Kings Citizens Coalition co-chairman David Ritcey.
Part two of a three-part series on proposed Kings electoral boundary changes
KINGS COUNTY - The Kings Citizens Coalition is questioning the motivation behind an alternative scenario for new electoral district boundary lines approved by Kings County council.
Coalition co-chairman David Ritcey said the County of Kings hired independent consultant Stantec to conduct a provincially mandated review of electoral boundaries and governance at a cost to taxpayers of $26,144.
Phone and online surveys and public consultations were held. Based on analysis, senior planner John Heseltine recommended a switch to the mayor system and nine electoral districts, for a council of 10. He also presented scenarios for 11, 10 and eight districts.
Council voted in favour of the switch to the mayoral system but opted for an alternative scenario of eight districts.
At a special meeting Dec. 15, Deputy Warden Brian Hirtle took credit for the alternative proposal but chief administrative officer Tom MacEwan later clarified it was he who prepared the scenario, including Hirtle’s suggestion that districts feature an urban-rural split.
Ritcey said, “This council has clearly had difficulty working together.” He said there has been block voting on several important matters with the Warden, Deputy Warden and four councillors voting one way and the remaining five voting the other. Ritcey said the vote on the new district boundaries followed “the all-too-familiar six-five vote.”
“The citizens of Kings must put an end to old style back room deal making, gamesmanship, and political retribution,” Ritcey said.
He said citizens “expect the highest duty of care” from our elected representatives and salaried staff and “we must assure ourselves of competent, capable and fair-minded representation with the upcoming October municipal election.”
“Kings County deserves so much more,” Ritcey said.
He said one concern raised is that western districts were “protected and insulated” so incumbent councillors could assure their voting bases. In the east, the district realignment splits the “community of interest” of New Minas. The re-jigged map would split the community north to south along Granite Drive.
Ritcey said communities of interest must be considered in any boundary review and the wishes of New Minas citizens “must be of paramount importance.”
He said there is “clearly a need” to reduce the size of council to eight or nine districts. The citizen coalition plans to write the provincial Utilities and Review Board to point this out, address concerns about the “sudden change” in boundaries and encourage the board to “critically assess the facts before approving the changes proposed.”
Ritcey said Kings citizens would need to decide for themselves council’s motivation behind rejecting the consultant’s recommendation in favour of an internal alternative. He said there would be “much concern about political interference, hidden agendas, a lack of transparency and the very real possibility of gerrymandering.”
The district scenario approved by council now goes to the UARB for review with a public hearing date yet to be confirmed.
Sept. 15 – Kings County CAO Tom MacEwan reports to councillors on how a provincially mandated review of electoral district boundaries and governance is proceeding. The review is to include surveys, including questions about a possible switch to a mayor system.
Oct. 20 – Pierre Clouthier presents an online petition to county councillors calling for a switch to the mayor system.
Nov. 17 – Stantec senior planner John Heseltine presents the findings of a provincially mandated review of Kings electoral district boundaries and governance. Scenarios for eight, nine, 10 and 11 districts are presented.
Nov. 25 – The public gets the first look at an alternative scenario from county staff for eight electoral districts at the first of three public consultation sessions in Avonport.
Dec. 15 – Heseltine presents his final report and recommendations at a special meeting of Kings County council. He recommends nine districts and a mayor elected at large, for a council of 10.
Dec. 15 – Kings County councillors vote to switch to a mayor system and to adopt the alternative eight-district scenario from staff with an urban-rural split as suggested by Deputy Warden Brian Hirtle. This would result in a council of nine.