Edmonton City Council has passed in first reading the approval of the 12 ward system. The proposal will be coming to Council for a second and third reading on July 22nd. Edmonton will potentially join many other cities in establishing a more accountable and more democratic system of representation. It is expected to pass, but it never hurts to send a note to your firstname.lastname@example.org letting them know that you support this decision.
Philosophically, it is the right thing to do.
Under the old 6 Ward system, the constituent populations had gotten to an unmanageable level. Campaigning required trying to connect with ward populations of over 100 000 constituents- an almost impossible task. Such large wards naturally favored the incumbents during campaigns based on name recognition– no campaign team could knock on every door.
The increased cost of campaigning over such a vast region left many candidates more dependent on large donations and saddled with the real-or-perceived political baggage that came with them. More ordinary Edmontonians will now be able to throw their hat into the race, leading to a more accessible, competitive, and engaged democratic debate.
A 12 Ward system will make for more equitable campaigns, but it will also make for more effective representation. Councillors constantly had to check for duplication of efforts and often the higher-profile Councillor ended up getting the lion’s share of the phone calls and constituent calls. Now there is a clear line of accountability between the Councillor, their constituents, and their concerns. A citizen is always welcome to contact the Mayor, or any Councillor for that matter, with a problem, especially if they do not feel that their elected representative is being effective. However, Councillors will likely have more time to be effective representatives now that they have a smaller constituency base to attend to.
The concern that Councillors may become too focused on just their ward is mistaken; they are elected to attend to the interests of the city as a whole and judging by how many issues are multi-jurisdictional, it is likely this cooperation will continue.
The map is sound.
Though it is unfortunate that the Municipal Government Act (MGA) has Councillors drawing up their own constituencies, the wards are well-justified:
– It effectively follows natural geographic boundaries (the river, calgary trail, etc
– It respects community league boundaries, with a couple of minor changes– quite impressive considering that there are 150 leagues.
– It takes into account population variance (61, 276 to 70,840 (-6.1% to +8.6%)) and elector variance (48,529 to 62,152 (-8.0% to +17.9%))
– It takes into account the potential for future growth.
For future consideration:
– Council should not be left to draw up their own boundaries, but they should be established by a non-partisan electoral body.
– The MGA should allow for preferential balloting in elections. This would allow candidates to be ranked according to voter preference. It can easily be done with electronic voting.
– Tax credits should be allowed for municipal campaign contributions.