ward has an average population of 77,924 people. In Edmonton, each ward has an average population of 65,200. Obviously it makes perfect sense for these communities to have a ward system – they are huge municipalities. To think that Red Deer City council is considering a ward system with a population almost comparable to a single ward in Calgary or Edmonton is just ridiculous.
Council should set this issue aside and focus on concerns more relevant to a community of our size.