Milton Council voted to shrink council by two members at its June meeting. The motion passed 6-5 to reduce council’s size from 11 two nine, while adding 2 Regional councillors.
The decision came out of a report by Dr. Robert Williams which presented a variety of scenarios including elimination of the Municipal Councillor where councillors would be voted on town-wide, and an appointment process. There were some places here to use a “ranked ballot” tool recently approved by the province, which might have been interesting to see the outcome in that case.
I don’t like this idea. Milton has been repeatedly declared the fastest-growing municipality in the country. It’s expected to reach 230,000 by 2031, and 400,000 a decade later. With the influx of population it’s a no-brainer to expand council. The only justification for cutting council should be if the population dropped, or growth significantly slowed.
Part two of this process is boundary review. This decision to cut impacts this process as well because suddenly the decision isn’t only whether to add wards, but which ones to combine/ cut. The boundary review should’ve come first asking the question of whether it makes any sense to consider cutting municipal council.
Milton’s been extremely well-represented as it comes to Regional Councillors since the 2014 elections. Both know a little bit about everything municipal, and Regional levels of government and can explain how they connect. They’ve set the bar extremely high for any potential successors, and colleagues from Milton. Their knowledge comes with experience. Cutting council creates a higher learning curve for those seeking the office of regional councillor. And it might be an unfair expectation.
Fewer councillors mean a higher workload and less accountability. Councillors who are openly communicative, and easy to reach might become less so because of the higher numbers of constituents. Is this something we really want? I say no. I like being able to ask my councillor why they voted a certain way, or get help with a street light, or with a parking ticket.
The new council would cost $80,000 less than it currently does. Saving money is always popular with voters; I’m a huge fan of it. The potential might not be there for long-term savings. You have 9 people doing the work of 11. 4 of them go to Regional as well dealing with Halton issues as well. Eventually they’ll ask for a raise. And then we’ll be outraged over that.
I’m a big fan of saving money, but sometimes democracy should trump it, and this is one of them. Higher population should equal more representation not less.
Update: At a July 25 meeting, Councillor Colin Best presented a motion to reopen the issue so the public could speak. Several members of the public were in attendance, and prepared to do so. The motion was turned down.
I understand people don’t necessarily care about politics, and that’s their right. But with this decision council has taken that right away. This is the kind of thing people will remember while casting their ballots.